Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066


Volume 7, No. 1 Spring 2012

Philosophy, Religion, and Hermeneutics


Index and Editors' Introduction


An Unexpected Friendship
Herbert W. Mason | Boston University

Behind the friendship of the elder noted French Islamicist Louis Massignon, author of the magisterial Passion d'al-Hallaj and the young aspiring American author of Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative, is a most unusual story that transcends boundaries of age, language, religion, and time. Mary and Paul Mellon's celebrated Bollingen Series, which published the entire works of Carl Jung and of numerous other seminal European thinkers of the early twentieth century, held the rights to the English translation of Massignon's magnum opus published in 1922. The scholarly and spiritual impact of Massignon himself on the young Mason between the years 1959-1962 and beyond is revealed most fully in this dramatic account. An Unexpected Friendship is an extension of Mason's Memoir of a Friend, Louis Massignon (Notre Dame UP, 1988), his edition of The Passion of al-Hallaj (4 vols, Princeton UP, 1983), Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative (Houghton Mifflin, 1970—a finalist for the National Book Award 1971, Mentor, Penguin Putnam, 1972, Mariner Series, Houghton Mifflin, 2003 etc), and his recent novel, This Never Happened! (Amazon.com, 2010). Copyrights reserved © 2012 Herbert W. Mason.

Baal—Satan: A Dramatic Presentation
Herbert W. Mason | Boston University

Baal–Satan was written for presentation to an audience by a single actor as Baal–Satan joined by a questioner Matthew in a concluding dialogue. The work deals with the eternal conundrum of a good God's creation of a world including both good and evil. It extends Herbert Mason's prior themes of protest against death in Gilgamesh, a Verse Narrative, a finalist for the National Book Award, and a martyr's impassioned love of his Only One in The Death of al-Hallaj, A Dramatic Narrative, both presented in adaptations and public readings for stage. Copyrights reserved © 2012 Herbert W. Mason.

Rationality of Belief in Action: A Look at the Theory of Allāmah Tabātabāī
Hādi Sādeqi | Quran and Hadith University at Qom, Iran

Man is a rational being and possesses the faculty of reason, which makes him quite distinct from animals or other creatures. In Islam, man is regarded as superior to other creatures, but this superiority has also created some responsibilities for him to do, including the necessity of being rational in his actions. We all feel ourselves responsible toward spiritual, mental, and physical affairs. Perhaps, the most important responsibility of ours is to keep rationalistic in our jobs. Therefore, it seems to be worthwhile here to elaborate upon rationality, make known its different sides, and recognize its criteria as well.

The Instrumental Intellect in Islamic Tradition
Reza Berenjkar | University of Tehran, Iran

As opposed to ignorance, concupiscence, and carnal desires, the intellect is a faculty that plays a major role in all categories of human knowledge within Islamic tradition; and it plays a provocative role as well. The intellect has three functions: theoretical, practical, and instrumental. Contrary to Hume's view, which was proposed in the course of affections, impressions, and inclinations, the instrumental function of the intellect comes into play after its theoretical and practical functions. Indeed, the function of the instrumental intellect is to manage man's livelihood according to the data of the theoretical intellect and the ideals of the practical intellect.

How Philosophy Shapes Theology
Muhammad Ali Abdullahi | University of Tehran, Iran

Most theologians are under the impression that philosophy must serve the purpose of theology, while there are some theologians who are skeptical of such a notion. In the West, from the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century onwards, the idea that theology employs philosophy was refuted by philosophers and theologians, but this did not result in its emancipation, rather, it led to it being at the service of the natural sciences and humanities. The relationship between philosophy, theology and religion is not an ambiguous issue in the Muslim world either; the connection between philosophy and theology, and their link with religion has been designated. According to some Islamic thinkers, theology is a science committed to the propositions of religion, while philosophy is free intellectual endeavor of the mind with no commitment to religion whatsoever, or at the least it can be said that it is impartial. On the other hand, a group of Islamic thinkers, both jurists and theologians, hold that utilization of philosophy in understanding religion and its interpretation is erroneous from the start because it leads to difference of opinion, esoteric interpretations (ta'wil), and misinterpretation. In the author's view, this claim seems to be incorrect since when it comes to understanding religion—what we have as religion, not what the prophet had—philosophy and theology are both prone to error and both bear the same potential of reaching the truth for that matter. Therefore, transmitted revelation has no advantage over reason.

Characteristics of Islamic Philosophy
Ali Asgariyazdi | University of Tehran, Iran

Islamic philosophy concerned with the matters such as the problem of unity and multiplicity, the relationship between God and the world. One of the most important principles in Islamic Philosophy is the principle of divinity. Islamic philosophy was largely concerned with defining and elaborating God's attributes. God's attributes were enumerated, but his essence was deemed to lie beyond human knowledge. Islamic philosophy reconciles revelation with intellect, knowledge with faith, and religion with philosophy, and to show that intellect and revelation does not contradict each other. So, in Islamic Philosophy revelation, intellect, faith, knowledge, and religion lead to the same result and they confirm one another.

Philosophy in Islam and the West
Mohammad Reza Rezvantalab | University of Tehran, Iran

Undoubtedly, the most significant topic in philosophy is ontology. The Philosophers' viewpoints about the cosmos entirely affect all philosophical thought. In what follows, the author has examined the differences between Islamic philosophy and that of the West, highlighting the origin of these differences. By comparing the concepts of both sides, it becomes transparent why Western philosophy stood aloof from intellect in favor of sense experience and empiricism.

Philosophy and Jurisprudence in Islam—A Hermeneutic Perspective
Charles E. Butterworth| University of Maryland

This essay provides a summary with comments about five papers presented at a panel organized by the Karl Jaspers Society of North America at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Washington, DC, December 27-30, 2011.


Founding Editors
Alan M. Olson
Helmut Wautischer

Spring / Fall

Sponsored by
Karl Jaspers Society
of North America
Boston, MA

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