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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Medieval Arabic Thought: the Philosophical and Theological Traditions

Course Code:
15PNMC388
Unit value:
1
Taught in:
Full Year

Prerequisites

Students must have 4th year Arabic language standard or equivalent.  

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course, students . . . 

  1. should have acquired knowledge of the history of medieval Arabic philosophy and Kalam,
  2. should have a critical understanding of key philosophical and theological concepts, problems and debates, and of their broader historical and intellectual contexts
  3. should be able to read and to understand various types of medieval Arabic philosophical and theological texts both in their original Arabic and in translation
  4. should be able critically to examine, contextualise and interpret historical materials
  5. should be able critically to analyse medieval intellectual notions and modes of reasoning
  6. should be able to exhibit these skills in a piece of academic writing

Workload

This course is taught over 22 weeks with a total of 2 hours classroom contact per week

Scope and syllabus

Taking a historical, analytical and textual approach, this course will examine two major traditions of medieval Arabic thought, namely philosophy and rational theology (kalam). It will start by providing an overview both of the broader history of these traditions, introducing the main systems of thought, schools, figures and debates, and of the contemporary study thereof. The course will then focus on a selection of representative topics, which are likely to vary from session to session. Most will consist of problems and debates in which both philosophers and kalam exponents engaged, which will provide opportunities to shed light on both their doctrines and their contrasting intellectual systems and methods of enquiry. These may include problems relating to ethics, metaphysics, psychology and human nature, and the philosophy of religion. Attention will be given to some contemporary scholarly debates, and the methodologies that inform them, surrounding the interpretation of certain aspects of medieval Arabic thought. The student will also become familiar with the style and language of the classical works of philosophy and kalam by reading representative primary texts in both their original Arabic and English translations.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); one essay of 3,000 - 3,500 words to be submitted on the first day of term 2 (25%); one essay of 3,000  - 3,5000 words to be submitted on the first day of term 3 (25%).