Historical Perspectives and Bahá'í Horizons

By Ali Kassem

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #22
London, England
August 27–29, 1999
(see list of papers from #22)

    In the long history of (mainly Western) philosophy, no subject has been so ill-defined and yet so controversial as metaphysics. Indeed, over the last few hundred years, much debate has centered around the question of whether such a subject can be usefully studied at all, or whether it is "nothing but sophistry and illusion." From a Bahá'í studies perspective, very little work has been done in this challenging area, and of that little, virtually nothing has been done to define the subject, discuss some of the controversies and lay, as it were, the foundation for future, more elaborate discussions.

    This paper has three main aims. First, it will discuss the nature of metaphysics from an historical perspective to outline and consider some (though by no means all) of the most significant definitions and to trace the evolution of the subject over time. We will also consider some of its most outspoken critics and long standing controversies.

    Secondly, we will attempt to consider what Bahá'í responses to the above definitions could be, to try and unearth dimensions of a possible Bahá'í metaphysics, and to consider its place in modern thought.

    Finally, we will review the current Bahá'í literature, and to discuss possible Bahá'í directions and avenues for future study.

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