World Philosophical Traditions



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"Pair of Hares and Plum Blossom in the Snow" 1716, by Shen Nanpi


Steven W. Patterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies Dept., Marygrove College

Contact Information

Office Phone: 313-927-1539
Departmental Phone: 313-927-1556
e-mail: Note: The best way to reach me is via e-mail. Remove the underscores before and after the '@' or just use this Contact form.
Office:346 Madame Cadillac Hall
Office Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 10:00-10:30 AM & 12:30-1:00 PM If you need to see me it is recommended that you schedule an appointment.

Course Information

Meeting Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30-2:45 PM in LA 241
Credit Hours: 3, Satisfies General Education Requirements
Prerequisites: None

Course Objectives

The principal aim of this course is to afford the student introductory exposure to non-Western philosophical approaches to some of the most interesting and intractable problems of human life. Utilizing an area studies approach, together we will explore the question of the good life, the nature of persons, the question of the criteria for what makes both persons and societies virtuous, and the nature and place of contemplation and learning in a well-lived human life. A student who successfully completes the course requirements will thus achieve broad familiarity with the principal concepts and approaches employed in some of the most important philosophical problem areas encountered by thinking people in a diverse culture. By approaching these questions through non-Western sources, the successful student will gain an appreciation for the traditions of inquiry that inform and underlie some of the major cultures of the world. This will afford the student with new conceptual approaches to problems in his or her own cultural context, as well as providing the student with an opportunity to learn how to engage systems of value and thought different from his or her own.

Our conception of the kind of beings we are drives our intuitions about the moral obligations we owe to each other and about the justice of our society. Hence the second aim of this course is to enhance the level of sophistication with which students understand and think about the nature of human identity and its connection to moral and political values, especially in a global context. An understanding of this linkage is essential to a full appreciation of the meaning of social justice, and is an invaluable asset to those who would be leaders. Also integral to leadership is the ability to read, write, and think critically and carefully about difficult problems that resist easy solution. Hence this course has the objective of enhancing students’ critical thinking abilities through acquisition and application of the analytical and imaginative skills that form the core of the philosophical method. Because they are so widely applicable to concrete problems, development of the sort of critical thinking skills that make up the philosophical method is a fundamental part of general education, and one of the chief benefits of a course of this nature.

Finally, this course has been specifically designed to assist students in developing consistent routines and good habits for intellectual work. A student who completes the requirements, in doing so, will have cultivated not only these good work habits, but his or her intellectual discipline as well. Thus this course has the fourth objective of helping students become more effective, self-motivated and self-disciplined life-long learners.

Core Questions

  1. What is the self? In other words, what is it about a person (if anything) that makes him or her the same person over time? How does our thinking about the nature of the self influence our thinking about what constitutes the best life for human beings?
  2. Are human beings naturally good, naturally evil, or neither? No matter what our natural "default" might be, is it possible for human beings to improve themselves through their own efforts? If so, what kinds of actions might one undertake in order to do so?
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