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Module VPR-1110:
Themes - Eastern Religion/Phil

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Farhaan Wali

Overall aims and purpose

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the complex and fascinating world of Eastern philosophy and religion through a historical overview of their origins, doctrines and traditions. The module will begin by studying Hinduism, the major religious and philosophical tradition of South Asia. It will trace the development of Hindu philosophy and religious tradition from the ancient fire rituals, through the epic stories of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, to issues effecting Hinduism in the modern world. Then the module will turn its attention to Buddhism, exploring the main doctrines and philosophies, ethics, practices and rites, the spread of Buddhism and persecution. The cursory study of Sikhism and Islam will cover the respective narratives of each religious and philosophical tradition in the area, focusing on cardinal religious beliefs and practices, while giving particular emphasis to the social and cultural history of the subcontinent in order to achieve understanding of philosophical influences on belief, practice and identity. The module will end by exploring the religious and philosophical traditions of the Far East, focusing on the religious ideas and philosophical development of Confucianism, while providing prominence to the areas of philosophy and rituals. In sum, the module seeks to trace the unique histories of diverse religious traditions and offers in-depth insight into their core beliefs and practices

Course content

This module offers an introduction to the philosophical and religious development of key eastern religious traditions - Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto – and provides a detailed overview of their origins, histories, doctrines and scriptures. In order to explore a wide spectrum of religious and philosophical beliefs, the following will be considered teaching priorities: (1) Survey of the beliefs and practices of six Eastern religions and philosophies; (2) understand the multifaceted religious heritage of the six Eastern religions – from the pre-modern era to contemporary religious practice; (3) Examination of the mutual influences and intersections of the Eastern religions and philosophies and how they interact with other elements of Eastern culture and society; (4) Deconstruct the East and West meeting points, focusing on the spread and influence of Eastern religion and philosophy in the West.

Assessment Criteria


Shows some knowledge of key areas of the module with acceptable presentation of arguments.


Shows detailed knowledge of key areas covered in the module with the arguments presented in a logical and coherent way.


Shows comprehensive and very detailed understanding of the material covered in the module, based on extensive background reading.

Learning outcomes

  1. To locate the origins of Eastern religious and philosophical traditions in their unique religious contexts

  2. To demonstrate knowledge of the historical, philosophical and religious nature of each eastern tradition

  3. To show understanding of key fundamental beliefs and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam and Confucianism

  4. To show awareness of, and the ability to discuss, different principles underlying the ethics and philosophies of the selected eastern religions

  5. To be able to distinguish among the major religious traditions of the East, and be able to describe the main religious and philosophical schools of thought of the Eastern world

  6. To identify and focus on key issues and select and arrange material from a variety of primary and secondary religious and philosophical sources

  7. To identify and be able to write essays assessing key aspects of Eastern religions, as well as explore their relationship with each other

  8. To construct a sustained argument and develop intellectual flexibility in assessing concrete situations and issues, demonstrating a variety of study skills (e.g. discussion in seminars and systematic argument construction in essays.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY 2000 word essay 50
EXAM Take home seen exam 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 24
Private study 176

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
  • Sensitivity in interpretation of religious and philosophical texts drawn from a variety of ages and/or traditions.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • The ability to use and criticise specialised religious and philosophical terminology.
  • The ability to abstract and analyse arguments, and to identify flaws in them, such as false premises and invalid reasoning.
  • The ability to construct rationally persuasive arguments for or against specific religious and philosophical claims.
  • The ability to move between generalisation and appropriately detailed discussion, inventing or discovering examples to support or challenge a position, and distinguishing relevant and irrelevant considerations.
  • The ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods within the disciplines of philosophy and religion.

Courses including this module