Rationality and Modernity in M. A. Forughi's Writings

The odyssey of the Iranian intellectuals in the 20th century began by searching for ways to best incorporate rationality and modernity in the Iranian culture.  Nowhere can this incorporation be more clearly seen than in the political life and in the intellectual work of Muhammad Ali Furughi, one of the Iranian precursors of Iranian liberalism who in his political and philosophical writings reflected the first genuine attempt by an Iranian intellectual to articulate a systematic understanding of modern political and philosophical traditions.

Forughi belonged to the second generation of Iranian intellectuals, who, thanks to the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, were able to participate more actively in the political life of the country. He strived to create the necessary conditions for the implementation of modern and liberal principles in Iran basically through “reforms from above”. In order to achieve his goals, Forughi attempted to influence not only Reza Shah’s policies and plans, in his capacity as his prime minister, but also by introducing modern philosophical, economic and political ideas to Iranians through his essays and translations of seminal western classical texts.  In a sense, Forughi was instrumental for the gradual acceptability of a number of western values and ideals that had been introduced to Iranians by Qajar political and cultural elites. The most revolutionary of these norms was complete dedication to the principle of modernity through a breakdown of the holistic power of religion and a rapid adoption of instrumental rationality. Yet Forughi’s acceptance of the modern values was accompanied by a deep belief in the cultural and spiritual values of Iran. His aim was to create a strong, centralized government able to resist foreign domination and to modernize Iranian society without using violence.

Ramin Jehanbegloo
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