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A philosophical conference in Tehran

By Paul Sanford


Tehran is a big city and many things go on quietly.  On a sunny but cold Sunday morning we were invited, most unusually, to a one-day philosophical conference, organized by Dr Simon Farid Oliai of Paris and Tehran which took place at the Swiss Ambassador's Residence in Elahieh.  Dr Oliai is a delightful thinker, scholar and philosopher, fluent in many languages, who is very enthusiastic and ardent about his subjects.  The title of the conference was the Global Impact of European Cultural and Philosophical Heritage.



Two speakers came from abroad for the conference, Professor Simone Chambers from the University of Toronto and Dr Patricia Purtschert who is currently working in Paris although she is originally from Basle.  It was interesting that both our international visitors were women, and that 40% of the audience were women too.  The Swiss Ambassador, H E Philippe Welti, was our host and he warmly and gracefully welcomed us when the conference began.



The conference organizer Dr Oliai, then took the floor and gave a paper on "Most Be-coming: Be-coming European Today" in which he cleverly analyzed the future impact of Europe's philosophical and cultural heritage in the contemporary world.  As a theme for his talk, he gave a quotation by Andre Malraux - "La culture ne s'hérite pas.  Elle se conquiert."



Dr Patricia Purtschert spoke passionately about the influence of Hegel and then Dr Mohammad Zeimaran from Tehran gave a history of how Western philosophy had influenced Iranian philosophers, which was most informative and interesting.


Professor Chambers gave a remarkable paper discussing how European the European Tradition of Political Thought should remain.  She discussed the influence of colonialism and western liberal philosophy and emphasized the importance of comparative political philosophy, especially where the relevant sources were in different languages, for example Chinese or Arabic.  She also outlined trends in secularization in the West and the work of Jürgen Habermas.



After lunch, a lively round table discussion, "Prospects for a future culture and political role in a globalized world" was led by H E Roberto Toscano, the Italian Ambassador.  Mr. Toscano is one of Tehran's most well read and knowledgeable foreign residents as well as one of the wittiest, and all of us learnt a lot from the discussion.  The rest of the conference was very intellectual droll and sharp yet fascinating comments and exchanges between the panel members and then the questions from the audiences.


It was very interesting and heartwarming to see such a conference take place here and thanks are due to all the organizers especially Dr Simon Oliai.   As my wife Syma would say, your place was empty!


... Payvand News - 12/25/06 ... --

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