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Phenomenology and the issue of Iran

شنبه بیست و نهم شهریور ماه 1399

"Phenomenology and the issue of Iran", an online meeting hold by the Iranian Society for Phenomenology, was organized by the Iranian Political Science Association. three Iranian researchers, whos intellectual work have been focused on Political aspects of phenomenology(Dr. Jahangir Moeini Alamdari (Faculty Member of the University of Tehran), Dr. Mahmoud Moghadam Shad (Ph.D. in Political Science) and Dr. Hamid Malekzadeh (Ph.D. in Political Science) ) presented their thoughts to the audiences at Thursday, September 11, 2020. In this meeting, was held under the management of Dr. Reza Najafzadeh (faculty member of Shahid Beheshti University); Those interested can read the text of the speakers' speeches below:پدیدارشناسی و مسئله ایران


Dr. Reza Najafzadeh in the online-meeting "Phenomenology and the Iranian problem"

What is the use and achievement of phenomenology for political science? The inclusion of Iran in the title of the meeting with a focus on the national issue has been very serious in recent years, and phenomenology must introduce itself as an approach or a philosophy or a method - the method of application.

Turning to things and achieving hypocrisy is the goal of many scientific fields, and in this sense, many Iranian thinkers can be considered phenomenologists, even if they do not mention phenomenology in their works or claim to use phenomenology. By this definition, from Shariati to Javad Tabatabaei are among the phenomenological thinkers. As in the non-Iranian world, Leo Strauss is sometimes considered a phenomenologist. This is a very broad field that encompasses many thinkers, and as a result what phenomenology, like philosophy, is always under discussion and certainly not something that can be answered in a single session.

Every book or every theorizing has tried to approach the answer in some way, and that is why different phenomenologies have emerged, such as transcendental phenomenology, realistic phenomenology, existentialist phenomenology, radical phenomenology, and other names that each theory Processors have communicated their conceptual apparatus and theory.

The topic of discussion among the speakers in this panel is either everyday life, embodiment, or the lifeworld. I think, as a rule, with these three concepts, phenomenology shows that it has such an achievement that it can study politics in a concrete way. Unlike lovers of instant thinking or quick-return theories. Thus, phenomenology, like paleontological philosophical reflections, deals with the national and can contribute to the study of the national, and we can see a more brilliant achievement than it has ever been.

To clarify immediate thinking and urgency theories, as well as to enter into the national cause, I will cite two examples; a group of urgent thoughts have put thought in the service of rapid progress, such as Akhundzadeh or Ahmad Kasravi.

Despite the brilliance of Ahmad Kasravi, he did not have a good view of philosophical thought and did not claim to be a philosopher or to have a deep philosophical reflection; Because he basically had a problem with the philosophical approach.

Another is a current that has put thought at the service of the struggle and the immediate result of political and social change. At the top of them is Ali Shariati. The result of both processes is the same "acceleration". Acceleration always carries with it the danger of becoming ideological.

To address the issue of how phenomenological philosophy deals with the concrete study of the political, I refer to Hubert Sakalowski and Jahangir Moeini Alamdari. Sakalovsky connects phenomenology with emancipation, arguing that in contrast to the philosophies of cognition of Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke, which are bound or chained, phenomenology is liberating, and with phenomenology, one can go to the outside world - the world outside the mind. In other words, according to Sakalovsky, phenomenology can be used to reconstruct a world that was previously caught up in the dilemma of self-centeredness by Cartesian philosophy.

I quote from the book"lifeworld and its Importance for Political Theory" by Dr. Moeini. The book begins with a very concrete, technical, policy-making and social issue called "traffic". In this book, Dr. Moeini believes that the social problem of traffic is the result of the intersection of me and another. In other words, the collective matter creates a problem called traffic, and as a rule, if we want to look at it from the perspective of problem solving, it must be described in the same context as being collective, in the same intersection of me and others, and secondly the solution. And be resolved. Something that Dr. Jahangir Moeini Alamdari did not enter.

Dr. Jahangir Moeini Alamdari is, according to his published works, one of the few professors left in Iran who has looked at politics phenomenologically and hermeneutically and has written a small and very effective book, which I believe paves the way for the biological world and its importance for political theory.



I chose this title due to the situation in Iran for two reasons. The first point is that I was interested in how we can use the field of political science to move towards solving the problems of society? Because academic disciplines in Iran were originally established to be able to solve a problem, and the second reason I chose this title was that the field of political science in Iran has a special status. That is, when we talk about political science in Iran, it is not necessarily the same as talking about political science in Britain or the United States. for this reason, we are facing a two-sided situation in which both the issues of Iran itself are important and the situation of the field of political science in Iran is important. That is, when we talk about political science in Iran. I have always wondered how I could relate to two things from my previous years as a student. 1- Practical aspects and 2- Theoretical aspects. For this reason, I became interested in the relationship between thought and action and discussed it in the context of various theories. In the context of Kant, Hegel, and the Frankfurt School. Ever since I was a student, my concern has always been whether there is an impenetrable barrier between theory and practice. Unfortunately, according to what we saw at the university at that time, everyone answered in the affirmative, that is, there was a strong dilemma (over the university) that either everyone should go to theory and philosophy; (In the sense that) practical issues are of little value and humiliating, or on the other hand it was assumed that we should engage ourselves in practical issues and discussions of action (which) theory is of no use to us at all because these It is a Western issue and has nothing to do with our social realities or, for example, these are idealistic issues. In general, the atmosphere in which I was raised as a student was not conducive to interpretive and idealist approaches, and the debate was far more conservative than it is today.

 Another reason why such methods as phenomenology did not receive much attention was the existence of a kind of conservatism in the academy that considered the old methods safer and was not very optimistic about testing new methods. I went through 20 years of experience to get to this point, and I still believe in how I can relate theory and practice. Truth be told After much experience; I came to the conclusion that phenomenology may be characteristic of this work.

Therefore, from this part of my speech, I would like to conclude that the specific situation of the field of political science in Iran is not still prone to the development of phenomenological thinking, and that, the lack of phenomenological works in the field of politics in Iran makes this situation more complicated. That is why in the last one or two years I have done my best to focus more on the field of political phenomenology instead of discussing phenomenology itself, and I insist on raising political phenomenology. in my opinion political phenomenology mainly Establishes a link on the field of power and participation.

to assess the history of phenomenology and its entry into political science, which unfortunately did not happen in Iran and only happened in the West, it must be mentioned that it was first in the 1970s that phenomenology entered the academy in the form of a critique of behaviorism. That is to say, the first group of phenomenologists in the field of politics were those who used phenomenological methods to criticize behaviorism.

Today, in the second wave of phenomenological discussions in politics, we can say that the discussion of critique of behaviorism is an outdated field and therefore it is natural that if we want to communicate with phenomenological discussions in Iran through academia, we should not go this way There are two points by which we can relate phenomenology to politics in Iran: one is the problem of consciousness and the other is the problem of lived experience. I believe that if phenomenology can act within the framework of lived-experience and consciousness at the level of Iranian studies, it can achieve significant results both at the individual and group level.

Of course, there is also the issue of the surrounding world, being in the world, and the lived-world, which Dr. Moghaddam Shad will talk about, and I will not dwell on it in this regard, but in general, the way I seek in political phenomenology is to try to connect 3 factors: a practical situation. That means we must always keep our present in mind our nowness. Basically, the starting point of phenomenology is from the present to the past or the future, and of course it includes a spectrum that connects the past and the present and the future, but it is our present that is very important. The second is the field of thought in the sense that we can expand the field of phenomenology in Iran within the framework of a thought or philosophy, and we can strengthen our intellectual infrastructure to the extent that those who work within the framework of phenomenology can have a minimal contribution in it. The third area is the field of political interpretation. That is the most practical part of politics. We, as academics, are more concerned with interpretation than practice. In my opinion, this interpretation has two features. The first feature of a phenomenological political interpretation is that it tries to be as less theoretical as possible. That is, it is not based on pure theory. Let him consider the reality and the present of reality. Does not follow myths, identity-building, and is not Looking for an ideal situation and nowhere instead of reality and introducing it as a bright future, but tries to move it as far as possible based on the description.

This descriptiveness is a feature that is intertwined with phenomenological thinking. That is, in phenomenological thinking, we first encounter the field of description in methodology. But this description has a very important feature that distinguishes it from empirical descriptions, and that is to go beyond description with description. That is, I believe that a phenomenology in politics will be successful that does not remain merely in the realm of description, Rather, uses description to transcend description.

The second characteristic of the interpretive view that I advocate in phenomenology is its critical nature. That is, I believe that if one enters the field of phenomenology in politics, his/her application of the field of phenomenology in politics can be tied to the critical field. Thus, when a phenomenologist enters into Iranian issues, for example, does not necessarily remain in the pure description, he uses the description to go beyond the description and the description to be critical.

Given the historical background of the Iranian intellectuals, which was also mentioned by Dr. Najafzadeh, is highly tainted with ideological issues, this feature of descriptive descriptiveness and critical feature of phenomenology, can be very important for Iranian studies. If I want to use allegory, I can say that phenomenology can act as a vaccine, which can protect us against many diseases, while many of these diseases are common in the academic part of our country. Given this issue, I predict a good future for phenomenological issues in Iran. I mean, I believe that if we can somehow put phenomenology in the country, we can get into it in some way, in an academic way, in an intellectual way, or even use phenomenology in everyday discussions and conversations that Protects the ones that have been gone in the past.

Of course, I believe that these efforts should be integrated and expanded in a way at the level of dialogue, and fortunately, this meeting today can help to this end, and that is why when I was offered to speak at this meeting, I was very happy to share my opinions with others.

Finally, I would like to point out that phenomenology is primarily concerned with human experience and the issue of consciousness, and measures the relationship between the two and reality. This is very important for our society. Because I feel that in the academic analyzes that have been presented in the past, the importance has not been given to the lived human experiences, and in fact, the reality has been ignored many times, and according to the discussions that have been raised in recent years, the importance of consciousness and inter-subjectivity  and People's mental relationship has also faded. So I think phenomenologically in our academic world today is, kind of upstream, but not in the sense that it has been rejected. But according to the efforts of friends at different levels, it can be upgraded to the level of Iranian studies.



 I would like to thank Dr. Moeini and Dr. Moghadam Shad and Dr. Najafzadeh for their hard work in managing the meeting. I begin my talk about the Iranian Society for Phenomenology. In the next few minutes, I will present a report on what is relevant to the ISP. So, there is no particular theoretical point in my speech; And I will just focus on introducing the Society.

I begin my talk with a brief introduction. Nearly one hundred years after the establishment of an academic institution that specializes in political science, we in Iran are still defining the university, the work of the university, the scientist, the work of the scientist, and their relationship with the government. As the other speakers of this meeting pointed out, the university in Iran was established for something, that is, to do something, according to the exact narration of Dr. Tabatabaei in the book "University considerations”. This has been to retrieve the task of the government. Therefore, we can expect that there is still an unknown relationship between the government, knowledge, scholars, and politicians in Iran, during the last hundred years. While we are still defining concepts and institutions such as the university, knowledge, and its relationship to the government, and given what previous speakers at the meeting have said, politics in our contemporary history has been reduced to the government and the Task of the government, Efforts to institutionalize a new paradigm for understanding politics became the basis of the path we began in establishing the ISP.

Perhaps the most important problem that the academy in Iran, especially in the humanities and especially in the political sciences, Using Dr. Tabatabaei’s Term, is that the university and the task of the university have been reduced to the education of adults. While, in my view, the task of the university should be an attempt to make sense of meaningless reality, or to attribute a particular analytical order to reality without order, which becomes the basis for understanding political, social, economic, and cultural life.

In such a situation, we, in the ISP, which has been active as one of the committees of the Iranian Political Science Association, tried to pursue the task of giving meaning to the meaningless reality that is called politics. We hope to take this first step in creating a specific institution to pursue a particular intellectual tradition, the phenomenological intellectual tradition. The initial idea of the formation of the ISP was Struck during our Studying at the University of Tehran. those days, we were thinking of a phenomenological circle dedicated to the study of phenomenology. However, due to issues related to the studying period and university bureaucracy and issues such as these, our idea did not materialize until we became acquainted with the Iranian Political Science Association after finishing our studies. Our acquaintance with the Iranian Political Science Association, during the time when Dr. Nabavi was the chairman of the association, led to an agreement between Gam-e-Nou Publications and the Iranian Political Science Association to publish "the Iranian Yearbook of Phenomenology" and a collected series called "Phenomenology and Politics". In the next step, with the help of Dr. Najafzadeh, who is the secretary of the Literature and Politics Committee of the Iranian Political Science Association, we held a workshop on writing essays using phenomenological theories and a meeting on phenomenology and the political. Afterward, with the cooperation of our friends at the Center for Strategic Studies in the Middle East, we held another meeting on power, politics, and its consequences for the Middle East. This path has progressed in such a way that today the ISP has become a well-established institution. Today, the ISP is managed by an executive committee chaired by Me, Dr. Moghadam Shad, Dr. Moeini, Dr. Domanloo, and the Chairman of the Board of the Iranian Political Science Association. What we do in the ISP focuses on several different areas. Due to the circumstances created by the Covid-19, we have not been able to carry out our plans effectively. However, our areas of activity are as follows:

The first part of our task is the publication of the IYP, which, depending on the opinion of its editors, each year is devoted to a topic about phenomenology, politics, and the social. The release of the CFP for the first Volume, which took place last year, has fortunately been welcomed by phenomenologists from all over the world. In the first stage, we received more than 25 abstracts, eventually, about 17 articles were selected for peer-review. Of these 17 articles, 11 are original articles in English, and 6 Persian articles are being prepared for publication in December 2020. The call for the second volume of the Yearbook has already been announced and the process of receiving articles continues.

Another of our activities in the ISP is the publication of a collection of authored and translated original texts on phenomenology and politics in Gam-e-Nou Publications. Two volumes of this collection of books will be published in October and at least two more volumes in January and February 2021.

Holding meetings is another activity that we have predicted in the ISP. These meetings are planned and held according to the members of the Executive Committee. we will invite speakers who have each worked in some way in writing and translating about phenomenology. If the Covid-19's situation continues, we will continue these sessions on-line and virtually.

Holding workshops and producing content for virtual networks are another part of our programs. We hope that by carrying out this set of activities, we will provide a basis for a phenomenological understanding of politics in Iran.

To cut a long story short, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we need the cooperation of a group of volunteers who are interested in working with us to achieve the goals I mentioned earlier. For example, to produce virtual content, we need people who have the ability to edit video. Also, those who can translate short texts from English to Persian or from Persian to English can help us in this direction. those who have the ability to do graphic work can also work with us. Also, if someone has the ability to translate philosophical texts into Persian, they can cooperate with us.

That's all I wanted to offer to my audiences at this meeting.


Mahmoud Moghadam shad

The main focus of the discussion is the place and importance of everyday life in politics and our view of politics from a phenomenological perspective.

Phenomenology, in a brief definition, is a kind of critical reflection on how the experiential comes to be experienced; In other words, how our forms of consciousness and knowledge of the world around us are formed as phenomena - physical objects, emotions, or other human beings as subjects of consciousness who, like us, are able to experience this world. -Is called Phenomenology.

From a phenomenological point of view, experience does not happen in a vacuum, and in fact, there is an intermediary that allows us to experiment. Husserl calls this intermediary "lifeworld."

Here we focus on the main part of the lifeworld, everyday life. There are other parts, such as the theoretical world in which philosophers operate, even dreams with their own logic can be part of the bio-world.

Our political and social actions and ideas are realized in the context of everyday life. This is the common context of inter-subjectivity in the sense that it is common to all who are able to experience the world.

In everyday life we deal with objects with a natural approach - contrary to the theoretical approach of thinkers - and normally with objects without much effort or contemplation.

In fact, we are confident in our actions and knowledge at that moment and in the natural approach unless something contrary to our expectations happens.

The question is whether the political concepts that are the tools of our work in political analysis and research are the result of the abstract thinking of philosophers and thinkers or the accumulation of our experiences in everyday life?

Phenomenologically, political knowledge, like other forms of knowledge, is the product of experience and, as has been said, has a characteristic of intersubjectivity in its basis. Therefore, the horizon of any experience is possible in the context of everyday life in general and in the context of daily life in particular.

In his famous book, Democracy in America, Tocqueville, a 19th-century French jurist, and thinker, presents his experience of American everyday life and compares it to the everyday life of the French; It amazes him how political concepts such as justice, freedom, government, autonomy, and the like are different in the U.S than in France. All in all, what emerges from the book Democracy in America is that the American way of life was politically different from that of the French at the time.

In fact, at that time, politics in the United States was bottom-up, starting with small communities, and vice versa in France.

Therefore, it can be said that the concepts of political knowledge have a collective form and are not the result of isolated and individualistic thoughts and ideas of philosophers, social reformers and even political activists. From this perspective - that is, from a theoretical approach - intellectuals can take a critical look at the beliefs and possibilities of the natural approach in everyday life.

Therefore, it is necessary to study political concepts by referring to everyday life and the foundation of our certainties and to generate a kind of genealogy.

Certainty in everyday life is anything that we take for granted without any secondary effort and reflection, and on the basis of which we judge and act and experience the world as our world, we can say the horizon. It shapes our historical experience.

I believe that phenomenological approach to everyday life is two-sided; On the one hand, everyday life forms the basis and source of all political studies and research, because it is the basis of our political and social life. We do not fully accept the actions, beliefs and certainties of everyday life. Rather, we try to have a kind of critical reflection and rethinking on the assumptions, certainties, and even in the general sense of the possibilities of political experience, and in fact to present a rethinking of the biopolitical way of life in society.

The project of phenomenology is a kind of critical return to the forms of consciousness that have been accumulated and stabilized, and this return is always intersubjective, and it can be said that the method of phenomenology is a kind of intuitive experience versus abstract reasoning. It provides the link between theory and practice, and it is the certainty of everyday life that forms the basis of political knowledge, not the other way around. For example, in his book The European Crisis, Husserl discusses the gap between theory and the lifeworld and introduces the distance between scientists and the lifeworld as the origin of the Crisis, that is the distance between Scientists and certain origin of any knowledge and science: the lifeworld.

In fact, our scientific certainty is the result of intuition in everyday life. In my doctoral dissertation, I discussed social novels and the image of the government in contemporary Iran in the years 1300-1357(SH), and the main question in that dissertation was why Some political currents were able to dominate their ideas and discourse over other currents - specifically the Islamist current - and I came to the conclusion that the certainties had the greatest proportion in everyday life  of the Iranian people.

For example, one of the common features of intellectual political currents, on the one hand, is the belief and certainty among ordinary people, the production and reproduction of authoritarian or patriarchal political culture. This can be done through novels and social stories in relationships. Evaluated the realities of everyday life and analyzed the lived experience of Iranians from a political perspective.

In my opinion, these certainties created an image of the government and the ruler, which was the image of a patriarchal ruler, while, according to this image, citizens are like immature children; One of the consequences of this is the government's monopoly on the definition of the public good. According to this definition, defining the public good is the duty of the government, not the masses. Accordingly, political practice is top-down. That is, the people do not decide what they want and what is good for them, but rather make the government their agent. The government claims that it can identify people's interests better than them.  in second hand, We are encountering a sort of authorization of people's rights in the economy, providing security, or even promoting moral values by the citizens to the government. It can be said that this procedure led to the questioning of sovereignty and citizenship responsibility in Iran: the concept of sovereignty and government was considered the same - and also led to the primacy of the founding government and the need to form a government even over society and social life, so, The people's politics took precedence over their commonality and Social life.

But at the end of the discussion, I will discuss why we should think and talk about the foundation of politics, the reason for discussing everyday life is that we want to make it the foundation of politics and any political thought. Both origin and destination.

In my opinion, the two currents in the current political thought in Iran have a special prominence compared to other currents. Politics is a poststructuralist identity that elevates micro-identities in the face of formal and majority identities. While conservatives try to define the post-historical and guiding identity of Iran or Islam, or a combination of the two, as a basis for redefining politics, postmodernists or poststructuralists seek to undermine formal identity, and At the same time, they want to transcend the philosophy of the subject and inevitably return to a series of alternative identities - such as ethnic, religious, sexual, etc. - that they see as marginalized. What is important in phenomenology is the flow of life and the bio-world itself, which can be the basis for redefining politics against the status quo.

In Husserl's philosophy, we start with the subject but end up with the subjectivity, which shows that the nature of any possible consciousness and experience has a common and collective quality, and we cannot have individual experience in a vacuum. Therefore, our identity, culture, and people are not a transhistorical whole and it is ongoing in the sense that it is not something that is prescribed by thinkers and it is a living and dynamic thing and we should not just deal with it passively, but we must know it and be able to provide a correct interpretation of it through this knowledge and be able to critique it in the next step.

The subjects that live in the common world and make up our world, from a phenomenological point of view, take the place of any invented and imposed identity. We can live, think and experience, and we cannot once and for all resort to a principle and value of a transhistorical and ideal origin - whether democratic or non-democratic. I believe that instead of defining a set of values that we consider to be the guides of our own political research and analysis, we should focus more on routine democratic processes and procedures because all values are random and They have a history, while the phenomenological approach is open to the changes in society and does not have a static view and wants to always maintain continuous knowledge of the daily life and way of life of ordinary people and be able to speak based on logic.

Ultimately, what provides phenomenological cognition and reflection on the values, beliefs, and horizons of existing experiences is a return to everyday life, both as the source of social and political life and as the destination, that is, the thing Which can be used to change the biopolitical way of life.