1-2 pages

1.5x or 2x spaced, in 11 or 12 point normal font, 1-inch margins.

Paper Topic: 

On page 90 of our reading from the Upanishads (para.9), Yama (death) says the following:

              Above the senses is the mind, above

              The mind is the intellect, above that

              Is the ego, and above the ego

              Is the unmanifested Cause

              And beyond is Brahman, omnipresent,


Some of the assumptions built into this passage seem similar to those that Descartes makes when he distinguishes mind from body. In particular, both Descartes and Yama seem to describe a kind of hierarchy of levels within our understanding of what we are. Descartes also describes the senses acquiring information, at the lowest level, then the mind synthesizing this information into representations of things, then the intellect imposing organization on the content of the mind based on abstract principles. Yama adds the ego, which is what employs the mind and links it to these more abstract principles, but it is not clear that this adds to Descartes assumptions about the position of the soul in this whole hierarchy. (Notice how Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita applies hierarchical thinking to a long series of things, and each of these becomes a metaphor in which Krishna is at the top of the hierarchy.)

So here is the question: This general description seems to fit well into the stories and theories that are central to both the Western and Indian cultural traditions. But this hierarchical view also seems to carry very different implications within these traditions. It seems like this kind of reasoning leads to different conclusions depending on i) what we assume about the role of God or Brahman, ii)  what it is that were trying to use this reasoning to learn about, and iii) our motivation for pursuing this whole process of thought in the first place.

In what way do you think this hierarchical pattern of reasoning takes different forms in these two different philosophical and cultural contexts?

Citations: When you use quotes or paraphrase any of these texts, please cite appropriately. Please use internal (parenthetical) citations (Author, p. x) to cite which text you are quoting or paraphrasing. Your paper should include a bibliography with full citations of all sources used. Philosophy doesn’t have a standard citation format, so you can use any style you like (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). Just be consistent (cite everything the same way) and make sure to include all of the important information (author, publisher, date of publication, website information, etc.) so that I can find your source. The Purdue OWL has a great resource that you can use to have them auto-generate citations for you.

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