WHAT IS THINK­ING?

Think­ing is a con­stant search to an­swer the ul­ti­mate ques­tion of why there is some­thing rather than noth­ing. Since noth­ing es­capes ex­is­tence, and there is noth­ing out­side the great chain of be­ing, all think­ing is an ex­er­cise in ex­is­tence and its in­fi­nite

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - IBRAHiM KALIN

THINK­ING en­tails de­vel­op­ing in­tel­lec­tual, log­i­cal and emo­tional ca­pac­i­ties to un­der­stand the com­plex and dy­namic re­al­ity we call ex­is­tence

In the so-called in­for­ma­tion age in which we live, we have lost the mean­ing of the most foun­da­tional hu­man ac­tiv­ity: think­ing. We con­fuse in­for­ma­tion with knowl­edge and think rather de­cep­tively that think­ing is pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion. Think­ing is not in­for­ma­tion gath­er­ing. It is not data anal­y­sis. It is not sim­ply link­ing ob­jects to con­cepts or estab­lish­ing log­i­cal con­nec­tions be­tween con­cepts. Think­ing in­volves more than a men­tal pro­ce­dure.

Think­ing is a con­stant search to an­swer the ul­ti­mate ques­tion of why there is some­thing rather than noth­ing. Since noth­ing es­capes ex­is­tence, and there is noth­ing out­side the great chain of be­ing, all think­ing is an ex­er­cise in ex­is­tence and its in­fi­nite modal­i­ties. Whether we con­duct a sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ment, write a beau­ti­ful poem on the morn­ing breeze or an­a­lyze mod­ern cities, we are deal­ing with the var­i­ous as­pects and man­i­fes­ta­tions of ex­is­tence.

All think­ing must be grounded in ex­is­tence; oth­er­wise we can never over­come the trap of solip­sism. In this sense, think­ing is not com­prised of the in­ter­nal work­ings of my mind. The Carte­sian du­al­ism of mind (res cog­i­tans) and world (res ex­tensa) never arises when think­ing is rooted in ex­is­tence. The clas­si­cal philoso­phers re­jected sub­jec­tivism and philo­soph­i­cal skep­ti­cism on this ground.

Ex­is­tence is not an ab­stract con­cept. It is the most con­crete and most em­brac­ing re­al­ity. We may pic­ture it as an idea or con­cept in our minds. But the re­al­ity of ex­is­tence is al­ways more than its men­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions. It is like the dif­fer­ence be­tween a scene and its pic­ture. When we take a pic­ture, we freeze that mo­ment, take it out of its nat­u­ral state of flow and look at it as a frozen mo­ment. What we look at is not un­real. As a pic­ture, it is not some­thing imag­i­nary. But it is not the re­al­ity it­self but a pic­ture of it. As it hap­pens in all ab­strac­tions, it is now sep­a­rated from the flow of ex­is­tence in which it ex­ists. We can­not treat this frozen mo­ment as re­al­ity it­self. Be­cause re­al­ity never stops flow­ing.

Think­ing is an ex­er­cise in ex­is­tence be­cause ev­ery men­tal judg­ment or log­i­cal con­nec­tion we make is re­lated to ex­is­tence. This cru­cial point is un­der­lined by the dif­fer­ence be­tween ex­is­tence (wu­jud) and ex­is­tent (mawjud). Things ex­ist such as a tree, the sky or the house down the street. They have their own unique prop­er­ties. They are dif­fer­ent from each other. Each of them ex­ists in its own way. But they share one thing in com­mon: the act of ex­ist­ing. Or to put in the lan­guage of clas­si­cal phi­los­o­phy of Mulla Sadra, they all “par­tic­i­pate” in ex­is­tence. It is not the case that ex­is­tent things make up what we call ex­is­tence. It is the other way around: ex­is­tence gen­er­ates par­tic­u­lar be­ings that ex­ist in their own unique ways. It is ex­is­tence that flows through all that we see and ex­pe­ri­ence as the world: moun­tains, an­i­mals, hu­mans, the wind, the rain, the cities and all the things that we as hu­man be­ings cre­ate with our own hands. Ex­is­tence ap­pears in count­less modal­i­ties and with in­fi­nite col­ors. Ex­is­tence is more than the sum to­tal of ex­is­tents.

Just as things (“sub­stances”) par­take of ex­is­tence, we hu­man be­ings too par­tic­i­pate in ex­is­tence. This par­tic­i­pa­tion es­tab­lishes a spe­cial con­nec­tion be­tween us and ex­is­tence be­cause we con­tem­plate the mean­ing of this spe­cial re­la­tion­ship.

When we think about an ob­ject, a mo­ment, a sit­u­a­tion or a re­la­tion, we are con­tem­plat­ing ex­is­tence and its count­less man­i­fes­ta­tion. It is not the case that the world of ex­is­tence is a pas­sive ob­ject with no mean­ing to which we as­sign mean­ing. To the con­trary, things are sad­dled with mean­ing, pur­pose, pro­por­tion and sig­nif­i­cance in­de­pen­dent of us. The sub­jec­tivist turn in Western phi­los­o­phy has made the world a mean­ing-less ob­ject and the hu­man be­ing a world-less sub­ject. And we are still trapped in this maze. We think that the uni­verse has no mean­ing with­out us. We as­sert with fool­ish pride and ig­no­rance that ex­is­tence has no pur­pose other than serv­ing us. The truth is just the op­po­site. The world has mean­ing whether we un­der­stand it or not. We are only part of a re­al­ity larger than us.

The Mus­lim philoso­phers de­fine phi­los­o­phy as the abil­ity “to know the re­al­ity of things as they are to the ex­tent to which it is pos­si­ble within hu­man ca­pac­ity.” This def­i­ni­tion re­veals much about the re­al­ity of ex­is­tence and our re­la­tion­ship to it: Things have their own re­al­ity in­de­pen­dent of us, and we can try to un­der­stand it to the best of our abil­i­ties. We do not own the world. We can­not treat ex­is­tence as a slave. We can only pro­tect and nour­ish it to re­al­ize our own po­ten­tial. Our re­la­tion­ship to the world of ex­is­tence can­not be one of dom­i­na­tion and ex­ploita­tion.

Think­ing en­tails de­vel­op­ing in­tel­lec­tual, log­i­cal and emo­tional ca­pac­i­ties to un­der­stand the com­plex and dy­namic re­al­ity we call ex­is­tence. Re­duc­ing the world of ex­is­tence to my men­tal con­struc­tions of it is the dead­li­est philo­soph­i­cal mis­take we can com­mit. It is only by ap­ply­ing dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive per­spec­tives to the mul­ti­lay­ered re­al­ity of ex­is­tence that we can be­gin to grasp its re­al­ity and un­der­stand our own truth. This means car­ry­ing knowl­edge and think­ing be­yond cal­cu­la­tive rea­son and dis­cur­sive anal­y­sis.

We have to use our minds as well as hearts to have a proper un­der­stand­ing of the world. Phi­los­o­phy and logic are im­por­tant but so are art, po­etry and re­li­gion. No think­ing is mean­ing­ful un­less it leads to wis­dom and shows the ways of how ex­is­tence un­veils it­self. Think­ing will en­rich us only when we re­al­ize that we are not the mas­ters of the world but can only be its shep­herd and pro­tec­tor.

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