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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.

  • This course is part of the BA Midden-Oostenstudies: Islamstudies.

  • This course is available as an elective for BA students SSEAS and Religiewetenschappen.

  • 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 timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Midterm in-class sit-down examination with essay questions (40%)

  • Final in-class sit-down examination with essay questions (40%)

  • Weekly essays (20%)

Failure to submit weekly essays in class will disqualify students from sitting the exams.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of the midterm and final examinations and the weekly essays (see above).


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 examinations (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

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.

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:

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

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).


Enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


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

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


Not applicable.