Postgraduate Diploma Course in Aesthetics, Criticism and Theory (ACT) | Postgraduate Certificate Course in Aesthetics, Criticism and Theory (ACT)

Aesthetics, Criticism and Theory (ACT)

The Age of Illumination: Philosophical Thought from Late Antiquity to the Islamic Golden Age

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What happened to philosophy between Aristotle and Rene Descartes? In the over two millennia that separate these two giants, were there no meaningful philosophical debates worth penning down? Did the rise of religions like Christianity and Islam really put an end to the notion of the philosopher, replacing them with the title of theologian, only for the philosopher to rise again from the dead with the dawn of modernity in Europe? If we were to reject this idea, and instead look back into that period of history known as The Dark Ages, how would such a journey change our notion of philosophy, and of the world?

Over a 20 session series spread across four months from August through to December, this year, the Aesthetics, Criticism and Theory (ACT) programme, The Age of Illumination delves into the movements of philosophical thought from late antiquity through to the Islamic world, covering a critical thousand year period that has long been neglected within the history of philosophy, having been falsely dubbed the Dark Ages. We begin our story in Egypt in the period known as late antiquity, examining the early philosophical integration of Platonic thought with Jewish intellectual traditions through Philo of Alexandria. Following this thread through the emergence of the seminal Neoplatonist thinkers Plotinus and Proclus, we situate their thought within a geographical landscape that was undergoing enormous shifts through the decline of the Western Roman empire and the rise of Christianity. Moving eastward, we also trace the rise of Manichaeism in the Sasanian empire of Persia, and engage with the early Christian philosopher Augustine of Hippo, a figure who in his own life moved between Manicheism and Christian thought. The flourishing debates in the Byzantine empire are also a key focus of the series, with figures like John of Damascus bringing critical insight into a highly volatile intellectual, religious and political landscape.

The second half of this series zooms into that illustrious period that is the Islamic Golden Age. Focusing on the seminal thinkers of the Islamic world including Al Kindi, Al Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes and Suhrawardi, as well as the invaluable translation movements from Greek to Arabic and eventually to Latin, we trace half a millenia of groundbreaking intellectual thought. The philosophical work of Jewish thinkers including Saadia Gaon, Maimonedes and the burgeoning Sufi movements are also a critical intervention within the series, urging us to expand from narrow and binary modes of thinking that has long refused to acknowledge the truly syncretic environments within which their work emerged. 

Led by world renowned scholars at the cutting edge of emerging discourse, this series opens up a rich tapestry of philosophical thought that has long been, and wrongly, neglected. Each session of this series will combine lectures as well as discussions to engage participants actively and foster a deeper understanding of the historical and philosophical contexts under study. Participants will be encouraged to critically evaluate primary texts and engage in class discussions to truly benefit from the series. Readings and additional materials will be available to registered participants on our online learning management-platform, JPM Think.

Lecture Schedule

6 Aug '24 (Tuesday)


- Adira Thekkuveettil


13 Aug '24 (Tuesday)

From Athens to Alexandria - Philo of Alexandria

- Sean Adams


20 Aug '24 (Tuesday)

Freedom and Responsibility in Neoplatonist Thought

- Ursula Coope


27 Aug '24 (Tuesday)

Manicheism in Sasanian Persia

- Thomas Benfey


3 Sep '24 (Tuesday)

Mazdak and socialism in Sasanian Persia

- Thomas Benfey


18 Sep '24 (Wednesday)

Augustine of Hippo and early Chrisitian thought

- Catherine Conybeare

24 Sep '24 (Tuesday)

Christianity in the Byzantine Empire - Focus on John of Damascus

- George Zografidis


30 Sep '24 (Monday)

Islamic Theology and Arabic Philosophy: the Mu'tazila, al-Kindī, and Ibn Sīnā

- Peter Adamson


1 Oct '24 (Tuesday)

The Development and Translation of Scientific thought in Central and West Asia from Alexander the Great to al-Biruni

- Dimitri Gutas


8 Oct '24 (Tuesday)

Philosopher of the Arabs - Al Kindi  

- Emma Gannage


15 Oct '24 (Tuesday)

Saadia Gaon - Jewish Philosophy in the Islamic World



22 Oct '24 (Tuesday)

Early Sufi traditions

- Alexander Knysh 


29 Oct '24 (Tuesday) 

Al-Farabi - The Second Master

- Nadja Germann


5 Nov '24 (Tuesday)

Avicenna, vision, language, mathematics 

- Jon McGinnis


12 Nov '24 (Tuesday)

Avicenna - A radical break from theology to philosophy

- Jon McGinnis


19 Nov '24 (Tuesday)

Averroes - Metaphysics and a response to Avicenna

- Matteo Di Giovanni


26 Nov '24 (Tuesday)

Maimonedes - Faith in Reason

- James Diamond


5 Dec '24 (Thursday)

Suhrawardi and Illuminationism

- Jari Kaukua


10 Dec '24 (Tuesday)

Greek - Arab - Latin Translation movement

- Dag Nikolaus Hasse


17 Dec '24 (Tuesday)

Concluding session

- Adira Thekkuveettil

Classes, unless otherwise specified on the schedule of lectures, are from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm IST, Mainly on Tuesdays.

All classes will be online.

Students are expected to make a sincere attempt to attend all classes. To obtain an ACT Certificate, students must have at least 75% attendance at live online classes (held on Tuesday evenings). 

Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully before registering.


06 Aug - 17 Dec, 2024


Rs. 25,000
(PG Certificate)