North Idaho College • Coeur d'Alene • Social & Behavioral Sciences • Philosophy
Asian Philosophy PHIL-220
1. Read, interpret, and explain classic and modern texts in the Asian philosophical tradition with a focus on the traditions of India, China, and Japan.
2. Identify and explain the major metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political, religious, and cultural themes in the Asian philosophical tradition, with an additional focus on conceptions of human nature.
3. Gain an appreciation for the diversity of thought within and across cultures in the Asian philosophical tradition.
4. Understand how ideas in the Asian tradition have affected Asian history, culture, politics, and religious institutions.
5. Understand the impact the Asian philosophical tradition is having on Western philosophy and culture.
There will be four take-home essay exams - 3 midterms and a final. Each exam will consist of six short-essay type questions – answers must be typed, single-spaced, and about ½ page in length for each question. In addition, an 8 page paper (typed, double-spaced, 1.0” margins) will be due at the end of the semester on a topic of the student’s choice relevant to the material covered during the course. Also, at the end of selected weeks a take home quiz will be given consisting of several questions that address the week’s readings. The total number of points possible will be divided into the student's total score thus determining the grade.
1) Please arrive to class on time. 2) Please do not carry on conversations with your neighbor during lecture (questions, comments and discussion are normal for a course like this but make sure to listen carefully during lecture). 3) Please turn off cell phones, ipods, etc. before entering the classroom. Please do not bring laptops to class. 4) Please do not leave class during lecture. 5) Please use the restroom before class and before exams. Thanks!
1/15 General Introduction, Historical Background to India: Reading Assignment: p. 3-8 Baird & Heimbeck
(Our introductory lecture will examine the historical background to Indian culture and philosophy, beginning with the indigenousIndusValleycivilization and its relationship with the invading Aryan culture. In addition, we will discuss the some of the major early themes in Hindu philosophy as they pertain to ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology.)
1/17-1/24 Upanishads: Reading Assignment: p. 9-82 Baird & Heimbeck
(We will begin a thorough investigation of the beginnings of Hindu philosophy by examining the sacred Upanishads, which constitute some of the deepest speculation in Hindu thought regarding the essence of human nature, individual self-control through yoga, illusion & reality, ethical behavior, liberation and religious devotion)
1/29-2/7 Heterodox Alternatives: Dhammapada, Diamond Sutra: Reading Assignment: p. 83-130 Baird & Heimbeck: (midterm)
(This portion of the course will examine the Buddhist reaction to Hindu philosophy and society. We will do a through reading of the Buddhist classics Dhammapada and Diamond Sutra in order to investigate the Buddha’s claims about God, morality, reality, self-mastery, and the psychological desire for security and permanence. We’ll also discuss the ways Buddhism branched into various perspectives on the nature of reality and the effective forms of human liberation.)
2/12-2/21 Orthodox Perspectives: Bhagavad-Gita; Patanjali: Yoga Sutras: Reading Assignment: p. 135-199 Baird & Heimbeck
(We will be examining the various ways Hindu philosophers reacted to the Buddhist challenge by discussing the Epic writings Mahabharata and Ramayana, the six philosophical systems of Sankhya, Yoga, Vaisesika, Nyaya, Mimamsa, and Vedanta, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Most importantly we’ll do a thorough reading of the “Hindu Bible” Bhagavad-Gita, which contains in and elegant and exciting dialogue the summary philosophy of the Epics, Six Philosophical Systems, Yoga Sutras and Upanishads)
2/26-3/7 Western Encounters – India: Gandhi, Aurobindo: Reading Assignment:p. 228-230; 231-268 (selections); 269-277 Baird & Heimbeck; Gandhi’s Political Writings. (midterm)
(We will finish our investigation of Hindu philosophy by investigating the writings ofIndia’s most famous modern philosophers, Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. Gandhi’s political writings provide a window into his mature philosophical thought on morality, international affairs, religion, gender, government, wealth, and personal responsibility. Aurobindo will provide us with insights into Hindu philosophy, history, culture, relations with the West, progress, and most importantly, into the full development of yoga.)
3/12-3/19 Confucian Origins: Confucius, Mencius: Reading Assignment: p. 281-359 (selections) Baird & Heimbeck
(We will begin our investigation of Chinese philosophy by examining ancient Chinese history, dynastic change, warfare, and the early philosophical themes that informed great thinkers like Confucius and Mencius. We will also read and reflect on a large portion of Confucius’ Analects and the Book of Mencius. Our discussion will center on the Confucian understanding of human nature, ethics, politics, manners, family relationships, economics and most importantly, harmony with the Tao)
3/21-4/9 Taoist Alternatives: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu: Reading Assignment: p. 361-432 (selections) Baird & Heimbeck
(In this portion of the course we will examine another highly influential attempt inChinato access the “Tao.” We will read the great Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching, and Lao Tzu’s most brilliant later follower Chuang Tzu. Both thinkers will help us understand Taoist approaches to politics, warfare, family relationships, wealth, character, morality, reality, and most importantly, living well)
4/16-4/18 Sun Tzu: The Art of War; Han Fei Tzu and Statecraft: Reading Assignment: The Art of War, Sun Tzu; Han Fei Tzu, Han Fei Tzu: (midterm)
(We will take a look at highly influential Chinese perspectives on warfare and statecraft. We will read both the Art of War by Sun Tzu and portions of Han Fei Tzu’s treatise on statecraft. Sun Tzu will apply a more Taoist approach to warfare while Han Fei Tzu will embody the more authoritarian tradition in Chinese philosophy regarding his advice to the ruler. We’ll also note connections between Han Fei Tzu and the later Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli).
4/23 Buddhist Innovations: Hui Neng Reading Assignment: p. 439-443, p. 474-491, Baird & Heimbeck;
(In this part of the course we will examine the journey of Buddhism from Indiato Chinaand the various ways Buddhist philosophy was expressed in Chinaafter the 4th century A.D. Most importantly we’ll read the foundational text for Zen Buddhism, the Platform Scripture, and investigate the philosopher Hui Neng’s attempt to outline the essence of Buddhist thought in a Chinese setting)
4/25 Japanese Buddhism and Zen (Saicho through Basho): Reading Assignment: Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North; Dogen Moon in a Dewdrop (handouts)
(We will trace the movement of Buddhism fromChinato Japan, discussing such influential Japapnese Buddhists as Saicho, Kukai, Kuya, Shinran, Nichiren, Dogen, Hakuin, and Matsuo Basho. We’ll discuss the Japanese cultural and political context and then discuss Dogen’s classic work on Zen, Moon in a Dewdrop. In addition we’ll read portions of Basho’s writings and show the relationship between Zen Buddhism inJapanand Haiku poetry.)
The Chinese Enlightenment: Huang Tsung-Hsi: Reading Assignment: Waiting for the Dawn (handout selections)
(We will take some time to look at a fascinating early modern Chinese philosopher, Huang Tsung-Hsi, who, although in many cases is neglected, had a tremendous effect on Chinese thinkers who favored a more tempered and limited approach to political rule. Huang will help us to understand that inChinathere was a movement toward what European philosophers call an “Enlightenment” with regard to politics, society, and progress)
4/30-5/7 Western Encounters: Mao Tse Tung, Anchee Min: Reading Assignment: p. 541-566 Baird & Heimbeck; Anchee Min, Red Azalea
(In the final portion of our course we will take a look at someone who disparaged much of Chinese philosophy in favor of a more Western, Marxist approach: Mao Tse Tung. We’ll read portions of Mao’s writings on politics, society, economics, and class struggle. In addition, we’ll read a moving account of one woman’s attempt to survive during Mao’s nightmarish “cultural revolution” – Red Azalea by Anchee Min)
5/9 Moving the Mountain (Video); Final Exam Passed Out
(Our class will end with a presentation of the chilling documentary “Moving the Mountain” which is an account of the student protest for political participation in China at Tiananmen Square in 1989. The film will help us understand the effects of liberal western thinking on modern Chinese thought beyond the Maoist approach)
5/16 Take Home Final Exam Due/Final Paper Due
Over the years, the best way I’ve found for students to get the most out of a course like this is to do the following: 1) Come to class and try not to miss any class if possible, 2) Take really good notes on the lectures. Also, some students find it really effective to write notes in their books next to the passages that we are discussing. 3) Make sure to ask questions in class if there is something you would like me to repeat or explain. 4) Please come to my office hours!!!
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