The Perception of Heidegger's Philosophy as Non-Reductionist by Iranian 20th Century Intellectuals


Placed in the context of Iran‘s recent intellectual history, reception of Heidegger comes in the wake of the reception of Western thinkers in Iran that starts in the 19th century. Dealing with Western philosophy was both part and a reaction to what is conventionally called Westernization, a process that, contrary to what the term suggests, does not involve the West alone, as recent scholarship has pointed out.
Iranian philosopher and university teacher Aḥmad Fardīd (1909-1994), through acquaintance with the French self-styled Platonist and orientalist Henry Corbin (1903-1978), seems to have been the first Iranian thinker to have become aware of Heidegger‘s significance. He soon gathered a circle around him from which later recipients of Heidegger like Dāryuš Šāyegān (1935-) and Reżā Dāvarī (1933-) came forth.
Corbin attributes a religious dimension to Heidegger‘s thinking and uses Heidegger‘s phenomenological hermeneutics to deal with what he calls Iranian-Islamic tradition, a term that caught on with the Iranian intellectual community and has come to constitute their intellectual self-awareness. Generally, Corbin identifies the Iranian-Islamic tradition as the purest manifestation of an eternal wisdom. Religion in this perspective cannot be reduced to a historical and material dimension. Instead, Corbin extends the meaning of religion in a way that allows him to formulate the question of God independently from traditional theology. This initiative is welcomed by Iranian intellectuals, too. Corbins orientalism and Heidegger‘s thought allow them to start a dialogue with Western thinkers without any feelings of inferiority.
My talk discusses how far Heidegger‘s attraction for Iranian thinkers since the 50s may have, on the one hand, resided in the possibility to use his philosophy to formulate a counterposition to reductionist rationalism like positivism and materialism, the one championed by official Pahlavi discourse and the other by the ideological, and, thus, likewise reductionist counterdiscourse of the left, and, on the other, to advocate a non-reductionist notion of religion as a counterposition to, e.g., all sorts of positivist or materialist notions of religion and of the traditional concept of religion represented by the religious institution.