Michel Foucault’s return to classical antiquity at the end of his career coincides with a turn away from institutional critique and a return to Kant. This is no coincidence. Foucault’s Introduction to Kant’s “Anthropology” (1961) completely anticipates his approach to ancient subject formations, which reflects Kant’s theory of the liberal, self-enterprising, and enlightened subject as this is outlined in Foucault’s “What Is Enlightenment?” (1984) and elsewhere. Foucault’s final studies surface isolated, private, and autonomous subjects who are at once premodern, proto-Christian, and uncannily modern. Fashioned by ascetic and aesthetic models of self-care, they testify to “a genealogy of the modern subject.”
This article is also available from the author’s academia page.
We often assume that our present world alone has experienced the phenomenon of globalization and that it is necessarily a feature of the modern age. And in this we like to imagine the world of the past as made up of homogeneous monolithic blocks with rigid and well-defined impenetrable boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ancient world enjoyed an interconnectedness as tight if not tighter than ours is today. Nowhere do we see this connection better than between the Greek and the Persian world. The conflict between the two serves as the starting point of the archetypal conflict between the Orient and the Occident. However, at the same time, Persian culture served as a foundation for Greek moral philosophy and by extension, had a major influence on later Jewish, Christian and Islamic philosophy. The transition from mythological to philosophical knowledge occurs in Greek thought when it encounters these Magi. In this regard, we shall see that Plato had a special relationship with the Magi, and the Magi in turn held Plato in high regard. However, Plato’s example is by no means an isolated case. We have other equally famous examples of Greek philosophers who we are told went to study in Persia before Plato, namely Pythagoras and Democritus.
Goštāsb, Farzāne. Āẕar Kayvān: zendegināme, ās̱ār-o ʿaqāyed [Āẕar Kayvān: An Account of His Life, Writings and Beliefs]. Pažuhešgāh-e ʿolūm-e ensānī-o moṭāleʿāt-e farhangī, 1400 š .
Āẕar-Kayvān (b. 1529 or 1533; d. 1609 or 1618) and his disciplines were founder of a sect in the 10th century which was known as “Āzarhušangiyān”. Very little is known about the historical details of his life, however, due to the attention of Āẕar-Kayvān to the Philosophy of Illuminative School (Ḥekmat-eEšrāq) and the Ancient Iranian tradition, he is mostly identified as a Zoroastrian mystic High Priest from Fārs, who emigrated to Inida during the reign of the Emperor Akbar Shah (r. 963-1014/1556-1605) in Mughal India.
The present book is the first comprehensive monograph dedicated to the life, writings and beliefs of Āẕar-Kayvān and his followers.
For the table of contents and the author’s preface see here.
In the ninth/tenth century, in the so-called golden era of Islam, we see not only the flourishing of an Islamic theology and an Arabic philosophy and science that originate in Greek antiquity and late antiquity. Zoroastrianism, the dominating religion in Iran under the Sasanians, also saw the emergence of a literature, particularly in the ninth century, that is today our main source for the reconstruction of the Zoroastrian Geistesgeschichte in the first millennium AD.1 This so-called ›Pahlavi literature‹, texts in Middle Persian language written in a script of Semitic origin, covers, on the one hand, a few narrative works with roots in the epic tradition of Iran, and on the other hand, a good number of religious writings of different content, form and style. These religious writings can be divided into three groups. The first group comprises texts that are closely related to the Sasanian Pahlavi translations of the Avesta (the so-called Zand ). The second group comprises texts that adapt the Zand literature and transform it within this process. The third group, finally, comprises texts that I would like to characterize as ›philosophical theology‹. The texts of this group introduce philosophical elements into the inherited theological materials and thinking.
Throughout Western universities, ancient Greek philosophy is seen as the oldest tradition of wisdom, yet the Zoroastrian way of life can be traced back to the second millennium BC. The Gathas – a collection of hymns or songs attributed to Zarathustra – contain an existential and practical philosophy avant la lettre, based on mental exercises and rituals passed down through Zoroastrian religious communities. These texts not only demonstrate the Persian thinker’s wisdom, they also introduce an important ecological focus and social practice. In Thus Replied Zarathustra, Ann Van Sevenant presents a cosmopolitan dimension to Zarathustra’s proto-philosophy that applies to all of us on an intimate level.
Ann Van Sevenant (1959), PhD in Philosophy (Brussels, 1987), is the author of eighteen books on philosophy published in Dutch, French, English and Italian. As well as being an international guest speaker, she was previously Professor of Philosophy at the University College of Antwerp and is currently an independent researcher associated with the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels.
Editor’s note: Ann Van Sevenant’s is an unusual book for us to announce. It is not philological in scope, and its treatment of the oldest Zoroastrian texts is rather unusual for our philologically dominated discipline. But perhaps therein lies the charm and challenge of this book which has not been seen by us. AZ
The history of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study dates back to 1935, and it is the one area of scholarship that has been continuously represented at the Institute ever since. The volume opens with a historical sketch of the study of the Near and Middle East at the Institute. The second part of the volume consists of essays and short studies by IAS scholars, past and present, covering fields such as the ancient Near East and early Islamic history, the Bible and the Qurʾān, Islamic intellectual history within and beyond denominational history, Arabic and other Semitic languages and literatures, Islamic religious and legal practices, law and society, the Islamic West, the Ottoman world, Iranian studies, the modern Middle East, and Islam in the West.
The second volume of the Handbook of Iranian Studies follows the concept of the first volume and develops it further. It follows the division of the first volume (for the first Volume see here) into eight discipline-defined sections and completes the research overview of the first volume in a comprehensive way with about 50 articles. Thus, in the second part, the few gaps of the first volume are closed in eight sections, and the “Iranian Philosophy and Sciences” are added in a ninth section. The view is also directed increasingly at the geographical periphery of the Iranian world. Several articles deal with the history, culture and present of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kurdistan and other regions. The second volume of the handbook of Iranian Studies, in addition to the first volume, also provides research reports. In the second volume, specialized research reports on certain areas are added in the second volume, such as “Persian Literature”: Contributions to Iranian exile and travel literature, current innovative topics such as gender, bio-ethics, the Internet and new media.
You can see the table of the contents of this volume here.
About the Editor:
Ludwig Paul is professor of Iranian Studies at the Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg. He is a scholar of Iranian Linguistic, dialektology as well as Iranian modern history.
A short editorial note: This book offers a very useful overview, as the title suggests, of philosophy in the Islamic world rather than Islamic philosophy as such. To that end, Part II of the book is dedicated to philosophy in Andalusia, including Jewish philosophy. One chapter deals with the so-called translation movement while others discuss Islamic philosophy developed by “Iranian” philosophers in different eras. I can highly recommend this book as an introductory volume to philosophy in the Islamic world.
The latest in the series based on the popular History of Philosophy podcast, this volume presents the first full history of philosophy in the Islamic world for a broad readership. It takes an approach unprecedented among introductions to this subject, by providing full coverage of Jewish and Christian thinkers as well as Muslims, and by taking the story of philosophy from its beginnings in the world of early Islam all the way through to the twentieth century.
Priscian of Lydia was one of the Athenian philosophers who took refuge in 531 AD with King Khosroes I of Persia, after the Christian Emperor Justinian stopped the teaching of the pagan Neoplatonist school in Athens. This was one of the earliest examples of the sixth-century diffusion of the philosophy of the commentators to other cultures.
Tantalisingly, Priscian fully recorded in Greek the answers provided by the Athenian philosophers to the king’s questions on philosophy and science. But these answers survive only in a later Latin translation which understood both the Greek and the subject matter very poorly. Our translators have often had to reconstruct from the Latin what the Greek would have been, in order to recover the original sense.
The answers start with subjects close to the Athenians’ hearts: the human soul, on which Priscian was an expert, and sleep and visions. But their interest may have diminished when the king sought their expertise on matters of physical science: the seasons, celestial zones, medical effects of heat and cold, the tides, displacement of the four elements, the effect of regions on living things, why only reptiles are poisonous, and winds. At any rate, in 532 AD, they moved on from the palace, but still under Khosroes’ protection. This is the first translation of the record they left into English or any modern language.
This English translation is accompanied by an introduction and comprehensive commentary notes, which clarify and discuss the meaning and implications of the original philosophy. Part of the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series, the edition makes this philosophical work accessible to a modern readership and includes additional scholarly apparatus such as a bibliography, glossary of translated terms and a subject index.