The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester on a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, this program includes lectures, conferences, exhibitions, performances, and film series bringing prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars to campus.

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Latest Program: Concepts of Self

Who do you think you are? In spring 2015, the Humanities Institute presents a series of events, lectures, and workshops examining one of the most important and interesting topics: me. Or, rather: the concept of self.

We will peer through a multidisciplinary, multimedia, multicultural kaleidoscope in order to observe this concept in theory, fiction, religion, politics, film, other media, and in its “natural habitat” within. We can think of the self as an animal, an immaterial spirit, a neural system, a center of an internal narrative, and an autonomous moral agent. Selves have also been conceived in terms of cognitive functions, something ultimately gendered, a unit or determinant of economic value, and a construction out of socio-political relations, power struggles, and culture. Or is the self just a stream of consciousness, something mediated and even created by technology, or a vehicle for reincarnation? Is it some sort of fiction or illusion, a sick delusion whose ultimate function is to facilitate suffering?

Join us as we examine concepts of self and ask where they come from, how they relate or fit together, what purpose they serve (and for whom), and what broader implications they might have.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar of public events for this semester is available here.

Coming Soon

Faculty Seminar: Ahmed Alwishah

April 27, 2015
12:30-2:00 p.m.

Baxter Hall
Room 108

The Concept of the ‘Self’ in Islamic Philosophy

Ahmed Alwishah
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Pitzer College

In his talk Alwishah will examine the concept of the “self” and its relation to human body in Islamic philosophy. In the course of his examination, he will show how early Muslim philosophers, Avicenna in particular, offer a form of dualism between intellect and body to justify the immortality of the soul. In his well-known thought experiment the “Flying Man,” Avicenna argues that one can be aware of the existence of her self without being aware of the existence of her body and identifies human self-awareness with the attributes of immediacy, continuity, and certitude. He makes it clear that by apprehending certain activities, one must presuppose the existence of the self and this special knowledge of the self is inherent in the self, and not in the act of cognition.  The self, on his view, is conscious of itself continuously, and conscious of others in virtue of being conscious of itself.

Ahmed Alwishah's research focuses on Islamic Philosophy, especially Avicenna, Post-Avicennian philosophers, and Philosophy of Language in Islamic tradition. He is the co-editor of Ibn Kammūna Refinement and Commentary of Suhrawardī’s Intimations (Mazda, 2002) and the forthcoming Aristotle and Arabic Tradition, 2015 Cambridge Press. He translated the Arabic testimonia of Thales jointly with Richard Mckirahan in Thales (De Gruyter, 2014). He also published “The Early Arabic Liar: The Liar Paradox in the Islamic World from the Mid- Ninth to the Mid Thirteenth Centuries CE” with David Sanson, Vivarium Journal 47, 1999. In addition he is the author of two forthcoming articles “Avicenna on Floating Man Arguments” Journal of Islamic Philosophy, volume 10/2014 “Avicenna on Animal Self-Awareness, Cognition and Identity” Cambridge Journal of Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 2015. He is currently is working on monograph book Avicenna’s Philosophy of Mind, where investigate a set of topics in Avicenna’s psychology. Before coming to Pitzer College, Dr. Alwishah taught at Stanford University and UCLA. He is a life member of Clare Hall College at Cambridge University and awarded a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA, 2007-2008.

Limited seating for this event. Please RSVP to