Updated July 2023

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 a diverse range of materials. In addition to contemporary philosophical literature, we will also draw on non-western ethical traditions (Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist), recent psychological studies (e.g., self-other merging), the writings of other literary or intellectual figures (e.g., Tolstoy, Tagore, Schweitzer, Einstein), as well as alternative approaches to the prevalent mode of ethical reflection (e.g., Iris Murdoch, feminine ethics). The goal is to provide a focused discussion of central topics in moral psychology that encompasses different cultural and intellectual 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, resentment and forgiveness; shame, guilt and remorse; purity, wholeness and sincerity; integrity, identification and wholeheartedness; death, acceptance and detachment; invulnerability and tranquility; attention and moral perception; reverence and mindfulness; practical necessity and moral incapacity; wickedness and evil; self-cultivation and ethical self-indulgence.

Philosophy 153 – Chinese Philosophy

The course will provide an understanding of the three main traditions of thought in China through a careful study of selected texts. We will begin with a study of early Chinese thought, with focus on Confucianism (Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi) and Daoism (Zhuangzi), and then move on to a study of Chan (or Zen) Buddhism (The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch). While we will attend closely to the primary texts (in English translation), including a discussion of the connotations of key terms and analyses of important passages, the emphasis is on ideas in the texts. The overall goal is to provide an understanding of key ideas in these traditions of thought in their proper historical and cultural contexts. Given the time limitation, we will not relate these ideas to contemporary philosophical discussions, but will do so as part of another course Philosophy 107: Moral Psychology.