In partnership with the Istanbul Foundation for Research and Education (ISAR) and the John Templeton Foundation, Kalam Research & Media (KRM) conducted its first Crash Course on Analytic Philosophy and Theology for Students of Kalam from September 1 to September 12, 2014. The course was attended by 15 students from a variety of traditional and academic backgrounds, who received instruction in epistemology, metaphysics, and analytic philosophy of religion from Dr. Michael Murray, Executive Vice-President of Programs at the John Templeton Foundation, Dr. Alex Arnold, Senior Program Officer of Philosophy and Theology at the John Templeton Foundation, Professor Andrew Bailey, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale-NUS college, and Professor Ahmed Abdelmeguid, Assistant Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. Morning and afternoon sessions in analytic philosophy and theology were complemented by evening kalam reflections in a discussion format, led by Professor Murteza Bedir, Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Istanbul University, and Shaykh Masuk Yamaz, Instructor of Kalam and Logic at ISAR.
The goal of the crash course was to introduce students of kalam to the key discussions of analytic philosophy and analytic theology in a way that challenged their prior intellectual framework while supporting them in the navigation of these challenges. It achieved this goal by dividing each day of the course into three parts: (1) a morning lecture on a strategically chosen topic of analytic philosophy, (2) an afternoon tutorial on an important academic article, and (3) an evening reflection from the perspective of kalam. This structure gave the students an overview of contemporary analytic philosophy (morning), an opportunity to reflect on its important questions from the perspective of a Western academic (afternoon), and an opportunity to reflect on its important questions from the perspective of kalam (evening).
The topics that were studied included social epistemology, the epistemology of disagreement, induction, Bayesianism, universals, properties, causation, constitution, physicalism, dualism, analytic theology, arguments for the existence of God, cognitive psychology, and a brief introduction to continental philosophy through the works of Habermas and Kant.
The course was a transformative experience for the students, who came from a variety of geographical backgrounds, including Turkey, Jordan, the United States, and Great Britain. They formed an online discussion group, which continues the discussions that they began in Istanbul. The students will spend the next several months reflecting on what they learned and sharing ideas between themselves before meeting again in Istanbul for a conference in which they will present papers that will seek to bring kalam into engagement with analytic philosophy.
This was the the first of three crash courses that KRM plans to conduct as part of its larger Islamic Analytic Theology (IAT) initiative, whose goal is to bring the kalam tradition into engagement with modern philosophy and science. The next crash course is planned to take place at al-Azhar University in Cairo.