** PHIL 320: Oriental Thought **


The Assignment

Thirty-six percent of the final grade will be based on your submission of either (a) TWO 'reflection' papers (no more than five standard typed pages) on topics discussed in class; or ONE 'research' paper (no more than twelve standard typed pages) on a topic suited to your own interests. Guidelines and some possible topics are included below.

The Reflection Papers

The function of a reflection paper is to afford you an opportunity to criticize, evaluate, make sense of, and/or come to grips with, one or more of the significant issues discussed in class. Generally, reflection papers employ an exiguous number of citations: you should quote only those texts needed to make a position or argument clear; all conceptual analysis should be your own. While you may choose any stylistic conventions that seem suited to the task, one reasonably effective procedure includes: (a) introductory remarks indicating why you find the problem/issue at hand interesting or important; (b) a clear, concise statement of the problem/issue; (c) remarks to localize or situate the problem/issue in a context (this is pretty important, as a rule, because it allows you to manipulate concepts and technical vocabulary precisely--for example, how one talks about Zen meditation in the context of religious exercises will be significantly different from how one talks about it int he context of epistemological method); (d) your analysis of the problem/issue (the bulk of the paper); and (e) concluding remarks indicating how your analyses have advanced your understanding of the (chosen) topic.

Topics: any problem or issue discussed in class or in one or more of the readings. Examples would be: the Zen notion of transiency; Taoist anarchy; the karmic wheel as an ethical principle; Siddhartha's enlightenment; mindlessness as a psychological state; synchronicity and causality, etc.

The Research Paper

The function of the research paper is to allow you an opportunity to extend your readings in Oriental Philosophy to areas of interest that haven't been covered in class. Research papers need not contain large numbers of citations, but should include a bibliography specifying at least three 'outside' readings (these can be either articles or books, however). You may use any standard format for presentation of your research; in general, you should try to include: (a) a statement of the topic area you chose to investigate, and why; (b) what you found and where (the bulk of the paper); (c) remarks concerning whether your readings met or failed to meet your expectations; and (d) an assessment of the value of the texts read for advancing your understanding of topics in Oriental thought.
Possible topics:
-- The I Ching:
The roles it has played in the development of Taoist or Confucian thought.
-- Aesthetics:
How if at all do Oriental theories of painting or poetry differ from traditional Western theories; are philosophical convictions represented in Eastern art?
-- Contemporary Chinese politics:
Does political theory in China today contain any classical elements; are any of the political views we've discussed in class relevant to the modern period.
-- Meditation and Psychotherapy:
Are there any important conceptual connections between Eastern meditation techniques and Western ideas about resolving psychological problems?
-- Classical texts:
What exactly does the Tao Te Ching say, or the Chuang Tzu, or any other of the classical texts we've discussed.
-- The Guru:
What are the functions of gurus or holy folk in Indian religion; can Westerners practice in this religion without the aid of a guru?
-- Etc.