Introductory and Special Topics

Enlightenment East and West


Professor Mark Ralkowski


HONR 2016:10 - 4 Credits

CRN 56378

W 03:30-6:00PM



  • ESIA: Humanities
  • SEAS: Humanities


**This course is limited to students joining the Honors Program as rising sophomores.**


Course Description: The great works of the Western and Eastern intellectual traditions take the problem of Enlightenment as their guiding theme. The concern with enlightenment emerges in the West with the origin of Occidental philosophy in Plato's famous allegory of the cave, while in the East it takes shape with the Buddha's call a century earlier to break with illusion and practice awakening. The modern enlightenment project contrasts sharply with those of antiquity thanks to its commitment to science and technological power and their political and economic counterparts, liberalism and free-market capitalism. Our seminar this semester will examine enlightenment projects East and West, highlighting particularly the sharp differences between a variety of seminal responses to the problems of human delusion, suffering, and injustice. In addition to the theme of enlightenment, our discussions will be guided by fundamental questions: What are good and evil? What constitutes genuine knowledge? What is the character of human nature? What is natural? What is just or virtuous? Our approach to these questions will be open-ended and deliberative, and we will strive to remain sensitive to the complexity of argumentation found in our readings as we discuss and debate their claims.