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LAU’s philosophy degree enjoys a makeover

Rami El Ali, head of the undergraduate philosophy program, revamps the curriculum and courses.

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According to Rami el Ali, “philosophy is a commitment to the perpetual dialogue, so it is very important for Lebanon.”

LAU’s undergraduate program in philosophy is enjoying a makeover, thanks to the energy and experience of Rami El Ali, who joined LAU this past fall after completing his Ph.D. in Miami. “The plan was to get here and try to rebuild the program, to make it more consistent with what other universities offer,” says El Ali, outlining the new curriculum he has submitted for board approval. “I’ve rewritten the program requirements. There’s a radical shift. It has involved a review of courses already on offer, to ensure they are delivered in a more analytical way, and the development of new courses.”

Among the suggested new courses are ethics and technology, and feminist philosophy.

In addition to revising the curriculum and adding new courses, El Ali has  proposed the introduction of a minor in philosophy. “It is essential. Without a minor, I wouldn’t have been able to study philosophy,” says El Ali, who studied business as an undergraduate. “Philosophy in Arabic is understood to mean nonsense. That’s what it sounds like to the traditional Arabic family. The minor will enable students to develop a foundation for post-graduate studies in philosophy, as I did.”

Students will be able to declare a minor in philosophy as of the fall semester. Thus far interest in courses already taught by El Ali has been high, with over two dozen students taking a course in philosophy of religion as an elective this semester. “They’re having good debates and we’re reasoning through the argument,” he enthuses. “We’re keeping a good balance. We’re looking through the arguments for and against God’s existence; looking at whether there is a distinction between reason and faith. It’s a lovely class.”

El Ali believes that the skills gained through such classes and the study of philosophy would benefit the people of Lebanon greatly: “The core commitment of philosophy is that even if we’re dealing with incredibly difficult questions, there is some sort of rational procedure by which I can get my point across to you and you get yours back to me.”

The concept promotes a commitment to dialogue, something sorely lacking in Lebanon. “People here are unable to have dialogue,” laments El Ali. “On the news, they end up screaming at each other, unable to reason with one another, or explain their foundational values, and the reasons they have for accepting or rejecting those values.” Philosophy, he believes, can change all that:  “Philosophy is a commitment to the perpetual dialogue, so it is very important for Lebanon.”

According to Dr. Nola Bacha, acting chairperson of the departments of English and Humanities, the new Philosophy program has already begun to attract students. “Its curriculum also focuses on the scientific and  technological advances of our present day giving our students more of an opportunity to understand  the world in which we live and work,” she adds before concluding, “It will offer more opportunities for our students to follow higher studies in different fields and compete in the job market.”

To learn more about LAU’s undergraduate program in philosophy, visit http://sas.lau.edu.lb/humanities/programs/ba-philosophy.php


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