Notes on Philosophy and the Baha'i Faith

Jul 2017
230
Kettering, Ohio USA
#1
Form: another term for essence from the point of view of its structure or composition as seen in real things. Form identifies something as the particular kind of thing it is. Everything we know has form because without it we could not distinguish one thing from another. Even ideas have form, or, as `Abdu’l-Bahá calls them, “intelligible form,” i.e. a particular composition by which we can understand them. Form is more than just physical shape.

Matter: is that from which something else is made. “Matter is a relative term, to each form there corresponds a special matter.” For example, paper is matter relative to books and books are matter relative to libraries. Matter can be physical but can also be concepts that are formed into an argument or a plot idea formed into a novel. It is sometimes called ‘substance.’ The same idea/matter can often have more than one “intelligible form” just as certain mathematical ideas can be expressed in different formulas. There is no such thing as actual matter without form.

Hylomorphism: the belief that all actual beings – except God – are composed of matter and form. The Writings support this view. It is evident in `Abdu’l-Bahá’s four-fold causality where formal causality is involved in everything that happens to matter. He also refers to hylomorphism directly:

Then it is clear that original matter, which is in the embryonic state, and the mingled and composed elements which were its earliest forms, gradually grew and developed during many ages and cycles, passing from one shape and form to another, until they appeared in this perfection, this system, this organization and this establishment, through the supreme wisdom of God.

“Original matter” is `Abdu’l-Bahá’s term for what Aristotle’s “primal matter” (see above) i.e. matter without form which is pure potential that has not yet been made actual. `Abdu’l-Bahá’s calls this “the embryonic state,” precisely because it is still pure potential and is impelled by God’s action guided by His wisdom through various forms. Hylomorphism is also the metaphysical basis of progressive revelation in which the (subject) matter – “the eternal verities” found in every revelation – appear in various forms over historical time. As `Abdu’l-Bahá says, “truth is one, although its manifestations may be very different.”10 The actual manifestations are the in which truth can appear.

Substance: has several meanings. It can be plain, simple matter, but its most important meaning refers to anything that is not an attribute of something else, i.e. it is independent, not a part of something else the way an attribute is. As we shall see, in the Writings, even God is said to be a substance. In fact, He is the only absolutely independent ‘thing’ and, therefore, is a substance in the fullest sense of the word.

Four-fold Causality: `Abdu’l-Bahá accepts Aristotle’s analysis of causality according to which everything has four causes:

the existence of everything depends upon four causes -- the efficient cause, the matter, the form and the final cause. For example, this chair has a maker [efficient cause] who is a carpenter, a substance which is wood [material cause], a form [formal cause] which is that of a chair, and a purpose [final cause ] which is that it is to be used as a seat.

In nature, all these aspects of causality work together at the same time and not in sequence but when a conscious maker is involved, the final cause, i.e. the purpose and the formal cause i.e. the plan precede the efficient and material cause.

Prexistence or the Preexistent: is God. The pre-existent has no cause and is absolutely independent of all other things. It includes or embraces everything (see discussion below). Its Essence is unknowable and can only be known by Its attributes as far as human powers allow. It can never incarnate itself in a limited and imperfect carnal body because that would mean the Preexistent can be “qualified with phenomenal attributes.” The Preexistent is perfect.

The pervasive presence of philosophical passages in the Bahá’í Writings leads to an important question: if we are not meant to understand and apply these concepts, terms and arguments in teaching and defending the Faith, why would Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá include them so prominently in the first place?
Besides improving our understanding of the Writings, there are other benefits to be derived from understanding these concepts, terms and arguments. The first is that such understanding enables us to teach the Faith from a rational perspective, i.e. to show while the Writings may superficially appear to be unorganized tablets, letters and treatises responding to particular occasions and requests, they are, in actual fact, based on and informed by a coherent and systematic philosophical method. As `Abdu’l-Bahá says, “in this age the peoples of the world need the arguments of reason.” In other words, reason is a necessary attribute of religion in order to retain its identity as genuine religion.

A third reason for the pervasive inclusion of philosophical material in the Writings is that it demonstrates the underlying connection of the head, i.e. intellect and the heart, i.e. our intuitive and ‘feeling knowledge.’ As `Abdu’l-Bahá tells us, “The world of minds corresponds with the world of hearts. Both must be in harmony for there to be genuine belief. In other words, reason can turn the heart towards God by, among other things, removing obstacles to belief or showing the implicit logic of some teaching.

A fourth benefit of the philosophical formulations in the Writings is such intellectual precision facilitates in inter-religious dialogue with religions that have include great philosophic traditions, such as Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. A clear exposition of the philosophy embedded in the Bahá’í Writings expedites such inter-faith dialogue by clarifying concepts and arguments and, above all, helps identify underlying similarities and agreements.

There is a fifth reason for including these passages. As we shall see shortly, almost all of this terminology is Aristotelian – which raises the question ‘Why did Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’lBahá choose to do this?’ In our view, this is neither an accident, nor a coincidence nor a serendipitous development nor a mere tactic of adaptation. After all, the Manifestation and His infallibly appointed interpreter could have chosen other means to promulgate the divine teachings. The most likely answer – from our perspective – is they are encouraging us to use, develop and expand Aristotle’s method of analyzing and understanding reality. At least three possible reasons for doing so immediately suggest themselves. First, Aristotle’s metaphysics and ethics form a common bond between Bahá’í, Jewish, Christian and Muslim philosophical thought. Second, Aristotle’s method of analyzing and explaining reality is based on but not limited to ordinary experience in the natural world. Third, as `Abdu’l-Bahá points out, it explores both them the material and the spiritual aspects of existence – unlike almost all modern philosophers since the European Enlightenment.

These are, truly, puzzling passages. How can man “surround nature” or “all beings” with his “ideal . . . powers”? Indeed, how can a human being or a Manifestation surround “all that exists” physically? Perhaps God can do so – see below – but surely anything less than God, i.e. and ontologically omnipotent God, cannot. In our view, the philosophy of Aristotle, so often referred to in the Writings, offer one possible explanation at least in regard to humans and Manifestations though not in regards to God. The key to understanding these passages lies in Aristotle’s theory of perception. In its most basic terms, Aristotle’s theory of perception states that when we perceive something, we take in its form but not its matter. His example is the impression left by a signet ring in a piece of wax: the form of the ring is impressed on the wax but the material is not. Moreover, the form is what gives the signet ring its essential identifying features, its essential attributes or essence while the gold is only the means by which those features are revealed. With Aristotle’s explanation in mind, we have a rational epistemological explanation for the ability of the Manifestations and humans to surround the objects of perception and thought. They are not materially taken inside us – rather, we take in their forms and make that the subjects of our understanding. We first comprehend in the sense of taking in the form and then we comprehend in the second sense of understanding.

Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being [the Manifestation] He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself.

We shall discuss this in greater depth further below, but for now it suffices to note that the Manifestation is “born of the substance of God,” i.e. is a formal image derived directly – “born of” – from the real substantial sun just as the mirror image of something is ‘born’ of the real thing itself.

There is, however, potentially one limit to our conclusions about God in regards to ‘surrounding’ nature because God and His powers are unknowable. `Abdu’l-Bahá says,

the Divine Essence surrounds all things. Verily, that which surrounds is greater than the surrounded, and the surrounded cannot contain that by which it is surrounded, nor comprehend its reality.” Although the residents of Flatland cannot look up into our three-dimensional world and see us spying on them, we can look down into their world because the three-dimensional world surrounds or encloses or comprehends the two-dimensional world both physically and formally. While this analogy does not prove anything about the nature of God, it does prove that the concept of God physically and formally surrounding creation is a rational possibility i.e. is without inherent self-contradiction. In short, it is logically tenable. Humanity’s ontological position on the scale or chain of nature is “a quality of the existence of man” and this, in turn, determines what humans can or cannot know. The Writings, in other words, see epistemology determined by position in the hierarchy of being.

Unto this subtle, this mysterious and ethereal Being He hath assigned a twofold nature; the physical, pertaining to the world of matter, and the spiritual, which is born of the substance of God Himself.

Surely ‘substance’ cannot mean ‘material’ substance for that would reduce God and the soul to material entities. This cannot be the case for two reasons. First, according to Aristotle, there are two kinds of substances – material, sensible substances like bricks and jellyfish that can perish and decompose because they are made of parts, and nonsensible substances like God, or the rational soul which are not made of parts and, therefore, cannot decompose and perish. Secondly, for Aristotle, the word ‘substance’ has several meanings not all of which concern us here. The primary meaning of the word ‘substance’ in Aristotle is “in the truest and primary and most definite sense of the words, is that which neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject.” In other words, a substance exists independently i.e. is an individual thing i.e. not as an attribute or quality of something else. Obviously, the phrases like “the substance of God Himself” and “the soul is the substance” refer to ‘substance’ in its primary meaning, i.e. that which is independent and does not exist as an attribute of something else. The substance or essence of man is the “rational soul” and the body is its attribute in the material world. In fact, `Abdu’l-Bahá goes further – he suggests that ultimately the body is superfluous by calling it an “accidental” attribute, a viewpoint that makes sense insofar as we only spend a small part of our lifetimes in the material world. God does not have accidental attributes since all His attributes are “identical with His Essence” since otherwise the unity of God would be undermined.

In other words, according to `Abdu’l-Bahá, the rational soul and mind are not emergent properties of matter regardless of how highly organized it is. In short, he rejects that brain and mind are identical – a hot issue today in neurological research and instead sees the soul as the substance, i.e. the independent entity on which the body depends.

However, with God, this unity of attribute and essence reaches a higher level: each of the “names and attributes” are “identical with His Essence” so that each implicitly contains all. Otherwise, there would be disunity in God’s Essence because there would be differences between them and those differences prevent unity.

`Abdu’l-Bahá also uses the impossibility of an infinite regress because everything that is caused is caused by an external cause of motion and this chain of causation must have a first cause (or First Cause) that is itself uncaused. If the First Cause needed a cause – as the question, ‘Who made God?’ implies – then the infinite regress would start again, and we know this cannot actually happen. Without an uncaused external cause there would be no motion in nature – which is absurd because it contradicts common observation. However, the Writings speak of “the infinite worlds of God” or “this infinite creation” and, thereby, seem to contradict the denial of an actual infinity of things. If a real infinite results in irresolvable paradoxes, how can there an infinite number of worlds and how can creation be infinite? And if there can be a real infinite, why is an infinite regress of causes “absurd” as `Abdu’l-Bahá says? Once again, if we look to the Aristotelian sense of infinity, the apparent contradiction can be resolved. As noted before, for Aristotle infinity is potentiality: “the infinite has a potential existence.” In other words, the infinite is “what always has something outside of it,” i.e. the ‘one more’ that can be added (or diminished) as noted previously. The infinite is (obviously) never finished, i.e. is always potential. This fits exactly with the Bahá’í teaching that God creates endlessly, i.e. brings new creations into being, i.e. always adding more to what already exists. This means that infinity here is not a magnitude nor an expanse of space but rather an attribute or quality of being unfinished. Thus phrases like “the infinite worlds of God” and “this infinite creation” refer to this on-going process of creation, i.e. actualizing potentials.

Two of Aristotle’s most foundational concepts are ‘actuality’ and ‘potential’ which are widely used throughout the Writings. What all potentials have in common is that to actualize them, to make them manifest, requires an external cause, an actuality that causes them to transform themselves into a variation of their old identities. This is the rational and metaphysical explanation why Manifestations are necessary to actualize the potentials hidden in humankind. The potentials exist in humanity but without the Manifestation, the fully actualized inspiration and guide Who passes the divine energy into the human realm, humanity’s potentials would remain latent, i.e. un-actualized and, in effect, nonexistent. The Manifestation in His divine aspect is a fully actualized being – that is one consequence of the perfection of His divine nature. Understanding the nature of potentials also resolves an apparent contradiction in the Writings between Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that we come from “utter nothingness” and `Abdu’l-Bahá’s claim that nothing can come from absolute nothingness. As the context makes clear, Bahá’u’lláh’s statements refer to our relative non-existence in comparison with God. In other words, in relation to God’s actuality, the potential existence of humanity is, in effect, nonexistence since potentials cannot actualize themselves and act. Two comments are in order. First, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the teaching that the universe has a purpose brings the Writings into conflict with modern science which simply does not recognize formal and final causality in any form. This is a major challenge for the Bahá’í teaching of the harmony or unity of science and religion. Second, although the foregoing explanation about the iron filings shows how formal and final causation are actually involved in all physical processes, modern science finds it impossible to accommodate these concepts. The reason is simple: formal and final causality could possibly open the door to invoking supernatural causes in nature. Paradoxically, `Abdu’l-Bahá’s four-fold causality is also important because it offers an opportunity to harmonize science and religion: science deals with the material and efficient causes and religion and its ‘handmaid,’ i.e. philosophy, deal with the formal and final causes. Together they provide a complete understanding of natural phenomena. Nor can a purely physical science explain how atoms and subatomic particles gained the attributes that allow them to influence other particles or be influenced by them – without succumbing to infinite regress. At one point or another, a formal and final cause are necessary to stop the infinite regress and to provide a complete – or more complete – explanation of natural phenomena because then we can begin to understand why nature has some of the general attributes it has, e.g. a progress from less organized forms of being to more highly organized forms. In short, formal and final causes are necessary to develop a coherent world-view – which is exactly what religions provide us.
 
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Jul 2017
230
Kettering, Ohio USA
#3
To one degree or another everyone is a philosopher and, indeed, must philosophize. Consequently, there is no basis for the dismissive claim that philosophy “begins and ends” with words and, therefore, is of no practical value in understanding and teaching of the Writings. Indeed, this claim is based on an incorrect quote from Shoghi Effendi who actually provides enormous support for philosophical studies when he states, approach to the Writings, Philosophy, as you will study it and later teach it, is certainly not one of the sciences that begins and ends in words. Fruitless excursions into metaphysical hair-splittings is meant, not a sound branch of learning like philosophy. In other word, Shoghi Effendi does not condemn philosophy as such for “begin[ing] and end[ing] in words” but rather he rejects a certain style of doing philosophy, especially “metaphysical hair-splitting” such as found, for example, in portions of Kant, Marx, Hegel, linguistic analysis, some versions of post-modernism and some modern texts on ethics. Obviously, this criticism does not apply to the philosophical passages embedded in the Writings.

Making the Crooked Straight is an apologetic work par excellence, perhaps the most important apologetic book published on the Baha’i Faith so far in English. It is a translation of Desinformation als Methode, published in German in 1995, which itself was a response to a work published in 1981 by the Evangelische Zentralstrelle für Weltanschauungsfragen [EZW] (Central Office of the Protestant Church for Questions of Ideology). EZW is an agency of the Protestant Churches in Germany that provides information to the church administration, theologians, and church workers. The 1981 work was entitled, Der Bahá'ísmus-Religion der Zukunft? [Bahá'ísm–Religion of the future?], and was written by a Swiss ex-Bahá'í, Francesco Ficicchia. Ficicchia’s work was presented by EZW as a standard introduction to the Faith, and received favourable reviews in some German academic journals. It presented a hotch-potch of polemical materials against the Faith, from attacking the personal integrity of the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith, to highlighting problems in successorship, to criticizing its doctrines and the policies of its current leadership. It gave the impression that the religion is a confused, fundamentalist cult that has rewritten its history, distorted its origins, and has imperialist claims on the world.

There are three possible contributions of this book to the Bahá'í dialogue with other religions. First, by clarifying some misconceptions about the religion, it clears the air and makes it possible to dialogue in a deeper way. Second, by being open about some of the problems that the Bahá'í Faith has faced in its first 150 years, it addresses one of the concessions that John Saliba states that new religions must make in order to participate more meaningfully in dialogue. Third, it gathers together a wealth of foundational academic work on its history and theology that provide a basis for a deeper and more meaningful dialogue between Bahá'ís and others.

Standard, classical or Aristotelian logic is based on three rules: the law of identity; the law of non-contradiction and the law of the excluded middle. We shall examine in some depth how each of these laws is exemplified in the Bahá’í Writings.

Logical reasoning and all coherent discourse must obey the law of identity (LI) according to which at any given moment, a thing, situation, or process is the same as itself and not something else. A thing can only have one identity, not two at the same time in the same sense and in the same context: When applied to discourse, i.e. discussions and explanations, the LI means that terms must be used consistently; if words change their meanings or slip from one sense of a word into another, confusion ensues and understanding becomes impossible. We are all familiar with disagreements caused by people using a word in different senses, e.g. gendered and ungendered uses of the word ‘men.’ The statement ‘All people are equal’ is another example. We must, for example, be careful to use the word “equal” consistently, i.e. not slip from spiritual to legal to economic to sociological equality. We may, of course, discuss how these distinct forms of equality are related but we cannot conflate one meaning into another. In this sense, the Writings, like every other explicatory text, follow the LI.

More important, the Writings apply the LI to a number of metaphysical and spiritual teachings. For example, the principle of identity underlies the Bahá’í teachings about the unique existence of all things, i.e. the teaching that each thing is what it is and never has been or will be something else `Abdu’l-Bahá also applies the LI when he says, “in the sensible world appearances are not repeated”. He informs us that no two seeds of grain are alike. Elsewhere he applies this principle to the sun: “the sun is one in its essence, unique in its real identity, single in its attributes”

This principle even applies to things involved in processes. For example, `Abdu’l-Bahá sees humankind as involved in an evolutionary process but, as we have seen above, he is emphatic

Reason and the Bahá’í Writings that the human essence is always the same regardless of our stage of development: “Throughout this journey of progression [through the mineral, plant and animal stations] he has ever and always been potentially man”. The inner potentials of our essence are present from the beginning and are actualized or externalized over time — which only makes it appear as if a change in essence or identity had occurred. In his potential, i.e. in his essence “ Man from the beginning was in this perfect form and composition” These ever-present potentials are revealed over time.

The second — and central — law of standard, classic or Aristotelian logic is the law of non-contradiction (LNC). In general terms, this means that a statement cannot simultaneously make two contradictory claims about the same issue. More technically, the LNC says that a thing cannot have and not have the same attributes at the same time in the same sense and from the same perspective or context. There are two main ways of resolving a contradiction to comply with the LNC: the first is to eliminate one part of the contradiction; the second is to show that each statement is refers to a different perspective, or a different sense or time; and the third is to demonstrate an underlying unity.

The Bahá’í Writings are consistent with the LNC and, therefore, exemplify a two-value logic — the two values being ‘true’ and ‘false.’ The law of the excluded middle (LEM) says that a statement or its negation must be either true or false: either an elephant is heavier than a flea or an elephant is not heavier than a flea. There is no middle ground and one of these two propositions must be true. (The difference between the LNC and the LEM is that the LNC says no proposition can be both true and false, and the LEM says that a statement or its specific negation must be either true or false.) There is no middle ground between them.

Deductive reasoning begins with a general or universal statement and then deduces specific consequences entailed in the general statement. For example, the universal statement ‘All birds have two wings’ entails the conclusion that ‘My parrot has two wings.’ This conclusion follows the LI, the LNC and the LEM. My bird cannot both have and not have two wings; it must be either true or false that it has two wings. Deductive reasoning is especially suited to the Writings because it depends primarily on the truth of the initial universal statement. This makes deduction the appropriate mode of reasoning for those in authority with completely trustworthy knowledge. Unlike scientists still looking for the truth, the essentially infallible Manifestation and His interpreter (who has acquired infallibility) are able to give us absolutely reliable universal propositions — e.g. humans are made in God’s image — from which we can draw specific conclusions. Their universal propositions provide the guidance we need for our own reasoning process so that we do not wander too far from the truth. Deductive arguments can be presented formally as one or a series of syllogisms, i.e. a three-part argument in which a conclusion is inferred from first two premises. Here is the most famous deductive syllogism in western philosophy.
  1. All humans are mortal;
  2. Socrates is human;
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
The conclusion is implicitly embedded or entailed in the first universal premise. If the first two premises are true, the conclusion is necessarily true; no other answer is logically possible without violating one of the rules of reasoning.

Instead of working from the top down, as deduction does, inductive reason works from the bottom up and draws general or universal conclusions on the basis of specific examples. We observe that in the past, ants were always attracted to the food at our picnics, and conclude that ants are attracted by picnic food. Unlike deductive conclusions which are logically certain, inductive conclusions have only a degree of probability. For example, we could improve the probability of our conclusion by observing 20,000 picnic sites instead of six. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá illustrates inductive reasoning when he writes, “Also [humankind] bringeth to light the past events that have been lost to memory, and foreseeth by his power of induction future happenings that are as yet unknown”. In other words, on the basis of past events, we can reach a conclusion about future events or likely future events. This is exactly what science does which studies numerous examples of a phenomena and then reaches a conclusion. Elsewhere ‘Abdu’lBahá says that “through processes of inductive reasoning and research” we can learn a great deal about humanity. In other words, we learn from or conclude from specific individual events. The Writings nonetheless show us many examples of induction in practice. For example, here is a complete inductive argument with its conclusion stated at the end:

But when you look at Nature itself, you see that it has no intelligence, no will. For instance, the nature of fire is to burn; it burns without will or intelligence. The nature of water is fluidity; it flows without will or intelligence. The nature of the sun is radiance; it shines without will or intelligence ... Man is able to resist and to oppose Nature because he discovers the constitution of things ... all the inventions he has made are due to his discovery of the constitution of things ... It is evident, then, that man rules over Nature.

Bahá’u’lláh also uses inductive arguments. He lists a series of historical examples in which people have yearned for the Manifestation and then, ironically, turned away from Him when He appeared.

The Bahá’í Writings make frequent use of analogical reasoning to explain and support the teachings. In analogies, we observe that two things are similar but not identical, and then reason or draw conclusions about one thing, i.e. the target, by comparisons with something else, i.e. the source. The more similarities between the source and the target, the stronger the conclusion will be. However, while analogical arguments provide good reasons to accept a conclusion, they do not provide logically necessary proof. One of the most striking arguments by analogy in the Writings concerns the organic nature of human society. According to Bahá’u’lláh, we should

Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies.

The underlying analogy is that initial appearances not withstanding, both the human body and the world/society are living organisms. Because they are the same kinds of things, we can transfer attributes from one to the other, i.e. from the source — the human body — to the target — the world/society.

In his guidance to the conduct of consultation by a Spiritual Assembly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions” [SWAB 87, emphasis added]. This statement encapsulates the essence of Socratic dialectic reasoning in which we seek the truth by carefully cross-examining all ideas, by trying them against contradictory or alternative suggestions and by analyzing them in light of divine revelation and for logical consistency. Naturally, we must take into account the spiritual context of this intellectual procedure for it is this spiritual context which forms the psycho-spiritual environment that helps us find the truth. This spiritual focus is essential because it discourages human idiosyncrasies, foibles and/or personal agendas from derailing the dialectical reasoning process. Although dialectical reasoning is necessary to Bahá’í consultation, it is not sufficient. Bahá’í consultation makes a key improvement in the process of dialectical reasoning by requiring participants to surrender personal ownership of ideas.

When an idea is put forth it becomes at once the property of the group. Although this notion sounds simple, it is perhaps the most profound principle of consultation ... When followed, this principle encourages those ideas that spring forth from a sincere desire to serve, as opposed to ideas that emanate from a desire for personal aggrandizement or constituency building.

It should be mentioned in passing, that dialectical reasoning requires adherence to the four laws of reasoning discussed in previous sections. A dialogue in which terms are not used consistently, in which the choice of truth or falsity is evaded, in which logical self-contradictions are rampant and in which reasons are not adequate to the subject matter quickly degenerates into nonsense that communicates nothing except confusion.

There are, broadly speaking, three viewpoints about the powers of reason. Rationalism in its strongest form, often associated with empiricism and logical positivism, maintains that reason can tell us ‘everything.’ Whatever cannot be known by reason is not knowledge. Reason alone is both necessary and sufficient. At the other extreme is skepticism, in our time mainly in its as postmodern guise, which says reason can tell us nothing. There is no truth and we only have opinions or viewpoints, none less or more true than any other. Reason is neither necessary nor sufficient. Moderate rationalism lies between these two extremes. It holds that reason can tell us some things but not others; it has the ability to provide some knowledge but it also has limits. In short, reason is necessary but not sufficient. In our view, the Bahá’í Writings espouse moderate rationalism, i.e. the view that reason is necessary but not sufficient.

It is essential to differentiate between the ‘Essence of God’ which Shoghi Effendi describes as the ‘innermost Spirit of Spirits’ or ‘Eternal Essence of Essences’, and ‘ God revealed ’ to humanity. The former is unknowable, while the latter is comprehensible to man.

The “Essence of God” is unknowable but “God revealed’ to humanity” i.e. God as revealed in phenomenal creation — can be known. He is known to us through the revelation of the Manifestations. What the Manifestation reflects is derived from and associated with God — that is precisely what makes him a Manifestation — and what He reveals to us about God, is knowledge about God appropriate to human understanding.

So far we have examined what is called ‘discursive reason,’ i.e. reaching conclusions on the basis of chains of inference based on universal premises, empirical evidence or analogies. Discursive reasoning requires clearly articulated steps according to the laws of logic. In our view, this kind of reasoning is pervasive throughout the Writings — but does not cover all ways of acquiring knowledge and reaching conclusions. The Writings, as noted before, espouse a moderate rationalism which recognizes the validity of non-discursive methods of knowing and finding truth. Some authors such as Ken Wilber21 refer to these methods as ‘transrational,’ i.e. psycho-spiritual processes that include but transcend reason. They do not violate rationality but go beyond it. Before proceeding, it is important to highlight that nondiscursive reasoning is not to be confused with irrationality. The irrational and the non-discursive differ insofar as irrationality involves a cognitive deficiency or confusion in the reasoning process. It may involve setting aside reason in favor of something else, e.g. a personal preference or desire, a political agenda, an advantage to be gained or a sheer assertion of will power for its own sake. On the other hand, nondiscursive reasoning is a way of acquiring knowledge or reaching conclusions about reality that does not involve the chains of inference we have previously examined.
Intuitions are another non-discursive way of knowing according to the Writings. Speaking about the divine origin of the universe, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says,

These obvious arguments are adduced for weak souls; but if the inner perception be open, a hundred thousand clear proofs become visible. Thus, when man feels the indwelling spirit , he is in no need of arguments for its existence.

If we have direct sight or experiential knowledge we have no need of discursive, step-by-step inferential reasoning. Opening our eyes — not devising arguments — will prove the existence of the sun. The direct experience is identified with feelings in this passage, once again suggesting that feelings are the medium of this kind of direct, non-discursive knowledge. After discussing the immortality of the soul, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declares, if the inner sight becomes opened , and the spiritual hearing strengthened , and the spiritual feelings predominant, he will see the immortality of the spirit as clearly as he sees the sun.

Here, too, we observe that direct insight — “inner sight” — and “spiritual feelings” give us non-discursive knowledge about spiritual topics like immortality. However, we must bear in mind that direct “inner sight,” though not subject to inferential reasoning, is not inherently irrational, and thereby, opposed to the “rational soul.”

However, rhetorical devices are persuasive; no matter how logical they might appear, they can never prove logically necessary conclusions. Like logic, they persuade, they elicit assent, they convince and forge commitment - but not by logic. Rather they appeal to our various emotions and to our personal, social and cultural assumptions, prejudices, fears, aspirations and loyalties. They activate personal and cultural responses by strong sensual stimuli, by wit and humor, by shock and outrage and by `seduction'. Rhetoric may use facts, pseudo-logic (See Shakespeare's and Donne's sonnets), a wide variety of linguistic devices such as inversion, incremental repetition or climactic phrasing - but whatever it does or uses, rhetoric's primary goal is personal assent rather than intellectual conviction. The proper use of rhetorical devices in scholarly / academic work is pedagogical, i.e. they should be used to illustrate ideas that have already been proven true or openly accepted as such. Their purpose is to clarify and improve understanding. They must never be used to hide gaps in logical thinking or circumvent it, or to `disprove' a logical argument. The moment such misuses appear in a scholarly / academic work, we must be aware that a non-rational, non-scholarly agenda is at work and that the author is not really proving anything - s/he can't with rhetorical devices - but merely becoming political by trying to create assent and consent by non-logical means. This is utterly inappropriate in scholarship.

The single worst error in logical reasoning is the failure to classify properly, i.e. the failure correctly abstract the essential properties of the objects under study. This is a pre-operational error because it is made before other logical operations such as induction, deduction, analogical or statistical reasoning take place. It is obviously impossible to reason correctly when the essential nature of things has been misunderstood. If we do not understand the essential differences between iguanas and frying pans, we cannot arrive at correct conclusions about them. This inevitably leads to misrepresentation. A good example of essential misapprehension is found in Juan Cole's "The Bahá'í Faith in America as Panopticon, 1963-1997". Cole fails to identify (abstract) two essential qualities of the Bahai Faith: it (1) a voluntary and (2) a purposive organization. This leads him to conflate it with a panopticon, a type of prison in which convicts are visible from all angles at all times (Bentham) or, by extension, a society in which people keep themselves and each other under surveillance by their inward adherence to the rules (Foucault). In one way or another, a panopticon requires compulsion and thus denies individual freedom. The conflation here is either an inadvertent, but fatal error of reasoning or it is intentional, in which case it is nothing other than a propaganda ploy known as "fear mongering". Conflation is one of the most commonly used propaganda devices.

Referring to the Bahá'í Faith as a theocracy is another example of essential misapprehension leading to outright misrepresentation. Unlike any theocracy that ever existed, the Bahá'í Faith has no clergy; all authoritative and executive offices are held by election: LSA's, NSA's, delegates to the annual convention and the Universal House of Justice. Any decision made by appointees such as Auxiliary Board Members and Counselors may be appealed to the elected bodies, which, in the case of the Universal House, have the final word. This is so unlike any historical examples of theocracy that it is a gross misuse of the word to apply it to the Bahá'í Faith. Nor have there ever been examples of theocracies as voluntary organizations. The use of such philosophically and historically inaccurate descriptions is a blatant use of a rhetorical (and propaganda) device called "guilt by association".

A second type of essential misapprehension is the failure to recognize the purpose of the object of study, its final cause. The Bahá'í Faith exists for a purpose, to unify humankind. It has a purpose that extends beyond its own collective self-interest. Consequently, it is a `purposive organization' and even in the most democratic societies, such organizations do not give absolute priority to individualism and civil rights; rather, they balance individual aspirations with common goals. Those who join such organizations, voluntarily set aside some of their preferences, civil privileges and even curtail some of their own civil rights for the good of the organization as a whole. They do so because they have a greater loyalty to the goals of the cause they have chosen than to their own views and `rights'. Such individuals understand - as Cole does not - that restrictions are a necessary and inevitable part of any purposive organization and that personal sacrifices are required for the organization to work. Membership has privileges - but also its duties.

A third type of essential misapprehension is the failure to see the object of study as a whole. For example, the Bahá'í Faith is not a fragmented smorgasbord of teachings but an integral entity, in which all parts must be seen in relationship to each other. The fact that women cannot be elected to the Universal House must be seen in light of women's stated priority in education, their absolute right for economic support and their exemption from military service. This error also underlies many attempts to `prove' the repressive nature of the Faith by means of single quotes taken in isolation.

Essential misapprehension may also lead to the straw man fallacy, i.e. the fallacy of false attribution by which we attribute qualities, intentions, motives and powers that do not really exist.

An example of such false attribution of motive is Cole's claim that "the Bahá'í authorities wish to project an image more liberal than the reality" (ibid.) However, this cannot stand up to rational analysis. The Bahá'í Faith has never hidden its commitment to supposedly less `liberal' teachings, among them the ban on non-marital sex and homosexual acts, the ban on alcohol and illicit drugs, the strong discouragement of abortion, the fact that only men may be elected to the Universal House of Justice, the principle of obedience to the elected institutions and the acceptability of capital punishment in some cases. These `un-liberal' Teachings have always been widely available to seekers.

Indeed, the artificial imposition of foreign categories such as 'liberal' and 'conservative' is a straw man device. This extrinsic attributions must be imposed from without because they have no natural place within the Faith. They are drawn from adversarial party politics and the ensuing political culture and as such are irrelevant to a culture that rejects adversarial politics in all forms. Moreover, as already noted, the Bahá'í teachings on various issues impinge on both "liberal" and "conservative" portions of the political spectrum. This false attribution is a good example of a propaganda ploy known as `divide and conquer'.
 
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False attribution of cause is one of the most common, and serious, logical errors. It is sometimes called 'dog logic' or 'madhouse logic'. Each day the mailman comes; my dog barks and each day the mailman leaves - and once again my dog struts proudly convinced that yet again he has driven off the threat.

According to Cole, "[t]he problem with strict internal controls for missionary religions, however, is that they are most often incompatible in Western societies with significant growth" (Cole, 1998). He blames what he sees as the slow growth in America on 'repression' instituted by the Universal House of Justice. Yet, oddly enough, he recognizes that groups "with strict internal controls" ("Panopticon") such as the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses as well as a wide variety of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have experienced "significant growth".

It is logically obvious that if other religions with "strict internal controls" (ibid.) are experiencing "significant growth", such controls cannot be used to explain why the Bahá'í Faith is not growing as fast as he thinks it should be. Some other factor must be at work. He attributes causal agency without showing any causal connection. At best, one might say that he mistakes a correlation (slow growth and alleged repression) for a cause.

Without reliable sources, any work of research is bound to outrun its evidence. The single most important element in reliability is independent corroboration, and material that does not have at least some corroboration is suspect. Thus, evidence from anecdotes (especially from many years in the past), e-mails, personal communications and rumors is always weak simply because corroboration is difficult, sometimes impossible, to obtain. Any article or argument that relies on such evidence to establish its major points is, for this reason alone, unreliable.

These errors occur when essential information is left out and thus creates a misrepresentation. Critical of the ban on partisan political involvement, Cole leaves readers with the impression that this is somehow an unnatural imposition on the Faith, a deviation Abdu'l-Bahá's instruction to "take part in the election of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic" (Abdu'l-Bahá, 1099-1916, II, 342-343, quoted by Cole). In order to misrepresent the Faith on this matter, Cole leaves out two pieces of information that contradict his assertions.

First, Bahá'ís may perform the most essential of all democratic acts - voting, which, the case of the U.S. means voting for a party. This requires them to be watchful and intelligent observers of the political scene, something which undermines Cole's claims about the political isolation of Bahá'ís. They may be removed from personal activity but are certainly not removed from thoughtful concern which is in itself a form of involvement.

Second, partisanship in the wranglings of political parties is not the only way to "take part in the affairs of the republic" (Abdu'l-Bahá, ibid.) Nothing, for example, forbids Bahá'ís from discussing the philosophical issues that underlie political or social issues, or, for example, publishing an article on the role of government in family matters. What the writer may not do is identify his views with a particular party or publish them in a party forum. Such a discussion or article is certainly involvement "in the affairs of the republic" (Ibid.). Furthermore, Cole assumes that all involvement in public life must be personal, partisan political involvement, ignoring the fact that Bahá'ís can get involved in all kinds of reform groups and committees and in service clubs.

False assumptions are those which are erroneous, unsupported or inappropriate to the object of study. For example, the assumption that the avoidance of partisan politics isolates Bahá'ís more than the large numbers of Americans who, like Bahá'ís, do no more than cast their ballots. Such a far-reaching assumption cannot simply be accepted and built on; it must be proven or, at least, shown as a reasonable possibility.

Another common logical error is special pleading in which one makes an exception. This may be legitimate but there have to be good, i.e. essential reasons to justify doing so. For example, "Bahá'í elective institutions are not beholden to the electorate and may decide as they please" (ibid.). Logically, this statement is true - but trivial because it says nothing more than the obvious. This is true of any elected institution, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í : they can do as they please until the next election. But if this is true of virtually all elected bodies, why is it evidence of control and manipulation in the case of the Administrative? Consequently, this critique has no rationale, and does nothing to prove the alleged control and manipulation.

A circular argument is one in which the premise depends on its conclusion and vice versa. On the subject of `tripping' "the wire" (ibid.) of the alleged "informant system" (ibid.), Cole writes, "The independent-minded, however, usually discover fairly early on in their Bahá'í careers and then have to decide whether they wish to live the rest of their lives in a panopticon" (ibid.). In other words, anyone who `trips the wire' is independent and anyone who is independent trips the wire. The argument is obviously circular.

This circularity itself leads to the fallacy of false alternatives because it suggests that people are either independent thinkers (and, therefore ex-Bahá'ís or Bahá'ís `in trouble') or they are not genuinely independent thinkers. He rejects out of hand the reasonable possibility that people may independently have come to agree with the Faith or do not interpret the actions of the Administrative Order as he does.

The appeal to patriotism is one of the standard tools in the propagandist's tool-box. It is also regarded as intellectually dishonest since such appeals are rarely relevant to the subject matter. Furthermore, like all propaganda, this technique appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect. As such it has no place in rational and scholarly debate. Below is an example of a blatant patriotic appeal:

"Another way in which many Bahá'ís are isolated from social supports is their disparagement of the institutions and values of mainstream American society. Many Bahá'ís exalt their own community, values and procedures and denigrate those of what they call the "Old World Order". The U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights are often criticized by conservative Bahá'ís as embodying the Old World Order values and inferior to those found in the Bahá'í Writings. Bahá'í antagonism to existing American society is expressed in a number of ways."

The use of emotive diction makes it obvious that the author wants to portray Bahá'ís as un-American. Bahá'í disagreement, i.e. difference of opinion with some aspects of American political life is portrayed as "disparagement", i.e. an emotionally dismissive contempt. `Disparage' has a nasty and hostile connotations which are reinforced by Cole's use of two other strongly emotional words: "antagonism" (ibid.), which directly brings up the issue of hostility, and "denigrate" (ibid.), which means to "blacken; defame" (OED). By using the word "denigrate" (ibid.) Cole presents Bahá'í disagreement with some aspects of American political and social life as an odious and hostile attack. This reinforces his suggestion that Bahá'ís - or least, Bahá'ís in good standing - are enemies of the United States. Further reinforcement of this portrait of Bahá'ís as disloyal Americans is the statement that they "exalt their own community" (ibid.) over what currently exists. In other words, not only are Bahá'ís (except `liberals') of dubious loyalty, they also have the gall to believe they have something better from which America may learn. The word exalt means to praise, dignify, ennoble (OED), but it also carries connotations of exaggeration, irrationality and of what today is termed `triumphalism'. This supports the portrait of Bahá'ís as enjoying a fanatic and malicious sense of their own superiority. Here too we see all the standard techniques of demonization.

The purpose of scare tactics in propaganda is to turn readers against the target by making them afraid for their own well-being and/or safety without presenting any rational or adequate reason for such fears.

One of Cole's most obvious scare tactics is guilt by association. He works hard to link the Bahá'ís with the threat of a theocratic dictatorship which would deprive non-Bahá'í Americans of their civil rights. Leaving aside Cole's misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this issue (See above) let us focus on Cole's propaganda. He raises irrational fears, by linking the Bahá'í Faith specifically with the Khomeinist regime in Iran. For example, he writes that Bahá'ís "do not see them [their institutions] - - as Protestants would - - as a mere church, but rather as an embryonic theocracy (in this they resemble the Khomeinists)" (ibid.). `Khomeinist' with its associations with Iran, the hostage crisis of 1979, the failed rescue attempt and Hizbollah suicide bombers is an effective way of making readers, especially those in the U.S., nervous.

Introductions to scholarly articles are intended to prepare readers by providing necessary background information either about the subject and/or the author so that readers can achieve genuine understanding of the topic and evaluate the article rationally. The task of an introduction is to construct a frame of reference that contextualizes the material and provides guidance for understanding; it exists to clarify. Introductions to scholarly work should not aim at arousing emotions since emotionality is not conducive to rational and critical reflection. Such introductions are appropriate to propagandistic, not scholarly works.

"Panopticon" is blatantly propagandistic. To create reader receptivity for his thesis that Bahá'í Faith in the U.S. has become deceptive, controlling and manipulative, Cole begins the article with diction carefully chosen to arouse suspicions and negative emotions. Indeed, his first sentence encourages readers to adopt a suspicious, paranoid mind-set and engage in conspiratorial thinking: "Despite the large literature on American religious bodies, some groups remain curiously off-limits to investigation"
 
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2) God is the Creator. The word creator presupposes or connotes creation. God is the Provider. The word provider implies recipients of provision. Another name for the Creator is the Resuscitator, which demands the existence of creatures to be resuscitated. If He be not the Provider, how could we conceive of creatures to receive His bounty? If He be not the Lord, how could we conceive of subjects? If He be not the Knower, how could we conceive of those known? If we should say that there was a time in past ages when God was not possessed of His creation or that there was a beginning for the world, it would be a denial of creation and the Creator.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 377)
4) By the divine we mean the discovery of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significances of the heavenly religions and foundation of the law.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 181)
10) Know that nothing which exists remains in a state of repose -- that is to say, all things are in motion. Everything is either growing or declining; all things are either coming from nonexistence into being, or going from existence into nonexistence. So this flower, this hyacinth, during a certain period of time was coming from the world of nonexistence into being, and now it is going from being into nonexistence. This state of motion is said to be essential -- that is, natural; it cannot be separated from beings because it is their essential requirement, as it is the essential requirement of fire to burn.

Thus it is established that this movement is necessary to existence, which is either growing or declining. Now, as the spirit continues to exist after death, it necessarily progresses or declines; and in the other world to cease to progress is the same as to decline; but it never leaves its own condition, in which it continues to develop. For example, the reality of the spirit of Peter, however far it may progress, will not reach to the condition of the Reality of Christ; it progresses only in its own environment.

Look at this mineral. However far it may evolve, it only evolves in its own condition; you cannot bring the crystal to a state where it can attain to sight. This is impossible.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 233)
13) It has been proved by exact science that the essence of things does not change, and that all beings are under one universal law and organization from which they cannot deviate; and, therefore, that which is contrary to universal law is impossible.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 100)
Relationalism is the belief that all things exist by virtue of their relationship with God and/or other things. Only God is perfectly independent and does not exist by virtue of His relationship to other things.
15) Some sages and philosophers believe that there are two kinds of preexistence: essential preexistence and preexistence of time. Phenomena are also of two kinds, essential phenomena and that of time.

Essential preexistence is an existence which is not preceded by a cause, but essential phenomena are preceded by causes. Preexistence of time is without beginning, but the phenomena of time have beginnings and endings; for the existence of everything depends upon four causes -- the efficient cause, the matter, the form and the final cause. For example, this chair has a maker who is a carpenter, a substance which is wood, a form which is that of a chair, and a purpose which is that it is to be used as a seat. Therefore, this chair is essentially phenomenal, for it is preceded by a cause, and its existence depends upon causes. This is called the essential and really phenomenal.

Now this world of existence in relation to its maker is a real phenomenon. As the body is sustained by the spirit, it is in relation to the spirit an essential phenomenon. The spirit is independent of the body, and in relation to it the spirit is an essential preexistence. Though the rays are always inseparable from the sun, nevertheless, the sun is preexistent and the rays are phenomenal, for the existence of the rays depends upon that of the sun. But the existence of the sun does not depend upon that of the rays, for the sun is the giver and the rays are the gift.

The second proposition is that existence and nonexistence are both relative. If it be said that such a thing came into existence from nonexistence, this does not refer to absolute nonexistence, but means that its former condition in relation to its actual condition was nothingness. For absolute nothingness cannot find existence, as it has not the capacity of existence. Man, like the mineral, is existing; but the existence of the mineral in relation to that of man is nothingness, for when the body of man is annihilated it becomes dust and mineral. But when dust progresses into the human world, and this dead body becomes living, man becomes existing. Though the dust -- that is to say, the mineral -- has existence in its own condition, in relation to man it is nothingness. Both exist, but the existence of dust and mineral, in relation to man, is nonexistence and nothingness; for when man becomes nonexistent, he returns to dust and mineral.

Therefore, though the world of contingency exists, in relation to the existence of God it is nonexistent and nothingness. Man and dust both exist, but how great the difference between the existence of the mineral and that of man! The one in relation to the other is nonexistence. In the same way, the existence of creation in relation to the existence of God is nonexistence. Thus it is evident and clear that although the beings exist, in relation to God and to the Word of God they are nonexistent. This is the beginning and the end of the Word of God, Who says: "I am Alpha and Omega"; for He is the beginning and the end of Bounty. The Creator always had a creation; the rays have always shone and gleamed from the reality of the sun, for without the rays the sun would be opaque darkness. The names and attributes of God require the existence of beings, and the Eternal Bounty does not cease. If it were to, it would be contrary to the perfections of God.
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 280)
16) Each kingdom of creation is endowed with its necessary complement of attributes and powers. The mineral possesses inherent virtues of its own kingdom in the scale of existence. The vegetable possesses the qualities of the mineral plus an augmentative virtue, or power of growth. The animal is endowed with the virtues of both the mineral and vegetable plane plus the power of intellect. The human kingdom is replete with the perfections of all the kingdoms below it with the addition of powers peculiar to man alone. Man is, therefore, superior to all the creatures below him, the loftiest and most glorious being of creation. Man is the microcosm; and the infinite universe, the macrocosm. The mysteries of the greater world, or macrocosm, are expressed or revealed in the lesser world, the microcosm. The tree, so to speak, is the greater world, and the seed in its relation to the tree is the lesser world. But the whole of the great tree is potentially latent and hidden in the little seed. When this seed is planted and cultivated, the tree is revealed. Likewise, the greater world, the macrocosm, is latent and miniatured in the lesser world, or microcosm, of man. This constitutes the universality or perfection of virtues potential in mankind. Therefore, it is said that man has been created in the image and likeness of God.
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 69)
19) Therefore, They establish laws which are suitable and adapted to the state of the world of man, for religion is the essential connection which proceeds from the realities of things. The Manifestation -- that is, the Holy Lawgiver -- unless He is aware of the realities of beings, will not comprehend the essential connection which proceeds from the realities of things, and He will certainly not be able to establish a religion conformable to the facts and suited to the conditions
(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 158)
25) The worlds of God are in perfect harmony and correspondence one with the other. Each world in this limitless universe is, as it were, a mirror reflecting the history and nature of all the rest. The physical world is, likewise, in perfect correspondence with the spiritual or divine realm.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, P. 270.)
Ontology is the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.[4] Traditionally listed as the core of metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.
Identity is a fundamental metaphysical issue. Metaphysicians investigating identity are tasked with the question of what, exactly, it means for something to be identical to itself, or — more controversially — to something else. Issues of identity arise in the context of time: what does it mean for something to be itself across two moments in time? How do we account for this?
Objects appear to us in space and time, while abstract entities such as classes, properties, and relations do not. What then is meant by space and time such that it can serve this function as a ground for objects? Are space and time entities themselves, of some form, or must they exist prior to other entities? How exactly can they be defined?
The laws of physics are symmetrical in time, so could equally well be used to describe time as running backwards. Why then do we perceive it as flowing in one direction, the arrow of time, and as containing causation flowing in the same direction?
Metaphysicians investigate questions about the ways the world could have been.
Metaphysical cosmology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the world as the totality of all phenomena in space and time.
There are different ways to set up the notion of number in metaphysics theories. Platonist theories postulate number as a fundamental category itself. Others consider it to be a property of an entity called a "group" comprising other entities; or to be a relation held between several groups of entities, such as "the number four is the set of all sets of four things".
Metaphysics continues asking "why" where science leaves off. For example, any theory of fundamental physics is based on some set of axioms, which may postulate the existence of entities such as atoms, particles, forces, charges, mass, or fields. Stating such postulates is considered to be the "end" of a science theory. Metaphysics takes these postulates and explores what they mean as human concepts.
A number of individuals have suggested that much or all of metaphysics should be rejected. In the 16th century, Francis Bacon rejected scholastic metaphysics, and argued strongly for what is now called empiricism, being seen later as the father of modern empirical science.
Relationalism is any theoretical position that gives importance to the relational nature of things. For relationalism, things exist and function only as relational entities. Relationalism may be contrasted with relationism, which tends to emphasize relations per se.
Relationalism in a broader sense applies to any system of thought that gives importance to the relational nature of reality. But in its narrower and philosophically restricted sense as propounded by the Indian philosopher Joseph Kaipayil[1][2][3] and others, relationalism refers to the theory of reality that interprets the existence, nature, and meaning of things in terms of their relationality or relatedness. On the relationalist view, things are neither self-standing entities nor vague events but relational particulars. Particulars are inherently relational, as they are ontologically open to other particulars in their constitution and action. Particulars, as relational particulars, are the ultimate constituents of reality. Particulars interact and make the very fabric of reality.
In discussions about space and time, the name relationalism (or relationism) refers to Leibniz's relationist notion of space and time as against Newton's substantivalist views.[4][5][6] According to Newton’s substantivalism, space and time are entities in their own right, existing independently of things. Leibniz’s relationism, on the other hand, describes space and time as systems of relations that exist between objects.
Relationalism in colour theory, as defended by Jonathan Cohen and others,[7][8] means the view that colours of an object are constituted partly in terms of relations with the perceiver. An anti-relationalist view about colour, on the other hand, would insist colours are object-dependent.
In relational sociology, relationalism is often contrasted with substantivalism. While substantivalism (also called substantialism) tends to view individuals as self-subsistent entities capable of social interaction, relationalism underscores the social human practices and the individual’s transactional contexts and reciprocal relations. [10]
 

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