Ontetic reduction

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Ontetic Reduction is the name of final stage of reduction in the Transcendent Method as presented by Persian Philosopher, Mahmoud Khatami.

Transcendent Method and Ontetic Reduction[edit]

Transcendent Method was already employed in Persian Illuminative philosophy as suggested by Suhravardi, and developed by Mulla Sadra. However, as reconstructed and presented by Khatami, this method is based on the notion of Tashkik (the hierarchic degreement structure) of light as Being/Consciousness/ life. The core of this method is a Tashkiki reduction which is ended and rooted in "Ontetic Reduction." Ontetic reduction is the highest and purest stage within which the tashkiki structure of light, in its three indication, appears. Khatami has reconstructed the “transcendent method” and developed an “ontetic logic”.[1] To set up the transcendent method, first, Khatami starts from every day experience and reconstructs a method to transcend from this experience by reducing it to its original source step- by- step. This method leads to three continuous levels of human consciousness each of which follow its relevant level of logic. Let us describe the pillars of this method and its logic very shortly.

“The transcendent method starts with an ideal for a beginningless commence.”[2] This phrase sounds a Husserlian phenomenological epoche. No doubt, Khatami has considered Husserlian phenomenological method in elaborating his transcendent method; but he has intensively inserted Persian illuminative elements here. First of all, he pursues this beginningless commence in the stage of Tubah (meaning: return) in the illuminative practical doctrine of Sayr va Soluk (literal meaning: journey and conduct) and builds up his integral logic. Khatami’s method and logic is constituted from vertical as well as horizontal aspects of consciousness and being in a hierarchic but continuous structure. According to Khatami, “There are two interrelated kinds of sayr va soluk in general: Afaqi which belongs to the horizon of Being, and Anfusi which is vertically directed toward the purest point (or the source) of Being. These two kinds of sayr va soluk are realised for a Truth-seeker (talib al haqq) in four stages of an existential experience which indicates four ek-stasis of the self to achieve the presential cognition.”

Ontetic Reduction[edit]

Khatami summaries these stages by using Husserlian term of Reduction again; However, he still employs this word in his specific indication: “Each stage [of four stages] implies a reduction: (a) Reduction from appearances (dawaher) to their essences (mahyyat); (b) Reduction from essences to the knowing self (nafs al 'aref); (c) Reduction from the knowing self to the self as presential cognition (al nafs ‘ayn o ma'refateh); (d) Reduction of the presential cognition to Being which implies a new return to the things (the phenomenal world) through Being itself, with a different outlook; considering neither their appearance (as phenomenalism says) nor their essence (as phenomenology says); rather, their reality as the emanative entities.” Khatami tells us that the reductions (a) and (b) belong to the horizontal lines in the structure of Being, and “we can classify them as the eidtic reduction (in Husserlian sense) because they belong to essences and the eidetic field.” While “the reductions (c) and (d)”, Khatami writes, “belong to the vertical line in the structure of Being and we can classify them as the ontetic reduction.”[3] According to the above levels and reduction we see three level of logic which are only levels of a continuously vertical-horizontal, hierarchic and integrated logic. The general name he uses for this logic is “ontetic logic” which accords the transcendental method. First level of this logic which happens with application of the beginningless commence, is called empirical logic. Empirical logic is the logic of induction and experiential conclusions. The second level happens with the eidetic reduction, in which we are reflectively seeking the essences and their interrelations as they appear in our reflective constituting consciousness. Eidetic logic covers formal logic in its all presentation, being classic or modern, being deductive or abductive. The third level which is disclosed by the ontetic reduction, in which there is no reflection but a pure presence; it is logic of presence which not formal in its nature. According to Khatami, the empirical logic as well as the formal logic are limited to lower regions of human consciousness and being, and have their special field of application. They are parts of the transcendent method and two primary constituents of the ontetic logic. However, the ontetic logic is Logic of Tashkik, that is, a continuous, qualitative, and hierarchic logic with the ability of descending and ascending in vertical, as well as running and returning in horizontal structure, whether in a linear way or circular etc.[4] This logic and its transcendent method enables Khatami to start by description of the plain common sense experience which everybody has from him and his environment; then goes further and reduces it to the eidetic entities which constitute various subjects of sciences; then he reduces consciousness to its original source which is presential cognition (and not a transcendental ego as we see in Kantian-Husserlian heritage). It is from this point that Khatami extends his philosophy of subjectivity and other issues concerning human subjectivity. Meanwhile, by the ontetic reduction he recovered the ancient Persian philosophical triadic idea of “Consciousness-Action-Being” and tried to conclude the ontetic logic hidden in this idea. This idea, though constituted the whole structure of reality, shapes the world of human subjectivity which is a qualitative world (macrocosm) in itself.[5] This means for Khatami that human subjectivity accords the world; the ontetic realm would be a human extroversion, that is, the human triad of presence: “Consciousness-Action-Being”. This approach brings Khatami to centralize “human subjectivity” as the main thematic subject of philosophy: “Philosophy is the only science that purely devoted to human subjectivity and its relationships (which build up his world).”[6] According to this thesis, everything we consider as “a being” means for us as appeared in human world and its network of ontetic relations.


[1], [2] See: Mahmoud Khatami, "The Transcendent method: A Reconstruction", in Comparative Studies on Mulla Sadra, V.4, ed. Sipin, Mulla Sadra Foundation, Tehran, 2002.

[3], [4] Ibid. This eidetic-ontetic distinction is also based on katami’s special understanding of Mulla Sadra’s essence-existence distinction.

[5] See: Mahmoud Khatami, "A Phenomenological Approach to the Illuminative Notion of Man," in Microcosm and Macrocosm, ed. By A. M. Tymanicca, Springer, 2006.

[6] See: Mahmoud Khatami, Lectures on Contemporary Western Philosophy, Tehran: Elm Publisher, 2008, Introduction.


Sophia Taylor, Mahmoud Khatami: A Primer of His Ontetic Philosophy of Human Subjectivity, Müller, 2009.

External links[edit]

Mahmoud Khatami

Ontetic Philosophy