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02/12/2022

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Tammo

I've really struggled trying to make my teaching less Western-centric, so this is incredibly useful to me! One note I'd like to add, specifically on the issue of philosophy of religion: I agree that the Peterson et al. anthology makes a commendable effort to include non-Western figures. I think what limits it is in part the fact that philosophy of religion emphasizes arguments about God's existence so much. These arguments are great (including as sample material for logic courses), but they are only relevant to monotheistic religions. I've found it useful to frontload the question about the nature of religion. That way, these arguments become an example of a rationalistic understanding of religion, but they can be usefully contrasted with authors who think of religion being about experience, feelings, or ways of life (many but not all of which are non-Western).

(In case anyone is interested, I'll use this opportunity to shamelessly plug a poster I did about this for the APTA Teaching Hub: http://tammolossau.com/files/poster.pdf It's still pretty limited, though, in that it doesn't include African or Indigenous texts and lacks female authors, for the reason Helen describes - I'd be very interested in suggestions about that.)

Helen De Cruz

Tammo, thank you so much for the poster. Very nice! This brings up a related point namely the topics/themes we seek to cover in Intro, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics and other courses place constraints on what readings are suitable. For example, an enduring topic in Chinese pre-Qin philosophy is the question to what extent morality is something that arises from within you (e.g., Mengzi) or rather something that needs to be imposed through external rules (e.g., Xunzi, Mozi). This is such a central question in pre-Qin ethics but not to the same extent in western ethics.
Similarly, as Brian Burkhart has pointed out in Indigenizing Philosophy through the Land, treating the question "what is truth" as central in epistemology lands you on all sorts of (traditional) epistemological readings from the western canon. Sometimes asking different questions and making the focus different can change what readings present themselves as most suitable!

Malcolm

As someone who teaches Indian philosophy and also works in it, I'd like to say a few things about translations. One of the major difficulties in translations of Sanskrit materials is that translators often leave Sanskrit untranslated or translate it into a kind of hybrid English/Sanskrit which becomes impenetrable. This is one problem with the Sourcebook. Another is that when translators do translate into English, there are often idiosyncratic choices which make connections among texts difficult. The same term may not be used for the same Sanskrit word (even when contextually appropriate), and students may not know that there is an argument tracking across texts. This puts a burden on instructors to know where the same idea is being discussed in different contexts.

For these reasons, I'd also suggest looking for recent subject-specific readers where a single translator is responsible for all of the texts or the editor has been involved in their production, as they make some of these connections. For instance, Columbia UP has a series of readers, with more to come: Historical Sourcebooks in Classical Indian Thought
https://cup.columbia.edu/series/historical-sourcebooks-in-classical-indian-thought

For Nyāya philosophy, Hackett has a translation of the Nyāyasūtras with some early commentaries by Stephen Phillips & Matt Dasti (https://www.hackettpublishing.com/the-nyaya-sutra-4164) as well as a collection of material on topics related to metaphysics/philosophy of religion by Phillips, Dasti, and Guha (https://www.hackettpublishing.com/god-and-the-world-s-arrangement-4465)

And for Buddhist philosophy, there is Jay
Garfield and William Edelglass' Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/buddhist-philosophy-9780195328172?cc=sg&lang=en&) as well as a new edition of Mark Siderits' Buddhism as Philosophy which includes translations of primary texts (https://www.hackettpublishing.com/new-forthcoming/forthcoming-2021-titles/buddhism-as-philosophy-second-edition). He has also, with Shoryu Katsura, created a new a translation of an important Buddhist text by Nāgārjuna: (https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Nagarjunas-Middle-Way/Mark-Siderits/Classics-of-Indian-Buddhism/9781614290506)

Deepak Sarma's reader is another possibility (http://cup.columbia.edu/book/classical-indian-philosophy/9780231133999) though it has some of the same limitations as the Sarvepalli sourcebook, and so I strongly encourage instructors to look at book reviews to get a sense of potential limitations in the classroom (Andrew Nicholson has one of Sarma's reader, and you can find ones for most of the above easily, too). Thankfully, more philosophers competent in Sanskrit and philosophically-oriented Indologists are working on this problem, as evidenced by the increasing number of translations being published and even workshops on this challenge.

Helen De Cruz

Malcolm: thank you so much! It is an effect of my personal prior reading, but the tradition I feel least competent in but include anyway because it is so important is classical Indian philosophy. (I also cannot read Sanskrit at all. I took a summer course in Pali and was assured that Sanskrit is a bit like Pali, only even more difficult and given my difficulties with Pali and the cases etc I felt too daunted to try. So I'm at the mercy of translators).
The sourcebook is a bit dated, but I could not find a comprehensive contemporary sourcebook. It might be a worthwhile idea to have an updated sourcebook with readings that reflect the stuff that philosophy instructors are now really interested in teaching, maybe also with readings by female authors etc. Thank you for these resources in the meantime, which I'll definitely look into.

Mike Titelbaum

Under #1, my biggest concern about expertise is not my inability to read the relevant languages, but my lack of knowledge about the broader cultural and philosophical traditions in which the readings are situated. I got lots of years of training about a particular Western philosophical dialectic that unfolded over millennia, and of course I also come from a Western background so I have lots of historical context I can bring to bear. I also think that situating our readings in a broader set of contexts, conversations, distinctions, etc. is one of the valuable things I bring into the classroom as an instructor. Is there any good way to get a crash course in these other contexts that can put me in anything like a similar position wrt them? Thanks!

Malcolm

Helen, yes, I think an updated sourcebook is a great idea. Including female authors would require looking to modern/contemporary Indian philosophy, which is not a bad idea, either.

Mike, for "crash course" style material on the broader traditions (by which I take it you mostly mean the other texts to which individual texts are indebted?) for Indian philosophy, a combination of the SEP and the History of Philosophy without Any Gaps Podcast will get you started pretty well. There's also the STCP website (http://stcp.weebly.com/course-materials.html) There are a number of books on the history of Indian philosophy, but they can be daunting, so those might be best after some initial work on a favorite topic/text whose context you look at. Also, you're in an enviable position being at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, given the experts right there in Asian Languages & Cultures, as I'm sure you know!

Joe

Mike Titelbaum: there is no way to 'crash course' something like this. Most people who teach, say, Ancient Greek philosophy and are not experts, have taken courses, often graduate ones, on it and read quite a bit of greek philosophers (in good translations) and quite a bit of the tradition that reacts to them (all the way to the 21st century). And many still butcher it, to be honest. You cannot just make up for this by reading an intro book of some sort. These are who philosophical traditions with thousands of years of history. I attempted to teach both Indian and Chinese in my courses, and I took at least some courses on it. It was a mixed result and I am not sure I manage to persuade, rather than dissuade students from pursuing it further. Especially Chinese philosophy has a very different approach to what even constitutes a successful philosophical moves..

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