Shams al-Din al-Samarqandī on Ontological Preponderance (al-Tarajjuh) and Ontological Suitability (al-Awlawiyya )


This article focuses on the classical debates around the major premise of Avicenna’s argument for God’s existence, namely that one of the two sides of the contingent preponderates over the other through a preponderating cause. In the article, I first discuss the principle of sufficient reason and the definition of contingency from Avicenna’s perspective and then the issue of ontological preponderance (tarajjuh, rujhān) from the perspectives of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Shams al-Dīn al-Samarqandī. Here I will explore whether or not preponderance can remain within the limit of contingency. Afterwards, I introduce Rāzī’s novel concept of ontological suitability (awlawiyya), discuss the different types of ontological suitability, and examine whether the contingent is suitable for existence or nonexistence by virtue of its essence. I also discuss whether ontological suitability for existence and nonexistence can be viewed as modalities of existence alongside necessity, contingency, and impossibility. I then introduce in the following section Samarqandī’s survey of the alternative positions on ontological suitability and present his appraisal of these positions. I show that, according to Samarqandī, flowing contingents are essentially suitable for nonexistence, some contingents are suitable for nonexistence because they occur with fewer conditions, and others are suitable for existence because they occur more frequently. In the final section, I discuss the implications of Samarqandī’s views for contingency, causality, and the principles of non-contradiction and excluded middle.


Ibn Sīnā Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī Shams al-Dīn al-Samarqandī contingent flowing contingent preponderance rujhān ontological suitability awlawiyya argument from contingency