Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Sadik J. Al-Azm

University of Damascus, em.

Sadik Al-AzmSadik Al-AzmSadik Al-Azm

Curriculum Vitae

Sadik J. Al-AzmSadik J. Al-Azm, Syrian-born philosopher and intellectual, was primarily influenced in his thought by secular occidental authors. Following his studies at the American University of Beirut, he was conferred a doctorate degree in modern European philosophy in 1961 by Yale University. He then returned to Beirut to assume a teaching obligation. In this time, his well-regarded book “Self-criticism after the Defeat” (1968) was created, wherein he deals with the effects of the Six Day War, and which remains forbidden in all Arab states, with the exception of Lebanon. After teaching and researching in the University of Damascus as professor for modern European philosophy (1977 to 1999), Al-Azm was visiting professor at various European and American Universities, including Berlin and Hamburg, where he was conferred an honorary doctorate degree in 2005. His thought centers on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx, which he particularly applies to Arab societies. Next to his numerous essays, important works include "The Origins of Kant's Arguments in the Antinomies" (1972), "The Mental Taboo: Salman Rushdie and the Truth within Literature" (1992) and "Self-Criticism After the Defeat" (2011).

Sadik Al-Azm was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture” from October 2011 to September 2012.


Research Project

The Civil Society Debate in the Arab World

The subject I am working on is tracing the recent debates in the Arab World over the question of civil society and religion, and their relationship to the state and to the possibilities of democratic rule in key Arab countries such as Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The subject, recently, acquired extra urgency and significance on account of the currently unfolding Arab Spring and especially the continuing Intifada against military dictatorship in Syria. Throughout the Arab Spring, the buzz words have been: 'civil society', 'civil government' and civil rule' as opposed to military rule, on the one hand, and Islamic rule and government, on the other. The point of the investigation is the emergence of Arab 'civil society' in these countries as the political way out of the impasse of military dictatorship and Islamic government. One point of emphasis is the clarification of the distinction in Arab societies today between 'civil society' and 'ahli society', and its importance for the possibilities of future democratic rule there.


Publications (selected)

  • The Shari’a from a Secular Perspective, in: Werner Gephart, Raja Sakrani, Jenny Hellmann (eds.), Rechtskulturen im Übergang/Legal Cultures in Transition. Von Südafrika bis Spanien, vom Nachkriegsdeutschland bis zum Aufbruch der arabischen Welt [series “Law as Culture”, ed. by Werner Gephart, Vol. 10], Frankfurt am Main 2015, Vittorio Klostermann, pp.177-184.

  • Civil Society, the Arab Spring and the Return of Islam, in: Werner Gephart, Jan Christoph Suntrup (eds.), Rechtsanalyse als Kulturforschung II [series “Law as Culture”, ed. by Werner Gephart, Vol. 9], Frankfurt am Main 2015, Vittorio Klostermann, pp. 241-252.

  • Self-Criticism After the Defeat, London 2011, Saqi Books.

  • The Mental Taboo: Salman Rushdie and the Truth Within Literature, London 1992, Riad El-Rayess Books.

  • Four Philosophical Essays, Damascus 1980, Damascus University Publications.

  • The Origins of Kant's Arguments in the Antinomies,Oxford 1972, Clarendon/Oxford University Press.
  • Kant's Theory of Time, New York 1967, Philosophical Library.