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Asian Philosophy

Course Number: PHIL 565

Instructor: S. Timalsina

Time: TH 4:00 – 6:40 SH 248

Office: Arts and Letters 638

Office Hours: Th 12:00-2:00

Phone: 619-594-5175


Course Description

Although the course is titled ‘Asian Philosophy,’ the focus of this course will be Indian Philosophies, my area of studies. Through a survey of the history of philosophical thought in India in classical times, this course examines ontological and epistemological categories found in the discourse among the major Indian philosophical schools. In addition to exploring the origins of the philosophical schools in India, this course also addresses key philosophical questions covering metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical issues as they have been formulated in India. This course provides material relevant to students who are also interested in comparative philosophy and Indian religions.
Main Highlights:

India and the history of philosophy, varieties of Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy in India, perception, consciousness and the body, creation and causality, philosophy in a post-colonial world, Advaita metaphysics, and Indian theories of error and the levels of existence.

Learning Objectives:

General Objectives:

  1. To understand the role philosophy plays in culture and to improve multicultural literacy;

  2. To become familiar with the use of level-appropriate, specialist, philosophical terminology;

  3. To be able to discuss the basic philosophical concepts of major Indian philosophical traditions and begin to engage in comparative studies;

  4. To interpret philosophical issues and texts critically;

  5. To improve reading, oral, and written communication skills; and

  6. To understand philosophy in a cross-cultural context.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To be able to compare philosophical traditions academically;

  2. To be able to explore the interrelated nature of philosophical issues in a cross-cultural context;

  3. To use the appropriate vocabulary for academic discussion of the philosophical traditions of India;

  4. To develop historical and comparative perspectives on philosophy;

  5. To utilize a critical perspective concerning the role of philosophical thinking in the modern world; and

  6. To be able to recognize common tendencies of philosophical thinking in diverse philosophical traditions.

Required Texts:
Richard King. Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought, Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1999.
J. N. Mohanty. Classical Indian Philosophy. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2000.

In addition to these texts, I will post various articles and book chapters on the blackboard. The required readings are listed in the weekly assignments. These postings are integral to the required reading.

General Guidelines and Expectations:

  • Demonstrated completion of required readings

  • Effective Classroom participation

  • Internet access; unless specifically directed otherwise, you must submit your papers electronically.

  • You must ensure that your correct address is on Blackboard

Computer and Internet Access Requirement

You are required to have an active, working email account. Please note that HOTMAIL accounts are NOT compatible with BLACKBOARD, and you should create a university ROHAN account. See:

Course Weight:
Weekly Postings (hardcopy and electronic submission mandatory) 70 Points
[You are expected to submit one posting (500 words) per week, not exceeding 14 postings in total. Friday is the deadline for submitting your weekly assignments, except for the first week (the deadline is Sunday, January 23).]
In-Class Presentations, active participation 30 Points

[In every in-class presentation, you come with two weekly assignments in general. Everybody will have equal opportunity to present his/her assignments. If you do not have your paper on hand, you will lose the presentation credit, even if you have already submitted your paper online.]

Short Term Paper 40 Points
[2,000 words. Deadline: February 20, 2010]
Long Term Paper 60 Points
[4,000 words. Deadline: May 14, 2010]

Specific Guidelines for Papers:

  1. You have to read at least two books or five research articles for the first term paper.

  2. You have to double your research materials for your final paper.

  3. Argumentative papers receive higher credit than do merely descriptive papers.

  4. Your essay needs to be footnoted and with references at the end of the essay.

  5. You have to follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

  6. Your essays need to be original. There will be consequences for plagiarism following the SDSU rules and regulations.

Specific Guidelines for Discussions and Postings:

Every week, you will engage in discussions on various topics. I will give you some questions or issues to discuss in class, based on the readings for that week. During the discussion time, you will present your assignment to the class. It is mandatory that you also post your presentation on the blackboard, so your colleagues can benefit from your learning.


The following list indicates the essential qualities I am expecting to see in your writings.

Content Form

___ thesis statement provided

___ good introduction

___ argument developed in paper

___ clearly and concisely written

___ evidence, examples supplied

___ course materials integrated

___ adequate and accurate citations

___ grammar, spelling doublechecked

___ insights gained from class included

___ coherency

___ own thesis examined

___ vividly written

___ other positions analyzed

___ organized, transitions used

___ synthesis

___ clear conclusion that ties together

Grading Guidelines:

Minimum %=Letter Grade

Minimum %=Letter Grade

94 A

74 C

90 A-

70 C-

85 B+

65 D+

82 B

60 D

79 B-

55 D-

77 C+

  • During the course of the semester, you will be able to see your grade by checking the GRADEBOOK section on BLACKBOARD.

  • I will issue an Authorized Incomplete (I) only when a small portion of required coursework has not been completed due to unforeseen, but fully justifiable reasons. You must complete the required work within one calendar year immediately following the end of the term in which it was assigned. If this is not done, you will receive an IC - Incomplete Charged Grade that will count as an F for GPA computation.

  • A grade of "WU" for "Withdrawal Unauthorized" (formerly "U") indicates that you enrolled in a course, did not officially withdraw from the course, and failed to complete course requirements. For purposes of GPA computation, this grade is equivalent to an "F". If you attend a portion of a course and then stop attending without officially withdrawing, you will receive a final grade of "F" rather than "WU".

If you are a student with a documented disability on record at SDSU and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me immediately.

Lectures and Required Reading Assignments

Lectures are divided into two sections. The first section investigates the nature of philosophy in India. The second section addresses specific issues in light of comparative philosophy. While the first section is introductory in nature, the second section aims to bridge the broader academic need for global perspective on philosophical thinking. While the first assignment paper is strictly based on one of the Indian philosophical schools of thought, or a particular issue within Indian philosophical tradition, the second paper has to reflect your learning in a comparative perspective. In this way, while not requiring previous academic credits in the subject, the course addresses complex philosophical issues that prepare you for a wider cross-cultural and comparative knowledge of philosophical studies. You are expected to read the required assignments prior to the class. I will distribute handouts to help you pinpoint the discussion questions. You are supposed to make an electronic journal of the questions given every week.

Weekly Required Reading:

September 1: Problematizing Indian Philosophy
India and the History of Philosophy (King 1999, 1-41)

India and the History of Philosophy (King 1999, 1-23)

Can philosophy be Indian? (King 1999, 24-41)


Defining the Subject Matter

Histories of Western Philosophy

Secular Reason and the Dichotomy of Tradition vs Modernity

Indian Materialism – A Counter-Example

Is there ‘Philosophy’ in Ancient India?

Why consider ‘Indian Philosophy’?

September 8:

The Varieties of Hindu Philosophy (King 1999, 42-74)


The Origins and Nature of Hindu Philosophy

Bhartrhari and the Philosophy of Linguistic Analysis

The Varieties of Hindu Philosophy

The Prior Exegesis School

The Later Exegesis School

The Particularist School

The School of Reasoning

The School of Enumeration

The Classical Yoga School

Buddhist Philosophy in India (King 1999, 75-104)


Buddhism in India

The Doctrinal Foundations of Buddhist Philosophy

The Buddhist Philosophy of No-Abiding-Self

Mainstream Buddhist Philosophy

Mahayana Buddhism in India

September 15:

Indian Ontology and Epistemology (King 1999, 105-146)


Vaisesika: Classifying Reality

Reality as Process: The Abhidharma Response

Rejecting Ontology: The Mahayana Philosophy of Emptiness

Epistemology: How do we know what we know?

The Foundations of Knowledge

Inference and the Nyaya School

Emptiness and Nagarjuna’s Critique of Pramana Theory

September 22:
Perception: Do we see things as they are?

(King 1999, 147-165)

The Nature of Perception

Perception in Advaita Vedanta: Reconciling the Everyday World and Monism

The Image Theory of Perception

Consciousness and the Body: What are we? (King 1999. 166-197)

The Dualism of the Samkhya School

The Samkhya Philosophy of Isvarakrisna

The Yoga System of Patanjali

September 29:

Creation and Causality: Where do we come from? (King 1999, pages 198-229)


Myth and History

Ancient Indian Cosmogonies

Creation and Causality in Buddhism

God and Causality in Nyaya-Vaisesika

Causal Theory in Samkhya and Yoga

The Early Vedanta of the Brahmasutra

Samkara and the Philosophy of Non-Dualism

Ramanuja and the Qualified Non-Dualism

October 6:

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge,” in Classical Indian Philosophy, pp. 11-40)


The definitions of pramanya

Varieties of pramana

Indian theories of meaning

Theories of false cognition

Are truth and falsity intrinsic or extrinsic to knowledge?

October 13:

Metaphysics,” in Classical Indian Philosophy, pp.59-92.

The self

Body (multiple bodies)



The problem of causality

Existence of an external world

Absolutism versus nonabsolutism

Philosophy of Politics, Law, and Morals (Dharmasastras)” in Classical Indian Philosophy, pp.95-124.


State, Society, and Law

Moral Philosophy


Moral Psychology

Hindu and Buddhist Virtues

Bhagavadgita and Morality

The Concept of Renunciation

October 20: Paper Presentation
SECTION II: Indian and Comparative Philosophies

October 27: Dualism

Kishor Kumar Chakrabarti, “Toward Dualism: The Nyaya Vaiesika Way,” in Philosophy East and West, 41:4 (477-491)


Defining the self

Inferring the self

Vacaspati Misra’s interpretation

Arguments against mental qualities being somatic properties

Buddhist rejection of the self and Nyaya arguments in defense

Haridash Caudhuri, “Existentialism and Vedanta,” in Philosophy East and West, 12:1 (3-17)


Emergence of Western Existentialism

Being and Vedanta

Limits of phenomenological reduction

The concept of Avidya

Cartesian dualism

Analyzing the cogito
Existence as multiple relationships

Experience in Vedanta

Transcendental consciousness in Husserl, Sartre, and Vedanta

November 3:

Monima Chadha, “Perceptual Cognition: A Nyaya-Kantian Approach,” Philosophy East and West, 51:2 (197-209)

Purusottama Bilimoria, “Perception in Advaita Vedanta,” Philosophy East and West, 30:1 (35-44)

Perceptual cognition of particulars

Buddhist and Nyaya debate over perception

Perceiving the universal (samanya)

Kant on perception and imagination

Knowing particulars

R. Puligandla, “Phenomenological Reduction and Yogic Meditation,” Philosophy East and West, 20:1 (19-33)

Method of phenomenological reduction


Eidetic Reduction

Transcendental Reduction

Consciousness and meaning

The limbs of yoga

Dharana/ Dhyana/ Samadhi

November 10:

James Morley, “Inspiration and Expiration: Yoga Practice Through Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology,” Philosophy East and West, 51:1 (73-82).

Sundar Sarukkai, “Inside/Outside: Merleau-Ponty/Yoga,” Philosophy East and West, 52:4 (459-478)

Yoga and Phenomenology

Transcendental Phenomenology

Existential Phenomenology

The Lived Body and Yoga

Perception and Gestalt Psychology

Defining Yoga


Merleau-Ponty’s ambiguity about inside/outside

Inner body

Embodiment and Hatha Yoga

Visible and Invisible

Phenomenological experience of the inner body

Experiencing depth and the argument for embodiment

Patanjali on Yoga

Internal and External on Pranayama

Breathing and consumption

Ramesh Kumar Sharma, “Dreamless Sleep and Some Related Philosophical Issues,” Philosophy East and West, 51:2 (210-231)


Can dreamless state be verified?

Waking and sleeping in comparative perspetive

The Advaita account of knowing ‘nothing’

Alternative perspectives regarding self and consciousness

Personal identity and unity of consciousness

Objections of Advaita arguments

November 17:

C. Ram-Prasad, “Saving the Self?: Classical Hindu Theories of Consciousness and Contemporary Physicalism,” Philosophy East and West, 51:3 (378-392)


Physicalism and classical Indian philosophies

Three responses to physicalism

Bhatta Mimamsa and Nyaya perspectives on consciousness

Advaita perspectives on consciousness

Subjective self and phenomenology of consciousness

Matthew McKenzie, “The Illumination of Consciousness: Approaches to Self-Awareness in the Indian and Western Traditions,” Philosophy East and West, 57:1 (40-62)


Self-awareness, reflection, and reflexivity

Reflectionist theories

Higher-order representation theories

Nyaya position

Reflexivist theories

Buddhist reflexivism

The position of Sartre

Arguments for reflectionism

Arguments for reflexivism

December 1:

Dipankar Chatterjee, “Skepticism and Indian Philosophy,” Philosophy East and West, 27:2 (195-209)


History of skeptical thinking in India

Defining skepticism

Skepticism of Arcesilaus and Carneades

Pyrrhonism of Sextus Empiricus


Syadvada of the Jains

Yogacara and Samkhya-yoga

The Advaita Vedanta

The Nyaya

Harold G. Coward, “”Speech versus Writing” in Derrida and Bhartrhari,” Philosophy East and West, 41:2 (141-162)


The distinction between word and sound

Derrida’s deconstruction of the logocentric priority of speech over writing

Sabdatattva and Kala

Parinama and Vivartta

Language as manifested in Derrida and Bhartrhari

Language as means for spiritual realization

Pratibha and sphota

December 8:

Paper Presentation

A Few Suggested Topics For Your Term Papers:

  1. Indian Philosophy: Post-Colonial Perspectives

  2. Darsana and Philosophy: Indian Thought in Comparative Perspective

  3. What is Real? Classical Indian and Western Perspectives

  4. Self or Not-Self: Hindus and Buddhists in Quest of Self-Realization

  5. Person in Indian Philosophy

  6. Indian Philosophy of Mind

  7. Consciousness: Momentary, Non-Momentary, and Self-Reflexive: Some Indian Perspectives

  8. Indian Realism and Non-Realism

  9. Indian Philosophies of the Universal

  10. Indian Philosophy of Language

  11. Self-Realization in Indian Religious Traditions

  12. Buddhist Theory of Perception

  13. Samkhya and Advaita Perspectives on Perception

  14. The Rupture of the Self: Indian Perspective of Ecstasy

  15. Mind-Body Dualism and Indian Philosophical Perspectives

  16. The Philosophy of Nagarjuna

  17. The Philosophy of Bhartrhari

  18. The Philosophy of Gaudapada

  19. The Philosophy of Dharmakirti

  20. The Philosophy of Prabhakara

  21. The Philosophy of Kumarila

  22. The Philosophy of Udayana

  23. Karma and Liberation: Samkhya and Mimamsa Perspectives

  24. Self-Realization: Yoga, Advaita, and Trika Philosophies

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