Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hitting the Walls


One day someone should write about the philosophical history of the Iranian Revolution. A lot is said about the revolution's political history, but no one has mentioned anything about its philosophical background: things like the publication of Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West by the hard-liners in the early 1990s, or the translation of Soren Kierkegaard's works by many religious intellectuals of both sides. It was years before Khatami's presidency when Paul Tilich's works began being translated into Persian. There were reasons for the publication of three different translations of Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies in one year. There were reasons for the enthusiasm for Nietzsche and all the various translations of his books that flooded the Iranian book market from the late 1980s on.
Years before the creation of Khatami as an icon of the Reform movement one could see something is happening when Soroush and Davari were fighting over Heidegger and Popper. The late '80s and early '90s changed the way Marx was presented to the Iranian mind, introduced Arendt, Benjamin, and Adorno to the public, revived people like Fardid, Nasr, and Shayegan; and brought Popper, Habermas, and others -all mixed together- to the everyday conversations of college students.
What happened (and is still happening) definitely has its own political consequences. These consequences are not clear yet, but their importance are not less than what Khamenei says in his inrterviews, or what the parliament does. The Iranian Revolution's "History of Mind," by itself, can be an extremely interesting subject of study. It might be a window to the hidden forces that created such a tragically dynamic society in the middle East.
It is a "Dynamic" society who has tried every door to get out of the suffocating room he blind-folded moves in,
and it is a "Tragic" society because Iran's intellectual history has been nothing but hitting the walls.

P. S. 1
I suggest everyone reading Daryoush Ashuri's article (Persian in PDF format) about Ahmad Fardid. It is really good.
I also suggest reading Three Philosophical Debates in Post-Revolutionary Iran, the last chapter of the book Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph of Nativism by Mehrzad Boroujerdi. The book is one of the few sources on the subject in English.
P. S. 2
Babak Ahmadi's speech (1, 2) on the subject printed in Tehran's daily Vaghaye'e Ettefaghiye.

Wrong End of the Labyrinth. 2003. By Sean Hopp
Collection of Tom Orozco, Chicago.