Al-Mahdi Institute is pleased to announce the publication of Dr. Wahid M. Amin’s latest paper in the recent issue of the Nazariyat Journal. In this paper, Dr. Amin examines the philosophical contributions of the fourteenth-century logician Qutb al-Din al-Razi by focussing in particular on his critique of Avicenna’s theory of natural universals. The problem of universals has been, and continues to be, one the most important debates in the history of philosophy. Avicenna offered a unique solution to the problem, which had been debated among philosophers ever since the Roman philosopher Porphyry of Tyre had raised specific questions regarding the ontological status of universal terms. Avicenna dealt with the problem of universal terms by equivocating the notion of universality, arguing that that term “universal” could be used in three different senses. One of these he labelled the “natural universal,” and according to Avicenna it exists in natural particulars. The natural universal refers to the natures of things taken in isolation of any added qualifications extrinsic to that nature qua itself. Such natures, Avicenna argued, exist in natural particulars in the way parts exist in their wholes. Avicenna’s part-theory of universals was, for a while, the mainstream position among Avicenna’s adherents in the Islamic East. The theory, however, was rejected by Qutb al-Din al-Razi, and subsequently debated with renewed vigour in the following centuries all the way down to the modern period. According to Qutb al-Din al-Razi, Avicenna’s position is question-begging: the claim that natural universals exist as parts in their wholes is itself the very thing in need of proof. This paper examines al-Razi’s lengthy critique of the Avicennan theory of natural universals and demonstrates how later thinkers were quite willing to refine, modify, and even reject key themes within Avicenna’s thought through detailed investigation.
Read the full paper here