The Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Birzeit University was established in 1975. Historically the department, played a leading role in introducing students to intellectual and cultural issues that proved to be of paramount importance for the critical development of their thinking.
From early on the department, made of many prominent philosophers, political scientists and historians (two of which are at present members of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. 'Azmi Bishara and Dr. Ziad Abu 'Amr respectively), strove to influence the intellectual environment that was predominant especially in the period when the university as a whole participated both in resisting Israeli occupation and in playing a role in the emergence of institutions that proved to be essential for the Intifada and for Palestinian state-building. Apart from its academic role which sought to introduce students to ideas that would broaden their intellect and encourage them to seriously engage in critical and constructive thinking, the department managed to shape the university's intellectual and political atmosphere. The forum with which the department provided the students, enabled many of them to become the intellectuals and the political actors of the future with the power to influence their society's political and social conscience.
The Department maskes all the effort to play a role in exposing the entire student body of the university to those ideas that will enable them to actively engage in the emergence of a civil society and a more plural and democratic society. Recent incidents in the University showed the high actuality of this issue.
The department offers at the moment two university required courses: the first, entitled Modern and Contemporary European Thought, deals with those major developments that brought about the emergence of the modern and Contemporary European State and Society. It starts with the Renaissance and it goes through the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. Among those influential thinkers, philosophers and scientists that the course concentrates on are: Machiavelli, Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, Kant, Marx, Mill, Freud, Marcuse and Russel.
The second, entitled Modern and Contemporary Arab Thought, deals with those intellectual debates that have occupied the thinking and production of many secular and Islamic intellectuals and thinkers during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course starts with Arab renaissance thinkers and goes through the Islamic reformists, Arab nationalist thinkers, Islamic fundamentalists and secular intellectuals. Among those influential thinkers and intellectuals that the course concentrates on are: al-Afaghani, Abdu, Rida, al-Kawakibi, Anton, al-Husari, 'Aflaq, Sa'adeh, Naser, Arkun, Daher, Tizzini, al-Jabiri and Bishara.
Next year the Deparment is introducing a new course entitled Democracy, Human Rights, and International Humanitarian Law.
Besides the Department offers several elective courses like Ancient Civilizations, a seminar in a selected topic and a whole set of philosophy courses.
Page Desinged by Azza Halaweh