Course Objectives

PHL 156: World Philosophical Traditions


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.

Institutional Learning Outcomes

The successful student in this course:

1. Will use effective written, oral, visual, and artistic expression to communicate and collaborate with others. (Communicate Effectively).

This outcome is measured as a component of daily Participation, performance on Assignments, performance on Group Work and by performance in class Debates

2. Will use both intellectually disciplined and innovative strategies to collect and assess information and form judgments as a guide to belief and action. (Think Critically and Creatively)

This outcome is also measured as a component of daily Participation, performance on Assignments, performance on Group Work and by performance in class Debates

3. Will acquire and continue to develop broad and deep knowledge of local and global human cultures, social sciences, the arts, technology, and the physical and natural worlds. (Develop Depth and Breadth of Knowledge)

This outcome is measured as a component of performance on Assignments, performance on Group Work and by performance in class Debates focused on the special topics of this course.

Disclaimer: The professor will, of course, endeavor to help students achieve these outcomes, but real learning requires substantial effort on the part of the student. Students should therefore not expect to achieve these outcomes without engaging in the sustained, conscientious study and actual work necessary to complete all the class requirements at an adequate or better level and to observe all course policies.

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