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Symposium: Studies in Bahá’í Epistemology

Mar 6, 2022

In Modern times and, more specifically, since the appearance in 1781 of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, epistemological issues acquired a special significance in philosophical studies. With the rise of Biblical criticism, Christian scriptural philosophy had lost its momentum, and nineteenth and twentieth-century thinkers focused on sense perception and reason as the two primary sources of human cognition.

A recently conceived and developed religious movement, the Bahá’í faith reintroduces the scriptural mode of thinking into philosophical inquiries. Its scriptural texts are well preserved and authenticated. Many of the writings by the founding figures of the faith explicitly address critical philosophical problems. They also employ the Aristotelian technical vocabulary with occasional addition of neo-Platonic terms.

In the West, epistemological studies from a Bahá’í perspective started in 1978 with the publication of Jack McLean’s essay “The Knowledge of God: An Essay on Bahá’í Epistemology.” Since then, Bahá’í thinkers have addressed different aspects of epistemological research. More specifically, in this program the participants will discuss the independent search for truth, the standards of knowledge, the problems of certainty and relativity, infallibility, and interpretation, as well as mystical experience. All those topics were explored in-depth in the book Studies in Bahá’í Epistemology, which is forthcoming this year in the Boston publishing company M-Graphics.

Contributors

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Jean-Marc Lepain

Jean-Marc Lepain is an economist who, in a parallel life, pursues a second career in philosophy and Persian studies. He has studied Persian and Arabic at the Institute of Oriental Languages of Paris and at Teheran University just before the Islamic Revolution. He also studied general philosophy at Sorbonne and Islamic philosophy under Henri Corbin, the famous French iranologist. He has written several books and papers in French and prepared a new translation in French of Some Answered Questions. His major themes are individualism, rationality, philosophy of science, neuroscience and neurophilosophy, and spirituality. He lives in Laos with his wife and two children.

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Jack McLean

Jack (John Allan) McLean (b. 1945 in Toronto, Canada) holds undergraduate degrees in French literature from the Sorbonne (1968) and French and Religious Studies from Trinity College, the University of Toronto (1970). He graduated with distinction with an M.A. in the History of Religions from the University of Ottawa (1972) studying under Samaritan religion scholar, professor emeritus Reinhard Pummer. Jack also studied introductory Persian with Dr. Berengian at the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto and Islamic history with the well-known scholar, Aziz Ahmad. At the University of Toronto, he studied biblical symbolism with the famous literary critic Northrop Frye. Jack is the current convener of the Ottawa Creative Writers’ Group (founded 1993) and a weekly contributor to the Faith and Ethics page of the Ottawa Citizen (“Ask the Religion Experts”). Jack McLean is the author of seven books, including A Celestial Burning: A Selective Study of the Writings of Shoghi Effendi (An Interdisciplinary Theological and Literary Critical Study) (2012).

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Peter Terry

Peter Terry studied at the state Universities of Maine and Massachusetts, the University of Chicago, and the conservatories of music in San Francisco and Oberlin.  His areas of specialized knowledge are pedagogy, classical music, and comparative religion and scripture.  He has published a number of translations from French:  Arabic Bayan, The: From A.L.M. Nicolas' French translation, by the Báb, English version by Peter Terry (1980); A Prophet in Modern Times, annotated English translation by Peter Terry (2008) of selected chapters from A.L.M. Nicolas, Seyyed Ali Mohammed dit le Bab, 1905; The Archaeology of the Kingdom of God, by Jean-Marc Lepain, translation by Peter Terry (completed 2015) into English of L’Archeologie du Royaume de Dieu, 1995; Seven Proofs, The, by Báb, The. English translation by Peter Terry (2015) of Nicolas' French translation of The Báb's "Seven Proofs."  He has also published numerous papers on Babi and Baha'i topics.

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Mikhail Yu. Sergeev, PhD

WI Department Coordinator (Religion, Theology, and Philosophy)

Mikhail Sergeev (b. 1960) – Ph.D. in philosophy of religion (1997, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA); historian of religion, philosopher, writer. Sergeev teaches history of religions, philosophy, and contemporary art at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. He served as co-chair of the department of religion, philosophy, and theology at Wilmette Institute (2017–21). The author of more than two hundred scholarly, journalistic, and creative works, Sergeev published them in the United States, Canada, Japan, Poland, Greece, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan, and Russia. Some of his articles were translated into Polish and Japanese, and his books were reviewed in Germany, Japan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and the United States. He has authored and edited twelve books, including the monograph, Theory of Religious Cycles: Tradition, Modernity, and the Bahá’í Faith, (Brill, 2015) and his latest, Russian Philosophy in the Twenty-First Century: An Anthology (Brill, 2020).See Faculty Bio

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