Category Archives: Comparative philosophy

Talk, “Zhuangzi and the Tragedy of Personal Freedom in Chinese History,” Friday, Oct. 29, 5-6:30pm NY time

I’m giving this year’s Yehan Numata lecture on “Zhuangzi and the Tragedy of Personal Freedom in Chinese History” hosted by the University of Calgary, this afternoon (Friday, October 29, 5:00 – 6:30pm, US Eastern Time). The talk is based on the materials on the Zhuangzi in my new book, Origins of Moral-Political Philosophy in Early China: Contestation of Humaneness, Justice, and Personal Freedom (OUP 2021, paperback available:; detailed Table of Contents here: All are welcome. The registration link for the talk is here:

New Book: How to Do Things with Emotions

How to Do Things with Emotions: The Morality of Anger and Shame across Cultures

By Owen Flanagan

Publisher: Princeton University Press


In How to Do Things with Emotions, Owen Flanagan explains that emotions are things we do, and he reminds us that those like anger and shame involve cultural norms and scripts. The ways we do these emotions offer no guarantee of emotionally or ethically balanced lives—but still we can control and change how such emotions are done. Flanagan makes a passionate case for tuning down anger and tuning up shame, and he observes how cultures around the world can show us how to perform these emotions better.

Through comparative insights from anthropology, psychology, and cross-cultural philosophy, Flanagan reveals an incredible range in the expression of anger and shame across societies. He establishes that certain types of anger—such as those that lead to revenge or passing hurt on to others—are more destructive than we imagine. Certain forms of shame, on the other hand, can protect positive values, including courage, kindness, and honesty. Flanagan proposes that we should embrace shame as a uniquely socializing emotion, one that can promote moral progress where undisciplined anger cannot.

For more info see here.

New Book: Individual Autonomy and Responsibility in Late Imperial China

Individual Autonomy and Responsibility in Late Imperial China

By Paolo Santangelo


Individual Autonomy and Responsibility in Late Imperial China is a major new work by one of Europe’s most respected senior scholars of Chinese studies, Paolo Santangelo. In it, he questions the common premise that individualism was lacking in premodern China. It is Santangelo’s contention that not only was the concept of the individual important in traditional China, but that it existed in interesting ways that are different from modes of individualism in the West.

One of the strengths of this study is the masterful manner in which Professor Santangelo treats key terms of his discussion, terms such as xing (“human nature”), xin (“heart-mind”), ji (“self”), and uses them to analyze various texts.


“Paolo Santangelo’s Individual Autonomy and Responsibility in Late Imperial China is a timely masterpiece on the hotly debated issue of Chinese individualism in Confucian tradition. Building on his knowledgeable survey of the secondary literature, Paolo Santangelo adeptly brings several studies with different perspectives into an insightful conversation representing the past and recent debates on the terms and cultural contexts relevant to personal autonomy and moral responsibility. His strong grasp of the literature forms a solid foundation of his own interpretation of the subject from a broad array of primary sources, such as literary, philosophical, and religious texts. A major strength of the book is its comparative perspective. Santangelo not only compares and contrasts the terms and reflections within Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist contexts, but he also expertly brings Western concepts into conversation with the East Asian constructions of self, destiny, shame, and pleasure. He also demonstrates the change and continuity of the terms and concepts throughout the time through comparisons between the Ming-Qing period and the pre-Qin period. This book is a successful ‘rediscovery’ of the individualism in Chinese culture.”

—Guotong Li, California State University, Long Beach


New Book: You and Your Profile

You and Your Profile: Identity After Authenticity

By Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio


More and more, we present ourselves and encounter others through profiles. A profile shows us not as we are seen directly but how we are perceived by a broader public. As we observe how others observe us, we calibrate our self-presentation accordingly. Profile-based identity is evident everywhere from pop culture to politics, marketing to morality. But all too often critics simply denounce this alleged superficiality in defense of some supposedly pure ideal of authentic or sincere expression.

This book argues that the profile marks an epochal shift in our concept of identity and demonstrates why that matters. You and Your Profile blends social theory, philosophy, and cultural critique to unfold an exploration of the way we have come to experience the world.


“You and Your Profile is a truly wonderful book that provides a penetrating exploration of today’s conceptions of identity. This beautiful work offers powerful insights on the contemporary condition as well as a moving way to think about identity formation.”

-Michael Puett, coauthor of The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life

“There can be no doubt that questions of identity, authenticity, and character take on a completely new meaning in the digital age of social media. Moeller and D’Ambrosio’s startling book provides fascinating insights into the global fabrication of a new conception of the self.”

-Hartmut Rosa, author of Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity




Virtual lecture: Michael Hunter, “The Classic of Poetry at the Foundations of Classical Chinese Philosophy,”

The Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona is pleased to announce the first talk of the semester in its EAS Colloquium series:

Oct. 6, at 5:00 pm PST (8 pm Eastern Time) via Zoom
The Classic of Poetry at the Foundations of Classical Chinese Philosophy

Michael Hunter, Yale University

Abstract: The standard narrative of ancient Chinese thought for the last hundred years or so has one very big blindspot: poetry, and especially the Classic of Poetry (Shijing 詩經), which was by far the most widely known and influential corpus of the Warring States period. Drawing on material from his recently published book (The Poetics of Early Chinese Thought: How the Shijing Shaped the Chinese Philosophical Tradition; Columbia UP), Prof. Hunter will present his reading of the ideology of the Classic of Poetry and show how that ideology reverberates throughout the early textual record.

Bio: Prof. Hunter is an associate professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University. His first book, entitled Confucius Beyond the Analects, argues that extant Confucius material from the early period is much bigger, more dynamic, and more interesting than what the early imperial Analects suggests.

Updated Zoom link:

Questions? Email:

Book Series: Guides to Sacred Texts

The new OUP Guides to Sacred Texts book series has some fascinating titles pertaining to Chinese philosophy. A few of the books from the series are listed below; to see the full list of books see here.

The Analects: A Guide

by Erin M. Cline


The Analects (Lunyu) is the earliest and most influential record of the teachings of Kongzi (551-479 B.C.E.), known to most Westerners as “Confucius.” If we measure influence according to the number of people who have lived their lives according to the teachings of a particular text, there is a good argument to be made that the Analects has been the most influential text in the world. This book argues that we have good reasons to study the Analects as a sacred text, and that doing so sheds light not only on the text and the Confucian tradition, but on what the sacred is, more broadly.

The Daode Jing: A Guide

by Livia Kohn


The Daode jing (“Book of the Dao and Its Virtue”) is an essential work in both traditional Chinese culture and world philosophy. The oldest text of philosophical Daoism, and widely venerated among religious Daoist practitioners, it was composed around the middle of the 4th century BCE. Ascribed to a thinker named Laozi, a contemporary of Confucius, the work is based on a set of aphorisms designed to help local lords improve their techniques of government. The most translated book after the Bible, the Daode jing appears in numerous variants and remains highly relevant in the modern world. This guide provides an overview of the text, presenting its historical unfolding, its major concepts, and its contemporary use. It also gives some indication of its essence by citing relevant passages and linking them to the religious practices of traditional Daoism.

The Yijing: A Guide

by Joseph A. Adler


Despite its enduring popularity both in China and worldwide, the Yijing is often poorly understood. As a divinatory text, it has a devoted following in the western hemisphere, even as it represents a foundational text of both Confucianism and Daoism. A fascination with the Yijing has been evident among western scholars since the Enlightenment, as well as in notable modern literary and artistic figures. This book provides an introduction for the general reader to this classic sacred text. Joseph A. Adler explains its multi-layered structure, its origins, its history of interpretation from the early first millennium BCE up to the present day, its function of divination, its significance in the history of Chinese thought, and its modern transformations. He explores why the Yijing has been considered the most profound expression of traditional Chinese thought and what meaning it can have for contemporary readers.

New book: The Dao of Madness: Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Philosophy and Medicine

The Dao of Madness: Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Philosophy and Medicine

By Alexus McLeod


The Dao of Madness investigates the role of mental illness, specifically “madness” (kuang), in discussions of self-cultivation and ideal personhood in early Chinese philosophical and medical thought, and the ways in which early Chinese thinkers probed difficult questions surrounding mental health. Alexus McLeod explores three central accounts: the early “traditional” views of those, including Confucians, taking madness to be the result of character flaw; the challenge from Zhuangists celebrating madness as a freedom from standard norms connected to knowledge; and the “medicalization” of madness within the naturalistic shift of Han Dynasty thought. Understanding views on madness in the ancient world helps reveal key features of Chinese thinkers’ conceptions of personhood and agency, as well as their accounts of ideal activity. Further, it exposes the motivations behind the origins of the medical tradition, and of the key links between philosophy and medicine in early Chinese thought. The early Chinese medical tradition has crucial and understudied connections to early philosophy, connections which this volume works to uncover.


Introduction: In the Shadows of the Chinese Tradition
Chapter 1. Self, Mind and Body, Agency
Chapter 2. What is Mental Illness? Contemporary and Ancient Views
Chapter 3. Madness of Last Resort: Feigned Madness, Ambivalence, and Doubt
Chapter 4. The Wilds, Untamed, and Spontaneity: Zhuangist Views of Madness
Chapter 5. Synthesis and Medicalization in Early Han Views of Mental Illness
Conclusion: Madness and Self-Cultivation: Ways Forward

For more information see here.

New Book: Arranged Companions: Marriage and Intimacy in Qing China

By Weijing Lu

Published July 2021:University of Washington Press


Although commonly associated with patriarchal oppression, arranged marriages have adapted over the centuries to changing cultural norms and the lived experiences of men and women. In Arranged Companions, historian Weijing Lu chronicles how marital behaviors during the early and High Qing (mid-seventeenth through mid-nineteenth centuries) were informed by rich and complex traditions and mediated by the historical conditions of the period, during which marital affection was celebrated as a basic ingredient of an ideal marriage.

Lu finds public representation and private communication of marital affection in personal records, including poetry, biographies, letters, and memoirs. During this unique historical moment, ideals of marital companionship and love came to fruition while social changes also created new tensions for couples and extended families. Offering surprising revelations about conjugal relations during this time of change, Arranged Companions raises provocative questions about the cultural construction of intimacy and the meaning of a “happy marriage.”

For more information see here.

Justice Between Generations: Asian, African, Indigenous, and Western Perspectives

Justice Between Generations: Asian, African, Indigenous, and Western Perspectives

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 –Friday, October 1, 2021

Concordia University, Montreal

This three-day conference welcomes researchers to focus on intergenerational ethics through cross-cultural philosophical dialogue. Organized around the guiding theme of connections among the concepts of nature, time and responsibility and hosted by the Nature, Time, Responsibility Research Group based at Concordia. Presented virtually and open to all. For schedule and registration click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Backs to the Future? Learn more and register here.

Tuesday, September 28, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Opening Talk: Indigenous World View: Intergenerational Ethics and Heritage with Mona Polacca. Learn more and register here.


September 29, 1 – 6 p.m. EST
September 30, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST
October 1, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST

How can you participate? Register for the Zoom meeting.

Have questions? Send them to