ASIA 378: Philosophical Wisdom of Early India

An illustration from the Mahabharata Nepal, c. 1800 Depicting the five Pandava brothers dispatching and setting fire to their enemy (this work is in the public domain).

Winter 2019

ASIA378 Philosophical Wisdom of Early India Sections

Epistemological and ontological thought from the Vedic period to the period of the rise of philosophical schools or systems Philosophy in the Mahabharata, Gita; early Buddhist and Jain views on knowledge and reality; views on language.

How should we live? What constitutes a good life? These questions have occu­pied every human society since the beginning of recorded history. In this course, we will look at how ancient South Asian cultures grappled with the meaning and the aims of life, through readings of Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil, and Ardhamagadhi texts in translation. In the first part of the course, we will discuss the pu­ruṣārthas, the four goals of a human life: dharma (virtue), artha (profit), kāma (pleasure), and mokṣa (liberation). In the second part of the course, we will fo­cus more on mokṣa and on related questions, such as the difference between knowing the truth and experiencing it, the nature of the self, the place of the in­dividual in the cosmos, and friendship.

This course will cover a broad range of philosophy texts from ancient South Asia. By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the cultural context in which the philosophies of South Asia arise,
  2. Articulate early philosophical arguments using key terms in Sanskrit,
  3. Critically analyze the point of view of the author, editor, and translator of a text, and
  4. Evaluate both ancient and contemporary perspectives on the philosophical teachings explored in the course.

Course content will consist of a transliteration quiz , reflective essay, a presentation of final paper topic and a final philosophy paper.