A thing is an object mediated by human labor; in a more general sense – any thing that exists independently in space-time. Aristotle called the so-understood thing the first essence. The thing denoted by the Latin term “res”, figured in the disputes of medieval nominalists and Platonists. Philosophers who recognize the reality of the world as a whole can deny other kinds of existence (common objects, attributes, classes, infinity), but nobody denies the first essence. Along with the many-valued term “thing”, other concepts are used: “subject”, “individual”, “concrete”, “particular”.
To define a thing-concrete means first of all to distinguish it from a sign (abstract, quality, characteristic). Aristotle proposed for the solution of this problem two criteria that remain basic today:
1) the thing exists in space-time independently, a sign – only in the composition of the thing; the endowment of a sign by an independent existence is called hypostasis and is considered a mistake by all except the extreme Platonists;
2) the sign characterizes the thing, gives it a certainty, the opposite is impossible – the thing cannot be a sign of a sign. Only after the distinction between a thing and a sign is understood does the dispute between nominalists, recognizing the reality of only individuals, and Platonists insisting on the existence and their signs become understandable?
A thing in the most general sense is any thing, anything that can be called, anything that can be the object of thought. As the most general philosophical concept, it covers any objects of thought – both real and imagined. A synonym for the so-understood “thing” is the “object”. An object is usually called a thing included in human activity, which is actually mastered by the subject objectively – practically and cognitively. The term “object” more often denotes not a real, but a potential referent of cognitive and practical activity, i.e. essentially any thing.
All these meanings of things are related to each other and, taken together, create an integral ontological structure. Things-objects are divided into things-concrete and things-abstracts, and concretes, in turn, – to natural things (objects) and things – products of labor.
The thing in the Arab-Muslim philosophy was expressed by the term “shai” and served in the medieval Arab-Muslim philosophical and theoretical thought as the most general expression of something that can be talked about. Such an understanding of the thing was expressed even in the kalame, where the thing was defined as “other” (ghayr), ie, something different from the other. The most common and universally accepted characteristic of the thing was “affirmation” (syubut). Depending on whether the affirmation was identified with existence (wujd) or not, the understanding of the thing in different directions could narrow to “existing” or expand to “approved”. From shay ‘was formed an abstract shay’iyya (materiality). In most philosophical directions (except Ismailism and some mutakallims) and in the Islamic dogma, God, or Primordial, is called a thing. The term “thing” will be used concerning the sensible, the intelligible, the spiritual. The denial of a thing is la-shai ‘(nothing), and also (in Ismailism) lays. Mutakallims called God a thing, except Ibn Safwa, who identified the thing with the “created” (mahlӯk), the distinctive feature of which was the possession of “likeness” (masal).
In the kalama, the opinion was expressed that God is a thing different from all other things, which was interpreted as the difference of divine attributes from the attributes of other things under their nominal coincidence. As for the things of the world, most mutakallims distinguished the “creation” of the thing and the thing itself. The concept of “created” was sometimes interpreted as “a thing and a creation (halḳ)”. (‘Abbad Bin Sulayman). Some thinkers (an-Nazazam, al-Jubbāӣ) identified the thing and the creation that is the direct “creation” (takӣӣ) of the thing, and also the will of God, which is the “work” (ӣ̄̄) things of the thing, and the thing itself, distinguishing them from the will expressed in the order for a thing, when such an order is addressed to people in the form of the Law and creates a thing indirectly, depending on the actions of people. The view was expressed that the creation of a thing is its attribute, which is neither the thing itself, nor other than it (Hisham bin al-Khuakam). In the kalam, the concept of a thing was identified with the concept of “face” (wajh) and “he” (huva), which later developed as a convergence of things and “nost” (huviyya, see Essence). Those mutakallims who identified the thing and the “existing” thought that a thing can be known as a thing before its existence, although in this case it receives only those characteristics that depend on it or existing external causes (al-Jubbāӣ).
In Arabic speaking Peripatetism, the understanding of the difference in the beginning of things from the things themselves remains. According to Ibn Sun, the First has nothing to do with the thing, since it does not belong to any gender, has no specific difference, but differs from all things due to its self (zate). In Ismailism, there is a division of the concepts of “affirmation” (different from “existence”) and “oneness”, on the one hand, and things on the other: God, having affirmation, is not a thing, the divine “self” due to itself is different from all things , the first thing (shay ‘) is the First Mind. Along with the term “shai” al-Kirman uses a close “‘ice’ (something). In Ishraqism, the thing restores the status of a universal name, and the first and most common division of things is a division into light and non-light. As-Suhraward considers “eternity” (along with existence, unity, etc.) not distinguishable from the self. The provision about the unique difference between God and the things of the world is removed in Sufism, where every thing is like any other, being able to incarnate like any other because of its differentness with respect to God.