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Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to BA students in Philosophy.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of the second year, including Language of Thought, and Concepts of Selfhood.

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed their first year, and at least 10 EC's of the mandatory components of the second year, including Comparative Philosophy, and Philosophy of Mind.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


This course surveys many of the positions and most important arguments of the Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosophical schools. Topics to be considered include metaphysics, ethics and epistemology. Authors read will include Nāgārjuna, Vasubandhu, Asaṅga, Candrakīrti and Śāntideva.

One reoccurring point of discussion will be whether the (arguably) predominant reading of these texts as antirealist (for Madhyamaka authors) or idealist (for Yogācāra authors) is correct. In doing so, we will look at a fair amount of contemporary scholarship which analyses this material. A second aim of the class will be to examine how and to what extent these texts are continuous with the early Buddhist tradition.

Course objectives

This course aims to give an introduction to the Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosophical tradition.

Students who successfully complete the course will gain:

  • basic understanding of the insights of many of the most influential schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosophy;

  • basic familiarity with the historical background out of which Mahayana Buddhist philosophical debates arose.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • engage with philosophical reasoning and arguments presented by the authors of the Indian Mahayana philosophical tradition;

  • express, critique and defend various positions held within the Indian Mahayana philosophical tradition, both orally and in writing;

  • improve their ability to interact with philosophical ideas, both in active participation during class, and in written work in the form of short essay assignments.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Midterm essay assignment: 40%

  • Final essay assignment: 40%

  • Participation (including a class presentation): 20%


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


To be announced.

Class participation is a mandatory requirement for taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examinations cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. S.E. Harris


Not applicable.