Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Comparative Philosophy Seminar


I’m working up a syllabus for a seminar in  Comparative Philosophy for a new M.A. program that we are starting at E.M.U. (not official yet, but almost there).  Below is what I have come up with for my first draft.  If you have taught a course in Comparative Philosophy, or have contemplated doing so, I’d appreciate any feedback you can offer with regard to readings and topics.

As for the readings that have been included, you can see that I construe the overall subject matter fairly broadly (or do I?).

The course is divided roughly into two halves.  The first half covers issues in comparative philosophy.  The second half is broken further into two sections, the first of which covers actual examples of doing comparative philosophy; and the second of which covers classic texts that provide good opportunities for comparative analysis–to give the students an opportunity to practice and thereby realize first hand the many issues and difficulties involved.  The last few weeks are devoted to readings that propose how to use comparative methods to make advances in current philosophy.  I’ll probably swap those readings out for readings from an anthology that I am working on at the moment–the theme of which is using the resources of the Chinese tradition to advance issues in current philosophy.


Philosophy 590 – Comparative Philosophy

Professor: Brian Bruya

Course Description

Philosophy 590 is a course on the methods and methodology of comparative philosophy.  Methodology is the study of the possibilities, uses, and limits of methods.  Insofar as we will be studying the methodology of comparative philosophy, we will be focusing on the possibility and the limitations of adopting and comparing complex ideas across languages and cultures.  As such, we will consider in detail cultural and linguistic commensurability, hermeneutics, and relativism.  With regard to method, we will be learning how to engage and interpret complex philosophical ideas that originate outside of the contemporary idiom.  We will consider their conceptual and linguistic genealogies and learn profitable ways of comparing them to similar ideas of different origin.

Required Texts

Larson, Gerald James and Eliot Deutsch (eds.). Interpreting Across Boundaries: New Essays in Comparative Philosophy.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Kuhn, Thomas S..  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970





Week 1  What is Comparative Philosophy?

Staal, Fritz.  “Is There Philosophy in Asia?” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries. 27 pgs

Nakamura, Hajime. “The Meaning of the Terms ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Religion’ in Various Traditions.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries.  15 pgs

Krishna, Daya.  “Comparative Philosophy: What It Is and What It Ought to Be.”  In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries.  13 pages

Cua, A. S. “Reflections on Moral Theory and Understanding Moral Traditions.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries.  14 pages

Weeks 2-3 Commensurability

Whorf, Benjamin, “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language.” In Language, Thought, and Reality. 18 pages

Quine, W.V.  “Main Trends in Recent Philosophy: Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” 23 pages

Davidson, Donald. “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme.” 15 pages

Potter, Karl. “Metaphor as Key to Understanding the Thought of Other Speech Communities.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries. 18 pages

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 210 pages

Radiolab, “Words.” http://www.radiolab.org/2010/aug/09/

Weeks  4-5  Hermeneutics

Von Uexkull, Jakob.  “A Stroll through the World of Animals and Men.” In Schiller, Instinctive Behavior. 75 pages

Dilthey, Wilhelm. “The Rise of Hermeneutics.” In Hermeneutics and the Study of History. 14 pages

Gadamer, Hans-Georg.  “On the Universality of the Hermeneutic Problem” in Philosophical Hermeneutics. 15 pages

Deutsch, Eliot. “Knowledge and the Tradition Text in Indian Philosophy.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries. 9 pages

Smart, Ninian. The Analogy of Meaning and the Tasks of Comparative Philosophy.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries.  10 pages

Chan, Wing-tsit. “Chu Hsi and World Philosophy.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries. 35 pages

Week 6  Relativism

Plato: Theatetus, selection.

Feyerabend, “Notes on Relativism.”  In Farewell to Reason. 12 pages

Rorty, Richard, “Pragmatism, Relativism, and Irrationality.” 22 pages

Rosemont, Henry, Jr.  “Against Relativism.”  In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries. 35 pages

Scharfstein, Ben-Ami. “The Contextual Fallacy.” In Larson, Interpreting Across Boundaries.  14 pages


Weeks 7-8  Examples

Preston, Beth. “Biological and Cultural Proper Functions in Comparative Perspective.” In Krohs,  Functions in Biological and Artificial Worlds: Comparative Perspectives.  13 pages

Burik, Steven. “Thinking, Philosophy, and Language: Comparing Heidegger, Derrida, and Classical Daoism.” In The End of Comparative Philosophy and the Task of Comparative Thinking: Heidegger, Derrida, and Daoism. 53 pages

Loy, David. “The Deconstruction of Dualism.” In Non-Duality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy.  59 pages

Shaner, David Edward. “Science and Comparative Philosophy.” In Shaner, et. al., Science and Comparative Philosophy: Introducing the Philosophy of Yuasa Yasuo.  76 pages

Yuasa, Yasuo, “Contemporary Science and an Eastern Body-Mind Theory.” In Shaner, et. al., Science and Comparative Philosophy: Introducing the Philosophy of Yuasa Yasuo  47 pages

Yuasa Yasuo, “A Cultural Background for Traditional Japanese Self-Cultivation Philosophy.” In Shaner, et. al., Science and Comparative Philosophy: Introducing the Philosophy of Yuasa Yasuo  36 pages

Week 9 Practice: Philosophy in General

Plato, Last Days of Socrates, selections

Confucius, Analects, selections

Week 10 Practice: Idealism

Berkeley, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, selections

Shankara, Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, selections

Week 11 Practice: Skepticism

Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, selections

Zhuangzi, Inner Chapters, selections

Weeks 12-14  Non-Western Philosophy as an Avenue to Better Contemporary Philosophy

Bruya, “Rehabilitation of Spontaneity”  43 pages

Jullien, Detour and Access, selections

Jullien, The Propensity of Things, selections


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