PHIL 239
Issues in Contemporary Islamic Thought Fall 2009
Division II
Cross-listed PHIL 239 / REL 239
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

This seminar examines some of the most important issues, debates, and polemics that occupied Muslim thought since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1978 (with special emphasis on the Arab world- the heartland of Islam). The basic theoretical, philosophical and theological principles underlying those controversies will be carefully explored, discussed and critically brought forward. The influence, use and abuse of traditional Western critiques of modernity and of current postmodern European attacks on the Enlightenment will be elaborated in the context of their appropriation and exploitation by Islamist theoreticians. These will include, for example, Foucault’s discourse theory, Bachelard’s “Epistemological Break”, Heidegger’s “authenticity”, Feyerabend’s “Farewell to Reason” and his “epistemological anarchism”, Thomas Kuhn’s notion of the “incommensurability of paradigms” and the wholesale assault on the idea of progress. Some of the debates to be examined are: (a) the real nature of the Islamic Revolution in Iran: (b) the legitimacy and adequacy of such concepts as “Fundamentalism”, “Revivalism” and “Islamism” when applied to Islam; (c) The Sunni doctrine of Hakimiah (God’s Sovereignty) as against the Shi’i doctrine of Vilayet-e-Faqih (the rule of the Jurist): (d) the question of “Orientalism” as triggered by Edward Said; (e) the Salman Rushdie affair and his novel the Satanic Versuses; (f)the concepts of jihad and jihadism;(g) the future of political Islam after its evolution from fundamentalism to jihadism to spectacular terrorism. The approach will be historical, comparative and explanatory. The instructor will draw on his experiences as a long-time participant in the discussions, controversies and polemics produced by and around these issues.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1381
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: midterm essay or book report on an approved topic of the student's choice; term paper to be submitted at the end of the semester (15-20 pages)
Prerequisites: none; open to all
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
PHIL 239 Division II REL 239 Division II
Attributes: REL Islamic Tradition Courses

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