Tabatabai and the Problem of Iran: Reading of Tabatabai's Thoughts on the Basis of Heidegger's Concept of Poet

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor of Political Science, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

2 PhD in Political Science, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran



Undoubtedly, the intellectuals and thinkers of any society constitute an important and fundamental aspect of the material and spiritual life of that society. It would not be an exaggeration to equate the relationship between intellectuals-thinkers and society to the complicated link between the brain and the body. Life in society is not devoid of normative and cultural aspects, and in fact, it is subjected to spiritual and cultural values. Intellectuals and thinkers are concerned with, and influenced by, a multitude of questions including the following ones: What are these spiritual and cultural values? How can they be obtained? What are  the conditions for obtaining these values? How are they related to the current situation? How should the real situation be analyzed? What are its crises, and ups and downs?
It is obvious that key political achievements such as the 1911 Constitutional Revolution and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran would not have been possible without the roles played by Iranian intellectuals and thinkers. Accordingly, it is necessary to study the roles of intellectuals-scholars and to investigate the way they think for the purpose of better understanding a society. Seyyed Javad Tabatabai is one of the contemporary Iranian political thinkers who has influenced the mainstream intellectual and academic settings for nearly four decades. The analysis of political thought in modern Iran and particularly in the post-Islamic revolution era is an important topic for those scholars who intend to understand the Iranian history and society. What seems interesting in Tabatabai's thought and activities is his constant confrontation with other Iranian intellectuals and thinkers, who have attempted to open the door to the careful analysis of the work of other scholars, albeit with harsh but fundamental criticisms.
The main research question is: How have Seyed Javad Tabatabai's intellectual and methodological aspects of thought affected his understanding of the theory of the decline of political thought in Iran, and the way out of this situation? In the research hypothesis, it is argued that Tabatabai's methodology and analytical model in his studies enabled him to show the historical decline of political thought in Iran, and to discover the factors which have impacts on this decline. One of the issues that has always been the subject of discussions related to Tabatabai is the knowledge of methodology and theoretical framework that gives life and direction to his outlook, and consequently to his works. The method used by Tabatabai in his works and those who follow his ideas has been the subject of many debates. What complicates this issue is his deliberate avoidance of introducing his intellectual sources, although the works of Hegel, even Kant, Foucault, Althusser, Strauss, Arendt, and Ranhart Kozlek have been cited as his intellectual sources. Only Tabatabai himself can confirm whether these conjectures are correct or not. However, the fact that these names are mentioned by those who have tried to find the theoretical roots of Tabatabai's research highlights an important point—which is the complexity of Tabatabai's thinking that has confused practically everyone.
In this article, we try to explain his understanding of the role of theory in political thought with Heidegger's conceptualization of the work of art and the poet in order to better understand Tabatabai's thinking. We do not intend to argue that Tabatabai is influenced by Heidegger, and thus add a new name to the list of people who have been claimed to influence Tabatabai’s work. In this research, we use Heidegger's conceptualization of the work of art and the position of the poet and artist in order to have a model that explains some aspects of Tabatabai's viewpoint based on the elements of this model. We make use of Heidegger's theory, because we believe that it helps us to analyze Tabatabai's understanding of political and historical thought, his understanding of the relationship between tradition and modernity, and the reasons why he criticizes other Iranian intellectuals. Therefore, this is merely a way to examine and understand Tabatabai's views and has nothing to do with examination of his specific work. By using Martin Heidegger's conceptualization and theories about the work of art, the poet and artist, we try present a new understanding of Seyyed Javad Tabatabai's views on  the theory of decline of political thought in Iran. Based on Heidegger's language, Tabatabai's research on the question of "where do we stand?" as it relates to Iran, reveals his way of thinking. The issue of Iran as a mystery is a topic that Tabatabai believes has continued throughout the history of Iran, but has been expressed in a specific form in different time periods. This continuity requires careful analysis to unveil the mystery of Iran as discussed by Iranian thinkers throughout the history. The state of decline of political thought in Iran is rooted in the absence of historical awareness, and thus the way to confront the decline and to foster a new approach is to revive historiography and interest in the history of political thought.


  1. الف ) فارسی

    1. طباطبایی، سید جواد. (1392) «در کجا ایستاده‌ایم؟ تأملی در «نظریه انحطاط» و پاسخ‌های دکتر سید جواد طباطبایی،» گزارش مرکز پژوهش‌های علمی و مطالعات استراتژیک خاورمیانه، تهران. در: (29 خرداد 1401).
    2. طباطبایی، سید جواد. (1380) تأملی درباره ایران: دیباچهای بر نظریه انحطاط. تهران: نگاه معاصر.
    3. طباطبایی، سید جواد. (1384) تأملی درباره ایران: مکتب تبریز. تبریز: ستوده.
    4. طباطبایی، سید جواد. (1386) تأملی درباره ایران: نظریه حکومت قانون در ایران. تبریز: ستوده.
    5. طباطبایی، سید جواد. (1387) درآمدی بر تاریخ اندیشه سیاسی در ایران. تهران: کویر.
    6. میری، سید جواد. (1399، آذر) «بازخوانی جامعه‌شناختی روایت سید جواد طباطبایی از نظریه عام اصلاح دینی،» فصلنامه جامعهپژوهی فرهنگی، 11، 3: 190-165، .

    ب) انگلیسی

    1. Heidegger, Martin. (1999) Gesamtausgabe, Bd 39: Hölderlins Hymnen ‘Germanien’ und ‘Der Rhein’. Frankfurt-on-main: Kolstermann.
    2. Heidegger, Martin. (2001) Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper & Row.
    3. Husserl, Edmund. (2001) Logical Investigations. London: Routledge.
    4. Young, Julian. (2001) Heidegger's Philosophy of Art. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge.>