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Mahayana Buddhist Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind.


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.


The timetable is available on the BA Filosofie website

  • BA Filosofie, BA3 – BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

Calculation of the course load to be announced.

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.


The resit consists of one examination for all parts at once, consisting of a revision of one or both short essay assignments. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests.

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.

Exam review

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.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting class texts

  • turning in assignments

  • announcements

  • discussion board

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

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.