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A series of lectures designed to introduce the student to some of the central views in the world's diverse philosophical traditions. Using the orientation of Western thought as a departure, the course considers some of the alternative worldviews that developed in Africa, the Americas, India, China, and Japan.… (mer)
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In these lectures on world philosophy, Higgins seeks to cover the major bodies of thought of various world cultures. From Kenya to Korea, from the Aztecs to Asia, she covers vast ranges of geography and time. I really enjoyed the way she brought together many different traditions we often do not hear even exist. She begins the course with Western philosophy and the categories and questions laid down by Greek thinkers, then moves into African thought, pre- and post-colonial Latin American thought, and ends in Asia where she covers the philosophies of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Her hope is that philosophy broadens out of being just a Western affair, that we can learn from the wisdom of other world traditions.

My favorite part of this course was her discussion of African and Latin American thought. She spends one lecture on the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Their traditional, pre-Christian thought goes in directions very foreign to the West: a cyclical notion of time, an emphasis on change over stasis, and the worship of God's intermediaries (polytheism) rather than God directly. Unlike Christian notions of time, which tend to be linear culminating in an apocalypse, Yoruba - and Mayan - concepts of time are cyclical. For the Mayans, there is an apocalyptic end, but it only marks a new beginning, and there have been several of them. And the Yoruba's emphasis on change gives them an affinity with the Taoists, who also see change as more fundamental to reality than Platonic stasis. All of these vastly different notions can help the Platonic or Aristotelian Western thinker to see how different frameworks of philosophy play out. Higgins does a good job with these.

I also enjoyed her discussion of what philosophy is. However, this is also where her discussion was incomplete. She discussed the problem of philosophy in premodern societies. Are a culture's oral traditions or folk/religious beliefs to be considered philosophy? Must philosophy be oral? On the one hand, some argue that oral folk beliefs constitute a form of philosophy, and the idea that philosophy must be written is ethnocentric. Others argue that philosophy requires critical reflection and a level of precision that can only be reached with written thought. I tend to agree with the latter. So the Yoruba 'philosophy' described above is no such thing. Philosophy, to be differentiated from myth and religion, must also involve rational criticism apart from appeals to revelation or tradition. There must also be differing opinions or schools of thought.

That said, what about the distinction between philosophy and religion? Higgins discusses the philosophical schools of Eastern religions, but ignores those in the Abrahamic faiths. This is too bad. For example, most philosophers agree Aquinas is in their field. What about Augustine? What about Ecclesiastes? In Jewish thought, Maimonides is clearly a philosopher, but is the Talmud a philosophical text? Since Jewish and Islamic thought are seldom taught in American philosophy departments, they seem like they should have been a part of this course.

Overall, I enjoyed this course, although her lectures on Indian thought were hard to follow. I'm especially curious to follow up on Mayan philosophy, which I had never heard of. ( )
1 rösta JDHomrighausen | Aug 28, 2013 |
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A series of lectures designed to introduce the student to some of the central views in the world's diverse philosophical traditions. Using the orientation of Western thought as a departure, the course considers some of the alternative worldviews that developed in Africa, the Americas, India, China, and Japan.

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