Teaching Plato in Palestine: Can Philosophy Save the Middle East?

Carlos Fraenkel in Dissent:

Screenhunter_17_aug_04_1523Can philosophy save the Middle East? This, I learn from a friend upon arriving in Israel in February of 2006, is the thesis of Sari Nusseibeh, not only a prominent Palestinian intellectual and the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s former chief representative in Jerusalem, but by training a philosopher (and, I think, by nature, too). “Only philosophy” the friend quotes him as saying at the Shlomo Pines memorial lecture he gave in West Jerusalem three years before. Six months later, when I return to Montreal, I’m almost convinced that he’s right.

One purpose of my stay here is to teach a seminar at al-Quds University, the Palestinian university in Jerusalem, together with Nusseibeh, who has been the president of al-Quds since 1995. My idea is to discuss Plato’s political thought with the students and then look at how medieval Muslim and Jewish philosophers built an interpretation of Islam and Judaism as philosophical religions on Plato. I hope to raise some basic questions about philosophy and its relationship to politics and religion and also to open a new perspective on the contemporary Middle East. But most of all, I’m curious to see the reactions of the Palestinian students. I expect the issues to resonate quite differently with them than they do with my students in Montreal.

More here.  [Thanks to Tom Zipp.]