Dr. El-Bizri also gave three interviews in English and Arabic, on ‘Philosophy, Science and Islam’ to the Iranian media and press, including Radio Tehran. The conference was organised by the Iranian Institute of Philosophy, the Academy of Science, the Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, in association with UNESCO (Tehran Office and Paris Headquarters), and Bu Ali Sina University in Hamedan.
This academic event corresponded with the UNESCO celebration of ‘World Philosophy Day’ in November 2009. International colloquia and symposia also took place in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, as well as in Tehran and Hamedan.
The focus of the conference in Tehran and Hamedan was primarily on the legacy of Ibn Sina, who is also known by his Latinised name of Avicenna. The conference coincided with a highly distinguished national ceremony held at Ibn Sina’s shrine in Hamedan. Delegates from fifteen countries were in attendance at the ceremony, as well as participating in the conference sessions in Iran.
By critically conceptualising the ‘impetus of philosophising in Islam’, Dr. El-Bizri’s paper focused on the fundamental question concerning the ‘renewal of philosophical thinking’ that is inspired by Islam as a vibrant lived faith and a rich intercultural sequence of civilisations. In this context, he drew a distinction between the philosopher
who is motivated by the systemic unfolding of fundamental questions and concepts and the archiving exegete
who is primarily bent on reporting them. This calls for rethinking some of the principal systems in ontology and epistemology in relation to the history of ideas in Islam.
The foundational traditions that had a deep impact on philosophical and scientific thinking in Islam and a profound influence on European scholarship in the mediaeval and Renaissance periods are best represented by the legacies of two influential polymaths: Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (d. 1037 CE) and al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham (also known as Alhazen, d. ca. 1041 CE). Both offer pointers and directives that may in part assist in reformulating the essential classical questions in ontology and epistemology, and in devising new responses to their conceptual prolongations in the light of contemporary philosophy, the exact sciences, and ‘the unfolding of the essence of technology’.
Dr. El-Bizri sees this line of enquiry as an ‘exercise in thinking’, rather than a research project per se, and as one intellectual pathway amongst many others. In its epistemic possibilities, this study may potentially facilitate the founding of new modes of rethinking metaphysics and cosmology, while being inspired by intellectual history in Islamic civilisations. It is essentially oriented by lived and concretised aspirations in the unfurling of genuine philosophical thinking in relation to ‘Islam in the 21st Century’.
The conference and accompanying events were covered by Iran’s national media and press. The conference was concluded by a high-profile ceremony. The Minister of Science, Research & Technology, the Minister of Culture, the Director of the Academy of Sciences, Professor Reza Davari Ardakani, and the Institute of Philosophy, Professor Gholamreza Aavani, attended, along with various other Iranian dignitaries.
Prestigious awards were also granted to distinguished scholars for their contributions to the field of ‘philosophical studies in relation to Islam’. Award winners included Ayatollah ‘Abdallah Javadi Amoli, Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Professor Gholamreza Aavani.