The following three courses are offered on a regular basis, and the actual topics covered in each course vary each time it is taught.
Philosophy 18 – Confucius for Today
The teachings of Confucius (6th to 5th century B.C.) have had a profound influence on Chinese and East Asian cultures, and have attracted significant interest throughout the world. In what ways are they still of relevance to life in the twenty-first century? The course will consider the contemporary relevance of Confucius’ teachings. In addition to reading selected passages from the Analects, it will also consider elaborations on Confucius’ ideas by later Confucians as well as contemporary philosophical discussions of related topics. The goal is to provide an introduction to Confucius’ teachings and to key ideas in Confucian thought, as well as an understanding of the philosophical implications and contemporary relevance of Confucian ideas.
After a brief overview of key ideas in the Analects and an introduction to key terms, the course will focus on a number of topics, such as: filial obligations; respectfulness, humility and modesty; anger, resentment and forgiveness; courage; acceptance and tranquility; hypocrisy and semblances of virtue; death and the meaning of life; Confucian learning and liberal education. The topics covered will vary each time the course is taught.
Philosophy 107 – Moral Psychology
The course will examine a range of psychological phenomena related to the ethical and spiritual life of humans, drawing on both contemporary philosophical approaches as well as non-western (primarily Confucian and Daoist) perspectives on these phenomena. A different unifying theme will be identified each time the course is taught, such as: the idea of spirituality; virtues and vices; self and self-transformation. The goal is to provide a focused discussion of central topics in moral psychology that encompasses different cultural perspectives.
The actual topics covered will be selected from a wide range of topics, such as: empathy, sympathy and compassion; pride, modesty and humility; courage and patience; self-respect and self-esteem; anger and resentment; shame, guilt and remorse; purity, wholeness and sincerity; integrity, identification and wholeheartedness; acceptance and fate; death and grief; invulnerability and tranquility; attention and moral perception; reverence and mindfulness; practical necessity and moral incapacity; self-deception and weakness of will; wickedness and evil; self-cultivation and ethical self-indulgence.
Philosophy 153 – Chinese Philosophy
The course starts with a study of early Chinese thought, with focus on Confucianism and Daoism, though there will also be references to other schools of thought. It pays close attention to texts, and includes a discussion of the connotations of key terms and analyses of important passages. It then transitions to a philosophical discussion of themes in moral psychology that relate to early Chinese thought as well as its later developments. After conducting a methodological discussion of the way to bridge Chinese traditions of thought and contemporary philosophical discussions (primarily in the Anglo-American tradition), it moves on to a discussion of a cluster of related topics in moral psychology, such as: purity and wholeness, tranquility and equanimity, death and grief, resentment and forgiveness, acceptance as a way of coping with adversities, detachment and the idea of ‘no self’. The topics covered will vary each time the course is taught.
The overall goal of the course is to provide an understanding of Chinese traditions of thought in their proper historical and cultural contexts, and to illustrate a way of doing philosophical work with these traditions that does justice to their distinctive characteristics and insights.