The exceptional intellectual richness of 17th-century Safavid Iran is epitomised by the philosophical school of Isfahan, and in particular by its ostensible founder, Mīr Dāmād (d. 1040/1631), and his great student Mullā Ṣadrā (aka Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, d. 1045/1635–1636). To their respective platonic and existentialist doctrines can be added the apophatic wisdom of Rajab ʿAlī Tabrīzī (d. 1080/1669–1670).
However, despite these philosophers’ renown, the identification of the 'philosophical school of Isfahan' was only proposed in 1956, by the celebrated French Islamologist Henry Corbin, who noted the unifying Islamic Neoplatonist character of some twenty thinkers and spiritual figures; this grouping has subsequently remained unchallenged for some fifty years.
In this highly original work, Janis Esots investigates the legitimacy of the term 'school', delving into the complex philosophies of these three major Shiʿi figures and drawing comparisons between their doctrines. The author makes the case that Mullā Ṣadrā’s thought is independent and actually incompatible with that of Mīr Dāmād and Rajab ʿAlī Tabrīzī. This not only presents a new approach to how we understand the ‘school of Isfahan’, but it also identifies Mīr Dāmād and Rajab ʿAlī Tabrīzī as pioneers in their own right.