I thought this was a great introduction to both modern Buddhist thought and evolutionary psychology. Professor Wright is an excellent lecturer, and his office hours are informative as well as amusing.
I have been practicing meditation for two years already.In so far I have attended all Deepak Chopra meditation experiences which I found very helpful but not as helpful this course provided me so far.
par Atzin G•
par Irina R•
A complete novice in the topic, I really apreciated the course. It allowed me to emmerge into the subject of Buddhist philosophy; it also opened the door to the evolutionary psychology. I have an impression to get a lot out of the course. Especially in terms of "what to learn next". My curiosity is on its highest now ;) - I think it is the best a student can get.
A university lecturer myself, I appreciated the way Robert delivered his lectures. Very animated, well paced and supported by a good portion of "side discussions", interviews and references to the literature, the course was mostly seamless and easy to follow. The analytical approach that Robert practices in the course also speaks a lot to me: every concept is explained and put into the context, providing the logical links to the other concepts discussed.
The lecture on the week 6 was the hardest for me: it seems like my lack of background in the subject became critical by that time. Or, probably, following the course during a trail running is not the best approach :). Any way, compared to the previous lectures (for example, the modular mind concept was very well debated), the concepts of "Morality" and "Naturalistic Buddhism" seemed fuzzy to me.
For example, from the course, I cannot get clearly a definition of moral truth. What is "moral" according to the Buddhist teaching or according to the evolutionary theory any way? I seemed to miss the point on how the "ethics" comes to play. I also did not grasp: What are the characteristics of Naturalistic Buddhism? (any differences with secular Buddhism or other schools? Sure, one can learn it on wikipedia. But to ensure the seamless lecture flow, this could be a good introduciton). Bottom line: the topic requires probably more structured and profound analysis.
Besides all said, I tried to catch up with the support materials and was mostly interested by video interviews - the darwindharma web site is most helpful. Having not much time to sit in the forum, I appreciated a lot the Office hours as they provided a sort of digest of the students' feedback.
Now I have the "Moral Animal" sitting on my bedside table. Time to read :) If you read this review considering to take the course - DO IT!
------ Irina Rychkova,
Associate Professor in Information Science,
University Paris 1, Pantheon-Sorbonne, France.
par Andressa K M T•
it requires persistence because some lectures can be tiring, especially depending on how your day was, but as i find the subject very interesting for me was not hard to focus again on what professor wright was saying. but other lectures are very easy to follow and the same apply to the interviews: excepting one that i didn't even finished, the majority were sufficiently interesting to go through and a few really interesting, like the ones with goldstein, paul bloom and bhikkhu bodhi. all of the interviewees were people whose work were resource material. we can download all the video lectures and the interviews (these in mp3 format). i also liked a lot the suggested resources, like a link of bhikkhu bodhi lectures (which we can also download), the first two sermons Buddha gave after attaining nirvana and the main book to the course, the foundations of buddhism by rupert gethin (in the first week we had to read a few chapters and this can take up some time), it is introductory and it appies just to my level of knowledge of Buddhism. professor wright is not a specialist neither is Buddhism nor Psychology and doesn't pretend to be. nevertheless he takes up the work and really makes the effort to offer a good quality course. also, the course is not that serious, is just a way of getting to know a bit about a particular tradition of Buddhism which is thought to have similarities to modern psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology. there are forums of discussion, but i didn't participated in them and recorded office hours, of the early years of the course, as an additional resource.
par Hasan E•
Some reference to existentialism could be helpful, I believe, in relation to Buddhist idea of breaking the bondage of Samsara (existentialist ideas on creating meaning for life, assuming responsibility for it, and rebelling against the status quo, would perhaps go hand-in-hand with Buddhist doctrine of the cessation for suffering. Besides, dependent arising and karma could have been tackled a bit more - the flow of consciousness from one life to the other without the necessity for a 'self' to be. That line of reasoning as a third alternative to Deistic religions and materialism, perhaps, is the brightest allure of Buddhist, and not Hinduist, doctrine of rebirth.
I loved Prof. Wright's personal and fun way of engaging with students (specifically during office hour videos). However, presentation in videos could sometimes easily get distracting (30 minutes of directly facing you and listening to you, sir, is a bit hard to sustain attention - enrichment with video materials or short clips could further the active interest of students imho).
I am so happy to have been part of this journey with you.
par Daniel N•
This course makes a sincere effort to bring together Psychology and Buddhism. Although it can be very informative on Buddhist views and ideas, in particular kind of dissecting them individually, it also can be misleading when tries to interpret the Dharma without a deeper understanding of Non Duality. For example, based on the teachings of great Buddhist masters, I strongly disagree that Emptiness is a form of removing "essences" from phenomena rather than clearly "seeing" the lucidity of reality and the creative aspect of the mind that build and transforms that "essences" - and even get attached to its creations. There is so much more to explore, for example, the idea that real Emptiness experience cannot be explained by concepts and words, which are just pointers to a Deeper Truth. To be fair I think this may be beyond the field of Modern Psychology.
par Sky U•
It was a super-enjoyable course comparing two diverse topics and examining the evidence for Buddhist ideas. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was the constant references to accesstoinsight.org, which encouraged me to do my own research and read Buddhist scripture to learn more by myself. The interviews were also particularly interesting, and as a big fan of Paul Bloom, I was excited to watch Dr. Wright's interview with him. One critique I might add is that I felt like some of the lectures were long-winded, and I felt like too much time was spent on theories such as the modular theory of the mind. However, please take this with a grain of salt, since I have some prior knowledge of the basics of modern psychology, and as such did not require extensive explanation of these theories.
par Vivek B•
This is my first course on Buddhism. I just got curious what this course may have to offer on Buddhism and Modern Psychology, when both subjects are unfamiliar for me. But once I started I got thrilled from the core Buddhist ideas and its support from modern psychology. I am really intrigued by the concept of "non-self". I also understood how Buddhist teaching's defy the natural selection and helps us to grow beyond that. I thank Professor Robert Wright for such a wonderful course. The only downside of this course is Office Hours videos. Professor seems to have zero preparation of the questions being asked and impromptu answers creates more confusion. One can safely skip all Office Hours videos and enjoy the rest part of the course.
par Vladimir M•
I have enjoyed the topic, as well as the course. The point of improvement would be to make the material more engaging, rather than only watching videos of the professor explaining the theory.
In other words, and albeit this not being easy, the course comes off sometimes 'too dry' for my liking. It is essential to have more practice and more self-inquiry throughout the course. And yes, essays are helpful in reflecting about the materials and forming one's opinion, but even that feels to 'school-like' for me.
Since the topic itself is very interesting for me, I didn't mind it that much, but I did take much more time than the designed 6 weeks since, with work, I didn't find it too exciting to come back to it every week.
par María J L•
Choosing this course was a success. Not only have I learn about such an ancient Philosophy, but I´ve also began to understand the complexity of the human mind. This is a fair beginning for my future career in Anthropology and Philosophical Studies!
Three week points: 1) to introduce some evidences from neuro-biology that are not correctly explained (my husband heard them, he's a psychiatrist), 2) a too 'particular' version of Enlightenment from the instructor's point of view, and 3) there is not any certificate of completion. Anyway, I must thank Mr Wright for his enormous effort to bring us such an interesting comparative study about Buddhism and the modern concept of the human mind. Thank you sincerely!
par j. s•
I got the most from the beginning of this course. It seemed to develop a bias towards the modern science perspective in the middle weeks and I felt that it de-valued the Buddhist perspective near the end. I didn't get too much out of the office hours portion, but it was fun to see the instructor cite examples of course material and apply them to his dogs. It provided a less formal followup to the lectures. It would've been interesting to have the instructor have actual conversations with some of the students, rather than reply to their online questions and comments. That would have felt more interactive.
Overall, I really liked this course and would recommend it.
This course is a wonderful nexus between east and west, between science and religion, between intuition and reason and between all those dichotomies, the false ones and more! It is just a shame that discussion forum moderators have become petty tyrants given censorship powers. At least, that was how it was last time I was bothered enough to try to get this stuff. One star subtracted, but it should be more given discussion is the only way really to do philosophy. Only one will do though because I guess it is a systemic problem and that it probably doesn't affect those of you who aren't borderline trolls who imbeciles easily mistake for the bad kind.
par Bitasta R•
Thank you for putting up this course. It has been very useful for my own understanding of Buddhism and parallelism with modern psychology. The course content itself is not sufficient to do justice with this broad intellectual and experiential topic. However, throughout the course, Dr Wright has maintained balance, which is sometimes hard to do. Also, as a learner, I felt, that my prior exposure and learning on the topic have helped me to synthesise some of the course contents at ease. And that would be my feedback, to the content developers. It will help the learners to get more out of this course if one has an elementary exposure. Thank you.
par Marilyn G•
I really appreciated the teaching lectures of Robt. Wright. He made what might have been rather dry information interesting and sometimes humorous, and oft repeated the key points we needed to hear.
Also enjoyed the interviews he conducted during the lectures but especially those from the resources list.
I knew a little about meditation but nothing of Buddhism so it was a little daunting at first but that was overcome very quickly and then I was quite anxious to keep reading and understanding those connections.
Thank Coursera for giving me the opportunity to keep learning in my senior years without worrying about cost.
par Yagnadat R•
A very rebellious upstream swim against natural selection and the Buddhist Neo's heroic effort to Nibbana! Drawing parallels to evolutionary and social psychology, Robert Wright takes you in an inward journey that brings to clear focus the origin of suffering and the prescriptive teachings of Gautama the Buddha to overcome suffering by embracing your true self. If you are looking for personal mastery, this is for you. If you have intense cravings, this is for you. If you are afflicted with compulsive behaviors, this is for you. If you are thinking "what the heck is all this", trust me, this course is for you.
I very much enjoyed the course. The instructor is very personable. The topic piqued my interest - and raised a lot of profound questions that I think may have answers floating out there. I do think there is more in modern psychology that lends support to central tenets of Buddhism which wasn't covered. Some of the course gets side tracked on a topic that I think the learners could have been spared, even though it connects with what the instructor has focused on in his career. Nevertheless, I'd rather be watching a video lecture during dinner than watching something else on TV.
par Kim R•
Professor Wright is very effective and the resources were helpful, but I found the peer grading system not reliable.
When I submitted my mid-term the first time, I didn't pass, but then I just changed the title and resubmitted it and passed.
Also I accidentally submitted the same paper for my final and didn't know how to retrieve it so I figured I'd wait until it failed. I passed without revision with a higher score than the midterm..
Although it didn't pose problems for me because I am taking the course for fun, for someone who cares about the grade it is concerning.
par Sinjini S•
The course is extremely rich and sophisticated. I had taken it sometime back but after attending the 10 day Vipassana, I came back to take it again and it made much better sense. Prof. Wright is superlative in knowledge, neutrality of view, and of course humour. However one thing I'd recommend is that it becomes quite a challenge to follow the course after a while given (of course) the subject in hand as well as, importantly, the delivery style. I wish it had visual/ pictoral supplements or some other ideas implemented to make it penetrate better!
par Gary M•
I wanted to work through this course for interest as I have been following Buddhist philosophy for approx 10 years during which I attended the local Buddhist Centre for lessons given by a Tibetan monk, Rinpoche Tupten, for three years (3 times a week).
I also had purchased and read "Why Buddhism is True" written by Robert Wright.
I have enjoyed this course and the approaches taken and structure together with the input from practitioners.
Thank you Robert and Princeton University
par Tomek C•
This is an excellent course. It's very thought-provoking and provides insight into meditation--a subject that eludes many people. The course needs more quizzes to help students learn and remember the knowledge taught in the lectures. It also needs a better evaluation scheme--the two essay-only evaluation form does not do enough to test student knowledge. Test are needed. A better evaluation scheme would weigh testing and essays, for example, 60% testing, 40% essay.
par Nicky V•
It was pretty good for most of the time. I found the professor engaging and interesting. He was an effortless speaker who never seemed bored--you could tell he was passionate, but did not alienate students by using too much jargon or academe-speak. I sort of fell off of the course toward the end mostly because I felt much of the material began to repeat (or at least became extremely predictable). Overall, really great course.
par Nicolle M•
Very interesting and enjoyable. There is much to contemplate in this rich dense course. I think I'll do it again and extract even more now that I've been through it once. I find the material consistent with my own practice of mindfulness meditation, and with my studies in psychology.
Thank you for a wonderful and stimulating experience. I am recommending it to family and friends so we can discuss this matter in greater depth.
par Tony O•
well connection with buddhism and modern psychology. While psychology is still evolving, buddhism is also evolving. The original teaching of Buddha is also evolved to suit the needs and desires of people in different culture and country. in some way, it sustain the teaching of buddha. In another, it distort the teaching and makes it more complicated and difficult to practise as there are too many school of thought.
par Juan C P M P•
Es un buen curso desde el punto de la psicología evolucionista. Pero desconoce otros aportes muy importantes de la psicología moderna. No debería llamarse budismo y psicología moderna, sino budismo y psicología evolucionista.
No es muy profundo en cuanto al pensamiento budista. Me hubiese gustado más temática budista que desde la psicología evolucionista.
se podría pensar en un segundo curso mas profundo.
par Julián P E•
Great course! Robert Wright is a wonderful teacher that explains in a very simple and easy to understand way some difficult concepts from Buddhism and modern psychology. My only complaint is that there were a lot of Buddhist ideas that were left out, like the moral ideas of Buddhism. Also the last lecture on Enlightenment was really hard to grasp without understanding previous Buddhist precepts.