The Four Noble Truths and the Three Marks of Existence

Week 11, Lecture 1 Learning Objectives Define karma. Explain Buddhism’s Three Marks of Existence. As we mentioned previously, the Prajñaparamita (“perfect wisdom”) sutras were the first sutras to be translated into Chinese. The Prajñaparamita (“perfect wisdom”) sutras represent the earliest layer of Mahayana sutra literature. The Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra belong to a…… Continue reading The Four Noble Truths and the Three Marks of Existence


Learning Objectives Discuss extensional objects vs. intentional objects Define ontology We’ve previously discussed philosophical realism and understand that in the realist scheme there is the world we experience (phenomenal) and there is the realm of Truth (noumenal). According to this mode of thinking, we cannot experience things-in-themselves because what they truly are, their noumenal reality,…… Continue reading Descartes

Kant’s Ethics

Week 15, Lecture 1 Learning Objectives Discuss differences between hypothetical imperative and categorical imperative Discuss the role of reason in Kant’s principle of universality Let me begin by setting the stage in this way: Kant’s argument for grounding our moral actions in reason is also part of his arguing that we have free will. “‘Ethics…… Continue reading Kant’s Ethics

Vedic and Upanishadic Roots of Buddhism

Week 10, Lecture 2 Learning Objectives Discuss four goals in Upanishadic life Define atman During the sixth century BCE a group of nomadic Aryan people crossed the Khyber pass and entered into the Ganges river valley, crossing from Central Asia into the Indian subcontinent. These Aryan people recited and practiced rituals delineated by their ancient…… Continue reading Vedic and Upanishadic Roots of Buddhism

Setting the Stage for Buddhism to Enter China

Week 10, Lecture 1 Learning Objectives Define ziran 自然. Discuss the role dao 道 played in translating Buddhism into Chinese. Kongzi died in 479 BCE, just before the Warring States period began to rage. Over the next two centuries the states that had broken away from the Zhou dynasty fought one another for supremacy. Finally, in 221 BCE, the…… Continue reading Setting the Stage for Buddhism to Enter China

Water and Daoism

The image of water is frequently invoked in Daoist texts. Water is of the greatest efficacy because it mirrors the world around it but does not impose onto the world its own values. Think of water filling a jug. Water embraces the emptiness, rapidly, and effectively demonstrates the shape of its container. In the classical…… Continue reading Water and Daoism

Paronomasia in the Mengzi

  Week 9, Lecture 1 Learning Objectives Define dao 道 Discuss the role of paronomasia in the Ruist tradition (li 禮, li 利, li 里; ren 人, ren 仁, ren 訒) Dao 道 can be rendered as “path,” or “the way,” or “road,” but we should consider the metaphysical implications of the use of the definite…… Continue reading Paronomasia in the Mengzi

Mohist Rejection of Ruist Fatalism

We’ve just reviewed the way in which Ruists (like Kongzi and Mengzi) understand the concept tianming 天命 and how this supports their understanding of moral actions. Here we will consider the ways in which Mozi rejects the Ruist project and insists on a consequentialist lens for deciding moral actions. Previously we pointed out that Kongzi looked…… Continue reading Mohist Rejection of Ruist Fatalism

Ruist and Mohist Interpretations of Tianming 天命

Week 8, Lecture 2 Learning Objectives Define utilitarian ethics. Discuss consequentialism and fatalism found in Mohist and Ruist philosophies. Utilitarianism: the right action is that which produces the overall greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. Happiness is understood to be the same thing as pleasure. The overall pursuit is to structure society in…… Continue reading Ruist and Mohist Interpretations of Tianming 天命