Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mulla Sadra

The Persians developed fairly sophisticated philosophical approaches, a number of which bear resemblances to medieval scholastic approaches. This is not particularly surprising, given that they share a number of influences (Avicenna being a major one). Like the medieval Christians, they were faced with both illuminationist and Aristotelian strands of thought, albeit of slightly different flavors. The most notable of these great Persian philosophers were Suhrawardi (1155-1191) and Mulla Sadra (1571-1640). The latter is generally recognized to be the greatest Persian philosopher in history; only the better-known Avicenna can be said to rival him. Suhrawardi is considered the major figure of Islamic Illuminationism; he develops earlier illuminationist elements by an extended critique of the ideas of Avicenna. Mulla Sadra is influenced by Suhrawardi, taking up several points from him, but he is more Aristotelian than Suhrawardi. In that sense he makes a fascinating comparison to Thomas Aquinas; indeed, one might say, a bit loosely, that Mulla Sadra is the Thomas Aquinas of Islam, or that Thomas Aquinas is the Mulla Sadra of Christianity. Because they are doing broadly similar things, and have some shared influences (again, Avicenna is the name that chiefly comes to mind) they are often startlingly similar. However, because they have important differences in context, they are sometimes intriguingly different. Here are some online resources for learning about Mulla Sadra.

Ibrahim Kalin has several relevant papers online:
Mulla Sadra's Appropriation and Critique of the Illuminationist Concept of Knowledge
Between physics and metaphysics: Mulla Sadra on nature and motion
Mulla Sadra's Realist Ontology of the Intelligibles and His Concept of Knowledge

Seyed Safavi, Mulla Sadra on Causation

Andrey Smirnov, Causality and Islamic Thought

The Transcendent Philosophy issue of Iranian Studies has a number of articles on Mulla Sadra's philosophy (Sadrian philosophy is often called 'Transcendent Philosophy')

The Mulla Sadra Site of the Sadra Islamic Philosophy Institute is in general a good place to look for basic information on Sadra, if you can get past the occasionally poor translation.

A number of audio recordings by Jason Escolante discussing the similarities between Sadrian and Thomistic philosophical thought.

Subject-Object Relation in Mulla Sadra's Theory of Knowledge

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