Group work on Mahabharata and The Laws of Manu for PHL 336 Asian Philosophy

A.  Mahabharata question:  What are the practical consequences of accepting the teachings of Section 2, "Expediency and Moderation?"  (See pp. 165-166) Should we?  Why or why not?  What would the world have to be like for the affirmative response to be appropriate?  Is the world like that according to your understanding of the Bhagavad-gita?

(The Laws of Manu (including introduction), pp. 172-192.)

B.  What are said to be the four aims of life?  Briefly give an example (from history or well-known contemporary experience) of people with lives devoted to each aim.

C.  What is the role of women in the Laws of Manu?  "A high place is given to women" according to the introduction to this section.  Explain why one might agree, and why one might not.  Give a feminist evaluation of the Laws of Manu.

D.  What do you think of the four stages or orders of life and their duties?  What do you make of the praise given to the householder?

E.  What do you think of the four "castes" and their duties?  Compare this to the structure of Plato's Republic.  What do you think of the comparison?  Do you think such divisions are basically a good idea, or a bad one?  Why?

Michael Kagan, Le Moyne College, Fall 2000 (email: