SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Introduction to World Philosophies

Module Code:
30 credits (1 unit)
Year of study:
Year 1

This core-course is designed as a general introduction to the BA World Philosophies, to provide consistency and depth to the programme itself. As such, the objectives of the course are: a) to introduce and outline  overall methodological and theoretical issues of the Programme; b) to explore, mostly during Term 1, the background within Anglo-European (Western) philosophy which allows us to consider the possibility of ‘World Philosophies’ as a pursuable endeavour;  c) to expose students, during Term 2, to some of the main traditions studied in our department with a view to reflect on the philosophical dimensions therein and to begin the process of engaging in philosophical dialogue between and across traditions.

Following a brief introduction in Term 1 to the event of philosophy in a western setting (through the analysis of concepts such as mythos, logos, aletheia etc.), the course will seek to expand the notion of ‘philosophy’ to other historical and geographical settings. This task will be achieved firstly by examining the dialogical suggestions put forward by some western philosophers towards welcoming alterity and other systems of thought and, secondly, by highlighting the problematic nature of this endeavour and its multiple corollaries.

The novelty of Comparative Philosophy and/or World Philosophies as an expanding branch of the discipline requires close attention both to its historical development (mostly during the past 50-70 years) and to the originality it brings by the presence of multiple and varied systems of thought offering new ways of understanding and approaching philosophy itself.  This effort also demands careful consideration of the methodological and theoretical foundations upon which our reflection rests.

The second part of the course, offering solid introductions to diverse philosophical traditions, will further problematise the ‘task of thinking’ as this is implemented in numerous settings. The effort required of students, who will specialise in one particular tradition in the course of the degree, is their ability to establish a philosophical dialogue within and between different traditions. In an increasingly globalised world, their contribution to the dialogical component of philosophies in manifold scenarios can be paramount.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

  • Appreciate the presence and evaluate the development of dialogical philosophy within western thought in general and in the work of individual philosophers in particular.  
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the presence of diverse systems of thought (World Philosophies) beyond the experience of western philosophy.
  • Identify methodological and theoretical tools which allow students to ‘compare and contrast’ the development of thought/ideas in different historical and geographical settings.
  • Evaluate the problematic nature of ‘Comparative Philosophy/World Philosophies’, their historical backgrounds, and the advantages for philosophy in general gained through this sub-discipline.  
  • Understand the relevance of the study of ‘World Philosophies’ beyond academia and its applicability to multiple human endeavours.
  • Provide evidence of progression in understanding the development  of philosophy/philosophies from mere intellectual pursuit to practical purposes (through participation in class and tutorials discussion, the Learning Journal and written assignments).
  • Become acquainted with a variety of philosophical traditions, their historical background and the dialogue (or lack of) within and between traditions.
  • Specialise, as far as possible, in one chosen philosophical tradition.


Two hours lecture and one hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

  • One essay 3500 words (100% of the module) - for submission Term 3, week 2 - Monday

Suggested reading

  • Anderson, A. A. et al/ eds. 2004. Mythos and Logos: How to Regain the Love of Wisdom.Amsterdam and New York: Editions Rodopi.
  • Detienne, M. 1967. The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece. Cambridge, MA – London: MIT Press.
  • Hadot, P. 1995. Philosophy as a Way of Life. Chase, M., trans. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Heidegger, M. 1972. ‘The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking’, in M. Heidegger, On Time and Being, New York: Harper and Row Publishers,  pp. 55-73.
  • Hénaff, M. 2002. The Price of Truth: Gift, Money and Philosophy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Kirloskar-Steinbach, M. G. Ramana and  J. Maffie, ‘Confluence: A Thematic Introduction’,  Confluence: Online Journal of World Philosophies,  Vol. 1, No 1, 2014, pp. 7-63.
  • Marion, J-L. 2003. “The ‘end of philosophy’ as a possibility”,  M.A. Wrathall (ed.) Religion after metaphysics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 166-189.
  • Mate, R. 2001. ‘Thinking in Spanish: Memory of Logos,’ Nepantla: Views from South,  Volume 2, Issue 2, 2001, pp. 247-264.   
  • Ricoeur, P. 2006. On Translation. London and New York: Routledge.  
  • Zene, C. 2015. ‘World Philosophies in Dialogue: a Shared Wisdom?’, Confluence: Online Journal of  World Philosophies, vol. 1, n. 2, pp. 11-32.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules