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Asian Philosophy

Course Code: PHIL 1135
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Philosophy
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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).

Methods of Instruction

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.

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%

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.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.