Sam Ghandchiسام قندچي Aristotle: Philosophical or Political Secularism
Sam Ghandchi

ارسطو: سکولاریسم فلسفی یا سیاسی

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In the past, this author has discussed Aristotle's pluralism in details, but never Aristotle's secularism! Twenty years ago, I wrote a paper entitled 'What is Secularism,' discussing American experience of 'political secularism' during the early years of writing US Constitution, following the 1775 Revolution. In the last two decades, Dr. Esmail Nooriala has extensively discussed in Iranian intellectual circles the difference between 'political secularism' and 'philosophical secularism,' the latter basically being equivalent to atheism. It may be surprising why I call Aristotle (384- 322 BC), a secular philosopher in the sense of 'political secularism' although he was followed by the Catholic Church after 12th Century AD, replacing Plato; and in the Islamic world, prior to 12th Century AD, not only he was followed by secular thinkers like Al-Farabi (872- 950 AD) and Avicenna (980-1037 AD), the former considered as the Second Teacher, but Aristotle's works were also studied in the Islamic theological schools. Today we have access to translations of original Aristotelian Corpus. I use 'The Basic Works of Aristotle, Richard McKeon Edition, Random House, NY, 1941'. I have not seen the word 'secular' anywhere in his works and perhaps the term was not used till after third century AD when Roman Empire is conquered by Christianity, but what I find in Aristotle's works is really what we could call 'political secularism' today! He has no problem even discussing what is referred to as 'God' in his time, without rejecting or accepting any religion! In De Anima which is translated to 'On the Soul,' he discusses what we would generally call biology today, or in his 'Nicomachean Ethics,' he discusses ethical issues all very objectively without any need to refer to religious beliefs. So it is not just in 'Metaphysics,' 'Physics,' 'Logic,' or 'Politics,' that Aristotle keeps an approach of what we could call scientific or rational today! In other words, almost 2400 years ago, Aristotle has presented a philosophy which is secular but not the so-called 'philosophical secularism' and has presented what we may call 'political secularism,' which simply means not caring if one believes in any religion or is an atheist and just to focus on objective facts even when discussing what may be called 'God!' Maybe this is why Aristotle's writings found their place in both the Christian Church and the Islamic Theological Schools. He shows us so vividly how to be secular in a world that is faced with so much religious innuendo!


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi
November 28, 2020
















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