Undergraduate fall 2015 course descriptions

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PHI 100 (B, HUM) Concepts of the Person, Main Focus

An historical introduction to philosophy through readings and discussions on topics such as human identity, human understanding, and human values.

PHI 100.01 MonWed 2:30-3:50 O. Stephano
This course unpacks personhood through an attention to concepts of the self, personal identity, moral and political agency, and categories of race and gender. We will explore how personhood and humanity overlap and diverge, and consider how race and gender inflect human personhood. Our class will be a reading-intensive one with a focus on student participation and contribution.

PHI 100.02 MonWedFri 10:00-11:53 M. Kryluk
This course is an introduction to some of the major traditions of political philosophy through their respective concepts of the person. We will trace the development of political personhood from classic philosophical texts from the ancient and early modern eras to more contemporary models of liberalism, Marxism, feminism and post-colonialism. Readings for this course will be drawn from various authors, including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Marx, Wollstonecraft and Said. Students will be assessed through a combination of short quizzes, writing assignments and take-home tests

PHI 100.03 MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 C. Lovette
From the Philosophy course catalogue description: “An historical introduction to philosophy through readings and discussion on topics such as human identity, human understanding, and human values.”
Though many of us identify as “persons,” what does that actually mean, and what ethical responsibilities, if any, does that identification require of us? In this course, we will engage with a variety of thinkers who have attempted to situate and define personhood using philosophical, psychoanalytic and feminist approaches. We will discuss the merits and limits of these theories as they relate to each other and as they relate to our own lives. Certain questions and themes will be critical in this investigation, such as: is there a concept of “person” that applies to everyone? Do our bodies influence the way we think about identity? Are there aspects of personhood that are fundamentally unknowable? How do considerations of race, sex and gender come to bear on how we understand personhood and identity?
All reading materials for this class will be provided online.
PHI 101 (G, HUM) Historical Introduction to Western Philosophy
An introduction to pivotal theories of the Western philosophic tradition. Readings may be drawn from ancient Greek medieval, and modern classics of philosophy. Topics may include philosophic theories of politics, morality, metaphysics, knowledge, anthropology, art, and religion.
PHI 101.01 TuesThurs 11:30-12:50 M. Ballarin

PHI 104 (B, CER, HUM) Moral Reasoning, Main Focus
An introduction to philosophy through inquiry into the formation justification, and evaluation of moral judgments. Students introduced to the major theories and problems of ethics, such as utilitarianism, Kant's categorical imperative, ethical relativism, egoism and classical conceptions of the good and virtue. Against this background students engage in discussions of contemporary moral issues.
PHI 104.01 MonWed 5:30-6:50 H. Fluss

For this course, we will explore the history and arguments of Stoic philosophy. From its origins in Socratic teachings, to its influence on early modern thinkers (Descartes and Spinoza), Stoicism was one of the first attempts to organize philosophy as a coherent and comprehensive system. In delineating the essential features of philosophy as Logic, Physics, and Ethics, Stoicism articulated philosophy as a science and as a practice of living. In focusing on the ethical component of Stoic teaching, we will also emphasize how moral philosophy was grounded in a metaphysics of reason and the cosmos. We will see how this tradition of grounding ethics in a conception of metaphysical reason continued in Descartes and Spinoza, arguably two Neo-Stoic thinkers of the early modern world."
PHI 104.02 TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 B. Conuel
Morality represents one of the most central features of our daily lives, and yet its foundations remain notoriously elusive. Is it possible to ground morality on reason? Can we meaningfully speak of 'moral facts' in the same way we speak of scientific facts? How can a general moral theory be meaningful when moral norms differ sharply between societies? From where does morality draw it obligatory force if we reject the existence of a supreme being? Difficulties in answering these questions have led some theorists to claim that morality is relative, self-interested, or downright non-existent. These theories of moral skepticism will be the topic of this course. It is crucial to understand a thing before criticizing it, so the course will begin with an overview of the canonical schools of moral thought. We will then examine the problems with these positions and see how they lead into the skeptical attacks which will be the course's centerpiece. Cultural relativism, egoism, and moral nihilism will all be considered, with special attention paid to the sustained and sophisticated campaign against moral philosophy conducted by Friedrich Nietzsche. Our readings of these arguments will be similarly critical, and students will be invited to judge whether the problems we identify in skepticism are more or less severe than those identified in the previous moral theories.
Class will be a mix of lecture and discussion. We will be reading some difficult texts, and students should come prepared to actively analyze and question all assigned readings.

PHI 104.03 MonWed 2:30-3:50 A. Sitzmann
This discussion-based course will address how the translation of thought into action is informed by the degree to which we recognize ourselves as moral beings. We will attempt to determine if rational argument alone is enough to cultivate an ethical life, and conversely, if the narrative of human action is distinguishable from the evolution of moral values. To this end, we will trace the role of courage in philosophy from its prized position among the Greeks to its diminished role among modern thinkers. On the one hand, we will examine the ancient use of myth to describe the moral reality where contemplation and action exist as one. On the other hand, we will look at the increasing role of fear in determining the concealed motivations of modern man. Finally, the course will require students to make connections between past perspectives on moral virtue and current events. This combination will enable students to effect the translation of their own ideas into action on the contemporary stage.PHI 104.04 MonWedFri 10:00-10:53 A. Molsen

PHI 104.05 MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 C. Ward
We create our lives through the things we do, the activities we undertake in a world shared with others. Moral reasoning is the tool we must use every day to navigate the tension between our individual active decisions—how we choose to live our lives—and the fact that our actions affect and are affected by the lives of others. This class explores how we develop our moral motivations. It explores many questions: How can I judge the actions of myself and other people? What does it mean for me to be free? How should I choose how to act and what world to create?


The course provides an introduction to several major theories and problems of ethics from the history of thought. We will explore and challenge the ethical thinking of Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Hannah Arendt, among others, before studying in depth the ethics of ambiguity developed by Simone de Beauvoir. Using these theories and concepts, students will engage in discussions of current moral issues, with a particular focus on the highly relevant contemporary problems of racism, sexism, and sexual violence.


Students should be prepared to discuss readings and participate in class every day. There is also a significant amount of writing required for this course.PHI 105 (G, CER, HUM) Politics and Society, Main Focus

An historical introduction to philosophy through an analysis of political theories, theories of action, and styles of political life. Main themes will include the relation of the individual to the state, the scope of social responsibility, and the nature of human freedom.
PHI 105.01 TuesThurs 8:30-9:50 M. Ballarin
As for the course syllabus, I will be changing most of the readings so the description should read as follows:
The first part of the course will be devoted to a critical exploration of the distinction between the "public" and the "private" that focuses on the opposition between "politics" and "religion" (Western Christianity).  In the second half we will examine the claim that "the personal is political" through an analysis of the role played by the concepts of gender and sexuality in identity formation.
PHI 105.02 MonWedFri 10:00-10:53 A. Adamson
In this course we will explore a wide range of approaches in political philosophy. Thinking historically, we will begin with Aristotle’s insight that humans are fundamentally “political animals,” and we will continue our investigation by seeking out what follows from such a statement. We will work through some of the major figures in political philosophy and link them to contemporary issues and thinkers. As a class we will investigate the limits of each theory and interrogate them with questions such as: Who/what is a political subject? What is the State’s responsibility to political subjects? Who/what should rule? Is government justified? What is a ‘State’? How should means of subsistence be distributed—who owns them? What is freedom? What is oppression?

PHI 105.03 MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 J. Rosales
The German philosopher Theodor Adorno once commented that it is impossible to live the right kind of life in the wrong kind of world. That is to say, individual and collective actions always need to be considered in relation to the political organization of the world and the social norms that govern our individual lives. This class intends to explore this intersection between social norms, political organization, and how we come to decisions about what is the right and wrong way of living. What does it mean to say that we belong to a society? How does the political organization of a society, governed by certain laws and norms, affect how individuals belong to social groups?  And how do the political norms of society affect how individuals understand and perceive  themselves in relation to society? It is with these questions that this course will begin, and  continuously return to throughout the semester. Students will be given a series of readings on a weekly basis that touch upon one or several relevant topics, in relationship to the question of the relationship between individuals and social groups, social groups and society more generally, and the politics of that society itself. Some of the thinkers students can expect to encounter throughout the semester are Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Friederich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, and Alain Badiou among others. Additionally, students will have a chance to read some important historical documents in order to get a sense of how certain ideas from the history of philosophy have been applied to certain historical moments, to greater or lesser success, in order that students can assess for themselves the usefulness, timeliness, and relevance, of these ideas for our present historical moment. The historical documents will include The Declaration of Independence, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen, and the Haitian Declaration of Independence.

PHI 105.04 MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 A. Israel
Political philosophy begins with the claim that the human is a political animal, based on three connected insights: first, humans come into existence only in and through societies; second, we have the special capacity to alter those societies and thereby ourselves; and third, we strive to know whether, how, and in what ways we shouldalter our societies through political action.  Understanding politics is thus a key to understanding ourselves, cultivating more self-aware beliefs, and helping to create a better world.  Towards such ends, this course offers a historical introduction to political philosophy with readings from Greek and medieval political thought to contemporary social and political theory.  Some authors we will read include: Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Marx, Wollstonecraft, Du Bois, and De Beauvoir.  The two main objectives are to understand the questions and methods of political philosophy as well as to practice applying them to current issues and debates.  Success will involve extensive reading and participation in class discussion.  Assessment will involve reading responses, exams, and a final paper.

PHI 108 (B, ESI, HUM) Logical & Critical Reasoning, Main Focus
The principle aim of this course is to help a student acquire the skills of thinking, reading, and writing critically. The student develops a sensitivity to language and argumentation that is applicable to a wide range of situations and subject matters.
PHI 108.01 MonWed 2:30-3:50 T. Hyde
Intro to thinking or advanced reading and writing. Learn what a well reasoned argument is, how to come up with good ones, and spot the ringers--all useful skills that will serve you well throughout university, your career and life. Two exams and frequent tests and short writing assignments.

PHI 108.02 MonWedFri 10:00-10:53 E. Granik
This course will cover the basics of reasoning well across disciplines, as well as in everyday life. Students will learn to recognize a good argument from a poorly constructed one, as well as to think well about what matters to them by applying what they learn to a final project on a topic of their choosing.

PHI 108.03 TueThurs 8:30-9:50 P. Nelson
Reasoning, analyzing, and arguing are part of our everyday lives, and they certainly operate across disciplines, which makes this course a good opportunity to explicitly study and hone a practice of which we are sometimes only implicitly aware.  This course is designed to familiarize students with the skills necessary to recognize, analyze, and even construct arguments.  By introducing students to critical thinking, and both informal and formal logic (as its foundation), this course will provide students with the opportunity to enhance common practices such a reading, writing, and thinking.  This is not a lecture course, so, in addition to the engagement with daily in-class exercises, students should expect to come to class having done the assigned reading and prepared to discuss the material.

PHI 108.04 MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 P. Opsasnick
In this course we will undertake an introductory investigation into the foundational elements of argumentation that aims to strengthen a student’s ability to think, read, and write critically. We will endeavor to improve this set of skills by pursuing two main activities throughout the entirety of the course: (i.) a rudimentary study of logic and (ii.) a critical engagement with a selection of Plato’s shorter dialogues. Alongside a continued study of the rules, concepts, and language of logic, we will utilize logical reasoning to critically assess a variety of ethical and political arguments in Plato’s texts. In doing so, we will also engage in a limited study of Aristotle's contributions to logic. The structure of this course is intended to expand and strengthen a student’s ability to critically evaluate, explore, and compose arguments that are crucial for the foundation of social and political thought.

PHI 109.01 Phil. and Lit. in a Social Context (B, HUM) TuesThurs 11:30-12:50 M. Rawlinson
This course will focus on representations of childhood, coming of age, and relationships between adults and children. How do children and young adults develop as moral agents? How does civil society emerge out of nature and human nature? What is the relationship between individual agency and social context? Readings will include works by Voltaire, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, and Carl Hiassen. The course will emphasize the connection between reading and the development of identity and moral agency. Students’ primary task will be reading the texts. Frequent in class writing assignments will be required and provide the basis for your grade. A central aim of the course is to give students an opportunity to discover the joy of reading and to become lifelong readers.
PHI 111 Introduction to Eastern Phil. (B, GLO, HUM) TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 D. Dilworth
Description: reading of primary source classics of Chinese Taoism and Confucianism, of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism (Ch’an or Zen in particular), and of the issues in the meeting of East and West in 19th c. East Asia through the lens of the 1875 work of Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901).  Time permitting we may end with a few early (postwar) Japanese film classics such as “Tokyo Story” and “Ikiru.”

Degree of difficulty: at a rapid pace, the course involves serious considerations of historical classics that remain pertinent as food for thought on contemporary philosophical and inter-civilizational issues.

Required readings:

Lao Tzu, The Way of Life according to Lao Tzu, trans. Witter Bynner.

Chuang Tzu, Chuang Tzu, trans. Burton Watson.

The Classic of Filial Piety, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean (these three xeroxed).

The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, trans. Burton Watson.

The Heart of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, trans. Normal Waddell and Masao Abe.

Fukuzawa Yukichi, Outline of a Theory of Civilization, trans. Dilworth and Hurst.
PHI 112 Technology and Modern Life (H, STAS) MonWed 8:30-9:50 R. Crease
In this introductory course we read about the scientific revolution, then move to discuss topics involving current science issues from different perspectives.  For instance, what is the nature of inquiry?  What is the nature of discovery? What is the role of instruments and perception?  What is the nature and role of laboratories?  What are the practical, conceptual, and cultural underpinnings of scientific activity? What are the possibilities and dangers, if any of research?  What philosophical issues are raised by current events in science?  In a final project, individually or in groups, students will examine social aspects of a contemporary scientific issue.

PHI 113.01 Philosophical Engineering (B, HUM, TECH) MonWed 2:30-3:50 R. Crease

PHI 113.02 Philosophical Engineering (B, HUM, TECH) TuesThurs 2:30-3:50 R. Cormier

PHI 113.03 Philosophical Engineering (B, HUM, TECH) TuesThurs 4:00-5:20 A. Ellis
We all apply specialized knowledge and tools to solve practical problems.  Engineers do it in a special way, using a particular kind of technical knowledge, and particular kinds of tools, to solve society’s problems.  This course, accessible to the non-engineering major, is an introduction to what makes engineering similar to and different from other kinds of problem-solving.  Students discuss the social and humanistic contexts of engineering, its implications for human identity and experience, and its political and ethical implications.  Students will have regular simple build exercises.  For their final projects, students work individually or in teams in a simple engineering project.

Intermediate Courses
PHI 200 Intro to Ancient Phil (I, GLO, HUM) TuesThurs 1:00-2:20 T. Hyde
This course is a survey course designed to provide the background in ancient philosophy requisite for more advanced work in philosophy. It will cover all of the major figures from Thales at the start of the 6th century B.C. to Plotinus of the 3rd century A.D. Four exams will test a very large body of factual and historical knowledge as well as philosophical understanding.
PHI 200.02 Intro to Ancient Phil (I, GLO, HUM) TuesThurs 5:20-6:40 J. Sims
PHI 206 Modern Philosophy (I, GLO, HUM) TuesThurs 2:30-3:50 A. Platt
The modern period in philosophy begins in the early seventeenth century, as scientists such as Galileo started to develop a “new science,” and as Europe was embroiled in a period of political upheaval and religious turmoil.  Against this background, the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century examined the foundations of science and mathematics, the extent of human knowledge, the nature of the human mind, the nature of the political state, and the existence and nature of God.  This course will examine central philosophical debates of this time period, through reading selections by influential seventeenth and eighteenth century thinkers, including Descartes, Hobbes, Malebranche, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume and Kant.
PHI 220 Introduction to symbolic Logic TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 A. Platt
This course introduces students to symbolic logic, including sentential and predicate logic. We will translate statements in English into symbolic notation, and construct formal derivations – developing skills that will help you evaluate the validity of reasoning in any discipline. The course does not presuppose prior experience with philosophy, or any advanced knowledge of mathematics.

PHI 247 Existentialism (G, CER, HUM) MonWedFri 10:00-10:53 A. Kim
We will explore existential philosophy through literature and film. The course begins with a brief examination of existentialist themes in the Western philosophical tradition, and then turns to an in-depth study of novels, plays, and films on existentialist themes and in the existentialist style. Writers may include Nietzsche, Plato, Kierkegaard, de Beauvoir; Dostoevsky, Camus, Sartre, Beckett, Ellison.

PHI 264 Philosophy and the Arts (D, ARTS, HUM) MonWed 4:00-5:20 L. Simpson
The aim of this course is to encourage you to think critically about works of art and artistic practice.  Though not limited to music, our primary focus will be on music and, especially, on jazz. Included among the issues we shall address are the nature of aesthetic evaluation; the meaning of aesthetic terms; the nature and ethical dimension of musical improvisation; various theories of what counts as art; the meaning of music, etc. We shall ask such questions as, Are aesthetic judgments merely subjective assertions of taste? What is a work of art? What kind of a thing is an art work? In particular, what exactly is a musical work? Where, when and how do "Put a Ring on It," “summertime,” “Stairway to Heaven” or Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” exist? What about improvisations based upon those works? What is the difference between a folk or popular practice and an artistic practice? How culturally universal is the notion of the “aesthetic experience”? What is the connection between music and the emotions? We shall address these issues and questions with a special focus on that form of aesthetic modernism known as jazz music with the aim of developing a “philosophy of jazz.”

Upper Division Courses
PHI 300 Ancient Philosophy (I, HFA+) TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 A. Kim
This course deals with texts in Aristotle’s metaphysics and epistemology and is not an introduction to ancient philosophy. I will assume you are familiar with some of Plato’s dialogues, and have read one or two works by Aristotle. We will first explore Aristotle’s theory of argument and argumentation. Next, we will see how that theory is related to his notion of deductive science. The rest of the course will be spent on Aristotle’s theory of becoming in the Physics, and his theory of substance in the Metaphysics. The texts in this course are very hard, but we will move at a reasonable speed. You have to be prepared to read small sections of frustrating and obscure text numerous times, with great concentration. We will frequently refer back to Platonic or Presocratic texts relevant and important for understanding Aristotle’s work; selections of reasonable length will be assigned at the appropriate time.

PHI 312 Phenomenology (I, GLO, HFA+) TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 G. Jackson
This course will explore 20th phenomenology, a philosophical movement devoted to understanding the most basic invariant structures of consciousness, and its relation to time and space, embodiment and embeddedness, and other people.  We will read texts written by Edmund Husserl, Jean Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.  We will also engage with contemporary philosophy that directly responds to these theorists, including work in recent cognitive science.

PHI 320 Metaphysics (G, HFA+) TuesThurs 2:30-3:50 A. de Laurentiis
Regrettably, little in this course is about ghostly visitations and the paranormal in our midst. But we need not disregard these entirely. This course offers you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of the metaphysical work of the following Western philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Kant. To study metaphysics is to study the hidden assumptions made in the physical and human sciences about reality (its 'ontology') and about thinking (its 'logic'). For example, if you are a Psychology major: What is this psyche you are required to study? If you are a Physics major: Can the universe be just a field of forces?  No ‘matter’ at all? And are space and time all in our head, or out there? Where? If you are a Computer Sciences major: Is virtual reality real or virtual? If you are an Art History major: Can an artwork (or a person) be 'all appearance but no substance'? And if you are a Philosophy major, all of it ought to be your area of expertise, anyway. Dense texts with complex arguments; lots of independent and slow/repeat readings; astonishing claims about humanity and other realities. Lectures, guided in-class discussions, two essay-length exams (Mid-Term and Final).

PHI 325 Contemporary Philosophies of Language (G, HFA+) MonWedFri 11:00-11:53 G. Mar
This course emphasizes the usefulness of logic for the analysis of natural language.  Topics include Tarskian definitions of truth, identity and definite descriptions, intensional logics and propositional attitudes, modal logics and applications such as temporal logics, and many-valued and fuzzy logics.  The course is suitable for those who have had an elementary course in propositional and predicate logic and who are interested in the development of logics that take seriously linguistic phenomena.
PHI 344 Japanese Though and Philosophy (J, GLO, HFA+) TuesThurs 1:00-2:20 D. Dilworth
The first segment of the course will survey representative esthetic, religious, and ethical forms in Japanese cultural history through a selection of the “historical fiction” of Mori Ogai (1862-1922)—meticulously researched stories and biographical accounts set principally in the Tokugawa period (though two are set in T’ang China) that reprise the cultural symbolic of Japan’s past in Shinto, Buddhist, Confucian, and Bushido terms, while providing his own artistic and philosophical perspective.

              The second segment will focus upon philosophical issues involved in the initial wave of the modernization (Westernization) of Japan, centering on the “Civilization and Enlightenment” writings of Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) of the early Meiji period.

              The third segment will survey some of the “war-time” philosophical writings of Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), the leading representative of the “Kyoto School” in the 1930s and 1940s (Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime, Kuki Shuzo, Watsuji Tetsuro, Nishitani Keiji, and others).   



Not limited to PHI 111, global philosophical inquiry in general as well as an interest in Japan, China, East Asian religions, philosophies, literatures, and cultural histories will be acceptable as a background prerequisite.  The course will combine cultural history and inter-civilizational philosophical inquiry.


Books ordered through the university bookstore:

Mori Ogai, The Historical Fiction of Mori Ogai, University of Hawaii Press, pb.

Fukuzawa Yukichi, Outline of a Theory of Civilization, Columbia University Press, pb.

Nishida Kitaro, Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, University of Hawaii Press, pb.


Grades: from weekly quizzes during the Ogai segment, and exams on the works of Fukuzawa and Nishida.


Attendance: will be recorded daily; 4 absences without official medical or equivalent excuse constitute automatic failure, without discussion; in case of excusable absence, be in immediate touch by dd9414@aol.com.  No makeups, or INC term grades; in case of emergency be in immediate email contact.

PHI 366 Philosophy of the Environment TuesThurs 1:00-2:20 J. Taylor
Philosophical questions raised by human relations with the natural world, ranging from basic concepts such as nature, ecology, the earth, and wilderness, to the ethical, economic, political, and religious dimensions of current environmental problems, including the question of whether there are values inherent in nature itself beyond those determined by human interests alone.

PHI 375 Philosophy of Law (G, CER, HFA+) TuesThurs 10:00-11:20 J. Edwards
This course investigates how some major western philosophers have understood the idea of law and the fundamental roles that law plays in structuring relations between persons in political society.  Readings will be taken mainly from works by the following thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. But issues in contemporary philosophy of law (e.g., theories of legal punishment) will be treated as well. We will also take into account various aspects of western social and political history that are relevant to understanding what philosophers have had to say about law, freedom, and justice. 

PHI 395 Junior Seminar (ESI) Tues 4:00-7:00 L. Simpson
A survey of two dominant philosophical strategies within the European philosophical tradition: hermeneutics and Critical Theory. Readings drawn from representative practitioners of the various modalities.

PHI 401 Individual System of the Great Philosophers (G, HFA+) Wed 5:30-8:20 C. Miller
This is a challenging, advanced-level course (not for the faint-hearted) that will involve a careful section-by-section study and analysis of Plato’s later dialogues, including parts of the Phaedo, Republic, Parmenides and all of the Sophist.  The focus throughout will be on Plato's Forms. Students must attend and write quizzes every class, engage in small-group and whole-class discussion, and do two take-home exams.

PHI 472 Topics in Asian Philosophy (J, HFA+) TuesThurs 2:30-3:50 A. Nicholson

Buddhism and Early Vedanta

In India between the 5th century BCE and 8th century CE, Hindu and Buddhist philosophers debated one another on questions that many of us continue to ponder today: Who are we? Is there an eternal “soul” or “self,” or is all existence impermanent and fleeting? What should we do with our lives? Is the world real or just an illusion? The answers they gave frequently disagreed. Yet recent scholars have argued that there is a deep connection between Buddhist philosophy and the philosophy of Vedanta, the most famous of all the Hindu philosophical schools. Through careful reading of some of the arguments of these Buddhist and Vedanta philosophers we will seek to understand the complex web of historical interrelationships between the two schools, and also begin to appreciate how their insights can help us find meaning in our lives today.

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