We fell behind

We live at a critical juncture of Iran’s history and as a nation we are facing critical challenges in foreign and domestic politics. Naturally there is not much room for philosophical contemplation at this time. Nonetheless I decided to take a critical view of one of the great Persian philosophers in order to provide a historical perspective for us as a nation so we can evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and don’t become a victim of a naive pride. We fell behind west for centuries and now that we want to claim back our dignity and pride we have to do so with awareness and knowledge and rid ourselves of prejudice and ignorance of the past.

If you consult Wikipedia on ‘Mulla Sadra’ you will find the following: ‘..a Persian philosopher who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century’ and ‘he is also commonly known as greatest Iranian philosopher.’ While the depth and importance of his philosophy in context of the Islamic philosophy is undeniable I would like to look at his works from a different and perhaps a new angle. What strikes me as interesting is the fact that Mulla Sadra’s life span (1571-1640) almost matches that of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Of course while Galileo was an advocate of a Copernican, heliocentric view of the world (Copernicus 1473- 1543), unfortunately there is ample amount of evidence that Mulla Sadra was totally unaware of it. Mulla Sadra works are clearly based on Ptolemaic, earth centric view of universe. It would be an interesting research to find out at what later point finally Our philosophers/scientists caught up with western world in that regard. I am pretty sure that our religious schools’ (‘Hoze’) students still are being taught the old texts which contain Ptolemaic views. Galileo invented the telescope and while he was watching the surface of the moon and moons of Jupiter Mulla Sadra was thinking along following lines (The quote is from ‘The History of Muslim philosophy’, chapter on Mulla Sadra): ‘The cause of celestial motion is, therefore, the desire to reach perfection. A goal which because of its limitlessness makes celestial motion endless.’ Ofcourse since Newton (1643 – 1727) we know that celestial motions are as much about pursuit of perfection as fall of a stone or a flying spy satellite for that matter!! So much for “cultural renaissance”. Needless to say we fell behind. I leave it to historians to find who is to blame. But as I said at outset, now that we are awakened we have to be careful and distinguish between our pride and prejudice. I have more to say on Mulla Sadra philosphy later on. I hope this encourages students of philosophy and history of science to investigate issues such as this further. I think it’s about time that we take a critical look at our cultural heritage with open minds and instead of producing ‘allame’ (all knowing) and ‘Hakeem’ (wiseman) by teaching long refuted concepts try to separate the wheat from chaff and seek the truth.

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