Asian Philosophy (0122-340-01)

Spring 2001

Professor Yoko Arisaka, Ph.D

Office: Campion D8D  (The main door to D8 is across the Theology Dept.  Look for D8D inside to the left.)

Office Hours:  MW 1-2p, or possibly later.  And by appointment.

Office Phone: 422-6424   (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)


The Final Paper will be due on Thursday, May 17 at 3pm.

For the last week (May 7 and 9), we will take a look at the "socially engaged Buddhism" movement.  (Reader 43-46).

1.  Japanese Philosophy (theory-related; could also include what we've covered in the Buddhism section):  Selections 21, 23, 24, 25, 26

2.  Japanese Philosophy (and zen's) reaction to the West, including the problem of nationalism and imperialism during the Pacific War: 22, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,

3.  Confucianism and Human Rights:  35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

4.  Contemporary Buddhist Discussions ("Socially Engaged Buddhism"): 43, 44, 45, 46

5.  If you'd like to do something further on Taoism, Indian Philosophy, or something on Korea, please let me know--I have resources that I can share with you.


Course Description:

This course examines both the historical development and contemporary debates of the philosophical traditions of Asia.  The topics include metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical questions raised in Indian, Chinese, Buddhist, and Japanese philosophies.  References will also be made to the larger cultural and political issues that are relevant in these traditions today, including the problem of “westernization” and “modernization” and their impact. The course is divided into the following 5 Sections:

Section  1.  Ethics:  Confucianism:  In this section we examine Confucianism’s fundamental ethical concepts as well as the notion of what it means for humans to have a well-ordered society.  We will analyze the passages from the Analects as well as the writings of Mencius.  We will then examine some developments in Neo-Confucianism.  The conceptual emphasis for this section will be on “society.”
Section 2.  Metaphysics of Nature:  Taoism: In this section we examine the fundamental metaphysical concepts of Taoism, as well as their cultural implications.  The emphasis will be on the concept of “Nature.”
Section 3.  Metaphysics of the Self:  Buddhism: In this section we will study the fundamental concepts of Buddhism, from India, China, and Japan, as well as their historical development as the philosophy migrates from India to China to Japan.  The emphasis will be on the concept of the “self.”
Section 4.  Metaphysics and Epistemology:  Indian Philosophy  Indian systems developed somewhat independently of other Asian philosophical systems.  In this section we will examine some of the debates in both classical and contemporary Indian philosophy.
Section 5:  Philosophy and Modernity in Asia Today: In this section we will focus on some contemporary philosophical or philosophically informed cultural writings on the problem of modernization and westernization, from India, China, Korea and Japan.  We will examine the ways in which the concepts studied in the previous Sections are expressed in contemporary theoretical framework, as well as focus on the ways in which the debates engage the West.  In addition, we will examine the broader implications of these philosophies in our contemporary global context: topics include business practices and Confucianism, human rights issues, and Buddhist social activism.

The course is designed for in-depth discussions and reflections about the reading materials.  The emphasis will be on analysis, critical assessment, and evaluation, rather than “accumulating facts.”   So please be prepared to engage yourself with the reading material at a personal level and discuss your ideas with others.


1.  Confucius, Analects.
(Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont translation, but if you already have another translation, that would be fine.)
 2.  Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings.  Burton Watson, trans.
3. Jay Garfield, trans.  The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
4. J. N. Mohanty, Classical Indian Philosophy
*5.  Please purchase a copy of the Tao Te Ching, also known as Lao Tze (Laozi, Lao-Tzu).

Additional xerox reading material will be available (Reader).

The reading assignments must be read before the class.

Course Requirements and Grading:

1. First Paper (15%).  After Section 2, there will be a short analysis and evaluation paper (4-5  pages) on Confucianism and Taoism.  This is so that you can see how you are handling the material early on in the course.

2. Mid-semester Paper (30%).   After Section 4, there will be a 7-8 page analysis and evaluation paper on selected topics from the first four Sections of the course.

3. Final Paper.  (35%).  The final paper, 10-12 pages, will also focus on analysis and evaluation.  Possible paper topics will be given out on Week  10.

Note:  It is possible to work toward one big paper at the end, so that the first two papers would be a part of the last, larger paper.  You can do this if you already have a pretty clear idea of what you would like to focus on, earlier in the semester.

4. Participation and Discussion (20%).  Weekly attendance and participation are required.  Each week, there will be assigned “discussion leaders” who will bring in insightful questions which are relevant to the material for the rest of the class to discuss.

Course Schedule and Reading

Week 1 (Jan 22, 24):  Introduction.

Reading:  Lin Yutang, “On Growing Old Gracefully” and Jane English, “What Do Grown Children Owe Their Parents?” (handout)

Section 1: Ethical Issues in Confucianism

Week 2 (Jan 29, 31):  The Analects

Reading: The Analects

Week 3 (Feb 5, 7):  Confucianism continued.  Mencius and Xunzi

Section 2: Metaphysical Issues in Taoism

Week 4 (Feb 12, 14):  Chuang Tzu

Reading:  Chuang Tzu

Week 5 (Feb 21):   Chuang Tzu Continued, Lao Tzu

Reading:  Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu

Section 3: Metaphysical Issues in Buddhism

Week 6 (Feb 26, 28):  Theoretical Background: India and China

All the readings are from the reader

Week 7 (Mar 5, 7):  The Middle Way (Madyamaka)

Reading:  Garfield: The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way

Week 8 (March 12-16):  Spring Break

Week 9 (Mar 19, 21): Ch’an and Zen Buddhism

Section 4:  Indian Philosophy

Week 10 (Mar 26, 28):  Epistemological Issues

Reading: Mohanty

Week 11 (April 2, 4):  Metaphysical Issues

Section 5: Philosophy and Modernity

Week 12 (Apr 9, 11):  Confucianism and Modernity

Reading:  articles in the reader

Week 13 (Apr 16,18):  Japanese Philosophy

Week 14 (23, 25):  Philosophy and Modernity:  Engaging the West in the 20th Century

Reading:  Maraldo, Arisaka, Feenberg, Chakrabarti, and others (reader)

Week 15 (Apr 30, May 2):  Above theme continued

Week 16 (May 7, 9):  Summary of the Course

Final Paper Due: Thursday, May 17th, 3pm.

Policy on Attendance, Turning in your papers, etc.

You are expected to attend every class, as participation is weighed heavily.  I will accept valid excuses (medical emergency, or other events which are totally beyond your control).  It is your responsibility to contact me if you must miss class.

Please note that “turning in the paper” means that I receive it; it does NOT mean that you dropped it off.  When in doubt, you must make sure with me that I actually have your material.
I will accept electronic submissions.

There will be a penalty for late papers.  Late papers must be turned in within one week past  the dealine.  No papers will be accepted beyond that date.

You may turn your final in early.  No makeup for the final.

Feel free to talk to me about any concerns you may have about the course.  I am always interested in what you have to say.

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