The state of the academic and public engagement in philosophical discourse in contemporary Iran is often marked by a curious divide between “Islamic” and “western” philosophy. This dualistic setting has its historical roots in the reception of modern European philosophy in the 19th century which constitutes a major shift in modern Iranian intellectual history. Eminent Iranian intellectuals who, in varying depth and scope, tried to introduce doctrines of tried to introduce the views of various European thinkers to Iranian intellectual discourse, often did so in order to present an alternative to the philosophical tradition of “Islamic philosophy.” Consequently, while “Islamic philosophy” remained dominant within the scholastic tradition, “western philosophy” was favoured within the newly established European-style institutions of higher education. Today both branches are taught as separate academic subjects at Iranian universities. Adherence to such binary mode of philosophical practice has led to comparisons between these two strands of philosophical thinking and as such has been a topic of debate and inquiry among Iranian, and occasionally non-Iranian, scholars. Furthermore, comparative philosophical studies have gained new momentum in today’s Iran as can be noted in many publications that directly deal with comparison of western and Muslim philosophers and their respective doctrines. This panel will examine the above issues from both an analytical perspective by discussing various examples of philosophical comparisons and their significance for contemporary philosophical discourse in Iran and a methodological perspective by addressing the merits of the very idea of comparative philosophy. The first paper (by Ali Gheissari) focuses on “The Reception of Continental Philosophy” and asks for the various debates this reception process has initiated from a comparative perspective. The second paper, “Uneven Reception of Analytic Philosophy in Iran” (by Hussein Banai), deals with yet another western philosophical tradition and asks how it has been appropriated in the works of several prominent Iranian philosophers. The third contributor, Ali Paya, concentrates on the impact of a particular strand of “western” philosophical thought, namely “critical Rationalism,” and discusses the “Introduction of Critical Rationalism to the Iranian Public” from the presenter’s personal perspective who is himself involved in this debate. The fourth presentation (by Roman Seidel), “Notes on Apologetic Comparisons and Alternative Designs,” puts specific emphasis on the methodological question of comparative philosophy and explores its and its significance in the context of philosophical debates in contemporary Iran.
This paper is part of a broader project to study the evolution of modern philosophical Persian from the late 19th century to the present. More specifically it will discuss the introduction and reception of modern continental philosophy in Iran during this time period. From a comparative perspective the paper will also examine a number of linguistic and historical debates that have often recurred in the Middle East regarding the impact of western ideas—such as the question of translation and its varied impact on intellectual history. In this paper particular attention will be given to the early introduction of rationalism (notably Descartes) and critical philosophy (Kant and later Hegel), followed by Marxism (mostly through a Russia route), and in later periods existentialism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics. Further attention will be given to the intellectual background and textual style of individual translators and commentators, from early figures such as Mollâ Lâlezâr Hamadâni, Badi’ al-Molk Mirzâ, Vosuq al-Dowleh, and Mohammad-Ali Forughi to later authors such as Yahyâ Mahdavi, Hamid Enâyat, Ezzatollâh Fulâdvand, Mir-Shamseddin Adib-Soltâni, Abdolkarim Rashidiân, Manuchehr Sâne’i-Darrebidi, and Siâvash Jomâdi, among others, who translated or commented on works by Kant, Hegel, Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger, and others. The paper will also discuss available literature in print and the readership of modern continental philosophy in Iran, including both the general educated audience as well as the academic and seminary circles and will discuss contributing variables in the relative popularity of continental, rather than analytic, philosophy in Iran. On the whole this paper will present a discussion about sources, the style and diction of individual translators and commentators together with their diverse approach to the linguistic capital of philosophical Persian, usage of Arabic, attempts to ‘purify’ Persian, and the question of ideology in the reception of modern continental philosophy in Iran.