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Comparative Philosophy II: Topics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to second-year students enrolled in the BA programme Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives.


Central to all philosophical traditions, east and west, is the question: how can I come to know? Philosophical communities and literate societies, in the past and at present, have developed an array of epistemologies, that is, modes of knowing and coming to know of things and realities. Contemporary epistemology is imbued with heavy doses of logical positivism where only the empirical is true and real. However, in the learned circles of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persian philosophical traditions the modes of knowing were plentiful and not confined to the empirical.

The aim of this course is to study and understand in detail the different modes of knowing and epistemologies in the Arabic and Persian philosophical traditions and to acquire familiarity with the historical and philosophical contexts that gave rise to debates on epistemology in the Middle East.

Students will attend to wide-ranging topics on epistemology, such as the rational, theological, empirical, scriptural, mystical, occultist, and imitative.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have:

  • understood the major theories of epistemology, related key texts, and the most significant thinkers in the Arabic and Persian philosophical tradition;

  • aquired an understanding of the conception of knowledge, human capacity for understanding, and modes of thinking;

  • developed a thorough understanding of the different conceptions of philosophy in the medieval and modern Middle East;

  • critically reflected on, distinguished between, and examined key varieties and aspects of philosophical argumentation;

  • exhibited the analytic skills necessary to comprehend the relevance of the past to their understanding of the present, while becoming more familiar with their own assumptions and values;

  • acquired a set of reading and discussion skills that allow them to engage texts and others in an informed and conscientious manner.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures (2 hours per week)

  • Tutorials (2 hours per week)

Class attendance is required for both lectures and tutorials.

Assessment method


  • Two three-hour written exams with essay questions.
    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.

  • Students can submit on Brightspace personal reflections and reactions to the assigned readings.

  • Students can submit on Brightspace personal reflections and reactions to a visual that occupies prominence in contemporary socio-political debates.


  • Midterm written exam with essay questions: 40%

  • Final written exam with essay questions: 40%

  • 12 weekly essays: 20%


The resit consists of a written exam, covering the entirety of the course material. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for partial exams (80%).
The grade for the weekly essays remains in place. Satisfactory completion of the weekly essays is a prerequisite for taking the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Students will receive one-to-one feedback on the midterm examination and (should they request) on their final examination.

Reading list

Study of compulsory literature

Our primary readings will draw from a series of Arabic and Persian texts in translation. The primary texts in translation will be available at the University Library.

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).

  • J. McGinnis and D. Reisman (eds.), Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources (Indianapolis, 2007).


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.