A new course was introduced at Gannon this semester: Comparative World Philosophy. Wanting to learn a bit more about it, I contacted its professor, Dominic Prianti, an instructor in the philosophy department, and asked him a few questions.
What exactly is this new course, and what sets it apart from other philosophy courses offered on campus?
This class has two major goals: to embrace philosophical stances and concepts – especially the classical sources – from everywhere, and to give more of a challenge to ethics and practical philosophy in general to focus on global issues, virtues, principles, etc.
It’s a good second class to follow our Introduction to Philosophy course. And there is so much to talk about! The Greeks – the first “Western” philosophers – were part of an “Axial Age” that included several other notable thinkers around the same time all around the world.
Does this course require a different teaching style than other philosophy courses?
This class is somewhat humbling and exciting in a different way for me. I am still pretty new to World Philosophy myself, so I am continually learning new things and bringing them to the table in my first teaching of this class. I plan on taking several classes from experts in specific fields of Chinese and Indian philosophy, and I’m spending time learning about Buddha’s Dharma directly from the wonderful Tibetan Buddhist group here, Erie KTC. I’m very fortunate to have a grant to further enrich this class and others, thanks to support from the university and the Barker Globalization Grant. So, I’m still quite an amateur, but I’m full of good fire.
A lot of our work in the second half of the semester will be more group-oriented and with greater contributions to the whole by the students. I love lecturing, but this is definitely a case in which we will be learning a lot together, uniting under one goal for greater wisdom while giving the high standard for philosophy that we have in the West.
So yeah, less lecturing in this course, although the group has had me lecturing a lot in the beginning. I’m having a wonderful time and have such a bright group this first semester. I look forward to future rounds and hope some of your readers will join me. Or come say hello and ask me questions about my class or others. I’ll make you coffee!
What do you have to say to students who might be interested in the course?
Here are the pluses I can think of immediately:
1. This meets the Philosophy II requirement that all students have to meet.
2. Students get to hang out with a ridiculously passionate 33-year-old philosopher with a strong Long Island accent, really bad manners, a giant heart and a ridiculous beard.
3. All of my classes have a logic boot camp, and in objectively criticizing arguments you will have your critical faculty nourished. Your intellect in general will of course get a nice challenge, and I think I do a good job of making everybody feel comfortable. The goal of the class is not to make us uncomfortable – although philosophy does do that no matter what – but to simply share a common goal of seeking wisdom about the most important issues of our lives. If you think you have all of the answers, I only ask that you can see where alternative perspectives on reality, knowledge, the self and the good life are coming from.
4. This class will help students understand the most fundamental philosophical ideas that drive some other major cultures – especially in India and China, the most populated nations on the planet. Especially with those two other major philosophical traditions, the relationship between philosophy and religion has always been much more intricate, and this has contributed to the greatest philosophical texts from 2,500 years ago still existing in the veins of the modern cultures. We might be more inclined to snooze when reading Plato or Aristotle, but if we pay attention enough we could see that the influence is still there for ourselves, including the Christian tradition. No matter what, this class offers you an ability to globalize your understanding of the great classics of the world in philosophy and see your own perspective in relationship to the others.