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  • An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Vol. 5: From the School of Shiraz to the Twentieth Century ed. by Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mehdi Aminrazavi
  • Muhammad U. Faruque
An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Vol. 5: From the School of Shiraz to the Twentieth Century, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Mehdi Aminrazavi, 2015. London: I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 544 pp., $63.66. isbn: 978-1-84885-750-6 (hbk).

The multi-volume project An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia (APP) is the most comprehensive anthology of ‘philosophy’ in the Persian world to date, filling as it does nearly twenty-five hundred pages in print. Although the series gives coverage to philosophy in pre-Islamic Persia, the bulk of it (well over ninety percent) actually documents ‘Islamic philosophy’, and as such the editors were careful not to call it ‘Persian philosophy’, thereby fuelling the sentiment of ‘Iranocentrism’ in the process. The result appears to be an achievement which is unprecedented in scholarship on Islamic philosophy, and somewhat analogous examples can only be found in other fields, such as that of Surendranath Dasgupta’s A History of Indian Philosophy (in five massive volumes published by Cambridge University Press [1922-1955]) and Frederick Copleston’s 11-volume A History of Philosophy (Western philosophy), although it should be noted that these latter studies were the fruit of individual labour. APP has been some thirty years in the making, and it brings together nearly fifty scholars, including some of the most well-known names in the field to bring to light Persia’s nearly twenty-five hundred years of rich philosophical thought.

Volume V (From the School of Shiraz to the Twentieth Century), which is also the final volume, deals with some seven centuries of continuous Islamic philosophical activity down to the twentieth century. The book opens (Part I) with the School of Shiraz whose celebrated figures include Jalāl al-Dīn Dawānī (d. 1502), Ṣadr al-Dīn Dashtakī (d. 1497-8), [End Page 95] Ghiyāth al-Dīn Dashtakī (d. 1540) and Shams al-Dīn Khafrī (d. 1550). The Dashtakīs, together with Jalāl al-Dīn Dawānī, are the three best-known scholars who were teaching philosophy and theology in late fifteenth century Shiraz. Jalāl al-Dīn Dawānī is the author of twenty works that display his erudition of a broad range of topics, viz. logic, Peripatetic and Illuminationist philosophy, natural science, theology, lettrism (jafr and ͑ilm al-ḥurūf), and Qur͗anic exegesis. Ghiyāth al-Dīn, the oldest son of Ṣadr al-Dīn, is the author of some eighty works that demonstrate the encyclopaedic scope of his thought, as he wrote on astronomy (e.g. al-Ma͑ārij), logic, natural philosophy (physics), medicine (e.g. Tarjumāt al-Shāfiyah), ethics (e.g., Akhlāq-i Manṣūrī), Qur͗anic exegesis, theology and philosophy. Many would consider him the foremost Islamic philosopher of the sixteenth century, preceding Mīr Dāmād (d. 1631) and Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1640). One of the distinctive marks of the School of Shiraz is that it not only produced important philosophers, but also gave birth to the flourishing of scientists and astronomers. Thus, philosophy in this era cannot be separated from the history of science. Among a number of scientists of this era, Shams al-Dīn Khafrī is perhaps the most important astronomer of this period whose ‘planetary theories’ were likely to have influenced Nicholas Copernicus.1 At any rate, another characteristic feature of the School of Shiraz, which is also seen in schools that came after them, is its tendency to integrate Peripatetic philosophy with the doctrines of the various schools of Illuminationism, theology (kalām), and philosophical Sufism (͑irfān).

Part II is devoted to the School of Isfahan in which philosophy in Persia reaches its full-flowering at the hands of Mīr Dāmād and Mullā Ṣadrā. Although Mullā Ṣadrā has received serious scholarly attention in the last few decades, the same is not true of some other important figures of this school such as Mīr D...