Iranian philosophy

Iranian philosophy

Iranian philosophy or Persian philosophy can be traced back as far as to Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts which originated in ancient Indo-Iranian roots and were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings. According to Oxford dictionary of philosophy (page 409), the choronology of the subject and science of philosophy starts with the Indo-Iranians. Oxford dictionary dates this event to 1500 BC. Oxford dictionary also states, "Zarathushtra's philosophy entered to influence western tradition through Judaism, and therefore on Middle Platonism."

Throughout Iranian history and due to remarkable political and social changes such as the Arab and Mongol invasions of Persia, a wide spectrum of schools of thoughts showed a variety of views on philosophical questions extending from Old Iranian and mainly Zoroastrianism-related traditions, to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era such as Manicheism and Mazdakism as well as various post-Islamic schools. Iranian philosophy after Arab invasion of Persia, is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia.

Pre-Islamic period


The teachings of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) appeared in Persia at some point during the period between 1000-588 BCE. cite journal|title=The Date and Teaching of Zarathustra|author=Whitley, C.F.|pages=219–223|journal=Numen|volume=Vol. 4|issue=3|year=Sep. 1957] His wisdom became the basis of the religion Zoroastrianism, and generally influenced the development of the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian philosophy. Zarathustra was the first who treated the problem of evil in philosophical terms. He is also believed to be one of the oldest monotheists in the history of religion. He espoused an ethical philosophy based on the primacy of "good thoughts (pendar-e-nik), good words (goftar-e-nik), and good deeds (kerdar-e-nik)."

The works of Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism had a significant influence on Greek philosophy and Roman philosophy. Several ancient Greek writers such as Eudoxus of Cnidus and Latin writers such as Pliny the Elder praised Zoroastrian philosophy as "the most famous and most useful". Plato learnt of Zoroastrian philosophy through Eudoxus and incorporated much of it into his own Platonic realism. [A. D. Nock (1929), "Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland" by R. Reitzenstein, H. H. Schaeder, Fr. Saxl", "The Journal of Hellenic Studies" 49 (1), p. 111-116 [111] .] In the 3rd century BC, however, Colotes accused Plato's "The Republic" of plagiarizing parts of Zoroaster's "On Nature", such as the Myth of Er. [David N. Livingstone (2002), "The Dying God: The Hidden History of Western Civilization", p. 144-145, iUniverse, ISBN 0595231993.] [A. D. Nock (1929), "Studien zum antiken Synkretismus aus Iran und Griechenland" by R. Reitzenstein, H. H. Schaeder, Fr. Saxl", "The Journal of Hellenic Studies" 49 (1), p. 111-116.]

Zarathustra was known as a sage, magician and miracle-worker in post-Classical Western culture, though almost nothing was known of his ideas until the late eighteenth century. By this time his name was associated with lost ancient wisdom and was appropriated by Freemasons and other groups who claimed access to such knowledge. He appears in Mozart's opera "Die Zauberflöte" under the variant name "Sarastro", who represents moral order in opposition to the "Queen of the Night". Enlightenment writers such as Voltaire promoted research into Zoroastrianism in the belief that it was a form of rational Deism, preferable to Christianity.

In 2005, the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy ranked Zarathustra number two in the chronology of philosophical events. Zarathustra's impact lingers today due in part to the system of rational ethics he founded called Mazda-Yasna. The word Mazda-Yasna is avestan and is translated as "Worship of Wisdom" in English.

The Persian philosopher Osthanes was also under the influence of Zarathustra's ideas and philosophy, which afterwards affected the Greek philosophy through Democritus, his student.

Throughout Iranian history, due to Greek and Arabic influence, a wide spectrum of schools of thoughts showed a variety of views on philosophical questions extending from Old Iranian and Zoroastrian traditions, to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era, to various Islamic schools. Iranian philosophy after the Arab conquest of Persia is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy with Greek and Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia. Zoroastrianism likely had as much influence on the formation of Christianity as did Judaism and the Greek mystery religions.


Manicheism, founded by Mani, was influential from North Africa in the West, to China in the East. Its influence subtly continues in Western Christian thought via Saint Augustine of Hippo, who converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, which he passionately denounced in his writings, and whose writings continue to be influential among Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians. An important principle of Manicheism was its dualistic cosmology/theology, which it shared with Mazdakism, a philosophy founded by Mazdak. Under this dualism, there were two original principles of the universe: Light, the good one; and Darkness, the evil one. These two had been mixed by a cosmic accident, and man's role in this life was through good conduct to release the parts of himself that belonged to Light. Mani saw the mixture of good and bad as a cosmic tragedy, while Mazdak viewed this in a more neutral, even optimistic way.


Mazdak (d. 524/528 BCE) was a proto-socialist Persian reformer who gained influence under the reign of the Sassanian king Kavadh I. He claimed to be a prophet of God, and instituted communal possessions and social welfare programs.

In many ways Mazdak's teaching can be understood as a call for social revolution, and has been referred to as early "communism".Wherry, Rev. E. M. "A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran and Preliminary Discourse", 1896. pp 66.]

Classical Islamic period


In the Islamic Golden Age, due to Avicenna's (Ibn Sina's) successful reconciliation between Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism along with Kalam, Avicennism eventually became the leading school of Islamic philosophy by the 12th century. Avicenna had become a central authority on philosophy by then, and several scholars in the 12th century commented on his strong influence at the time: [Nahyan A. G. Fancy (2006), p. 80-81, "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)", "Electronic Theses and Dissertations", University of Notre Dame. [] ]

Avicennism was also infuential in medieval Europe, particularly his doctrines on the nature of the soul and his existence-essence distinction, along with the debates and censure that they raised in scholastic Europe. This was particularly the case in Paris, where Avicennism was later proscribed in 1210. Nevertheless, his psychology and theory of knowledge influenced William of Auvergne and Albertus Magnus, and his metaphysics had an impact on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. [ [ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Avicenna/Ibn Sina (CA. 980-1037)] ]


Illuminationist philosophy was a school of Islamic philosophy founded by Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi in the 12th century. This school is a combination of Avicenna’s philosophy and ancient Iranian philosophy, along with many new innovative ideas of Suhrawardi. It is often described as having been influenced by Neoplatonism.

Transcendent theosophy

Transcendent Theosophy is the school of Islamic philosophy founded by Mulla Sadra in the 17th century. His philosophy and ontology is considered to be just as important to Islamic philosophy as Martin Heidegger's philosophy later was to Western philosophy in the 20th century. Mulla Sadra bought "a new philosophical insight in dealing with the nature of reality" and created "a major transition from essentialism to existentialism" in Islamic philosophy, several centuries before this occurred in Western philosophy.citation|title=Mulla Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy|first=Muhammad|last=Kamal|year=2006|publisher=Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.|isbn=0754652718|pages=9 & 39]

Contemporary Iranian philosophy

Philosophy was and still is a popular subject of study in Iran. Previous to Western style universities, philosophy was a major field of study in religious seminaries. Comparing the number of philosophy books currently published in Iran with that in other countries, Iran possibly ranks first in this field but it is definitely on top in terms of publishing philosophy books. []

Perhaps some of the most notable Iranian philosophers and intellectuals of the twentieth century are: Dariush Shayegan, Morteza Motahhari, Mustafa Malekiyan, Javad Tabatabaei and Hossein Nasr,and Daryush Shokof (Maximalism-Yekishim). Some of the most notable contemporary university professors of philosophy are: Nasrollah Pourjavady, Gholamreza Aavani, Reza Davari, Gholamhusayn Ibrahimi Dinani, Shahram Pazouki, Mohsen Javadi, Ahmad Fardid, Mohsen Kadivar, Mahmoud Khatami,and Ahmad Beheshti.

Among 20th century experts on traditional Islamic philosophy in Iranian seminaries, Allameh Tabatabaei, Hassan Hasanzadeh Amoli, Mohammad Taghi Jafari, Mehdi Elahi Ghomshei, Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, Jalaleddin Ashtiani and Ruhollah Khomeini have exerted considerable influence.

Differently, there are some contributions to the philosophy of science. Ali Eftekhari revisited the backbone of philosophy of science by diving into Boltzmann's works. He also tried to correlate ancient Persian thoughts with western philosophy of science.

Among journals being published in Iran on philosophy there are [falsafeh-The Iranian Journal of Philosophy] [] published by the department of philosophy of the University of Tehran and "Hikmat va Falsafeh" published by Allamah Tabataba'i University in Tehran, "Ma'rifat-e Falsafeh" published by the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, and many others. Also worthy of mention is the journal, "Naqd o Nazar" published by Daftar Tablighat in Qom, which often includes articles on philosophical topics and other issues of interest to religious thinkers and intellectuals.

However, it is important to note that Sufism has had a great amount of inluence on Iranian/Persian philosophy.

List of schools and philosophers

Pre-Islamic period

*Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism
*Avesta and Gathas
*Mani and Manicheism
*Mazdak and Mazdakism

Islamic period

*Imam Mohammad Ghazali Tusi
*Kateb Qazwini
*Zakaria Razi
*Qutb-al-din Razi
*Fakhr al-Din Razi known as Imam Fakhr Razi
*Nasir al-Din Tusi
*Zakariya Qazwini
*Farid al-Din Attar (Attar Nishapuri)
*Umar Suhrawardi
*Umar Khayyam
*Ali Hamedani
*Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Balkhi (Rumi)
*Mahmud Shabestari
*Shams al-Din Lahiji
*Nematollah Vali Kermani
*Abdol-Rahman Jami
*Noor Ali Shah
*Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and Illumination School
*Sadr al-Din Dashtaki Shiraz School
*Mir Damad and Isfahan School
*Mulla Sadra and Transcendent Philosophy

*Rajab Ali Tabrizi
*Qazi Sa’id Qumi
*Tehran School and Qom School
*Khorasan School
*Mulla Hadi Sabzevari and Neyshabor School

In the history of Islamic philosophy, there were few philosophers who had their own philosophies: Avicenna, al-Farabi, Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and Mulla Sadra. Some philosophers did not offer a new philosophy, rather they had some innovations: Mirdamad, Khajeh Nasir and Qutb al-Din Shirazi belong to this group. Some philosophers had new narration of existing philosophies: Ali Modarres is an example of such philosophers. []

See also

* Intellectual Movements in Modern Iran
* Eastern philosophy
* Ancient philosophy
* Iranian traditional humanism
* Religious Intellectualism in Iran


External links

* [ Iranian philosophy] (in Persian)

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