Eternity of Moral Values

Before entering the discussion concerning the eternity of moral values it should be noted that according to the philosophies of being' reality and knowledge as well as moral values are considered to be permanent. Though here I will not be concerned with the permanence of reality, but it is necessary to deal with the question as to why reality and ethics are dealt with separately. What is the difference between moral principles and other principles which we refer to as reality'? After all moral values also constitute certain principles and that which is said concerning scientific principles, that they are eternally true, should also apply to moral values. However, I also think that the right thing is to keep these two issues separate. But first of all I must refer to a minor issue to establish that the issue of eternity of moral values is very important for us and that it is closely related to the eternity of Islam.

Ethics comprises certain teachings, and if we believe the moral, humane, and social teachings of Islam to be transitory then the conclusion will be that the teachings of Islam dealing with morality and education are also subject to change. That is, it would imply that such principles had a validity in their own time, and with changes in conditions these moral principles should also change and so should the basic teachings of Islam. As a result the major part of Islam would be obsolete and should be abolished. Of course, the issue of evolution of reality is related to this matter, but the issue of relativity of moral values has a greater bearing on the eternity of Islam. Let us now proceed to clarify the point as to why the issue of ethics is separated from the issue of reality.

Speculative Wisdom and Practical Wisdom

Reality relates to theoretical principles and ethics deals with practical principles. In other words, ethics is subsumed under practical wisdom (hikmat-e amali) and reality is subsumed under theoretical wisdom (hikmat-e nazari); therefore, we cannot apply the principles of practical wisdom to reality, for theoretical wisdom deals with facts as they are or were; whereas practical wisdom is confined to man and deals with things as they ought to be - that is, as to how man is to conduct himself - and hence is prescriptive (insh'Allah).

But the nature of theoretical wisdom is descriptive (ikhbar), that is, it deals with the question as to whether a certain proposition corresponds to facts or not, and if it does, whether it is eternally true. But such questions do not arise in ethics.

In our philosophical literature, theoretical reason and practical reason are regarded as two different types of human faculties. But Muslim philosophers did not discuss their features and differences in sufficient detail. However, they have left useful hints concerning the issue. They suggest that the former faculty is inherent in the soul by means of which it tries to discover the external world; whereas the latter consists of a series of perceptions of the soul, which administers the body, for the body's management.

Practical reason is considered to be a natural arm of the soul and theoretical reason as a metaphysical arm. Thus the soul possesses two perfections: theoretical perfection and practical perfection (the philosophers hold that the essence and nature of human being is knowledge and its perfection lies in knowledge, whereas the mystics do not consider knowledge as the ultimate perfection of man and are of the view that a perfect man is one who attains to reality not one who discovers it).

Regarding the faculty of practical reason, they hold that the soul as the administrator of the body is subject to certain principles for better governing the body as a prelude to its attaining perfection.

Early Muslim philosophers defined justice in terms of freedom (justice in body). The soul stands in need of the body and it cannot attain theoretical perfection without it, but in order that the soul should be able to make the best use of the body, it must establish a kind of balance between its faculties. The faculty which establishes such a balance between. soul and body is an active faculty. In case this balance is established, the soul is not dominated by the body, rather it is the body which is subordinated to the soul. They considered justice to be a kind of subordination of the body to the soul in which the body is controlled by the soul. This is all that our early philosophers have said on this issue. It seems that, relatively speaking, Ibn Sina (980-1030) has treated the issue of theoretical and practical wisdom more thoroughly than any other Muslim philosopher.

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