Author Archives: hagop sarkissian

POSTPONED: Li Zehou on the ‘Deep Structures of Confucianism’ (Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy)

UPDATE: The Student Workers of Columbia University (SWC) went on strike as of November 3, 2021. The Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy respects the SWC’s decision to strike, and hopes that an agreement is reached quickly.

Until then, we have chosen to suspend our seminar meetings, including the previously scheduled meeting for Friday, November 12, in solidarity with the striking students. A revised schedule of meetings will be announced at the appropriate time. Original announcement (now edited), below. – HS



Presents: Li Zehou on the ‘Deep Structures of Confucianism’

Lead Presenter: Andrew Lambert (College of Staten Island, CUNY)
Discussants:  Robert A. Carleo III (East China Normal University), Ryan Nichols (California State University, Fullerton), Emma Buchtel (Hong Kong Education University)

ABSTRACT: Contemporary Chinese intellectual Li Zehou’s cross-cultural methodology blends traditional Confucian thought with thinkers such as Kant and Marx. This seminar addresses the question of culture and its role in Li’s thought. Li has made several claims about how a settled cultural tradition influences the subjects within it. One such claim concerns the existence of ‘deep structures’ of Confucianism, as outlined in this preparatory reading. The idea is that culture, history, and social practice (collectively, a tradition) shape human psychology (including the formation of concepts, emotions, and values) in ways not always apparent to the subject. Within the Chinese tradition, Confucianism constitutes such a deep structure, and its effects cannot be captured by textual studies alone, nor studies of material culture. Rather, the deep structure is articulated in terms of an emergent shared subjectivity. Such traditions can evolve and ultimately dissolve; nevertheless, their effects are deep-rooted. This seminar meeting will aim to identify the parameters of Li’s ambitious theoretical framework and its plausibility, and to explore connections with current work in related fields, such as cultural and empirical psychology.


This seminar will take place via Zoom (please scroll down for the full invitation). Below you will find the link to join the meeting. Continue reading →

2021 Res Philosophica Conference: Globalizing Empirically-Informed Philosophy (Nov 18-19)

The Res Philosophica Conference is hosted by the Department of Philosophy at Saint Louis University. The themes are chosen by members of the Department, and the papers from the conference are published in a special issue of the journal.

2021 Conference: Globalizing Empirically-Informed Philosophy

The 2021 Res Philosophica Conference, titled Globalizing Empirically-Informed Philosophy, is organized by Helen De Cruz and will be held online on November 18 and 19th, 2021. Participants include Julianne N. Chung, Alexis Elder, Bryce Huebner, Nicholaos Jones, Edouard Machery, Ryan Nichols and Hagop Sarkissian.

The aim of this conference is to bring together scholars working on the intersections between empirically-informed philosophy and lesser taught philosophical traditions. Empirically-informed philosophy includes both experimental philosophy (philosophers who use experiments to address philosophical questions) and philosophy that draws on results from the sciences, such as psychology, archaeology, or biology. There is a nascent interest on how empirical approaches might bear on philosophical questions outside of the western tradition. For example, to what extent are philosophical intuitions stable across cultures? How can we empirically investigate concepts from Confucian philosophy, such as li and ren? The aim of this conference is to explore how these questions might be approached, to identify future avenues for research, and to examine potentially how the intersection of empirical approaches and non-western philosophical traditions might enhance pedagogical goals as well.

Continue reading →

OCTOBER 22, 2021: A Discussion of Fa (法) in the Shenzi–Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy


Presents: A Discussion of Fa (法) in the Shenzi

Lead Presenter: Eirik Lang Harris
Discussants:  Alejandro Bárcenas (Texas State University), Yutang Jin (Princeton University), Mercedes Valmisa (Gettysburg College)

ABSTRACT: The Shenzi Fragments, numbering a mere 3,000 or so characters in length, is all that remains of a work attributed to Shen Dao (ca. 350-275 BCE). While perhaps best known for his appearance in the Han Feizi as an advocate for positional power (勢 shi), he also makes an appearance in the Xunzi as one who is blinded by his focus on 法 fa (models, standards, laws).  We will examine the fragments that discuss fa in an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of the role that these fragments see for the fa, how they are to be determined, and why Shen Dao took them to be central to a strong, stable, and flourishing state. The selected fragments, in classical Chinese with English translations (Harris 2016), are included here as a PDF attachment. Please review the passages ahead of the meeting.

DATE: October 22, 2021
TIME: 7:00-8:30 pm

This seminar will take place via Zoom (please scroll down for the full invitation). Below you will find the link to join the meeting. There are two things we ask you to do before the meeting can start. First, you will need to sign in by typing your name in the chat. Subsequently, we will have to agree to the privacy policy for the meeting. The privacy policy provided by the Columbia University Seminars Office will be read aloud. To indicate your agreement, you will raise your virtual Zoom hand in the Participants panel. Continue reading →

MARCH 12, 2021: A Passage from Wang Yangming’s “Questions on the Great Learning


PresentsA Passage from Wang Yangming’s “Questions on the Great Learning”

Presenter: Harvey Lederman (Princeton University)
Discussants: Stephen Angle (Wesleyan University), Warren Frisina (Hofstra University), Xiaomei Yang (Southern Connecticut State University)

ABSTRACT: This session will follow the organization of those we had on Zhuangzi and Śāntideva from Fall 2020. A lead presenter will give some background on the text from which the passage below is derived–namely, Wang Yangming’s “Questions on the Great Learning” (大學問)–and introduce Wang’s notion of liangzhi (良知). The presentation will then discuss Wang’s understanding of “the extension of knowledge” (致知) and “making inclinations wholehearted” (誠意) from the Great Learning (大學) before giving a focused reading of the passage itself. According to this reading, a person has extended their knowledge if and only if they have made their inclinations wholehearted. Each of the discussants will then follow with some brief comments and questions before we open things up for Q&A.

DATE: March 12, 2021
TIME: 7:00-8:30 pm

Here is the passage:

Continue reading →

Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Moravian College

The Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Moravian College invites applications for an ASIANetwork – Luce Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow. This two-year position will begin in August 2021; a Ph.D. is required by this date. This is a half-time teaching and half-time research position. The teaching load is 2/2 with the expectation that introductory and advanced courses will be offered. The successful applicant will be encouraged to teach comparatively about Asia. The field of specialization is open, but priority will be given to candidates who can teach courses on film or other visual cultures. We also will prioritize candidates with a proven record of motivating undergraduates to pursue further study of Asia. Candidates who can further Moravian’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are especially encouraged to apply.

Candidates should have a Ph.D. in Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, or have a disciplinary degree with research focused on Asia. Candidates should have demonstrated teaching effectiveness.

Deep respect for others is fundamental to the Moravian College community. Moravian College does not discriminate against any person based on actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, veteran status, disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, or any other basis protected by applicable federal, state, or local laws. In compliance with the requirements of Title IX, Moravian College does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its educational program and activity, including employment.

Philosophers working on aesthetics in Asian contexts are encouraged to apply. International candidates are welcomed to apply. Please note that currently, Moravian College (unfortunately) does not sponsor work visas for international employees for 1-2 year positions such as this Postdoc. HR forces the College to list all jobs with “physical demands” that have bus drivers or security officers in mind, not a teaching postdoc position such as this. Pursuant to the ADA, Moravian College will provide reasonable accommodation(s) (see more in the ad).
More details here:

NOVEMBER 6, 2020: Zhuangzi’s Robber Zhi: A Discussion


Presents: Zhuangzi’s Robber Zhi: A Discussion 

Presenter: Stephen Walker (University of Chicago)
Discussants: Timothy Connolly (East Stroudsburg University), Tao Jiang (Rutgers University), Qianyi Qin (CUNY Graduate Center), Hagop Sarkissian (CUNY Graduate Center & Baruch College)

ABSTRACT: This session will focus on the celebrated ‘Robber Zhi’ (盜跖) dialogue from the Miscellaneous Chapters (雜篇) of the Zhuangzi. In the dialogue, Kongzi (or Confucius) tries to persuade Robber Zhi to abandon his marauding ways and lead a more conventional life. While the character of Robber Zhi is obviously brutal, and a person few of us would want to emulate (or interact with in any way), he’s also strikingly insightful about human needs and frailties, and attentive to the more covert kinds of brutality we endure simply by living in organized societies. Not only does he raise the possibility that attempts to morally reform individuals might produce more harm than good, but he also embodies, in his own person, the pointlessness of making appeals to powerful persons who don’t value morality at all. The presenter will spend about 15 minutes summarizing the dialogue, and the discussants will spend about five minutes each raising points for discussion. The rest of the session will consist of Q&A. Those planning to attend are strongly encouraged to read the dialogue before the session begins. You can download a recent translation by Brook Ziporyn by clicking on this link.

DATE: November 6, 2020
TIME: 7:00-9:00 pm

This seminar will take place via Zoom (please scroll down for the full invitation). Continue reading →

Aaron Stalnaker – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Dependence, Autonomy, and the Varieties of Relationship” Friday Jan 24


Welcomes: AARON STALNAKER (Indiana University)
With responses from: TIMOTHY CONNOLLY (East Stroudsburg University)

Please join on January 24, 2020 at 5:30 for his lecture entitled,

Dependence, Autonomy, and the Varieties of Relationship

ABSTRACT: This talk places master-student relations in the context of Confucian social theory, focusing on issues of obedience, remonstration, and respect for different sorts of authorities.  I survey early Confucian accounts of the good society centered on role relations, personal development, and flourishing, both individual and communal.  I then examine the question of autonomy within these relationships, looking closely at remonstration, obedience, and disobedience.  The talk concludes with a broader discussion of human dependence, placing Confucian conceptions in dialogue with Eva Feder Kittay, Martha Fineman, and Alasdair MacIntyre.  All three, like the Confucians, see dependency relations as central to human life and the problems of politics, in sharp contrast to most liberal views that imagine a social contract between autonomous, free, and equal individuals.  Confucians view extreme dependence as a special case of the pervasive interdependence of all human beings on each other, with family relations serving in many respects as the model for other relations. Continue reading →

Paul Goldin – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “THE IMMORTAL SPIRIT IN CLASSICAL CHINESE AESTHETICS” Friday Dec 6


Welcomes: PAUL GOLDIN (University of Pennsylvania)
With responses from: SANDRA SHAPSHAY (Hunter College, CUNY)

Please join on December 6, 2019 at 5:30 for his lecture entitled:
The Immortal Spirit in Classical Chinese Aesthetics

ABSTRACT: This will be the third (and, time permitting, some material from the fourth) of a series of lectures that I aim to write up formally as a book.  We will begin with a brief review of the most familiar theory of Chinese aesthetics: works of art are the products of sensitive human beings who cannot suppress their sincere responses to emotional stimuli.  If art is understood as a sincere statement of this kind by a great genius, it stands to reason that, by correctly interpreting the work, one can communicate with that genius’s mind (xin 心) even after his or her death–and, likewise, that an artist today can communicate with audiences yet unborn.  Continue reading →



Welcomes: KIM SUNGMOON (City University of Hong Kong)
With responses from: OMAR DAHBOUR  (Hunter College & Graduate Center, CUNY)

Please join on November 8, 2019 at 5:30 for his lecture entitled,


Recently, a group of scholars has challenged the moral legitimacy of Confucian democracy from a liberal philosophical standpoint. Continue reading →

Richard Kim – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “THE ROLE OF NEGATIVE EMOTIONS IN THE GOOD LIFE: REFLECTIONS FROM THE ZHUANGZI” Friday October 11 at 5:30pm


Welcomes: RICHARD KIM (Loyola University Chicago)
With responses from: CHRISTOPHER GOWANS  (Fordham University)

Please join on October 11, 2019 at 5:30 for his lecture entitled,


ABSTRACT: The philosophical and psychological literature on well-being tend to focus on the prudential value of positive emotions such as pleasure, joy, or gratitude. But how do the negative emotions such as grief fit into our understanding of well-being? It is often assumed that negative emotions are intrinsically bad far us and that we should work toward eliminating them, especially from the perspective of our own well-being. Continue reading →