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14 March 2013 - Conference
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3

Wittgensteinian Language-Games in an Indo-Persian Dialogue on the World Religions

Juan Cole (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

This paper is a study of a mid-19th century Persian dialogue on the world religions, including Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam.  It was conducted between the Parsi agent from Bombay for the Iranian and Iraq Zoroastrians, Manakji Limji Hataria and the exiled Iranian nobleman, Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, leader of the Baha'i religion that branched off from the Babi movement. The dialogue considers issues such as the age of the earth in the religions (at a time when modern European science was beginning to suggest a long chronology rather than the Christian short chronology). It also took up the idea of progressive revelation, the notion that the religions were founded serially by emissaries of the same God (for which Manakji cites a passage from the Bhagavadgita). Pantheism is also a subject of this dialogue, and Nuri instances the late Advaita Vedanta work, the Laghuyogavasistha, which had been translated into Persian. The dialogue shows the understanding of these two important notables of the Indo-Persian world of issues in the world religions and of key theological ideas that they shared in common. It deploys the early modern Persian translation and scholastic traditions of Iran and India, but has a modern context. It suggests that Persian-language understanding of Indic traditions in pre-modern Iran was more extensive than has usually been assumed, and that there was some Hindu influence on even the hyper-Shiite Babi movement.

Location and info

Séminaire ‘Sociétés, politiques et cultures du monde iranien’. Organized by:  Denis Hermann (CNRS), Fabrizio Speziale (Paris 3 – CNRS), Julien Thorez (CNRS).

Thursday, 14 March 2013. From 17.00 to 19.00 h.
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Salle Las Vergnas
13 rue de Santeuil, 75005, Paris