Buddhist Philosophy

UPDATE: Classes for Spring 2020 are now online.  Please read the readings and lectures online at your own pace, and turn in your three papers by email, with all three due May 25th.  Please email me with any questions, and I can set up individual Zoom appointments if you email me and request them.  Stay safe, healthy and happy!

Syllabus & Schedule

PHIL 16 – SPRING 2020 – 20268 – BCC 52, downstairs & to the right

Instructor: Eric Gerlach – ericgerlach@gmail.com

Office Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 12:15 -1:15 pm @ K’s Coffee, nextdoor to BCC

Course Description: In this class we will study the history of Buddhist philosophy in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, as well as its place in the larger history of human thought and our world. Read through the lectures and readings, and complete the three assignments by the end of the semester.

Texts: Links to the online readings are posted at the top of each set of lecture notes.

Jan 22 – Introduction to the Class

Jan 29 – Hinduism, Kanada, & Gautama

Feb 5 – The Charvakas, & Jains

Feb 12 – The Buddha & Dhammapada

Feb 19 – The Long Discourses

Feb 26 – Buddhism in India  – 1st PAPER DUE

Mar 4 – Buddhism in TibetChina, & Japan



Mar 25 – Daoism

Apr 1 – ZenBodhidharmaHuineng, & Mazu

Apr 8 – Zhaozhou & Linji

Apr 15 – The Blue Cliff Record, the Gateless Gate, & Zen Stories

Apr 22 – Dogen, & Hakuin

Apr 29 – Buddhism in Korea, Buddhism in Vietnam

May 6 – Buddhism, Existentialism & Postmodernism

May 13 – Buddhism, Pragmatism & Wittgenstein


Assignments: Two 4 page essays (2 x 25%) & a final 8 page paper (50%), typed, double-spaced and emailed to ericgerlach@gmail.com.  Focus on an idea we cover, clearly state and argue for your position with evidence, empathy, and examples from your life, history or fiction.  All work for the course is due by MIDNIGHT, SUNDAY DECEMBER 15th.

1st Essay: For the first 4 page essay for the class, I want you to consider the philosophical debates from ancient India that pitted Buddhism against many other positions.  According to the Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools, there is absolute truth and universal knowledge.  According to the Jains and Buddhists, there is no absolute truth but only particular perspective.  What do you find yourself agreeing with more, and why?  Are the two exclusive, inclusive, both or neither?

2nd Essay: For the second 4 page essay, I want you to select a Zen koan that you think displays a particular insight or idea of Buddhism, and then reflect on what it means when applied to your own life and/or the current state of the world.

3rd Essay: For the final 8 page paper for the class, I want you to take an idea from the final three lectures and apply it to your life and/or the world, as you did for the second assignment.  What appeals to you or not about the idea, and how or why is it useful?

Grading Rubric: 10 – This is outstanding work, 9 – This is good work that shows you put thought and time in, but more, 8 – This is on the right path, but clearly needs a bit more, 7 – This is somewhat wrong and off, and 0 – 6 – You are clearly phoning it in before the telegraph.

Student Learning Outcomes:  Upon completion of this class, students will be able to do the following:

1. Describe anatta,anicca,dukkha,and Dependent Origination as foundational principles of Buddhist ethics.

2.Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of three Buddhist schools, to discriminate between three Buddhist traditions, and to understand foundation of Buddhist metaphysics and ethics.

3. Assess foundational Buddhist principles critically.

4. Describe role of Buddhism in the development of national and religious culture.

5. Apply Buddhist existential principles to the understanding of the nature of life and self.

General Student Requirements:  Students are expected to come to class prepared to ask questions and participate in discussions. All readings and assignments should be completed by the beginning of class on the day they are listed here. This class is run as a lecture/discussion course.  Students are responsible for all class material (even if they miss class). If you miss class, it is strongly advised that you ask a classmate for notes. It is your responsibility to ask if you missed something; it is not the instructor’s responsibility to remind you. Please read through the syllabus and plan ahead.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarists, intentional or inadvertent, will receive a zero on the assignment in question; repeat offenders will get an F for the course and will be subject to college disciplinary action. Students are encouraged to review plagiarism policies in the current Vista College catalog.  Attendance is mandatory. If you miss more than five classes, you will receive an F in the course. (Note: I do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences; if you miss more than five classes, for any reason, you cannot pass the class.)

Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS) are provided for any enrolled student who has a verified disability that creates an educational limitation that prevents the student from fully benefiting from classes without additional support services or instruction. Please let the instructor know if you require any support services or would like more information about DSPS.

This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class. Additional handouts of required readings may also be added.

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