Skip Navigation

New Joint MA Program:  The Departments of Philosophy and Asian & Asian American Studies

This interdisciplinary joint program brings together expert faculty in the history of philosophy in two of Stony Brook University’s departments: Asian & Asian American Studies, and Philosophy. It enables students to broaden their knowledge of philosophy by treating it as a world-wide, rather than an exclusively western, undertaking. The program provides Humanities students with philosophically informed and historically grounded perspectives on what is arguably the principal cultural encounter of our time.

Apply Now!

Coursework focuses on key aspects of the following philosophical traditions: Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Islamic, ancient Greek and Roman, Christian medieval, and modern European. Teaching is based on primary texts in English translation, with selective use of secondary sources. Special emphasis is placed on understanding native terms and concepts from the original languages of works studied. The historical texts that you will study belong to these areas of inquiry: ethics, metaphysics, theories of knowledge, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophical anthropology, philosophical theology.

Spring 2021 Courses

Ancient Philosophy (PHI402 / PHI 510) THUR 3:00 - 5:50 A. De Laurentiis

Ancient philosophers would have thought it odd to separate academic disciplines from one another. We will imitate their approach by immersing ourselves in their reflections and discoveries ranging from metaphysics to physics to ethics and politics. We begin with extant fragments of pre-Socratic philosophers that will challenge our interpretive abilities; we then move to more complete, systematic, somewhat arduous Aristotelian texts; finally, we will gain familiarity with the cosmological and ethical thought of ancient Stoicism. This class is online but synchronous: participation is essential, note-taking from lectures is just as in in-person classes. I encourage you to keep a notebook with your summaries, critical insights, and especially questions to be discussed in class and during office hours. Essay exams on topics agreed upon with the instructor.

Classical Islamic Philosophy (AAS 472.01 / AAS 572.01) TUTH 11:30 - 12:50 R. Ansari

This course will introduce the major philosophers and philosophical debates of Islamic civilization in the Middle Ages. Our goal will be to understand the intellectually lively nature of philosophy during this time and to gain an appreciation for the historical development of philosophical ideas. We will also explore how philosophy from the Islamic Middle Ages relates to the development of Christian and Jewish thought in the Renaissance as well as its relation to Islamic thought in the post-classical or early modern period, including Shiʿism, Sufism and theology.

Topics include: How can we know things? What are the most fundamental components of reality? What is the relationship between God and the world? Is the world eternal or created? Is the connection between “cause” and “effect” a necessary one? What are philosophical understandings of religious texts? We will study these issues and the debates surrounding them in a number of philosophers, including: al-Farabi (d. 950), Avicenna (d. 1037), Ghazali (d. 1111), Averroes (d. 1198) and Maimonides (d. 1204).

Ethical Thought in India (AAS 472.02 / AAS572.02) TUTH 1:15 - 2:35 A. Nicholson

Hindu and Buddhist thinkers have not only been concerned with other-worldly, metaphysical issues, but also ethical, social, and political issues that continue to confront us today in our everyday lives. Do we have a responsibility to act for the greater good of society, or should human beings instead avoid engaging in political affairs? Is violence ever justified, or is it always a sign of moral degeneracy, as Gandhi believed? When evaluating the moral justification for an action, should we be concerned primarily with duties (deontology) or the effects of our actions (consequentialism)? We will explore such ethical issues though careful analysis of writings that include the Mahābhārata, Śāntideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva, Gandhi’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gītā, B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste and other works. We will conclude the semester by applying these classical Buddhist and Hindu principles to examine contemporary ethical issues (such as cloning, abortion, animal rights, and just war theory).

Program Requirements
This 30-credits MA degree can be earned in one year. But it is recommended that full-time students complete the HPEW program as follows: Year one: 24 credits (four 3-credit courses per semester) Year two: 6 credits (two 3-credit in the semester of full-time enrollment) It is also possible to enroll in HPEW on a part-time basis (i.e., by taking fewer than 12 credit hours per semester)

HPEW Director 
Andrew J. Nicholson, Ph.D

Please contact the Director for additional program information at

Founding Faculty