Indian Philosophy and the Search for Self (with a Ten-Day Retreat from Social Media) CANCELLED

Course Code
RELH 3559
Michael Allen

Who am I? What does it mean to have a self? This course explores the views of classical Indian thinkers who radically challenge our everyday notions of self: Buddhist philosophers who denied the very existence of the self, and Hindu philosophers who taught that most of us are ignorant of our true selves. These debates were not merely theoretical: Hindu and Buddhist thinkers alike held that our views of ourselves, whether consciously or unconsciously held, inevitably shape our lives and our search for happiness. In this discussion-based seminar, we will explore scriptural classics, philosophical literature, and works on yoga and meditation. We will also reflect on the role that social media plays in shaping our sense of self and (for many of us at least) distracting us from introspection. As an experiment, the course will ask students to take a ten-day “retreat” from digital technologies: students must agree to do without phones, laptops, etc. while in class and to limit their use outside of class as much as possible.