Body and Cosmos in China: An Interdisciplinary Symposium in Honor of Nathan Sivin

The Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania is delighted to announce an interdisciplinary symposium in honor of Nathan Sivin at Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, on Oct. 14-15, 2017.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  Just click here if you’d like to attend:

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Columbia Neo-Confucian Seminar: Hagop Sarkissian “Experimental Philosophy and the Confucian Philosophical Tradition: A Brief History and Comparison.” Friday, September 30 @ 3:30pm

The next session of the Columbia University Seminar on Neo-Confucian Studies (University Seminar #567) will convene Friday, September 30, 2016 from 3:30 to 5:30pm in the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.

Hagop Sarkissian (City University of New York, Baruch College | Graduate Center) will present his paper

“Experimental Philosophy and the Confucian Philosophical Tradition: A Brief History and Comparison.”

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Analects 1.6, and how Confucius envisioned moral progress

Confucius’ remark at Analects 1.6 is often cited to show that he thought proper moral development begins with filial piety and then extends that attitude to ever-larger groups of people (ever less intensely).  I shall argue that the remark does not display such a view.  Confucius did not in general envision moral progress as extension.

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Confucius on the family as model

Many hold that for Confucius the family is the model for organized political society in some sense; that Confucius regarded the norms for relations beyond the family as largely based on the norms for relations with kin.  Here I follow Joseph Chan in challenging that view.

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The meaning of Analects 2.21

Someone said to Confucius, “Master, why don’t you engage in government?” The Master said, “The Book of Documents says, ‘Filial! But be filial, and a friend to your brothers, thus contributing to government.’ Why then do that other kind of ‘engaging in government’?”


I’ll suppose for the sake of argument that the reported exchange is authentic, and argue that it is not significant evidence of Confucius’ views.  Confucius is not aiming to communicate his views here.

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Is Analects 1.2 about family?

Here are some reasons to think that Youzi did not regard family as the root of humanity or of the Way.  (I used to think he did.)

Most of my argument focuses on defending a view held by Soothill, Leys, Chin, and maybe Lau and Slingerland: that by 弟 in Analects 1.2, Youzi meant elder-respect, a virtue commonly associated specifically with life outside the family.  It would follow that according to 1.2, only one of the two parts of the root of humanity is specifically a family virtue.  If 孝 and 弟 have something relevantly in common for Youzi, family isn’t it.

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Did Confucius think our virtues are contagious?

Did Confucius think that if one of us has general virtue, or some particular virtue such as courage or filial piety, that general or particular virtue will have a substantial tendency to spread directly to the people around her, even if she holds no government position?

Here I’ll survey Confucius’ statements in the Analects and conclude that the answer is No. Confucius probably did not hold that view.  (I gave the opposite reading in both my published papers on Chinese philosophy.)

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