On 15 March, the Iranian
Haj Faraj Dabbagh) delivered
Karl Popper Memorial Lecture 2012,
at the London School of Economics (LSE).
Although he has never directly studied
Soroush memorated that he was studying
philosophy of science at Chelsea College
(later absorbed into King's College
London) when Popper was teaching at LSE.
In his preliminary remarks Soroush
noted that there is, and always has
been, a very vivid interest in Iranian
intellectual circles in philosophy,
traditionally also extending into
theoretical mysticism (in which Soroush
is something of an expert too). However,
when it comes to modern Western
philosophy, until relatively recent,
that interest was generally restricted
to continental philosophy rather than
the analytical Anglosaxon tradition.
In fact, prior to the
revolution of 1979, Popper's work was
virtually unknown in Iran -- except for
his The Poverty of Historicism.
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However, when he was appointed to
the Cultural Revolution Institute in
1980, Soroush issued a directive making
the teaching of philosophy of science
mandatory for all university studies.
This set in motion a wave of interest in
the writings of Karl Popper and his work
was translated into Persian and studied
across Iran, including the shi'a
seminaries in Qom. For almost ten years,
Popper was one of the most widely read
and discussed Western thinkers in Iran.
As an anecdote, Sorouch recounted how,
also later, President Sayyid Mohammad Khatami during
his term in office (1997-2005)
encouraged his cabinet members to study
The Lesson of the Century (1992), an
interview with Popper which was
published in book form.
According to Soroush, for many
Iranians the attraction of Popper's
thought lay in its combination of
anti-Platonic, anti-nominalist, and
anti-Marxist views. Recalling the adage
that there is no such thing as bad
publicity, Soroush stated that Popper's
criticism of these various philosophy
schools eventually brought together
these forces against Popper and
eventually led to the repression of his
ideas in Iran.
|Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994)
Soroush's personal sympathy
towards Popper's thinking comes from the
modesty it exudes -- for example, his
encouragement of piecemeal social
engineering (Soroush recalls the
Popperian anecdote that when it rains
one brings an umbrella, rather embarking
on theorizing how the cosmos could be
redesigned so that it no longer rains).