The course 'Some Foundations of Intercultural philosophy'

chair of Foundations of Intercultural Philosophy, at the Philosophical Faculty, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2003-2004

by Wim van Binsbergen



Academic year 2003-2004 (Fall term)

Course: Some foundations of intercultural philosophy (VW2 X50)

Lecturer: Professor dr Wim van Binsbergen ( )

time and place: Woudestein campus, Building L (Faculty of Historical and Art Studies), room LB-62, Wednesdays, 15.00-16.45 hrs, during the first (Fall) trimester


This course (which is intended as interactive, exciting, and unsettling) investigates central themes in our contemporary, allegedly multicultural, globalising world:

To avoid misunderstanding: this course is not specifically devoted to the comparison of the world’s major philosophical traditions (Chinese, Indian, African, European, Islamic, Jewish). Instead, it envisages an abstract and formal, rather than substantive, investigation of the conditions for interculturality.

After a first informative meeting concerning course format and outline, and allocation of students’ specific tasks as discussant and chair, the first few weeks will be devoted to a collective reading and discussion of selected chapters from the lecturer’s book Intercultural encounters: African and anthropological lessons for a philosophy of interculturality. This book was supposed to be published in the summer of 2003, and even though its publication has been delayed by a few weeks, the text has been finalised, and will be made available by the author in hard copy, pending the actual appearance. Once the basis has been laid through an initial reading of Intercultural encounters, the assigned texts will diversify and students will take turns in preparing, introducing, commenting and chairing during sessions each devoted to one or two readings. These readings will be made available in class for individual students to copy for themselves, in so far as they are not yet available on the Internet. Topics to be covered are:

The second and final series of readings will seek to open an intercultural philosophical perspective on Africa, with:


Lectures and seminars

For each session (except the first, introductory session) each student prepares a reasoned question (1000-1500 chrs) about the prescribed reading for that session. These questions are to be submitted in printed form before the end of the session in question. From week to week, the lecturer will grade these assignments and discuss them in class in a general manner, in principle without reference to a specific student’s work. Moreover, each session is to be introduced by one of the students, in an oral presentation not exceeding 20 minutes, based on the prescribed readings for that session and backed up by a handout (1 page A4 maximum) to be distributed among the course participants immediately  before the presentation. The presentation could be made with the aid of an overhead projector and transparents based on the handout, but this is not necessary. The student presenting in a particular week is exempted from submitting a written question for that week’s session.


A list with assigned literature is available below. Much of the literature of the course is presented through Internet. Internet sources for this course are to be found on the lecturer’s personal website These resources include: the present course outline; clickable links to course readings available on internet; a general list of intercultural philosophy titles available in the EUR library.


In case of full attendance, a student’s assessment will be on the basis of

  1. personal presentation
  2. weekly assignments
  3. a final paper on any topic relating to the course and comprising 15,000-20,000 chrs

If attendance is incomplete (i.e. more than two sessions missed out of the total), additional written tasks will be set.


14 weeks, 2 lecture hours a week, in the first (Fall) trimester. Attendance of the sessions is compulsory, and is monitored by an attendance list.

Time and place

Woudestein campus, Building L (Faculty of Historical and Art Studies), room LB-62, Wednesdays, 15.00-16.45 hrs, during the first (Fall) trimester

Weight (and credits)

Full student workload is 200 hours (= 5 credit points), which should be equivalent to 1000 pp. of reading.

Entry requirements

Open to all students.


This course is offered in English. Students are required to participate in the seminars in English and to submit their papers in that language. In exceptional cases another international language may be used for assignments by prior arrangement with the lecturer. 

Application, e-mail addresses etc.

Students may apply with Mrs Manon Geluk, Department of Philosophy, Visser ’t Hooft building, Oostmaaslaan 950-952 (800 m west of the Woudestein campus), room 4-01, tel. 00-31-10-4088998, e-mail: , before the beginning of the course.

Prof van Binsbergen’s preferred e-mail address is: . Students and prospective students in this course are requested to send an e-mail containing their own e-mail address and marked in the subject line 'participant intercultural philosophy course 2003-2004' to: , in order to create an electronic mailing list for the current year’s participants; course details, additional readings, time table changes due to illness, etc., can then easily be communicated to all concerned.

Office hours

Students who wish to discuss their imminent presentations, ongoing research, possible topics for papers and theses, and progress in their written work, are very welcome to do so. Prof. van Binsbergen does not keep open office hours. Students may contact him during the sessions for an appointment. The ideal time for an appointment is one or two hours before the formal sessions. An appointment may also be fixed by e-mail. Only exceptionally can appointments be expected to be made within a week's notice.


  date topic assigned reading
0 3.9.2003  informative meeting Note: when the prospectus for 2003-2004 was first uploaded the lecturer was under the impression that courses would start in the week of 8 September 2003, and this was reflected in the programming. We apologise for any inconvenience.
1 10.9.2003  informative meeting Introductory lecture: ‘From Africanist social researcher to intercultural philosopher’
2 17.9.2003  Lecture and group discussion 


Intercultural encounters, Parts I and II (especially chapter 0)
3 24.9.2003  Lecture and group discussion Intercultural encounters, Part III (except chapter 7)


4 1.10.2003  Lecture and group discussion Intercultural encounters, Parts IV and V (except chapter 12)
5 8.10.2003 Guest lecture guest lecture still to be arranged
6. 15.10.2003 Globalisation and identity readings to be announced
7 22.10.2003



The choice of perspective: Eurocentric, global, multicentred Harding, S., 1994, ‘Is science multicultural? Challenges, resources, opportunities, uncertainties,’ Configurations, vol. 2, no. 2, and in David Theo Goldberg (ed.), Multiculturalism: A Reader, Blackwell, London, 1994.

to be read with

van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 'The underpinning of scientific knowledge systems: Epistemology or hegemonic power? The implications of Sandra Harding’s critique of North Atlantic science for the appreciation of African knowledge systems', paper read at the Porto Novo conference on African rationality, Benin, September 2002

background reading:

van Binsbergen, W.M.J., ‘With Black Athena into the Third millennium?’, website; French version published as: W.M.J. van Binsbergen, 2000, ‘Dans le troisième millénaire avec Black Athena?’, in: Fauvelle-Aymar, F.-X., Chrétien, J.-P., & Perrot, C.-H., Afrocentrismes: L’histoire des Africains entre Égypte et Amérique, Paris: Karthala, pp. 127-150

8 29.10.2003 Boundaries in culture and identity readings to be announced
9 5.11.2003



Structuralism as a model of thought Lévi-Strauss, C., 1973, The savage mind, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, English translation of La pensée sauvage, Paris: Plon, 1962; this translation first published 1966, ch. 1, ‘The science of the concrete’, pp. 1-33 and ch. 2, ‘The logic of totemic classifications’, pp. 35-74

to be read with

Ricoeur, P., 2000, 'Structure and hermeneutics', in his: The conflict of interpretations, Evanston: Northwestern University Press (first published 1974, English translation of Le conflit des interprétations, Paris: Seuil, 1969), pp. 27-61 

10 12.11.2003



Emics and etics Thomas N. Headland, 1990, ‘Introduction: A Dialogue Between Kenneth Pike and Marvin Harris on Emics and Etics’, in: Headland, T.N.,  Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, 1990, Emics and etics: The insider/outsider debate, Frontiers of Anthropology no. 7, Newbury Park/ London/ New Delhi: Sage, p. 13-27

to be read with:

Lett, J., 1990, ‘Emics and Etics: Notes on the Epistemology of Anthropology’, in: Headland, T.N.,  Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, 1990, Emics and etics: The insider/outsider debate, Frontiers of Anthropology no. 7, Newbury Park/ London/ New Delhi: Sage, pp. 127-142

and with:

Quine, W.V., 1990, ‘The Phoneme's Long Shadow’, in: Headland, T.N.,  Kenneth L. Pike, and Marvin Harris, 1990, Emics and etics: The insider/outsider debate, Frontiers of Anthropology no. 7, Newbury Park/ London/ New Delhi: Sage, p. 164-167

11 19.11.2003





The hermeneutics of intercultural philosophy Mall, R.A., 1995, ‘4. Hermeneutik, Interkulturalität, die Moderne und die Postmoderne’, in: Mall, R.A., Philosophie im Vergleich der Kulturen: Interkulturelle Philosophie, eine neue Orientierung, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, p. 67-100

to be read with:

Intercultural encounters, chapter 12

12 26.11.2003




Mudimbe on Foucault and African philosophers Mudimbe, V.Y., 1988, The invention of Africa: Gnosis, philosophy, and the order of knowledge, Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press/London: Currey, ch. II, ‘Questions of method’, pp. 24-43 and ch. V, ‘The patience of philosophy’, pp. 135-186

to be read with:

Wim van Binsbergen, 2001, ‘An incomprehensible miracle’: Central African clerical intellectualism and African historic religion: A close reading of Valentin Mudimbe’s Tales of Faith’, paper, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, full version, at:

13 3.12.2003





Rationality Sogolo, G.S., 1998, ‘Logic and rationality’, in: Coetzee, P.H., & Roux, A.P.J., 1998, eds., The African philosophy reader, London: Routledge, pp. 217-233

to be read with:

Horton, R., 1993, Patterns of thought in Africa and the West: Essays on magic, religion and science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ch. 5, ‘Professor Winch on safari’, pp. 138-160

and with:

Winch, P., 1964, ‘Understanding a primitive society’, American Philosophical Quarterly i, 1964, 307-24; reprinted in: B.R. Wilson (ed.), Rationality (Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1970), pp. 78-111

14 10.12.2003 Rationality in context: Coming to terms with African beliefs Sperber, D., 1982, ‘Apparently irrational beliefs’, in: Hollis, M., & Lukes, S., eds., Relativity and rationalism, Cambridge (Mass.): MIT, pp. 149-180

to be read with

Intercultural encounters, chapter 7

background reading:

van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 2001, 'Witchcraft in modern Africa as virtualised boundary conditions of the kinship order', in: Bond, G., & Ciekaswy, D., eds., Witchcraft dialogues, Ohio University Press, pp. 212-263, also at:




page last modified: 14-09-03 19:29:23