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World Philosophies: Middle East


Admission requirements

  • This course is mandatory for first-year students BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives.

  • A limited number of places is available for BA students from other departments.


It seems natural in all literate societies, and in many nonliterate societies as well, to ask difficult questions about the fundamental nature of reality, about what it is to be human, about what constitutes the good life, about the nature of beauty, and about how we can know any of these things. This, broadly speaking, is how societies of the Middle East – past and present – think of when the term philosophy is evoked.

The aim of this course, then, is to explore the major philosophical traditions in the medieval and modern Middle East – focusing on Arabic and Islamic philosophies. Students will be introduced to the general contours of metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, moral theory, logic, mystical philosophy, and philosophical theology in Arabic and Islamic philosophy. The topics covered will include metaphysical debates on the nature of God, the problem of evil, the limits of human knowledge, the ethical value of good and bad actions, logical paradoxes and famous sophistries, the role of philosophy in relation to religion and scripture, ant-rationalism and theological critiques of philosophy, and Arabic Neoplatonism.

Course objectives

The course aims to give students an introductory understanding and grasp of central themes, key texts, and major philosophers of the medieval and modern philosophical traditions in the Middle East.

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

  • the major philosophical traditions in medieval and modern Middle East, and the main arguments and key concepts that define these traditions;

  • the key primary texts that dominated and went on to influence centuries of Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Islamic philosophical thinking, from the early medieval period right up to the present day; students will also have a good understanding of such topics as metaphysical debates about God, the problem of evil, virtue ethics, limits of human knowledge, the use of logic in philosophical theology, and the creative interactions between centres of learning and philosophical schools in the Middle East.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically analyse primary texts across a range of philosophical topics in Middle East philosophy;

  • formulate philosophical reflectons and articulate well-reasoned positions on the questions covered in the course in writing, and in-class discussions.


The timetable is available on the following website:

BA Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives BA1

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Students are expected to read the assigned materials before the week they are assigned, and come to class prepared. Guiding questions to the week’s readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before class.

Class attendance is required.

Course load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Attending lectures: (13 weeks x 3 hours): 39 hours

  • Examination: 6 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 50 hours

  • Preparation for lectures: 13 hours

  • Preparation for exams: 32 hours

Assessment method


  • Mid term in-class sit-down examination with essay questions (50%)

  • Final in-class sit-down examination with essay questions (50%)

You will sit two three-hour exams, one to cover the material studied in the first half of the course, and another at the end of the semester to cover the second half of the material covered in the course. Every exam will contain 5-6 questions, each question will be made up of shorter, sub-sections. All questions are approached as short-essays where students are expected to offer clear argument, philosophical reflections, and evidence that demonstrates knowledge of the main literature.

Each week students will be expected to submit on Blackboard their personal reflections and reactions to the assigned readings. The reflections should not exceed 250 words. While these are not assessed (nor compulsory) and do not contribute to the final grade, students can however earn an extra 5% credits on their first or second examinations marks (not both) if they submit reflection papers for all the topics covered in class.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the two subtests.


The resit consists of an in-class written exam, covering the entirety of the course material. No separate resits will be offered for the mid-term or final tests. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for partial results.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Announcements

  • Readings

  • Extra class discussions

Reading list

Compulsory literature

Our primary readings will draw from materials in translation. Readings of primary texts in translation will be available for collection from myself in PDF format. In our secondary readings, we will draw on the textbook below, which is available gratis online through the University Library website:

  • P. Adamson and R. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge, 2005).

A number of very useful translations of key sections in Arabic philosophical texts are available in the following anthology (also available in PDF format):

  • A. Hyman, J. Walsh and T. Williams (eds.), Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic and Jewish Traditions (Indianapolis, 2010).

Additional reading in Arabic Philosophy

  • S. Schmidtke and K. El-Rouayheb (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy (Oxford, 2016).

  • H. Nasr and O. Leaman, History of Islamic Philosophy (London and New York, 1997).

  • T. Winter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (Cambridge, 2008).

  • M. Campanini, An Introduction to Islamic Philosophy (Edinburgh, 2008).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

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

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. A. Bdaiwi


Not applicable.