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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)

The course consists of a 90-minutes lecture and a 90-minutes tutorial per week that revolves heavily around the assigned text. Please read the assigned materials before the week they are assigned and come to class prepared. Guiding questions to the week’s selected textual readings will be posted on the Brightspace the week before class.

A typical but not necessarily strict lecture structure is follows:

  • Opportunity for questions and discussions about the previous textual segments;

  • Lecture on assigned selected readings. This will introduce the topic, offer historical context, and outline the main philosophical themes and/or arguments;

  • Discussion (sometimes in groups) of the primary text and responses to guiding questions.

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. The reflections should not exceed 250 words. Reflections should be submitted before the midterm examination.

  • 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: 50%

  • 12 weekly reflections: 10%


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once, consisting of a written examination covering the entire course content. The mark for the resit replaces all previously earned marks for subtests.

Inspection and feedback

Students will received 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 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

Not applicable.


  • 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.