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What is this talk about? Remember–never summarize. Analyze. Interpret.

For your final regular assignment, I hope you enjoy a talk from Alan Watts. I know of no better door into non-Western philosophical traditions than Watts, himself born and raised in England. Watts walked as much in the Western world as the Eastern, and this is one factor that makes him adept at introducing novel philosophical concepts to Western minds in a way they meaningfully interpret. With this talk, you may be confused that we seem to be returning to the philosophy of religion. While watching, ask yourself: are we?

You may benefit from listening to this talk more than once, but regardless of how many times you listen, read the response questions first and have them on hand so that you can identify parts of the talk that relate to them. For this writing, you have a lot of flexibility. Respond to as few or as many of the following questions as you want, but write between 400 and 500 words. It is fine to write more. Remember: *never summarize* in your writing. Find an idea that intrigues you and develop as much depth of thought as you can. Make arguments. Critique your own argument with a robust objection. Use examples and explain how they illustrate something substantive. Any one of these can easily be the basis for two pages of writing!

We will discuss more of Watts’s thought during our last regular class, and if you enjoy his ideas, browse the considerable selection of his lectures on YouTube or read one of his many books.


1. What is this talk about? Remember–never summarize. Analyze. Interpret.

2. From what you hear in this talk, does Alan Watts believe in God?

3. Starting at about 19 minutes and continuing for several minutes, Watts discusses death. Do you find his ideas comforting or disturbing?

4. Did Alan Watts say anything about God or ultimate reality that resonates with our discussion of Sren Kierkegaard?

5. Choose this prompt if you would like to develop your own reflection on anything in the talk or anything that relates to it.