REL 407/507 Winter 2010 Final Paper Topics
Final Paper due Tuesday, Mar 9 in class
* BE SURE TO INDICATE TOPIC NUMBER.
*Double-spaced, 7-9 pages (10-13 for REL507). You may do one of the suggested topics or formulate one of your own. If you wish to do your own topic, then you must submit a one paragraph description by email at least one week prior to the due date. The instructor will review your topic for approval. You may proceed once you have received feedback.
* You are not required to do any outside research for the final paper. However, if you would like to use additional sources, you may do so. I would be happy to recommend some sources if you wish.
* I encourage you to discuss these topics with one another.
* Be sure to write your name, the name of the class, and the title of your topic at the top of the page.
* Please read the essays on my Writing web pages, especially "Four Keys to Writing in the Humanities," "Paper Writing Guidelines," "Checklist for Papers," "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness," "Clauses and Commas."
*You MUST include direct quotations and/or page references from the readings to provide textual evidence in your papers.
1. Compare and contrast Mencius' view of compassion towards animals and people as expressed in the episode of King Hsuan and the oxen (1A7) with Shinran's view of compassion as found in the Tannisho. Specifically, compare Mencius' sense of Tian's (Heaven/Nature) blessings (compassion) towards human beings and this blessing's effect on human compassion for other beings, on the one hand, and Shinran's view of Amida's boundless compassion for foolish beings (Shin Buddhist practitioners) and this compassion's effect on human attitudes towards other beings including oxen, on the other. What are the strength and weaknesses of Mencius and Shinran's views. Whose is better, and why?
2. Compare and contrast Zhuangzi's attitude towards other people and creatures (Cook Ding and the oxen) with Shinran's view of compassion as found in the Tannisho. Specifically, compare Zhuangzi's sense of Tian's (Heaven/Nature) relation to human beings and this relation's effect on human attitudes towards other beings, on the one hand, and Shinran's view of Amida's boundless compassion for foolish beings (Shin Buddhist practitioners) and this compassion's effect on human attitudes towards other beings including oxen, on the other. What are the strength and weaknesses of Zhuangzi and Shinran's views. Whose is better, and why?
3. Towards the end of Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin describes a scene in which she undertakes the slaughtering of a cow herself, and she calls the experience of calming the cow and putting it to death, "Zen-like." Taking into consideration the larger trajectory of care that she shows cattle and other animals and her search for religion/spirituality, examine this episode from the perspective of Zhuangzi's Daoist adept (Cook Ding) and Shinran's foolish being (butcher) as embraced by Amida's boundless compassion. Whose view, Zhuangzi or Shinran's, gives a fuller account of Grandin's treatment of the cow she slaughter's including the religious worldview that is implied? Are there elements of Grandin's view that are not covered by either Zhuangzi's Daoism or Shinran's Shin Buddhism?
4. Compare and contrast the view of life and death, on the one hand, and attitudes towards other beings and creatures, on the other, held by any two of the thinkers examined in this course (David Peterson, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Shinran, Coffinman, Temple Grandin). Do they see human beings on the same plane as non-human animals in principle (in theory)? Or, do they see them in a hierarcy? What about in practice? If there is a discrepancy between their theories and their practices, how do (would) they account for this, and whose views are superior in this regard?
5. Compare and contrast Zhuangzi's views towards non-human animals with that of Coffinman? What are the similarities and differences, and whose views are superior? Why? Your examination should address the difference between Zhuangzi's view of transformation and fate, on the one hand, and Coffinman's view of compassion and karma, on the other.
6. Compose a dialogue among any THREE of the figures we have read for this course (David Peterson, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Shinran, Coffinman, Temple Grandin). The setting is a meal that they are sitting down together to eat, and one of the dishes that is being served is steak. As part of this dialogue, include a discussion about the religious or spiritual significance of the life of the cow that was taken to provide this dish, and how each views the life and death of this cow - its care and feeding, butchering, preparation of the meal, and giving thanks. BE SURE TO INCLUDE PAGE REFERNCES AND/OR QUOTATIONS.
7. Relate what you wrote about in your first paper to Temple Grandin's book and visit, the visit to S-Bar meat packing plant, and Coffinman's views of non-human animals. Discuss how these thinkers and experiences have changed or affected the views and/or experiences expressed since the first paper. What are some points in these texts/thinkers that you disagree with or that trouble you? If you choose to write on this topic relating your first essay to the readings, then please resubmit your first essay along with any other relevant papers. You MUST use direct quotations and/or page references from the readings to substantiate your ideas.
8. Near Death. You have a terminal case of liver cancer. Several months have passed since the diagnosis and now the end is near. Your lover/partner is far away and is unable to share this time with you, caught in a foreign land with an invalid passport. You are writing a letter to your lover/partner expressing what the past has meant to you, what you have learned as you struggled with the illness and impending death, and how you now see life and death. In particular, reflect on the struggle of life and death that both human and non-human animals face. Write this letter drawing on the works we have read. You may combine insights from more than one text if you like, but it is recommended that you restrict your sources to two or three sources and not try to do too much. You MUST use direct quotations and/or page references from the readings to substantiate your ideas.