On Understanding

René Descartes’ sketch of how a rainbow is formed

Our course is now turning its attention to a simple question: how do we know? In this section of the course we’ll be considering responses to this simple question presented by René Descartes (born in France in 1596, died in Sweden in 1650), John Locke (born in England in 1632, died there in 1704), George…… Continue reading On Understanding

Danielle Allen’s “Rhetoric, a Good Thing”

In this chapter from Talking to Strangers, Dr. Allen points out that: In political controversies, there will always be logical arguments for a counterposition, on the basis of exactly the same facts. In this circumstance, no amount of logical argument will determine which speaker to trust. Audiences will turn to assessments of character, and so our…… Continue reading Danielle Allen’s “Rhetoric, a Good Thing”

Why Does Socrates/Plato Maintain that Learning Is Recollection?

Learning objectives Analyze Socrates’/Plato’s theory of learning Discuss role of noumena and phenomena in their argument. What do we recollect? In order to answer this, we must look at the trail left in the dialogue. The initial premises are that souls (ψυχη, psyche) exist and that there is a dimension of Perfection and Truth (this is…… Continue reading Why Does Socrates/Plato Maintain that Learning Is Recollection?

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

Descartes

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