Cultures of Asia: Philosophy and Religion (Spring 2003)

Professor Yoko Arisaka (

Final Paper Topics (Presentation due May 21; paper due by May 25); If possible, could you submit your paper electronically at the above email address, so that I can type in your comments directly, and I will send it back to you on-line.

Select ONE question from below:

1.  Imagine that you would teach this course.  Select THREE MAJOR PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS which underlie several philosophical traditions of East Asia, which you consider are central to the "philosophies and religions of Asia."  Explain the concepts and the traditions to which they belong, and why you think they are important to understanding the cultures of Asia.  Illustrate your points with as many passages or examples as possible.  Be sure to cite our passages; personal examples are also welcome.  (The "concepts" you might choose to discuss might be, for example, "family-based ethic," "the complementarity of the opposties," "nonduality," "inter-relatedness of life," "respect for others," "non-indivualistic sense of self," etc. Be sure to cover different traditions if you can, rather than discuss 4 concepts all within the same tradition, such as Confucianism.)   

2.  Imagine a "roundtable" discussion session in which the panelists consist of a Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto-ist (or a shaman), and a "modernist." (You can select at least 4, if not all.)  Develop an imaginary debate on a topic of your choice--such as "What is a Good Society?" "What is a Self?" "Appraisals of Western Values," "Meaning of 'Asian Values,'" etc.

3.  Select a tradition or a philosophy which you would like to study more in-depth.  You can do a final paper that focuses more about one particular tradition or an idea, and relate that/elaborate that to cultural issues.  (The Buddhist notions of emptiness, as it relates to the meaning of the self, culture, etc., or Tibetan Buddhism which we did not go in depth, etc.)  For instance, you may want to study more Hindu or Muslim influences on South Asia.  Or Korean shamanism, or other aspects of philosophy and religion that we did not go in depth in class.

4.  Select a contemporary debate that pertains to Asia--human rights controversy, trafficking of women and laborers, "comfort women," effects of modernization/westernization, development issues, environmental or polution problems, etc.--develop a point of view, using various philosophical concepts we have studied.  What kind of arguments would you present, using what kind of theory?  Explain.

If you have a topic of your own which you would like to explore, do let me know.  If you have any questions about any of the above, let me know.

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