Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Metaphysical Theodicy

Justin Cancelliere

For a theological problem as historically vexed as that of the presence of evil in a world that is created by an infinitely good and loving Creator, the suggestion that this problem can be definitively solved would strike many today as implausible. To be sure, in almost all contemporary cases, solutions are proffered squarely within the confines of the disciplines of philosophical theology and philosophy of religion, both of which tend to neglect the form of knowledge usually referred to as gnosis. For the prominent Muslim philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr, by contrast, no fully satisfactory account of evil and suffering is possible without metaphysics, at the heart of which lies the certitude said to be characteristic of gnosis, and whose integral reality normatively demands the purification, autology, and ultimately liberation of the knowing self. Nasr’s “metaphysical theodicy” therefore ostensibly involves not only a theoretical solution to the problem of evil but also a comprehensive exposition of the practical significance of evil and suffering for the human quest for happiness.

About the Presenter

Justin Cancelliere studied languages in Iran and Egypt before completing graduate work in Islamic philosophy and Sufism at the University of Georgia. His published articles include "Suhrawardī and the Problem of Universals," "Rudiments of a Pros Hen Hermeneutics," and "Proving God with Plato." Forthcoming articles include "Becoming What One Is: Liberative Knowledge and Human Perfection in the Writings of Seyyed Hossein Nasr," to be published in Mysticism and Ethics in Islam, edited by Bilal Orfali, Atif Khalil, and Mohammed Rustom (American University of Beirut Press), and "Fear, Deeds, and the Roots of Human Difference: A Divine Breath from al-Qūnawī's Nafaḥāt" (Brill).