PP1PWR-Philosophy of World Religions

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Shalini Sinha

Email: shalini.sinha@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
Philosophies of religion of China and Japan, India, the Islamic world, Christianity and Judaism, Africa and Native America offer fundamental insights into the big questions of human existence. This course is about encountering these philosophical traditions in ways that challenge and illuminate our deepest beliefs, opening possibilities of thought and practice we did not imagine were possible. Some of these philosophies make bold and startling claims. Truth and freedom lie in the experience of rapture! Freedom is being no-self! Karma works inexorably! The ‘sound of one hand clapping’ directs us to reality! Good relationships come not from being sincere and authentic but from the rituals we perform with them! Only by non-action can we be in harmony with the world! The existence of God can be proved from the concept of God! Beauty and order in the world count as evidence for the existence of God! Reason is reconcilable with revelation, philosophical reasoning with mystical experience! Traditional African reasoning is a corrective to ‘rigid’ Euro-American rationality! Ethical principles must be extended to non-human ‘persons’ (animals and deific forms) because all things are ethically related. We will investigate these claims philosophically.


Required readings will be posted online.


Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, Simon and Schuster 2016.

Jay Garfield and William Edelglass (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy, Oxford University Press 2011.

The course encourages students to examine their deepest beliefs and everyday practices in dialogue with the philosophical ideas presented in a range of world religions. Students will be encouraged to compare and contrast the very different understanding and practice of philosophy in different cultures and traditions. They will gain an understanding of current debates in global philosophies of religion, cultivate skills in oral and written argument and develop a sense of the applicability of these diverse philosophical frameworks to the problems and issues of life in a multicultural society and global political economy.

Assessable learning outcomes:
Students will gain awareness of the core concepts, issues, and ways of doing philosophy in world religions. They will learn skills of argument and presentation, and understand what counts as ‘Philosophy’, and the diverse epistemologies and methodologies that underpin it, in world religions. Students will come to acquire their own skills of research and enquiry by designing their own presentations, undertake research to produce coursework essays, and learn how to critically appraise what they discover. Students will also develop personal effectiveness and self-awareness: they will learn how to communicate effectively with a range of audiences (in one-to-one, seminars and lectures) using a range of means (speaking, summary-writing, essay-writing, presenting, designing slides). They will learn to reflect on their progress, their strengths and weaknesses, and their developing sense of the goals they wish to achieve.

Additional outcomes:
This module gives students an opportunity to enhance their multicultural awareness and intercultural competencies by considering global perspectives in the study of Philosophy: from what it means to be human to the diversity of values and conceptions of the good in different cultures and religions. Students will learn to approach social and civic responsibility through an appreciation of the values of inclusiveness and diversity. They will learn about different perspectives on gender and identity, race and the trans-human, and to appreciate how cultural differences can impact on society. Students will learn how concepts from very different cultures and times can be relevant in the contemporary context by developing the skill to apply concepts, theories, and practices from different philosophical traditions to contemporary problems, and use these to reflect critically on current thinking and practice on these issues.

Outline content:
This module will discuss some of the core ideas in the philosophy of world religions: (1) Indian yogic philosophies claim that truth and freedom lie in the experience of rapture, (2) Buddhists claim that freedom is being no-self, and karma works inexorably, (3) Zen Buddhism claims that ‘the sound of one hand clapping’ is a direct pointer to reality, (4) Confucianism says that good relationships come not from being sincere and authentic but from the rituals we perform with them, (5) Daoism insists that it is only by non-action that we can be in harmony with the world, (6) monotheistic religions claim that the existence of God can be proved from the concept of God alone, and beauty and order in the world count as evidence for the existence of God, (7) some Islamic philosophers argue that philosophical reasoning is reconcilable with mystical experience, and reason with revelation, (8) African philosophy claims that traditional African reasoning is a corrective to ‘rigid’ Euro-American rationality, and spiritualist explanations are comparable with scientific explanations, (9) Native American thought suggests that all things are ethically related and ethical principles extend to non-human ‘persons’ (animals and deific forms).

Global context:
This module will situate students’ understanding of ‘Philosophy’ as a practice in a global context and develop an understanding of the diverse ways there are of doing philosophy in the global community. It will greatly enhance the resources students have for understanding and developing their own thought and practice in a global context, and their intercultural competencies, by developing a sound understanding of the diversity of philosophical perspectives on the fundamental questions of human existence.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars during the term in which it is provided. All students are required to write two module essays from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor and to give one seminar presentation. In addition, in weeks in which a student is not giving a presentation, they will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion at a given seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course. There will be an in-class test at the end of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 70
Oral assessment and presentation 20
Class test administered by School 10

Other information on summative assessment:
Essay 1: 30%
Essay 2: 40%

Formative assessment methods:
Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class in which they are not doing a presentation. Feedback will be given on essay plans.

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission will be in accordance with University policy.
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.
  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Written Examination only; lasting 2 hours, requiring answers to 2 questions (August / September)

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 14 September 2017

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