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Philosophy of Humanities: Fanaticism and Rationality


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy 120 EC, specialisation Philosophy of Humanities.


The relations of fanaticism and rationality are as old as philosophy itself. They are also ambiguous as rationality has alternately been presented as an antidote and a fuel to fanaticism. This course intends to be an introduction to a philosophical analysis of the problem of fanaticism through the perspective of its relations to rationality. It shall address questions such as the relations of fanaticism with modernity, the place of the notion of fanaticism in fanatical discourses and the paradoxical consequences of the enlightenment. Although it shall give a large part to so-called critical texts (the Frankfurt school, Postmodernism, Foucault, Koselleck), it will also strive to offer a wider historical look beginning with Plato’s polemic with the Sophists, up until current discussions of terrorism and “(de-)radicalisation.”

Course objectives

This course aims to provide the students with a detailed view of:

  • the history of the concept of fanaticism in Western philosophy;

  • the current state of the debate around fanaticism;

  • the implications of the phenomenon of fanaticism for epistemology, ethics, politics and ontology;

  • the history of the philosophical strategies to counter fanaticism;

  • the philosophical foundations of fanaticism.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the history of the debates surrounding fanaticism (including cognitive and non-cognitive approaches, theological, psychological, phenomenological and ontological approaches);

  • the ambiguous relations between fanaticism and rationalism;

  • the relations between the philosophical and psychological views of fanaticism.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically understand, comment and interconnect specialized texts and theories relative to fanaticism;

  • critically engage with some of the latest secondary literature on fanaticism;

  • present a consistent and comprehensive view of the current problems of the field and explore possible avenues of research.


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy 120 EC website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 14 x 3 hours = 42 hours

  • Literature: 80 hours

  • Preparation for seminars: 40 hours

  • Assignment: 44 hours

  • Presentation: 20 hours

  • Preparation assignments: 54 hours

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation and abstract (30%)

  • Take-home paper on a question agreed in advance based on abstract submitted (65%)

  • Final paper abstract (5%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (presentation, paper). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.
Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper.


The resit will be a thoroughly demanding survey take-home exam covering the entirety of the course materials, and including a text commentary, a series of short questions and an argumentative essay. There may be an added short oral examination. The mark will replace all previously earned marks. No separate resits will be offered for subtests.

Students will only be eligible for resits if they have submitted/presented all other assessments in the term. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Exam review

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.


Blackboard will be used for posting texts, general information documents (syllabus etc), assignments and updates.

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. F. Chouraqui