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The University of Southampton

PHIL3055 Classical Indian Philosophy

Module Overview

Philosophy flourished in classical India for well over a millennium, with figures in this tradition producing works that are on a par with those of figures in ancient Greece and late antique and medieval Europe. In fact, figures in classical India contributed extensively to what what we now recognise as core areas of philosophy such as epistemology, logic, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and ethics. This module provides an overview of this long-neglected tradition of philosophy. Texts covered may include the early texts of the Brahmanical and Śramaṇa traditions (e.g. the Upaniṣads, and Pali Canon of Buddhism), and writings in the age of sutras and commentaries (e.g. those of Brahmanical schools such as Nyāya, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā, Sāṃkhya, and Yoga, and Śramaṇa schools such as Buddhism and Jainism). The module’s approach will not be purely historical, but will critically examine the contributions these texts make to philosophical debates that remain live today.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Learning some of the central texts, schools, figures, and ideas in classical Indian philosophy
  • Appreciating the richness of the classical Indian philosophical tradition and the significance of its ideas to contemporary philosophy.
  • Understanding some of the main arguments and counter-arguments put forward by figures in the different schools of classical Indian philosophy.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically examine the ideas and reasoning of different schools of classical Indian philosophy.
  • Relate views and arguments in classical Indian metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of mind, and ethics to ideas in the western philosophical tradition.
  • Articulate and defend your own views about the topics discussed by classical Indian philosophers.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Scrutinize complex texts and extract from them key information.
  • Demonstrate enhanced skills in essay writing, planning and research.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. It may include: - Selections from the Vedas and Upaniṣads. - Selections from the Pali Canon of Buddhism and the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. - Original texts and commentaries by writers of sutras and commentaries in schools such as Nyāya, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā, Sāṃkhya, Jainism, and Buddhism. Such figures may include Jaimini, Gautama Akṣapāda, Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu, Vātsyāyana, Dignāga, Candrakīrti, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, Dharmakīrti, Śāntideva, Śaṅkara, Jayarāśi, Śrīharṣa, and Gaṅgeśa. - The metaphysics and philosophy of mind of the Brahmanical schools, with a focus on their views about fundamental reality (brahman) and the self (ātman). - The metaphysics and philosophy of mind of Buddhist schools, with a focus on the ideas of No-Self, Emptiness, and Dependent Origination. - The epistemology and logic of philosophers in the Nyāya, Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā, and Buddhist schools. - The practices and ethical ideas of Brahmanical and Ṡramaṇa schools, including vegetarianism and asceticism.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-to-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contribution to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Jonardon Ganeri (2001). Philosophy in Classical India. 

Roy W. Perrett (2016). An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 

Jonardon Ganeri (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. 

Sue Hamilton (2001). Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. 

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore (1989). A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy. 



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Essay 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Essay  (1500 words) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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