Philosophy Minor

Philosophy is often held to lie at the origin of all subsequent forms of knowledge, and in its generative passion for truth, continues to enjoy a certain prestige as an essential and foundational form of thought. The study and practice of Philosophy is concerned with the questioning and re-organization of existing patterns of thought, and the generation of new thought and concepts, directed towards the transformation of humans and their worlds. Formal training in Philosophy can thus be quite empowering and liberating.

Philosophy also enjoys essential linkages with the other humanities. The range of crises encountered by the human sciences over the past half century have demanded an engagement with philosophy for the purposes of reflective conceptual innovation and invention across the disciplines. At Habib, Philosophical Thought has been given its rightful stature in the Core Forms of Thought, and is a crucial element in the education of our students, as much as in the theoretical orientation of our faculty across the majors and minors. Indeed, multiple recent studies have shown that philosophical study at any and all levels of education (from the primary through the secondary and tertiary) generates copious rewards that ramify across fields of study and practice.

The minor gives students philosophical training that enables them to explore continuities between Philosophy and other aspects of their ongoing curricular, professional, and personal experiences. Students completing the minor will have sufficient capacity to think and write about universal philosophical themes pertaining to being (ontology), knowledge (epistemology), aesthetics, ethics, and politics.

Given its location in Comparative Liberal Studies, the minor creates options and opportunities for students to examine philosophical practice in specifically postcolonial, South Asian, and Islamic contexts, while also exploring the power of Philosophy to transcend disciplinary boundaries and to address critical issues of global public interest.

The cognitive qualities of analytical, critical and synthetic power, as well as the power of conceptual innovation, that are all associated with the practice of philosophy make philosophical study attractive both for graduate studies, as well as for employers across a range of sectors of the economy.

Learning Outcomes of the Minor in Philosophy

Through extensive reading, writing, and presentation activities in Philosophy courses, students enrich their capacities for the clarification and production of ideas. More specifically, the minor aims to develop capacity as follows:

  • Develop the capacity to engage in intellectual inquiry that runs in the circuit of existence, knowledge, conceptions of the human and the subject, and the history of Philosophy.
  • Develop the capacity to raise, and to work through ethical questions, including questions in meta-ethics, applied and professional ethics, and questions pertaining to the ethical implications of political thought.
  • Develop the capacity to probe questions of philosophical methodology, that is, various forms of logic and dialectic in the history of Philosophy, and the role of mathematical thought in Philosophy.
  • Develop the capacity for production and critique of axiomatics – of knowledge production and practice – in the various fields and disciplines of the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM.

Philosophy Minor Requirements

The minor requires 20 credit hours in Philosophy. There is significant elective space and students are effectively designing substantial components of their minor, based on their interests. All requests pertaining to declaration of minor and trajectories towards completion of requirements are subject to approval by the Director of Comparative Liberal Studies.

The basic scheme for the minor is as follows:

  1. Either What is Philosophy? or Introduction to Philosophy
  2. CORE 202: Hikma I: History of Islamic Thought
  3. Two upper division courses

Course Descriptions

CLS/Philosophy 200: What is Philosophy
This course is an introduction to some (among the many multiple) forms and articulations of the process and work of philosophy. Philosophy is a radically open, dialectical process that resists all forms of closure, thereby unsettling established definitions and creating ruptures in hierarchies, classifications, and historical continuities. The philosophical process charts the movement of thought from an experience of negativity/nothingness to the affirmation/production of concepts and systems that transform subjectivity, creating the desire for new possibilities, singularities, worlds, and futures. Philosophical thought raises questions about thinking itself, exploring the possibilities that are there in thought to re-organize existing structures of knowledge and language, and to generate, precisely, new thought. The desire to generate new thought – to think difference and to think differently – can be located in philosophical processes and works, in the transformative shifts that occur when philosophers reflect on “problems”, for instance, the tensions between: being and existence; identity and difference; structure and subject; transcendence and history; and, universality and cultural particularity. To follow the various trajectories and pathways of philosophical thought is to open oneself up to the dialectic – i.e. thinking that is transformative, self-reflective and non-static, perpetually ongoing – which has profound implications for one’s engagement with other spheres of “life”. Thus, philosophical thought is inherently rooted in praxis, and has important implications for ethics, politics, love, as well as other practices and sites of new and original thought, such as art, literature, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, and the technological fields.

In reading philosophical texts this semester, our focus will be on interpretations that make philosophy come alive and resonate with concrete historical contexts, both personal and collective. Philosophers under consideration include major historical figures and prominent names in contemporary continental philosophy.

CLS/Philosophy 201: Hikmah 1
Ranging across philosophy, literature, history, law and the arts, Hikma I is an encompassing survey of Islamicate thought that seeks to give a sense of the historical and philosophical complexity and depth of the tradition, with significant reference to the region of South Asia. In the module on ‘Religion & Modernity’ in Core 102, and subsequently in our historical survey of socio-religious as well as nationalist reform and revivalist movements in the colonial period in Core 201, we studied the dramatic transformation and discursive constitution of ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ in the colonial-modern period. Both regionally, as well as in the global modern generally, ‘Islam’ and its cultures and societies, have also become particularly sensitive and difficult regions of the discursive landscape.

In recognition of this urgent conceptual difficulty in approaching Islamic phenomena and thought, this course is designed around 14 key themes, corresponding to core sciences within a typical pre-modern Muslim scholastic syllabus.

The course begins with the medieval spiritual bildungsroman by Ibn Tufayl – Hayy Ibn Yaqzan – that conveys the philosophical depth and passion for knowledge, in all its plurality, that is chartered in the tradition as the means for the thoughtful self-cultivation of the human. Next, students are introduced to the philosophy of education in the premodern Muslim world, and the place of various disciplines in the maktab (primary school), madrasa (institution for education in the ‘outer’ sciences), and khaniqah (institution for advanced education in the ‘inner’ sciences of the soul) curricula.

CLS/ Philosophy 202: Philosophy in the Anthropocene
We are living in times where Hölderlin’s analysis of the relationship between tragedy and nature is strikingly prescient and realistic. Nature is revealing itself as an awe inspiring and destructive force; thus we hear of “record breaking” heat waves, floods of “biblical proportions”, rising sea levels, the sixth mass extinction event underway, existential threats to human beings and societies, and a situation of crisis where nature seems to have thrown a wrench into the machinery of progress and modernization. We also hear that this terrifying manifestation or shining forth of nature, in its “original form”, is caused by the “anthropos”, that is, human beings, and we hear terms such as “anthropogenic climate change”, and the application of the idea of the tragic to an unfolding catastrophe that indeed appears to be ironically selfinflicted. Thus, we have the Anthropocene thesis, an ever expanding intellectual framework to describe our historical era, where geological transformations are understood as a product of human action, human history coincides with geological history, and the nature‐culture divide disappears. In this course, we will be thinking philosophically about the Anthropocene: working to break through into the whole, understanding the problem in its totality, and seeing how the unfolding geological transformations occur at the nexus of epistemological and political word views that define the present. Therefore, to think about the Anthropocene (as an event, epoch, or discursive formation) is to think about our world, our modernity, and our technological civilization. The course covers a broad terrain of intellectual interventions, all aimed at supplying fresh insight, creating an epistemological break, producing difference, and enabling us to rethink prevailing conceptions of history, humanity, nature, ecology, economics, politics, ethics, and language.

CLS/Philosophy 203- Introduction to Islamic Philosophy
This course is a broad survey of the Islamic philosophical tradition, addressing almost exclusively the discipline called falsafa. It operates in the perspective of the living currents in Western philosophical activity today—thus giving it not only a historical but also a substantive relevance to European philosophy. The course will trace the linkage of Islamic philosophy to the Greeks, Aristotle and Neoplatonists in particular, and—on the other end—its transmission to the Latin West.

CLS/Philosophy 300: Hikmah II
Whereas Hikma I focused on clearing the epistemological and philosophical ground to approach the history of Islamic thought, Hikma II directly engages primary texts and artifacts from the tradition, especially of a philosophical character.

CLS/Philosophy 301: Urdu Literary Criticism and the Question of Modernity
In terms of sheer volume, literary criticism enjoys unusual stature in contemporary Urdu discursive production, as is readily verifiable through a cursory review of the catalogues of major Urdu publishers. What explains this remarkable space of criticism in the culture of Urdu? This course posits that literary criticism has been the primary site for the interrogation of the question of modernity in Urdu letters. The major texts and figures discussed in the course include Altaf Hussain Hali and Muhammad Hussain Azad, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaleemuddin, Muhammad Hasan Askari and Saleem Ahmad, Sibte Hasan, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and Nasir Abbas Nayyar.

CLS/Religious Studies 400: Translation, Comparative Religion, and Comparative Concepts of Truth and Power
In the West, translations of the Bible into vernaculars were closely related to the rise of modern nations. Why was this not the case with the translation history of Buddhist scriptures? How does monotheism impact the Christian understanding of language/ interpretation/ translation, and how does the latter in turn produce a Christian mode of imagined community which plays an unstable and ambiguous role in colonialism? To what extent do the Christian concepts of the “sacred,” authenticity, authority, canonization, and civic religion account for the divergence of its translation theory and practice from those of Buddhism? By comparing the two traditions, this project will also draw attention to how the coupling of translatio studii and translatio imperii is a mere historical and cultural contingent.