I studied philosophy for 7 years at the undergraduate and graduate levels. But I had a specific intention in mind.

The vast majority of philosophy is garbage, not worth the paper it is printed on. I couldn’t care less what Aristotle’s ethics consist of or what Hume said about causation. Who cares? Some people might think there is an inherent value to knowing the “classics” and educating oneself on the works of so-and-so thinker. Not me. It’s a waste of time… at least in one sense.

But, in another sense, there is value. I am interested in Aristotle’s ethics, not because that topic has value in and of itself, but because Aristotle’s ethics influenced the thought of Augustine and the thought of Augustine influenced the thought of Descartes and Descartes influenced Sartre and Sartre influenced the cultural milieu in which we find ourselves, one that, unfortunately, opposes religion and specifically a religion like Islam.

When, for example, the hijab is discussed as “objectifying” Muslim women, where does this idea come from? Well, people might not know the genealogy, but it was Sartre, among others, who discussed the “objectifying gaze” and, of course, Sartre had his influences and so on. If you don’t know that history and you don’t understand how it’s all connected, you won’t be able to critique that idea, defend the hijab, etc. You won’t be able to address the issue at its root. Or, even worse, you might just take “objectification” as a concept for granted and never even question its relevance or importance to the issue at hand. This is bad.

So, yes, some Muslims should study philosophy if they have the right intention going into it and have a firm, substantial footing in the deen and will be actively studying the Islamic sciences at the same time (not necessarily full-time, but something real, with a traditional scholar, learning and practicing the fundamentals of Quran, aqidah, fiqh, hadith, etc.). Those last two conditions, i.e., substantial footing in and studying of deen, are important because those are your compass. There is no point in setting off exploring this dark sea of philosophy without knowing North from South. You will drown, as have many others who have set out on this journey.

Two philosophical topics that are relatively safe for all to study is logic and rhetoric. As I have mentioned many times on this page, these are basic necessities for effective communication and being a competent, well-informed human being. A big reason someone like Trump (or Obama or any other politician at the national level) is able to gain so much popularity is that people can’t evaluate claims. They can’t hear/read a claim or an argument and understand it and judge it on its own merits. Someone like Trump is well aware of this, which is why all his claims are based on emotions and prejudices. If you don’t understand what a logical fallacy is or what logical validity entails, you are walking on thin ice. If you can’t see the structure of an argument and break it down into premises and conclusion and know how they are connected, you might as well turn off your internet and never comment on anything you read online ever again. In fact, consider this a public service announcement.

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Followup on this on the inherent value of academic philosophy. Here are some of the latest articles featured in the top philosophy journals. Try not to get too excited about them!

Reliability Theories of Justified Credence

The Category of Occurrent Continuants

Kant on Perceptual Content

Frege’s ‘On the Foundations of Geometry’ and Axiomatic Metatheory

Locke’s Simple Account of Sensitive Knowledge

Substance and Independence in Descartes

Riveting topics, no?

 

Should Muslims Study Philosophy?I studied philosophy for 7 years at the undergraduate and graduate levels. But I had a…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Monday, May 16, 2016

Followup on my post today on the inherent value of academic philosophy. Here are some of the latest articles featured in…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Monday, May 16, 2016

Daniel Haqiqatjou

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4 comments

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  • Asalamalikum

    I’m a full time psychology student, and a part time student of knowledge but I wanted to study some philosophy because of the fact that psychology is based of many different philosophical schools (such as post-positivist, traditional, constructivist ect.) What would you recommend us reading for general philosophical knowledge, and could you construct a reading list?

    Also you put logic and rhetoric along side philosophy, I always figured it as a separate science that is part of the trivium. What would your recommendation be in studying the trivium and how close is logic and rhetoric to the sciences of mantiq and balagha (the equivalent of said sciences in arabic).

    I thank you for your time.

  • Salam Alaykum,

    I agree with this 100% and I am so glad that you said this because I was taught in my undergraduate philosophy courses the same thing about how the majority of people don’t know how to dissect arguments and when Muslims, specifically, don’t understand what an argument consists of how the argument was built, then this makes it difficult to defend your stance. JazakAllahu khairan for posting this piece, I truly appreciate it!

    Salam alaykum.

  • 1) You write: “I am interested in Aristotle’s ethics, not because that topic has value in and of itself”. Why so dismissive and anti-intellectual? Your one line dismissal of so towering a work compels me to ask if you’ve even read the work itself? A’s N.Ethics equips the Muslim reader with innumerable insights and advantages. Aristotle articulates, by means of masterful secular reasoning, the necessary and for-itself nature of the pursuit of the Good and of the virtuous life. He articulates and defends, by means of masterful secular reasoning, the idea that happiness is at bottom a moral and not a psychological/prudential notion. He articulates, by means of masterful secular reasoning, the moral significance of context, situation, and perspective. I could go on listing. Almost all of Book 22 of Al-Ghazali’s Ihya is a retelling of portions of A’s Ethics.
    2) You are exactly right to mention the importance of starting with a solid grasp of Islam before wandering into the maze of philosophy.