SOAS University of London

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

Debates, Methods and Themes in World Philosophies

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This course is designed to expose students to one of the core foundational principles of a world philosophies programme, which is that to genuinely study philosophy and gain broad, balanced and comprehensive understanding of the issues therein is to go beyond a hegemonic and myopic understanding of philosophy to a study of philosophy as a universal human experience and practice. The course introduces students to the key debates, methodological challenge, and major themes that have emerged since the deliberate or non-deliberate recognition of other-philosophies beyond the predominant Western philosophy in the global academia in the last seven or so decades. Some of the debates to be examined include the place of place in philosophy, the inter, universality and particularities of philosophy, the question of the criteria for philosophising, and the supremacy context. The question of method is also examined focussing on such topics as dialogue, comparison, self-critique and language. The students are also briefly introduced to key world philosophical traditions such as Chinese philosophy, Western philosophy, African philosophy and Indian philosophy, highlighting core themes in these traditions. The module concludes by examining how students of philosophy could approach practical and theoretical philosophical issues such as bioethical issues, gender issues, queer issues and epistemological issues from a world philosophical perspective. Thus, the course prepares students for topics they would be engaged with in other modules throughout the programme.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • describe philosophy as a human and global practice and critique any narrow and hegemonic conception of philosophy.
  • explain and analyse the debates and methodological issues ensuing from the study of world philosophies in academic philosophy.
  • explain the basic nature and primary concerns of different world philosophies such as African philosophy and Chinese philosophy.
  • develop basic skills to analyse and evaluate practical and theoretical issues of philosophical interest using perspectives and theories from various world philosophical traditions.

Scope and syllabus

Week 1. Critiquing hegemony: Philosophy as a universal human experience and practise
Week 2. Critical debates I: The place of place and the inter in philosophy
Week 3. Critical debates II: Who came first? Who determines what? Accents of Eurocentrism, Afrocentrism and Asiancentrism.
Week 4. Critical debates III: The pursuit of synthesis and the recognition of the other
Week 5. The methodological question: the source, dialogue, comparison and the language problem
Week 6. Introducing Western philosophical tradition
Week 7. Introducing African philosophical tradition
Week 8. Introducing Chinese philosophical tradition
Week 9. Introducing Indian philosophical tradition
Week 10. Approaching philosophical issues from a world philosophical perspective

Method of assessment

  • AS1 - 2,500 words - worth 60%
  • EXAM - TWO hours long - worth 40%

Suggested reading

  • Blocker, Gene H. (1999), World Philosophy: An East-West Comparative Introduction to Philosophy, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.
  • Deutsch, Eliot and Bontekoe, Ron (1999), A Companion to World Philosophies, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
  • Edelglass, William and Garfield, Jay L. (2011), The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Imafidon, Elvis (2019), Between the Ingredients and the Dish as such: Philosophy in places and beyond, Britta Saul (trans.), Zwischen den Zutaten und dem Gericht als solchem: Philosophie an Orten und Daruber hinaus, Polylog, special issue on the inter, 40: 19-35.
  • Janz, Bruce (2004), Philosophy as if Place Mattered: The Situation of African Philosophy. In Havi Carel and David Gamez (eds.), What Philosophy is, London: Continuum.
  • Mungwini, Pascah (2015), Dialogue as the Negation of Hegemony: An African Perspective, South African Journal of Philosophy, 34: 395-407.
  • Onyewuenyi, Innocent C. (1987/2005), The African Origin of Greek Philosophy: An Exercise in Afrocentrism, Nsuka, Nigeria: The University of Nigeria Press.
  • Park, Peter K. J. (2013), Africa, Asia and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780-1830, New York: State University of New York Press.
  • Smith, Huston (1957), Accents of the World’s Philosophies, Philosophy East and West, 7.1&2: 7-19.
  • Solomon, Robert C. (2001), “What is Philosophy?” The Status of World Philosophy in the Profession, Philosophy East and West, 51.1: 100-104.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules