Philosophy 336  Office Hours in RH-436   (445-4489) 
Asian Philosophy  MWF: 11:30 AM -12:20 PM 
Fall, 2000   and by appointment
Prof.  Michael Kagan Email:
    1. Select this link for changes in office hours (updated 9/7/00)
    2. Student presenters:  Please note Requirements for Classroom Presentations

I hope this course will help us deepen our appreciation and understanding of some Asian philosophies. Of central concern will be the issue of the nature and existence of a basic human problematic. Other questions will be "how do these philosophies challenge us to deal with these fundamental problems of living? What do they offer us that can help improve our lives?" We will also be concerned with other philosophical problems that arise in connection with these questions.


Requirements include regular attendance and participation, presentations on sub-topics as scheduled below, and preparation and presentation of some significant project to be agreed upon in advance.
Such a project might involve further investigating and perhaps attempting to practice an Asian philosophical religious discipline or subdiscipline (e.g., yoga, aikido, Tai Chi, calligraphy) and reporting on the result of this investigation. Or a student might write a philosophical essay about some issue of philosophical interest raised by his or her study of Asian Philosophy. Some students may wish to express their understanding through presentations in different modes and media. Possibilities include a creative literary work of the student's own [e.g., a journal, a short story, first chapter of a novel, first act of a play or dialogue & c.], or a philosophical analysis of some issue present in one of the works we studied, detailing the position[s] set forth in the work, and developing and defending one's own philosophical response.


Grades will be based on completion of the requirements:
One fourth is based on participation (this will include occasional in-class writing work and group work); one fourth is based on sub-topic presentation(s); one fourth is based on the project presentation.
One fourth is based on the project turned in to the instructor.
Extremely poor attendance (more than 5 misses) or failure to complete any of the requirements can result in a failing grade, whether the course is taken for credit, or pass/fail. Please let me know if special considerations apply.


In coordination with the Academic Support Center (ASC), reasonable accommodations are provided for qualified students with disabilities. Please register with Anne Herron in the ASC Office for disability verification and determination of reasonable accommodations. After receiving your accommodation form from the ASC, you will need to make an appointment with me to review the form and discuss your needs. Please make every attempt to meet with me within the first week of class so your accommodations can be provided in a timely manner. You can either stop by the ASC, Library, 1st floor, or call (445-4118-voice or 445-4104-TDD) to make an appointment with Ms. Herron.


Wing-Tsit Chan (translator and compiler), A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1963. [This book is referred to below as CP.]

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore (eds.), A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1957. [This book is referred to below as IP.]

Huston Smith's, The World's Religions, HarperSanFranciso: 1991. [WR or Smith]]

Daisetz T. Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, Princeton University Press Bollingen Series LXIV, 1959. [This book is referred to below as ZC.]

Alan W. Watts, The Way of Zen, Random House Vintage Books, 1957. [Z or Watts]


Students may be interested in other readings. A list of some of these follows. These books are available either in the library or my office:

Robert O. Ballou (ed.), The Portable World Bible, Penguin Books.

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, The Free Press, 1973.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, second ed., Princeton University Press, 1968.

Hermann Hesse, The Journey to the East, translated by Hilda Rosner, The Noonday Press, 1956.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, translated by Hilda Rosner, New Directions, 1951.

John M. Koller, Oriental Philosophies, 2d ed., Scribner's, 1985.

Miyamoto Musashi. A Book of Five Rings, translated by Victor Harris, The Overlook Press, 1974.

Huston Smith, The Religions of Man, Harper & Row Perennial Library edition, 1965. [RM]

Sun Tzu. The Art of War, edited with a forward by James Clavell, Delacourte Press, 1983.

No Classes on the Following dates: Sep. 4 (Labor Day),  Oct. 7 - Oct. 10 (Long Weekend), and Nov. 22-26 (Thanksgiving Break).
LAST DAY OF CLASS - December 11


All students are expected to do all readings and to share their understanding with one another in class discussions and by leading their own and participating in other students' presentations on the various sub-topics.

Student presentations on sub-topics begin the fourth week of class, and will be scheduled during the first week. The nine subtopics will be divided up into student groups whose size will be determined by the class size and the class members' preferences.

Remember: You have less than an hour to present on your sub-topic. Focus on the aspects your group finds most interesting and important. Do not try to cover everything. Your presentation will be improved if you make it easier for others to participate. (Please try to help others' presentations by participating!)

Please feel free to meet with me to discuss your presentations. If you don't find me on campus, feel free to call me at home (637-0349) before 8:00 PM.



Week #1. (of Aug. 28 ). Introduction. Read Huston Smith's reconstruction of Indian Philosophy. Read the Bhagavad-Gita in IP (pp. 101-163).
Week #2 (of Sep. 6). Group work on the Bhagavad-Gita. The four aims - read The Laws of Manu (IP, pp. 172-192).
Week #3. (of Sep. 11). HINDU SYSTEMS. . Lecture on Nyaya (IP, Ch. X (pp. 356-385)).
 STUDENTS PRESENT on yogaSep. 13 ; group work on yoga.
Week #4. (of Sep . 18)
 Sep. 18 STUDENTS PRESENT on Vedanta (make sure to have readIP, ch. XV (pp. 506-573). Sep. 20 , in-class writing on Vedanta. HETERODOX SYSTEMS: Sep. 22,, lecture on Caravaka. (Make sure to have read IP, ch VII, pp. 227-249.
Week #5. (of Sep. 25) Feb. 20. --HETERODOX SYSTEMS CONTINUED - Sep. 25,  STUDENTS PRESENT on Jainism (make sure to have read IP, pp. 250-271).

Week #6. (of Oct.  2)
Oct. 2 , STUDENTS PRESENT on Indian Buddhism (make sure to have read Smith on Buddhism and IP, ch. IX, pp. 272-346. Oct. 4 & 6, in-class focused reading of Buddhist texts in IP; group work on classical Buddhism and the issue of authority.


Week #7. (of Oct. 11) - Confucianism - read Smith on Confucianism and CP, Chs. 2-5, pp. 14-135.  Oct. 9 Lecture on Confucianism.  Oct.  11 STUDENTS PRESENT on Confucianism. Oct. 13, , in-class focused reading of Confucian texts.
 Week #8 (of Oct. 16).  Oct. 16,  STUDENTS PRESENT on Taoism (make sure to have read Smith on Taoism and CP, Chs. 7-8, pp 136-210; ). Project Proposals Due: Monday Oct. 16.
 Oct. 18th and 20th, in-class focused reading of Lau Tzu & Chuang Tzu.
Week #9. (of Cot 23).  Yin-Yang School, Legalism, and the Philosophy of Change. Read CP, Chs. 11-13, pp. 244-270.


Week #9 (continued)--

Oct. 25, STUDENTS PRESENT on Zen/Ch'an. Read Watts' book; read "The Zen (Ch'an) School of Sudden Enlightenment," (ch, 26, CP, pp. 425-449). REMEMBER TO FINISH READING ZEN AND JAPANESE CULTURE. )

 Week #10 (of Oct. 30) --Group work on Chinese philosophy; scheduling of project presentations. Nov. 1- ZEN AND JAPANESE CULTURE. Make sure to have read ZC, Chs. I-VI. Nov. 1  STUDENTS PRESENT on Zen and the martial arts (ZC, Chs IV-VI).
Week #11. (Of Nov.  6) Nov. 6 , STUDENTS PRESENT on Haiku and Tea (ZC, Chs. VII-X, pp. 215-328.


Week #11.-- Nov. 10.-- Student project presentations begin.
Week #12.-- Nov. 13, 15, 17 - Student project presentations continue.
Week #13. Nov 20  --Student project presentations continue Written Projects Due: Mon., Nov. 20.
Week #14.-- Nov. 27, 29,  Dec. 1-- Student project presentations continue .
Week #15.-  Dec 4 STUDENT EVALUATIONS. Student project presentations continue Dec 6 and Dec 8.

Some links you may find useful are

This syllabus for PHL 336--Asian Philosophy - Fall 2000

Materials for PHL 336--Asian Philosophy at

My homepage (