On the occasion of the World Philosophy Day, the Master of Philosophy program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies held a symposium on Monday, November 22, 2021 on the reality, challenges and prospects of philosophical lessons in the Arab world, and raised contemporary philosophical issues, with the participation of researchers, academics and students from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, the Lebanese University and Hassan II University.
Professor Raja Bahloul, Head of the Philosophy Program, welcomed the audience of attendees and remote observers, and said that this symposium represents an annual tradition that the Institute has organized to celebrate the World Philosophy Day. Then he gave the floor to Dr. Abdul Wahab Al-Affendi, President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, to officially open the symposium. Dr. Abdel Wahab welcomed the audience noting the importance of philosophy and its ability to transcend the boundaries between different branches of knowledge, which contributes to creating a deeper understanding of reality, challenges and knowledge horizons in our Arab world.
In the first session of the symposium, Dr. Elizabeth Suzan Kassab, Associate Professor in the Philosophy Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, discussed teaching philosophy in the Arab world during the second half of the twentieth century. Dr. Kassab pointed out that the history of contemporary Arab philosophy witnessed successive stages in evaluating its production and discussing the challenges of teaching philosophy, and in each stage a decline in performance was observed in the two fields. Dr. Kassab indicated that the reasons for this decline and its treatment through philosophical practice in the social and human sciences, that is, feeding it with methodological knowledge and various expressions of reality.
Dr. Nayla Abi Nader, Professor of Arab Islamic Philosophy at the Lebanese University, presented a paper on the challenges of teaching philosophy at the secondary and university levels in Lebanon, pointing out that there is a flaw in dealing with an existing science that has its history, methodologies, and flags. The paper linked success in teaching philosophy to two tracks: the first relates to the curriculum, its philosophy, its objectives, and the methods it follows. The second is how teachers are selected, prepared and trained before handing over the teaching assignment.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Sheikh, Professor of Political Philosophy at Hassan II University in Morocco, highlighted in his paper the “paradoxes” of the current Arab philosophical situation. This is due to three factors: the ancient Arab philosophical situation, the modern Western philosophical situation, and the current Arab reality.
As for the second session of the symposium, it was opened by Dr. Raja Bahloul by talking about the relationship between democracy and human rights, describing that relationship as a tense one, meaning that the concept of popular sovereignty included in the vernacular meaning of democracy does not guarantee commitment to human rights at all, and in the sense that commitment to human rights imposes restrictions on sovereignty. Dr. Raja clarified this thesis by referring to the procedural conception of democracy presented by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, in addition to referring to many historical examples of political systems and countries that have been described as democratic, despite their discrimination against important sectors of their population.
Dr. Mounir Al-Kasho, Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, referred in his paper “The Theory of Democracy between Philosophy and Political Science” to the controversy taking place between philosophers and political scientists about the extent to which it is possible to bypass the realistic definition of democracy, as it is a mechanism for competition between elites in order to win votes to get political positions, to a definition that makes it a system of government that preserves the members of a political group their dignity, and makes them participate effectively in managing their affairs and controlling decision-making.
Finally, Dr. Rachid Boutayeb, Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Program at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, presented a paper entitled “On a philosophy that does not think about the need for a social translation of ideas,” in which he said that whoever contemplates the chaos that governs the Arab cultural context and its relations with other cultural contexts ,Western in particular, will judge our cultural context as it moves according to the logic of “contemporary” and not according to the logic of “modern”, calling for the translation of ideas that correspond to the needs and pressing questions of our context, and not according to what is marketed by “intellectual fashion”.
The session was followed by an open discussion, in which professors, researchers and students from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, and the Doha Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language participated.
It is noteworthy that World Philosophy Day is celebrated annually, on the third Thursday of November, to demonstrate the enduring value of philosophy in the development of human thought.