Asian Philosophy

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
PHIL 1135
Asian Philosophy
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week / semester
Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

A combination of lecture and discussion (possibly including student presentations).  Some class sessions may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later class session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material.  Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Course Description
What are the limits of human experience? What is the ultimate ground of existence? In what does self-realization consist, and what path or paths are best followed in pursuit of self-realization? These central questions of philosophy have received distinctive answers within the various traditions of Asian philosophy. In this course we will be exploring the variety of responses to these questions given by Asian philosophers, and particularly the responses of the Vedantists, the early Buddhists, the Taoists, Confucians, and Zen Buddhists. Emphasis will be on the doctrines of Universal Self, no-self, the Way, humanistic wisdom, and enlightenment, and on the relevance of these to contemporary philosophical, ethical, environmental, and political concerns.
Course Content
  1. An introduction to Indian philosophy generally, including the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the various paths of yoga, orthodox schools (Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya and Mimamsa), and heterodox schools (Carvaka, Jainism and Buddhism).
  2. An introduction to the Vedantic system, including emphasis on one example (such as Patanjali’s yoga or Sankara’s system), and points of comparison (e.g., with Parmenides, Spinoza, Kant & Husserl).
  3. An introduction to early Buddhism, including the four noble truths, the eightfold path, impermanence, no self-identity, co-dependent origination, Nagarjuna’s fourfold negation, and points of comparison (e.g., with Pyrrho, negative theology, Hume, Parfitt).
  4. An introduction to Taoism, including the ineffability of the Way, yin and yang, the female principle, harmony of entities and harmony in relations, the natural versus the artificial, and points of comparison (e.g., with deep ecology, feminism, global consciousness and cultural diversity, simplicity values, consumerism, and non- renewable resources).
  5. An introduction to Confucianism, including rites, humaneness, mutuality and relational living, and points of  comparison, (e.g., with the secular and religious humanism of Marx, Lamont, Tillich), with family values and civic responsibilities, and with personal cultivation, and spiritual transformation (e.g. Jung, Fingarette).
  6. An introductions to Zen Buddhism, including practice, expression, and enlightenment: Dogen’s dilemma; dialogue and insight; the koan as problem and as solution; spontaneity and repetition; sense and nonsense; understanding and overstanding; dynamic, concrete and embodied existence; and points of comparison (e.g., with the latter Wittgenstein on spontaneity, with the existentialists on concrete and dynamic existence, with Jaspers on wisdom and insight, and with Buber on the life of dialogue).
  7. Optional: contrasts and comparisons with other Eastern and Western thought, historical and contemporary (which may be included with the above sections).
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Explain the range of views found within Asian philosophy.
  2. Explain the relevance of Asian philosophy to contemporary philosophical, moral, environmental, and political concerns.
  3. Describe the fundamental doctrines and reasoning of the specific philosophers studied in the course.
  4. Compare and contrast some Western philosophical viewpoints with those of the Asian philosophers studied in the course.
  5. Describe how the doctrines and views of some of the Asian philosophers studied would apply to some contemporary philosophical, moral, social, and environmental concerns.
  6. Formulate assessments of some of the doctrines and positions of the Asian philosophers studied.
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.


An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:


Any combination of the following totalling 100%:


Tests, quizzes and short assignments     20% - 50%
Written class presentations, essays, essay exams    20% - 60%
Instructor's general evaluation
(e.g., participation, attendance, homework,
improvement, extra-credit, groupwork)
  0% - 20%
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:


Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:


Bresnan, Patrick S. Awakening: An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought. (4th ed.) Prentice-Hall, 2010.

Patanjali.  Yogasutras of Patanjali, (Ed. & Trans. G. Feurstein).  Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1989.

Gautama Buddha.  Dhammapada. (Trans. J. Mascaro).  London: Penguin, 1975.

Lao Tsu.  Tao Te Ching.  (Trans. D.C. Lau).  London: Penguin, 1986.

Fingarette, H.  Confucius, The Secular as Sacred.  NY: Harper Torchbooks, 1972.

Koller, John (Ed.).  Asian Philosophies. (6th ed.) Peason, 2011.

Koller, J. & Koller, P. (Eds.). A Sourcebook in Asian Philosophy.  NY: MacMillan 1991.