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See also Baha'i Ontology Part Two: Further Explorations.

Presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #53, Bosch Bahá'í School, California (May 27-30, 2004).

Mirrored with permission from

Bahá'í Ontology, Part One:
An Initial Reconnaissance

by Ian Kluge

published in Lights of Irfan, Volume 6, pages 121-160
Wilmette, IL: Irfan Colloquia, 2005

Like the sacred scripture of all religions, the Bahá'i Writings embody an ontology, that is, they contain teachings about the nature of what exists and the structure of reality. This paper is an initial survey and explication of the ontology implicit in the Writings. It pays special attention to the nature of human existence, that is, to nature of specifically human be-ing. In pursuing these goals, this paper will make a number of observations about the Bahá'i Writings and the philosophy of Nietzsche and some of his modern successors.

1. What is Ontology?
2. Do the Bahá’í Writings Have an Ontology?
3. The Language of Bahá’í Ontology
3.1. Making the Tradition and Language New
4. The Bedrock Principle of Bahá’í Ontology: Ontological Dualism of Creator and Created
4.1. Apparently Monist Passages
4.2. The Failure to Reconcile Monism and Dualism
5. Problems with Relativism
6. The First Great Ontological Question: Introduction
6.1. ‘To Be’ Means ‘to be Caused’ (with one Exception)
7. Why is There Something Rather than Nothing? The First Answer
7.1. God’s Free Will and Necessary Creation
8. Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing? The Second Answer
9. The Ontological Principle of Perfection and Plenitude
10. The Qualified Idealist Tendency in Bahá’í Ontology
10.1. The (Platonic) Arc of Descent and the (Aristotelian) Arc of Ascent
11. The Two-Fold Structure of Being
12. A Hierarchical Ontology: Degrees of Existence
13. A Qualified Relativist Ontology
14. Substantialist Ontology
15. A Qualified Realist Ontology
16. An Essentialist Ontology: To Be Means To Have an Essence
16.1. Being and Essence
16.2. Knowledge and Essence
17. Disconnected, Phenomenal ‘Knowledge’
18. The Problem of Nominalism
19. God and the Problem of ‘Disconnected Knowledge’
19.1. The Problem of Ethical Nihilism and the Deus Absconditus
19.2. An Alternative View
20. What Else Does It Mean ‘To Be’?
22. A Non-Kantian, Realist Ontology Vis-à-vis the Categories
23. The Rejection of Classical Empiricism and Positivism
24. The Equivocal Application of ‘Being’
25. The Tension of Being and Nothingness
26. Non-Being and Being-not-Yet
27. Platonic and Aristotelian Elements in Bahá’í Ontology
28. Implications for Existential Ontology
29. An Ontological Fall?
30. To Be and Becoming
31. The Correlation of Being and Becoming
31.1. What is “Becoming’?
32. Conclusion

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