February 22: Workshop on Metaphysics of Light from Plotinus to Suhrawardi and Deleuze

Please join us for a workshop exploring the legacy of Neoplatonism in the Islamic tradition and contemporary philosophy.

Metaphysics of Light from Plotinus to Suhrawardi and Deleuze
2 – 5 p.m., February 22, 2018, Mergenthaler 439
Led by Khashayar Beigi (UC Berkeley)

Throughout the history of modern philosophy, the theme of light has been consistently characterized as the intrusion of a non-Western form of thought. Hegel, for instance, deridingly attributed Spinoza’s “occupation” with light to his work as a lens-maker, and dismissed light as “the foundation of the Oriental view of things.” For Deleuze, in search of a counter-tradition of thought, this otherness of light was in fact an opening to a different kind of philosophy. He went back to Plotinus’s teachings about light in order to emphasize and applaud a break with the Greek paradigm of philosophy, one that he singles out in Neoplatonism, and that occurred under the influence of Egyptian and other Eastern traditions.

In the Islamic world, the theme of light had long been a subject of paramount importance in Quranic exegesis as well as in philosophical commentary. But in the work of the twelfth-century philosopher Suhrawardi that theme of light is elevated to a status where it reshapes the longstanding questions of theology, metaphysics, logic and epistemology. His magnum opus, The Philosophy of Illumination (ḥikmat al-ishrāq), which remained unknown to Europe until the twentieth century, was foundational in the Islamic world for an entire trend of synthetic thought, one that integrated mysticism, ancient Greek metaphysics, and pre-Islamic eastern traditions.

Thinking Deleuze alongside Suhrawardi, and in relation to Plotinus, this seminar seeks to carve out a conceptual as well as a genealogical landscape for inquiry into the role and legacy of light as an otherness of thought in the philosophical tradition that cannot be domesticated.


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