Courses

Core courses

1. Required Courses

Introduction to Philosophy
This introductory course is the gateway course for the philosophy major. It provides a problem based introduction to philosophy, drawing on solutions offered in both the Indian and Western traditions. Topics include personal identity, the nature and limits of knowledge and how we ought to act. In each case we examine the application of these ideas to issues currently in the news.

Symbolic Logic
This course is an introduction to symbolic deductive logic, which is concerned primarily with the study of valid deductive inference. This course introduces the student to the formal languages of sentential logic (in which the fundamental units of analysis are sentences) and first-order predicate logic (in which the fundamental units of analysis are terms and predicates). It covers translation of sentences of English into these formal languages. It also introduces the student to a number of important logical concepts, including validity, tautology, contradiction, equivalence, and consistency. Finally, it covers several important tools for showing when these concepts do and do not apply, including truth tables, truth trees, models, and derivations.

2. Indian & Non-Western

Introduction to Indian Philosophy
This course will start by looking at the metaphysical speculations in the Upaniṣads and the critical reactions to those in the Pāli sermons of the Buddha. From there we will move to Krishna's dialogue with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gītā. Next the so-called 'Six Schools of Classical Indian Philosophy' will be introduced: Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika, concerned with Logic and Epistemology, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta, involving exegesis of the ritual and spiritual sections of the Veda, and Sāṇkhya and Yoga, concerned with the theory and practice of meditative absorption. The course will be rounded out by looking at the four schools of Indian Buddhist Philosophy, Jainism and the materialism and scepticism of the Cārvākas.

Themes in Indian Philosophy
A survey of some key themes in classical Indian philosophy: value, knowledge, reasoning, word, world, self and ultimates. Students will both encounter something of the wide range of classical Indian philosophical concerns, and also learn to address the argumentative details of the Indian debates on these topics.

Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology
This course will look at some of the philosophical positions taken by the realist schools of Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Mīmāṃsā and Jainism, and the arguments used to support them against Buddhist idealism and nominalism. The specialization of Nyāya was logic and epistemology, that of Vaiśeṣika was ontology, and that of Mīmāṃsā was hermeneutics.

Indian Philosophy of Religion
The course will consider Indian arguments for and against the existence of God and the continuation of life after death. It will also examine what the various religio-philosophical traditions of India meant by liberation / enlightenment (mokṣa, nirvāṇa, apavarga, niḥśreyasa). Theistic and non-theistic theories of liberation will be contrasted, and a question that arose for the former – the relation of liberated souls to God – will be engaged with.

Buddhist Philosophy
This course will look at the four schools of Indian Buddhist Philosophy (Vaibhāṣika, Sautrāntika, Yogācāra and Madhyamaka) and the positions they took on issues such as the self, realism versus idealism, momentariness versus persistence, perception, inference, the existence of universals, the mind-body problem and the philosophy of language.

Vedānta
The course is structured chronologically, from the Classical Advaita Vedānta of Gauḍapāda, Śaṅkara and Maṇḍana Miśra, to Vijñānabhikṣu, to Dharmarāja, to K. C. Bhattacarya, Vivekānanda and Śrī Aurobindo.  We will examine Advaita Vedānta’s metaphysics, its theory of value, of self-realization, the role it gave to meditation, and its debates with other schools (including other varieties of Vedānta).

Sāṅkhya and Yoga
Classical Yoga lays out an eightfold psychological path to liberation, and Sāṅkhya offers an ontology and a cosmogony that was inspired by the Yogic practice of meditative absorption. The course will examine these systems and their debates with other schools, such as that between the Sāṅkhya/Yoga view that the world evolves by a top-down process from a primordial subtle matter, and the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika view that the world is built up out of atoms.

Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava Philosophy
The course will investigate the Metaphysics, Epistemology and Soteriology of Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism.  On the Śaiva side we will concentrate on the non-dualistic tradition of Somānanda, Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta and Kṣemarāja.  On the Vaiṣṇava side we will concentrate on the two Vedāntic traditions of Viśiṣṭādvaita and Dvaita.

3. Western Historical

Introduction to Ancient Western Philosophy
This course surveys ancient western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, to the Hellenistic philosophers. The course emphasises the major metaphysical, epistemological and ethical doctrines of each; topics include the nature of reality, wisdom and virtue, justice, the good life for human beings, and pleasure.

Early Modern Philosophy
The Scientific Revolution profoundly changed how philosophers in the Early Modern period thought of the nature and task of philosophy. This course will survey some of the central topics in the works of John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume, who thought that all ideas and knowledge must be derived from experience. Opposed to them were Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and G.W. Leibniz who privileged reason over experience.

The British Empiricists
This course surveys the central theoretical works of John Locke (1632-1704), George Berkeley (1685-1753), and David Hume (1711-1776). We will focus on their contributions to epistemology and metaphysics. In particular, we will focus on their empiricism — that all ideas and knowledge must be derived from experience — and on Locke’s denial that there are joints of nature, Berkeley’s denial of a mind-independent world, and Hume’s denial of the self.

The Continental Rationalists
The three most influential proponents of rationalism have been Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and G.W. Leibniz. This course examines the development of their metaphysical and epistemological doctrines, which, in contrast to the British Empiricists, is distinguished by the extent of what they thought we could discern through reason alone. Topics include the distinctively rationalist treatment of philosophical method, skepticism, knowledge, the nature of substance, mind-body relations, and the metaphysical foundations of science.

Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason
The philosophical significance of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason extends far beyond its role as the centerpiece of Kant’s critical philosophy. We will outline the problems to which Kant’s “transcendental idealism” is supposed to be the solution, and whether that solution succeeds. Topics include Kant’s conception of human knowledge, the mind’s role in the constitution of experience, the nature of space and time, the relation between self-knowledge and knowledge of objects, causation, freedom of the will, the relation between appearance and reality, and the status of metaphysics.

4. Contemporary Core

Metaphysics
Metaphysics concerns the nature of reality, considered at the most abstract and general level. This course covers classic and contemporary debates concerning existence, universals and particulars, causation, and identity.

Philosophy of Language
This course covers the key ideas and arguments developed in the philosophy of language concerning meaning and reference since the seminal work of Gottlob Frege. These ideas have been very influential not only for the philosophy of language but for linguistics and the philosophy of mind. Topics include Frege’s puzzle, Russell’s theory of descriptions, the causal theory of reference, indexicals and demonstratives (Kaplan), and key distinctions such as between the analytic/synthetic (Quine, Strawson), referential/attributive (Donnellan, Kripke), and semantic/pragmatic (Grice).

Epistemology
This course provides an introduction to the theory of knowledge. In particular we will focus on the nature, sources, structure and limitations of knowledge. Topics include the analysis of knowledge, the problem of induction, a priori knowledge, skepticism about the external world, sensitivity and safety, the regress of reasons, foundational vs. coherence views, and internalism vs. externalism.

Philosophy of Mind
This course surveys the mind/body problem, the nature of consciousness, and mental content. We start with the mind/body problem and Cartesian dualism. We will then critically explore a range of responses to the problem such as Ryle’s behaviorism, Smart’s identity theory, Davidson’s anomalous monism and Putnam’s functionalism (with special attention to Jackson’s Knowledge Argument against functionalism). We will then consider whether consciousness poses a problem for physicalism by looking at Kripke’s modal arguments and Levine’s explanatory gap. Lastly, we will consider whether intentionality is the mark of the mental and the internalism/externalism debate about mental content.

Contemporary Ethics
This course surveys some of the major currents of contemporary ethical theory, such as anti-realism and non-cognitivism, subjectivism, consequentialism, and neo-Kantian contractualism. Topics include the nature of ethical value, desires and reasons for actions, and moral luck.

Political Philosophy
This course covers the central concepts of contemporary political philosophy: liberty (Mill, Berlin), equality (Williams, Cohen), justice (Plato, Rawls, Sen), rights (Locke, Hart), democracy (Rousseau) and authority (Hobbes). During the course, we will apply these concepts to debates regarding free-speech, secularism, and quotas/reservations.

5. Everything Else

Philosophy of Perception
We ordinarily take perception to present the world to us. But illusions and hallucinations seem to show that this cannot be so. In this course, we will frame the problem of perception and critically assess influential responses to it. We will canvass a range of views of the metaphysics of perceptual experience, such as idealism, the sense datum theory, adverbialism, intentionalism, and naive realism. We will also assess the consequences of these views for the epistemology of perception. We will draw on material from Strawson, Moore, Ducasse, Anscombe, Harman, Peacocke, Martin and Travis among others.

Modal Logic
This course provides an introduction to modal logic, with a special emphasis on the model theory of different systems of modal logic. In addition to the logics of necessity and possibility, the course covers the logics of belief and knowledge, of time, and of obligation. Topics include sentential and quantified modal logic, soundness, completeness, and characterization results for alternative systems. Modal logic has important applications in philosophy, theoretical computer science, and linguistics.

Advanced Logic
This course covers the most philosophically significant results of logic. Topics include Turing’s definition of mechanical computability, Gödel's first and second incompleteness theorems, and Tarski’s theorem for formalised languages.

Philosophy of Film
Selected topics in analytical philosophy of film, including film as art, the nature of film, documentary films, narration and emotion in film, film criticism, and film's relations to knowledge and morality.

Critical Thinking Seminars

What distinguishes a CT course from other philosophy courses is its objective.  It is not a capacious introduction to a specific subject, but more of a topic-driven line of inquiry based on a question or a problem with which the professor’s research is engaged.  The professor and students will spend the semester thinking about the given topic from a variety of perspectives. Through a series of in-class writing workshops led by the professor and tutors in the Centre for Writing and Communication, students will acquire greater awareness not only of the seminar topic but also of their writing and thinking processes.

Foundation Courses

Indian Civilizations (Watson)
The course is divided into four sections: philosophical ideas (śāstra), epic (itihāsa), aesthetic literature (kāvya) and religions.  In the last category we will look at Śaivism, Vaiṣṇavism, Vedic religion, Buddhism, Jainism, Indian Islam and Sikhism, followed by indigenous critiques of religion.  You will acquaint yourself with both primary sources (i.e. you will read some pre-modern Indian texts in translation) and secondary sources (i.e. you will read contemporary Indological scholarship, getting a sense of how experts in the field think about pre-modern India, its ideas and its practices).

Mind and Behaviour (Dixon)
This course focuses on the nature of personhood, personal identity, and several other topics that are relevant to those issues. What makes you a person? Are you identical to your younger self? If so, what makes you identical to your younger self? These are some of the central questions we will consider in this course. We will scrutinize a number of theories which provide different answers to them. In doing so, we will encounter a number of other topics that run the philosophical gamut. In addition to views directly about the nature of persons and the persistence of person through time, we will discuss views concerning the nature of the mind, the nature of time, rationality, and the question of whether or not we have free will.

Mind and Behaviour (Saran)
What kind of creature are you? A human being, no doubt. But what kind of creature is that? How ought such a creature live? We will critically explore influential models of human nature in the Indic and Western philosophical traditions and their implications both for how we ought to live and our place in the social world. We will also survey key psychological results that directly have a bearing on those philosophical models.

Sample Curriculum Structure

Semester I Semester II Semester III Semester IV Semester V Semester VI
Intro to Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Seminar I Critical Thinking Seminar II Social and Political Formations Literature and the World Buddhist Philosophy
Great Books Mind and Behaviour Principles of Science Plato and Aristotle Early Modern Philosophy Vedanta
Introduction to Mathematical Thinking Indian Civilizations Foundations of Economic Reasoning Social and Political Movements Comparative Politics Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia
Trends in World History Introduction to Philosophy Introduction to Indian Philosophy Logic Ethics Philosophy of Language Mind Epistemology Political Philosophy

Major Requirement

See Distribution Requirements on About Us.

Minor Requirement

See Distribution Requirements on About Us.

Open Positions

Copyright © Ashoka University