Cultures of Asia: Religion and Philosophy (0185-605-01)
Cohort 8, Module II: Winter 2000-2001
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: Tues 1:00-3:00p at CA D8D, and I can be available at LM Cafeteria
at 5pm on Tuesdays before class.
Office Phone: 422-6424 (422-6543 for the philosophy dept.)
This course examines both the historical development and current content
of the religious and philosophical traditions of Asia, with special emphasis
on China, Korea, and Japan. While the primary focus will be to understand
the philosophical concepts in the Asian traditions, for all of the periods
and the material covered, we will also pay special attention to the ways
in which the concepts and ways of understanding are alive in the culture
today. References will also be made to the Western philosophical
traditions and ideas to which the Asian traditions responded, in order
to contextualize better the significance of “modernization” and “westernization”
which affected Asia over the past centuries. The course is divided
into the following 5 Sections:
Section 1. 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. 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. 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. Shintoism and Shamanism: In this section
we will examine some of the indigenous religious practices of East Asia,
in particular the I-Ching and the divination traditions in China, Japanese
shintoism, and Korean shamanist traditions.
Section 5: Philosophy and Modernity in East Asia Today: In
this section we will study some contemporary philosophical or philosophically
informed cultural writings from 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 contemporary discussions which have relevance to the previous 4
sections. In particular, we will examine issues such as contemporary
business practices and Confucianism, human rights issues, Japanese philosophy
and imperialism, and contemporary Buddhist social activism.
The course is primarily conceptual. It is designed to follow the
First Module on history. This module is designed specifically for
philosophical in-depth discussions and reflections about the reading materials.
The emphasis will be on analysis, critical assessment, evaluation, integration,
and synthetic thinking. So please be prepared to engage yourself
with the reading material at a personal level and discuss your ideas with
Chuang-Tzu, Burton Watson translation, Columbia Univ. Press
The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Jay Garfield, Oxford Univ.
The Analects of Confucius: Philos. Trans. Roger Ames &
Henry Rosemont, Ballantine Books
Confucian Moral Self-Cultivation, Philip Ivanhoe, Hackett
Additional xerox reading material will be available (Reader).
The reading (Lin Yutang and Jane English) for the first day is attached
to this syllabus.
Please purchase Tao Te Ching (Lao Tzu) on your own. Any translation
(we will compare them).
The reading assignments must be read before the class.
Course Requirements and Grading:
1. Mid-Semester Paper (25%). After Section 3, there will be
a short (4-5 pages) analysis and evaluation paper on selected topics from
the first three Sections of the course. This will be a part of your
overall project for the course. Possible suggestions for topics will
be given out before the Christmas break for the whole project. Due
2. Final Paper. (40%). The final paper, 10-12 pages, which
will build upon the mid-semester paper, will also focus on analysis and
evaluation. Due February 13.
3. Participation and Discussion (35%). 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
Underlined items are textbooks; otherwise the material is in the Reader
(except for the first day—they’re attached to the syllabus).
Class 1: November 14 (Tues): Introduction.
General introduction of the course, including explanations for each of
What is Philosophy? What is Ethics?
Background for Confucianism: Philosophical Foundations of Society
Reading: Lin Yutang, “On Growing Old Gracefully” and Jane English,
“What Do Grown Children Owe Their Parents?” (handout attached)
Section 1: Confucianism:
Class 2: November 28 (Tues): The Analects
Concepts of Hsiao, Jen, Li, and Tao
Reading: Selected passages from the Analects. Please see
the attachment for the passage numbers. We will use the entire book.
Class 3: November 30 (Thurs): Confucianism continued: Mencius,
Critics, and Beyond
Ethics and contemporary discussions on Confucianism
Reading: Mencius (reader), Xunzi (reader), Ivanhoe.
Section 2: Taoism
Class 4: December 5 (Tues): Chuang Tzu
Introduction to Taoism
What is “metaphysics?”
The Taoist conception of Nature
Film on “Qi-gong” practice
Passages from Chuang Tzu
Reading: “Half Of It” (optional). Chuang Tzu, sections 1,
2, 3, 4, 5 (pp.23-72).
Class 5: December 12 (Tues): Chuang Tzu Continued, Lao Tzu
Passages from Lao Tzu
Critique of Confucianism
Reading: Chuang Tzu, sections 6, 7, 17, 18, 19, 26 (pp. 73-140).
Lao Tzu/Tao Te Ching (short selection in the reader, but also the book
you have purchased).
Section 3: Buddhism
Class 6: January 9 (Tues): Theoretical Background: India and China
Buddhism in India
The theory of the “no-self”
Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism
Suffering, Compassion, and Enlightenment
The “Middle Way”
Reading: “Selected Essays on Buddhism,” Garfield.
Class 7: January 11 (Thurs): Chan and Zen Buddhism; Culture and the
The “Middle Way”
Chan practice, Zen practice
Culture and Art
Guest Speaker: Steven Tainer
Reading: Garfield; “Shin Shin Ming”; “Zen and Japanese Culture”;
Section 4: Shintoism and Shamanism
Class 8: January 16 (Tues): (Mid-Semester Paper Due)
Shintoism in Japan
Korean Shamanistic traditions
Guest Speaker: John Nelson
Reading: J. Nelson; Kendall
Section 5: Philosophy and Modernity
Class 9: January 23 (Tues): Confucianism and Modernity
Confucianism, modernity and the business world
Film: Four Dragons
Reading: Tu Weiming.
Class 10 and 11: January 30 (Tues) and February 6 (Tues): Philosophical
Issues in China, Korea, and Japan: Engaging the West in the 20th
Human rights and democracy issues in China
Korean philosophy and the West
Japanese philosophy and the West
Zen philosophy and Japanese Imperialism: Critiques
Reading: “Rights, Liberalism, and China”; “Korean Philosophy
in the 20th Century”; “Philosophy of the Kyoto School and their ‘Overcoming
of Modernity’ project’“; “Zen and Nationalism”; Nishida and the Problem
Class 12: February 13 (Final Paper Due): Buddhism and the Contemporary
Socially Engaged Buddhism
Buddhism and Women
Readings: “Writings on Socially Engaged Buddhism”
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. You can turn your
papers in electronically (MS Word): email@example.com
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.