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
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.
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
I. ISSUES IN COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY
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
II. EXAMPLES AND PRACTICE
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