Asian Philosophy (0122-340-01)
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.
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
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
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
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)
General introduction of the course, including explanations for each of
What is an Asian Ethical system like? How is it different from Western
Background for Confucianism: Philosophical Foundations of Society
Section 1: Ethical Issues in Confucianism
Week 2 (Jan 29, 31): The Analects
Reading: The Analects
Film: Confucianism and Modernity (Monday, Jan 29)
Concepts of Hsiao and Jen
Week 3 (Feb 5, 7): Confucianism continued. Mencius and Xunzi
Concepts of Li and Tao
Section 2: Metaphysical Issues in Taoism
Week 4 (Feb 12, 14): Chuang Tzu
Reading: Chuang Tzu
Introduction to Taoism
What is “metaphysics?”
The Taoist conception of Nature
Guest Demonstration by Scott Phillips on “Qi-gong” practice
Week 5 (Feb 21): Chuang Tzu Continued, Lao Tzu
Reading: Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu
Passages from Lao Tzu
Critique of Confucianism
Section 3: Metaphysical Issues in Buddhism
Week 6 (Feb 26, 28): Theoretical Background: India and China
All the readings are from the reader
First Paper due Feb 28
Buddhism in India
The theory of the “no-self”
Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
Suffering, Compassion, and Enlightenment
Week 7 (Mar 5, 7): The Middle Way (Madyamaka)
Reading: Garfield: The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
Problem of Radical Skepticism
Concept of sunyata, or “emptiness”
Practice, Experience, and Reality
Week 8 (March 12-16): Spring Break
Week 9 (Mar 19, 21): Ch’an and Zen Buddhism
Shin Shin Ming (reader)
Zen and Japanese Culture (reader)
Section 4: Indian Philosophy
Week 10 (Mar 26, 28): Epistemological Issues
Background to Indian Philosophy
Mohanty, Part I
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
Second Paper due April 11
Human rights and democracy issues in China
Week 13 (Apr 16,18): Japanese Philosophy
Philosophy of the Kyoto School
Nishida, Nishitani, Abe, and others (reader)
Week 14 (23, 25): Philosophy and Modernity: Engaging the West
in the 20th Century
Reading: Maraldo, Arisaka, Feenberg, Chakrabarti, and others (reader)
Japanese philosophy and the West
Zen philosophy and Japanese Imperialism: Critiques
Postcolonialism and India
Socially Engaged Buddhism
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.
Back to my main page.