Philosophy Courses

/Philosophy Courses


9.1.    Elementary French Language Study (APH 101) and

Intermediate French Language Study (APH 102)

During the long break at the end of the first year, most Jesuit students spend about two months in a French-speaking area of Africa; other students of the College may join them. The first year’s degree-level courses are intended partly to prepare for this immersion, partly to develop progressively greater capability in reading French literature, philosophy, and other French writing. (3 credit-hours each semester)

9.2    Alternative or Additional Elementary and Intermediate

Language Studies I and II (APH 115 and APH 116)

Elementary and intermediate courses in languages other than French may be provided for students who, for reasons approved by the college, may be exempted from French Language Study or may benefit from an additional language. (3 credit-hours each semester)

9.3    Academic Writing (APH 103)

Arrupe admits to its degree programme only students who have already mastered English sufficiently to use the language in studies at degree level. This course is designed to help students further develop and polish their skills in specifically academic writing, particularly in philosophy and other humanities. Students are guided through the process of preparing, writing, and presenting formal papers. Exercises are designed to develop students’ talents in various modes of written communication, including descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative writing, especially philosophical writing. Reviews of grammar, mechanics, and usage are conducted. As their skills develop, students are encouraged to develop their own personal style or voice. The issue of plagiarism is explored in detail, and effective ways to avoid plagiarism are presented. (3 credit-hours)

9.4    Argumentative Writing (APH 104)

Students are helped to refine their skills in written

communication in English and also to continue to define their own personal style. Exercises are conducted to develop skills in expressing ideas fluently and precisely without the use of weak verbs and passive voice. The primary emphasis is on establishing and defending a thesis after considering a wide range of views. Proper use of sources is also stressed. (3 credit-hours)

  • African Thought in African Literature I (APH 105)

The purpose of the course is to show students how topics that are central to African thought are revealed through narratives and other literary devices. These topics will include how the present relates to the past, the relative authority of individuals and communities, the different forms that communities assume within the narratives and how the narratives accept or criticise these forms, and finally the role of the spiritual in the lives of both individuals and communities. The texts for this course will be drawn from Zimbabwe and Kenya. (2 credit-hours)

  • African Thought in African Literature II (APH 106)  

The purpose of the course is to examine novels and dramas that identify important secular issues in contemporary Africa and contrast these with novels and dramas that while reproducing contemporary Africa are deeply imbued with African religion. The course will involve discussions of whether either the secular or the religious texts have distorted Africa’s self-understanding or whether both provide insights into African realities or whether the distinction between secular and religious is invalid in most African literatures. The texts will be drawn from West Africa and Angola. (2 credit-hours)

9.7    Variety in Histories of African Peoples (APH 107)

Coming to Arrupe College and to university-level studies from different parts of the continent, students encounter a diversity which can be baffling. This course reflects on diverse histories experienced, remembered, recounted and often in some ways invented by peoples from various communities. Recognition and appreciation of this diversity can help Africans transform a source of bafflement into a source of wisdom, energy, and respect for others and for themselves. In-depth case studies from different periods of history and different parts of the continent are undertaken to develop students’ capability to read histories critically and enable those histories to shed light on current events and on reasonable hopes for the future. (3 credit-hours)

9.8    The Second Vatican Council (APH 109)

A study of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) begins with its theological and ecclesial context and focuses on its central documents and speeches. The course tries to help the student appreciate the underlying theologies of these texts, especially by contrasting them with prior church teachings. The course concludes by assessing the successes and failures of the council’s implementation, and by proposing agenda for the next ecumenical council (Nairobi, or Delhi, or Rio de Janiero I). (3 credit-hours)

9.9    Methodology and Research Skills (APH 111)

The aim of this course is to equip students with time-

management and study skills which will enable them to work efficiently and effectively at degree level. They are helped to identify and use receptive capabilities in reading and listening, communicative capabilities in writing and speaking. Skills emphasised include maximising learning in lectures and seminars as well as from reading, reviewing and retaining what has been learned, taking helpful notes, writing papers, and preparing for written and oral tests and examinations. A comprehensive exploration of the Arrupe College style sheet is conducted so that students will be thoroughly acquainted with how to include appropriate references in their academic papers and with how to construct lists of sources for those papers. (2 credit-hours)

9.10  Introduction to Philosophy (APH 113)

This course will begin by encouraging students to engage with one of the shorter Platonic dialogues. The emphasis here will be on student participation and debate. Against the background of a very brief account of the usual ways of dividing up the matter of philosophy, the course will then take up a number of classical philosophical problems, such as knowledge, God, good and evil, mind, language, and culture. In the final part of the course, against the background of a very brief account of the usual ways of dividing the history of philosophy, a number of styles of philosophical thinking and writing will be outlined and illustrated. (2 credit-hours)

9.11  Religions of Africa (APH 108)

The course introduces students to the basics of African traditional religions: their principal rites, ethical practices, and beliefs. The course also compares and contrasts these religions among themselves and with Christianity and other world religions. (3 credit-hours)

9.12  African Philosophy (APH 110)

This course continues introducing students to the practice of philosophising by examining African philosophies. The focus is on central topics and themes, including interpretations of time, nature, gods/God, person (including the stages of the human life cycle), community (social roles and ethical norms), politics and political structures, virtues and vices, death and life after death. (2 credit-hours)

9.13  Logic (APH 112)

This course is designed (a) to illustrate by constant reference to everyday life examples the importance of logical thought and its practical implications; (b) to help detect everyday fallacies and their potential to mislead people; (c) to explain and illustrate the correct processes of deductive reasoning, and to differentiate this from inductive thought; and (d) to develop the ability to react critically to information however it is presented, whether by direct argument or indirect persuasion. (3 credit-hours)

9.14  Oral Communication (APH 114)

We do not attempt to eliminate accents or dialects, but we aim at speech that is clear, firm and vital with firm, clear consonants and open, unclipped vowels. We consider vocal dynamics (stress, slide, pace, pause), address particular individual problems with diction, and give instruction in non-verbal communication (posture, gesture, movement, facial expression). The course is scheduled so that often the class can be divided into groups to facilitate exercises. The work done on oral communication this semester will be supplemented by public reading, presentation of papers, and other appropriate exercises in speech done throughout all eight semesters. (2 credit-hours)


9.15  Optional Elective: African Literature in French and French

Conversation I and II (APH 201 and APH 202)

Following upon their immersion in a French-speaking area, the students read a variety of contemporary French literature written in Africa, for enjoyment and appreciation. Each week the class gathers as a whole for one period of lecture and separates into groups of five or so each for one period of conversation. (2 credit-hours each semester)

  • Classical Greek Drama (APH 203)

This course will be studied alongside APH 207, The History of Ancient Philosophy. While the course will show that the Greek dramatists were preoccupied with the same issues as were the philosophers, literary epistemologies are different from those of philosophy and the dramas often arrive at different conclusions from those that may be arrived at in philosophy. (2 credit-hours)

  • Issues in Contemporary Literature (APH 204)

Because contemporary literature is so huge a topic, each year we will study literature from a different tradition such as that of Latin America, the United States or Britain. Whatever the area or country whose literature we are studying, we will observe how its literature expresses its contemporary intellectual preoccupations and how the texts that we are reading derive their form from the preoccupations or give them formal expression. (2 credit-hours)

9.18  Religions of the World (APH 205)

This course is a sympathetic investigation of the beliefs and practices of such major world religions as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Parallels and dissimilarities with aspects of religious faith already known should help illuminate the study. (3 credit-hours)

9.19  History of Ancient Philosophy (APH 207)

Students will become familiar with the beginnings of Western philosophy by investigating the historical, social, and political contents of these beginnings as part of the development of Greek culture from Homer to the dramatists. There will be a comparison and contrast between the beginnings of Western scientific thought and African traditional religions, as found in the recent work of Robin Horton. The students will also become familiar with the main themes, methods of arguing, and fundamental ideas of key thinkers, particularly Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. (3 credit-hours)

9.20  Sociology/Social Anthropology (APH 209)

The course aims to introduce students (a) to the idea of culture as a socially produced system of meaning; (b) to the possibility of, the need for, and some familiarity with the tools necessary for an in-depth and responsible practice of social analysis. This requires knowledge of basic concepts and methods of sociology and anthropology as well as their application to the contemporary and rapidly changing situations in Africa. (3 credit-hours)

9.21  Philosophical Anthropology (APH 211)

We consider first the mutual relations between an individual and various human communities; then freedom and determinism, noticing how both inner and outer factors may limit free choice. Metaphysical reflection includes a consideration of final causation and efficient causation exemplified in experiences of invitation, free choice, and action. Material cause and formal cause are exemplified in the metaphysics of the human person, which reflects on self-transcendence, the reality of the spiritual, the unity of body and soul, and life after death. These topics are considered from African perspectives as well as from others. (3 credit-hours)

  • Histories of Encounters and Interactions among Peoples Worldwide (APH 206)

As the internet and DSTV have developed, peoples experience vicariously events and their interpretations from around the world. For many, today’s globalisation of experience may lead to a sense of being powerless in a big, complex world gone out of control. Yet “Knowledge is power” (Francis Bacon); understanding some patterns of historical interaction among peoples of various places and times can empower African peoples. This course considers in some depth selected case histories, particularly of liberating and unifying events and movements which may serve as exemplars empowering Africans to move from being overly influenced by other peoples toward becoming more influential for the good of all. (3 credit-hours)

9.23  History of Medieval Philosophy (APH 208)

During the years 400–1400 AD (roughly the “Middle Ages”), the Christian Gospel came to be understood largely in terms of the thought categories of Greek philosophy – Platonic, neo-Platonic, and Aristotelian. This process played a key role in the historically decisive inculturation of the gospel in Western society. Students explore this process of inculturation by examining some key Christian thinkers and texts, with particular attention to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, who represent two bold syntheses of the Gospel and Greek thought. Students also examine this process of inculturation in the history of the church and in Christian literature. (3 credit-hours)

9.24  Ethics (APH 210)

Descriptions and interpretations of morality as social practices: teleology, deontology, and virtue ethics. Ethical issues examined include lying, war, sexuality, and population policy. Part of the course treats African and other ethical/religious traditions on these issues. A question to be asked throughout the course is whether moral standards across cultures are one and/or many. (3 credit-hours)

9.25  Personality: Theories and Dynamics (APH 212)

The objective knowledge of the structure and intra-psychic functioning of the person is fundamental to self-knowledge and the knowledge of the other. The course is designed to cover some themes of personality. The contents place emphasis on the intra-psychic dimension rather than on the inter-personal dimension. It is important to understand the inner dynamics and functions first. This introductory course gives a brief overview of the main approaches to the study of personality. (3 credit-hours)


9.26  History of Modern Philosophy (APH 301)

From the tension between a decadent and self-enclosed scholastic tradition, the discovery of new lands, the rise of modern science, and the renewed interest in Greek sceptical thought, rose Descartes’ daring project to enlist doubt to uncover an unshakeable foundation for knowledge. We trace the fortunes of this project, as well as the more general Enlightenment programme, on two fronts: to defend freedom as progress or uplift (materially, but also in our understanding or ideas), and the method of uplift by critical examination which resolves to leave no idea exempt from the most searching analysis – including freedom itself. These two allegiances meet eventually in an internal confrontation and contradiction that the West is still trying to work out, and which has produced many of the Western assumptions that run contrary to traditional African thought. (3 credit-hours)

9.27  Philosophy of Science (APH 303)

In this course, students will be exposed to and examine the most important philosophical problems that have accompanied the progress of science, such as epistemological and metaphysical issues concerning the nature of time, space, and causation, for example, as well as problems of realism and anti-realism, the succession of scientific paradigms, the relationships between science and technology, science and ethics, science and the philosophy of God, and science and politics. (3 credit-hours)

9.28  Philosophy of Education (APH 403)

Major contemporary issues in the philosophy of education are explored. These include: the purposes and aims of education; what constitutes the acceptable inclusivity or exclusivity of education; who should teach, supervise, assess and fund educational programmes; and the appropriate role of the state in the educational process. Contemporary articulations of Jesuit education are examained to help students learn from their own experience of being educated and educating. (2 credit-hours)

9.29  Political and Legal Philosophy (APH 305)

The course seeks to introduce students to some of the central issues and concepts in political and legal philosophy. In dealing with the subject, a philosophical approach to texts and issues will be developed. This is aimed at helping students appreciate the contribution philosophy can make in dealing with contemporary political and legal problems. The course will try to deal with general political and legal themes and apply these to the African context as much as possible. Political philosophy examines alternative ways of ordering public life: monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, democracy, and their social and cultural presuppositions, as demonstrated by major political thinkers. Particular attention is given to African debates about constitutional democracy and alternatives to it, and the relation of government with civil society (business and voluntary associations, churches, mass media, etc.). Under legal philosophy, the course gives accounts and assessments of alternative legal structures through reading classic texts with a focus on interpretations of human rights (social and legal). Debates about the responsibilities of citizenship are also examined. The course treats accounts of the legal and constitutional arrangements to guarantee the full range of human rights. (3 credit-hours)

9.30  Economic and Social Philosophy (APH 307)

From a philosophical perspective this course examines the underlying assumptions and values of the basic alternative forms of ordering economic activity: central planning, markets, and various mixtures of government and market. The course will begin by contextualizing these questions in relation to recent and current African economic realities and policy debates. The normative framework applied is natural law theory, especially as developed in recent Catholic teaching on social justice, for example Pope John Paul’s Centesimus Annus. The course will examine the standard treatment of how markets function to solve the basic economic problems of what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, and how what is produced is to be distributed. Philosophical defence and criticism of the market as a mechanism will be based on this standard treatment. A central concern will be to show the legal and moral presuppositions of markets and how markets are always constructed by humans in particular social contexts. A prominent issue will be the limits of markets: what they cannot do, what must not be allowed to be bought and sold. The course will also treat the question of what justice requires of international arrangements, especially concerning international trade. The course will conclude by critically examining, in the light of the normative and ethical principles developed, current policy proposals, especially structural adjustment programmes, being adopted by African countries. (3 credit-hours)

9.31  Contemporary Philosophy (APH 302)

This course presents a survey of 19th and 20th century philosophy through a reading of selected texts of thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, the North American pragmatists, and Wittgenstein (representing the Anglo-American analytic tradition). Contemporary Western thought is compared and contrasted with African thought particularly with regard to ethical, social, and religious topics. (3 credit-hours)

9.32  Metaphysics (APH 406)

Wondering, giving free rein to our unrestricted natural desire to know, we strive to impose no artificial limits on the breadth and depth of our questioning. Is every reality somehow good? True? Beautiful? Unified? Active? Is all reality material or is there some spiritual reality whose powers go beyond those of matter? Was Plato right to say, “the coming to be of civilised order is the victory of persuasion over force”? Aristotle to say, “The inviting final cause is the cause of causes and moves by being loved”? Levinas to say, “Philosophising does not begin with ontology but with the human face of the Other calling for a response”? This course invites students to appreciate and enjoy their questioning. (3 credit-hours)

9.33  Old Testament Foundations: The Prophets (APH 308)

This course is a study of prophets and prophecies, especially in relation to issues of social justice and community renewal, in the classic prophetic books of the Old Testament. (3 credit-hours)

9.34 Methods of Education (APH 403A)

This course is designed to assist students to identify, design, implement and assess variety of teaching-learning strategies suitable for use in secondary schools. Interactive methodologies for a wide range of subject areas are presented. Since the course is taken prior to the students’ supervised teaching practice, it emphasizes the skills of scheming from the syllabus and planning lessons appropriate for the age and ability of pupils. Both the construction and marking of assessment instruments are considered in detail. (3 credit-hours)


9.34  Seminar: Philosophies of Africa (APH 401)

A seminar on a selected topic or topics in African philosophies. Each student writes and presents a seminar paper (in some ways similar to the first part of a dissertation done for an honours degree at the University of Zimbabwe) on some aspect of the seminar topic. (3 credit-hours)

9.35  Epistemology and Hermeneutics (APH 405)

The traditional problems of epistemology (knowledge of self, of others, of the world; the nature of truth) are set in the context of an understanding of culture as a communal process of inquiry, understanding and interpretation within a web of conversations, practices, and texts. The sociology and politics of knowledge and its relations with power of various sorts, especially in various African situations, are also examined. (3 credit-hours)

9.36  New Testament Foundations: A Synoptic Gospel (APH 407)

This course reflects on one selected synoptic gospel against the background of all three, paying particular attention to the development of gospel narrative. Attention is paid to the evolution of methods of interpretation and to the significance of the narratives for contemporary Africans. (3 credit-hours)

9.37  Philosophy of Religion (APH 306)

The conventional problems of metaphysics need to be situated within the historical context of the Enlightenment transformation of metaphysics and the nineteenth century development of the social sciences. Without ignoring the gains of the Enlightenment, we need to retrieve a traditional metaphysics which expresses a ‘religious’ outlook of wonder and poses a question which remains open to a response of faith. An account of the language of metaphor and symbol must show how this wonder-question-response is not alien to human language and ritual but can be expressed by them. This approach is consistent with a phenomenology of the sacred as it is encountered in religions of the world, with special emphasis on religions of Africa. (3 credit-hours)

9.38  Preparing to Write a Dissertation in Philosophy (APH 410)

During the first semester of a student’s final year, each finalist writes first a tentative proposal and then a tentative outline of the honours dissertation in philosophy to be completed in the final semester. The proposal of 400 to 600 words is due in week 8. It includes a concise sketch of a tentative topic, some burning issue which the finalist wishes to address philosophically. The proposal lists 4 to 6 major sources which the student expects to find helpful, and it suggests two or more possible supervisors whom the Dean might appoint. The tentative outline of 600 to 1000 words is due in week 14. It is developed in consultation with the supervisor, outlines tentatively how the dissertation might develop, and lists further sources thought to be helpful. At the end of the first semester’s examination period, the outline is to be defended orally before the supervisor and another faculty member appointed by the Dean. (2 credit-hours)

9.39  Dissertation in Philosophy (APH 402)

Working with the guidance of a supervisor particularly during the first half of the final semester, each writes a dissertation of 8000 to 10,000 words which develops a point that the student considers to be of central importance within his or her general philosophical position. It need not attempt a synthesis of the range of philosophical topics covered in the programme; rather it sets out an analytical and critical exposition of a particular concern, issue or question, and ordinarily argues for a particular approach or response to it. This dissertation will be defended during one half hour of the oral comprehensive examination. (4 credit-hours)

9.40  Religious Education (APH 404)

This course aims to assist students in acquiring and developing effective strategies for teaching religious education in various settings; in developing an enquiring, critical and sympathetic approach and the ability to interpret the different syllabi. It includes the study of theories of religious and moral development and promotes an understanding of the theological concepts underlying the teaching of religious education. (3 credit-hours)

9.41  Overview of Catholic Theology (APH 408)

The new Catechism of the Catholic Church is used to guide a study of Catholic theology as a whole. This course helps students to review and synthesise the programme’s theological component at the same time as they write personal philosophical syntheses. It builds on the opening course, The Second Vatican Council, and enables students to integrate their studies of African traditional religions, other world religions, and scripture into a perspective of contemporary Catholic theology. It illustrates both the relation between philosophy and theology, and the content and context for religious education. (3 credit-hours)

 9.42   Oral Comprehensive Examination (APH 409)

At the end of the final semester, each student is questioned

orally for one hour by a board of three examiners chosen by Arrupe College, one of whom is the student’s supervisor. The exam centres half on the student’s dissertation and half on twenty-five broad philosophical questions, with two to four questions from each of the major subject areas, namely Philosophical Anthropology, General Ethics, Social and Economic Philosophy, Political and Legal Philosophy, Metaphysics, Philosophy of God, Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature, Epistemology, and Hermeneutics. During each week of the second half of the semester, students are urged to meet in small groups to prepare themselves to respond orally to the examiners’ questions. (3 credit-hours)