Philosophy CIS-L&S-MADA

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Philosophy CIS-L&S-MADA

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


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    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    The focus of this course will be on ‘intercultural philosophy’. The following goals are central:

    • You will get insight into how philosophers/philosophy help(s) to understand one’s own culture and that of others;
    • You will acquire tools to critically question the universal claims to reason of ‘Western’ thinking;
    • You will practice, with support of the working groups, the art of reading philosophical texts.

    We live in a time of increasing contact between different cultures. The opportunities, as well as the problems this brings are traceable in all academic disciplines, but especially in the humanities. To take note this course aims to investigate:

    • The philosophical-historical roots of Western culture and of those it defines as ‘other’
    • The philosophical conditions for intercultural dialogue

    For starters you will get a short introduction into philosophy as it is commonly taught – as the abstract reflection on knowledge and reality, that begun in the culture of ancient Greece. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are some of the philosophers from that age that almost everyone has heard of. In the age of Enlightenment (the 18th century), philosophy is defined as the universal reason that is expressed in modern European institutions as national politics, the economy and in science and technology. By that time the paradox arises that the culture of the modern West understands itself as the global and universal culture per se. When in the 20th century colonized peoples are starting to liberate themselves from the domination by their European colonizers, the work of philosophers like Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon plays an important role in the development of a new self-awareness in those men and women who had been made out to be unfit to share on their own terms in the West’s universal reason. In the fifty years after decolonization we then see a discussion taking place in philosophy about the following questions:

    • Is human reason universal and one, as Western philosophy claims, making non-Western thinkers the ones who can work themselves into it, or is Western philosophy’s claim to universality false, and is it just the expression of a certain culture in a certain time? And:
    • If philosophy is the expression of a certain culture, how about her rationality? Is reflection then not dependent upon historical and geographical contingencies? And:
    • If philosophy varies according to the culture she is interconnected with, how is it possible that people from different cultures can understand each other in a rational manner? Intercultural philosophy occupies itself with these and other similar questions. In this course they will be dealt with, and we will look especially at African philosophy as a case for the discussion. Especially in Africa, that has become so narrowly involved with European history over the past centuries, the confrontation and dialogue with European thought has been met extensively. Although this is a philosophy course, the kind of questions you will learn to pose are relevant for any academically trained person. To mention just an example: you will not be able to see a twitter slogan like ‘je suis Paris’ again without being aware how the complex question of a claim to universality from this specific historic culture – the modern European one – hides in it. You will gain a critical attitude that will enable you to reflect more deeply on your own presuppositions and the questions you bring to a certain job or research matter.

    Lectures and working groups (attendance is obligatory).

    Assignments for the working groups (30%) and Take Home Exam (70%).

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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