The module enabled her to examine similarities between western beliefs and Indian philosophies. She specifically enjoyed exploring a core Buddhist teaching of anatta, the belief that there is no real ‘self’ but a collection of parts and merely an illusion of a self, and then comparing it to western ideas surrounding gender. This helped her confidently debate exciting yet challenging questions such as ‘to what extent is gender an illusion?’ and ‘is gender performed?’.
To continue engaging with diverse global philosophical issues, Holly chose to focus her dissertation on exhibiting similarities between utilitarianism and Buddhism with reference to the Vietnam war self-immolations (the act of setting fire to oneself to protest something political). She hopes to positively impact and broaden western attitudes, according to which self-immolation is judged unethical instead of morally permissible.
Holly’s philosophical experience at Reading has empowered her to feel more connected to the world and the issues we face in the twenty-first century. She feels better placed to analyse arguments as presented in the media, spotting when an argument is faulty. She now wants to explore the world and different cultural belief systems by travelling to Vietnam and India. Thinking about her time at Reading, Holly says ‘I cannot recommend Philosophy at Reading enough. There is support everywhere you turn and the academics are extremely passionate about their work which makes learning really engaging. The Philosophy Department has helped me adapt my approach on how to discuss controversial topics and I can now confidently formulate well-justified and respectful cross-cultural discussions’.