I am happy to announce that Stephen Grimm (Fordham), Meghan Sullivan (Notre Dame), and I have received a grant from the NEH to run a 2-week Summer Institute in July 2018 called “Reviving Philosophy as a Way of Life.” We will be drawing on Confucian and Buddhist traditions, among others. Some more details are here; I will announce here at Warp, Weft, and Way when applications open, later in the fall, in case anyone is interested.
Interestingly, if Justin at Daily Nous is correct, then the only two NEH Summer Seminars or Institutes awarded to philosophers both have significant non-Western components (the other one is “Self-Knowledge in Eastern and Western Philosophies Project” directed by Christian Coseru and colleagues).
Yong HUANG asked me to post the following here; please post comments/replies here, addressed to him.
Inspired by a similar project that Steve Angle did a few years ago (on which see here, for the original plan, and here, for the outcome), I plan to offer a graduate level course on recent studies of Chinese philosophy in the English speaking world this fall. To have a better focus, I tentatively plan to limit it to Confucian political philosophy. At the end of the semester, each student will be required to write a substantive critical essay on the book he or she chooses to write. I’ll invite those students of high quality papers to do revision until I deem them publishable. Then I’ll invite authors of the books discussed to make responses to these papers. I’ll then seek a publisher to publish these papers, together with authors’ responses, tentatively with the title: Confucian Political Philosophy: The State of the Field.
After a quick search at Amazon, I’ve got the following list of books more or less explicitly devoted to Confucian political philosophy (I don’t include the edited volumes). Here I solicit your help to see whether I’ve missed some other books on Confucian political philosophy published in English since, say, the year of 2000. I’ll be also grateful, of course, if you guys have any other suggestions regarding what I plan to do in this course.
Continue reading “Huang asking for help on Confucian Political Philosophy course”
A team based at the University of Oklahoma have just announced a splendid new website devoted to teaching “deviant philosophy.” It is made up of Primers, Units and Lessons, and Exercises and Activities, all designed to be incorporated into existing courses or to spur the creation of new ones. The editors are also very interested in new content, so please contribute! Their discussion of the meaning of “deviant philosophy” helps to make clear the scope of the project:
Continue reading “Announcing “The Deviant Philosopher” Website”
There is a piece by Julianne Chung in the new volume of the Newsletter for the APA Committee on Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies, on the beneficial aspects of non-specialists of Asian philosophy teaching courses on it. I think we’ve had discussions of this topic in various comment sections on our site, so I thought some of you might be interested. Further discussion is welcome, of course.
Global Philosophy, www.globalphilosophyresources.com, provides easy to use resources for faculty members who are interested in diversifying their teaching but who lack training in nonwestern philosophy. We are looking for contributors.
Continue reading “Global Philosophy: Call for contributions”
Justin Tiwald and I are very happy to announce the publication of our jointly-authored book, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (Polity, 2017). Advance copies of the book have begun to appear, it will be generally available in the UK soon, and available in the US in another six weeks or so.
Justin and I have also prepared a website, Neo-Confucianism.Com, to support the book and to promote the study of Neo-Confucianism more generally. That site has its own blog (plus lots of other stuff, including sample syllabi and the Chinese texts corresponding to all the translated material in the book), though I expect that when we post things there, we will also announce it here. If anyone has ideas about what other material we can include at Neo-Confucianism.Com, please just let one of us know!
The STCP (Society for Teaching Comparative Philosophy) has a special issue of the journal ASIANetwork, with selected papers from the first meeting. It’s available free, online, Vol 23 Issue 2. Here is the listing of papers, which look great!
Continue reading “On-line articles on teaching comparative philosophy”
I have recently become aware of Mark Edward Lewis’s on-line classical Chinese course. Looks valuable!
The APA has launched a blog about the profession and practice of philosophy, and Anand Vaidya, Director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy at San Jose State University, has posted two discussions concerning the inclusion (or lack thereof) of non-Western philosophy in philosophy curricula and courses.
In addition, the APA blog is interested in more posts on inclusivity in philosophy. If you would like to submit a contribution, they’d love to hear from you. Please contact them via the submission form here.
Here is the Call for Papers for the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum’s upcoming 2015 conference, which will be held at Clemson University on October 8-10, 2015. The theme is “Ethics Without Borders,” and they are explicitly interested in cross-cultural and comparative issues.
This is a call for submissions to a special issue of the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory, which will be edited by Liz Jackson and Timothy O’Leary of the University of Hong Kong.
The Umbrella Movement, a student-led series of protests, occupations and collaborations across different social groups, has permanently altered the social and political landscape of Hong Kong. In marked contrast to the depoliticized, capitalist orientation that predominated in the public sphere in the past, the Umbrella Movement is marked by youth performance of alternative values of collaboration, accountability, and communitarian care. Participants in the Umbrella Movement, both students and educators, are finding new ways to nurture experiential learning in student-authored contexts, in contrast with the teacher- and test-centered education historically customary in Hong Kong. Resistance to the conservative political values of Hong Kong, that preclude local youth democratic participation in revising and reshaping the society, lies at the heart of this movement.
This Special Issue of Educational Philosophy and Theory examines the Umbrella Movement as not only a political movement, but also an alternative form of education that is framed by student resistance and the desire by young people to reclaim their cultural, social, and political world.
Continue reading “CFP: Education and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement”
The excellent journal devoted to pedagogy about Asia (from K-12 through university education), Education About Asia, is now available open-access. Over the years it has had articles about teaching Chinese philosophy, among many other subjects.
Duke University’s Center for Comparative Philosophy and the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy (CEACOP) at City University of Hong Kong are happy to announce an exciting new partnership . These two centers will initiate regular student and faculty exchanges, co-sponsor international conferences and workshops, and jointly teach courses, beginning with a new course this spring that can be taken for credit at either campus, Eastern and Western Conceptions of Human Nature, Ethics, and Politics. Additional cooperative programs will follow in the coming years. Read on for information about the new joint course.
Continue reading “New Cooperation Between CityU and Duke”
I have lately been reading Frank Perkins’s marvelous book Heaven and Earth are Not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Indiana, 2014). There’s lots of rich and provocative content in the book worth talking about, but at least for right now I want to focus on a different kind of question that Frank raises right at the beginning, on p. 5. Discussing the question of whether Warring States thought is appropriately labelled “philosophy,” he writes that “in practice, [this] is a question about institutions and the power of inclusion and exclusion… Certain boundaries are accepted in practice by almost all academic philosophers.”
Continue reading “The Limits of Academic Philosophy?”
I’m pleased to announce the publication of our reader in post-classical Chinese philosophy.
I’ll put the details below the fold, but it might help to have a quick summary of some the book’s most noteworthy (or at least distinctive) advantages.
- Better selections than Chan’s Sourcebook, including several overlooked gems and works on and by women
- Consistent translations of key terms and oft-quoted passages
- Begone Wade-Giles!
Continue reading “New Book: Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy”
You are warmly invited to participate in the upcoming short course, ‘Deparochializing Political Theory’, running the day before APSA begins. Details and link below!
To find short course info online: https://www.apsanet.org/mtgs/program_2014/program.cfm?event=1523901
To register: once logged in to myAPSA, click ‘Register for a short course’ in the 2014 APSA Annual Meeting window (SC5)
Continue reading “Deparochializing Political Theory “Short Course” at APSA”
This should be of interest both to anyone attending the American Political Science Association meetings this coming fall, and also those of us in other fields who might want to try something similar at our own disciplinary meetings. Does the APA ever have such “short courses”? If you have any questions about the course, please contact Professor Browers.
Deparochializing Political Theory: How to Teach Chinese and Islamic/Arab Political Thought
Wednesday August 27, 1:30-5:30pm
APSA Annual Conference, Washington, DC (exact location TBA)
Michaelle L. Browers, Wake Forest University; Loubna El-Amine, Georgetown University
Continue reading ““Short Course” at APSA on Teaching Chinese and Islamic/Arab Political Thought”
The new Society for Teaching Comparative Philosophy has a website and is seeking teaching materials (among other things) to share. Check it out!
The APA Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession is collecting syllabi related to underrepresented areas of our profession. One such area is “Asian and Asian American Philosophy.” Read on to see how you can contribute to making the philosophy profession–or at least our teaching–more diverse.
Continue reading “Add Syllabi to AAS Repository”
An article in today’s New York Times discusses Bard College’s decsion to allow students to apply to Bard via submission of four 2,500 word essays, in lieu of the standard list of test scores and high school grades. My eye was drawn to the first of the questions listed in the article:
In “The Analects,” Confucius identifies the cardinal virtue of ren (variously translated as goodness, humanity, benevolence) with many different attitudes and behaviors. Yet Confucius also says, “There is one thread that runs through my doctrines.” Commentators differ about what that one thread is. What, in your opinion, could that one thread be? How does that one thread tie together the wide range of moral values that Confucius celebrates in “The Analects”? Support your answer by interpreting specific passages from the text.
This is perhaps less surprising, in light of the fact that Bard for several years used the Analects as a key reading in its First-Year Seminar program, and continues to include readings from classical Chinese thought.
The editorial board of Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy has completed its annual selection of the best essay. The winner of 2012 Dao Annual Best Essay Award is given to
“Instruction Dialogues in the Zhuangzi: An `Anthropological’ Reading” by Carine Defoort (Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11:459-478)
Congratulations to Carine!
Below is the official citation:
This essay provides a fresh reading of the ancient Chinese Daoist classic Zhuangzi. While the author claims that it is a non-philosophical reading, it turns out to be a philosophical reading that is most appropriate to the Zhuangzi and perhaps many if not all other ancient Chinese classics. The Zhuangzi authors, just like many other classical Chinese philosophers, were not so much interested, if at all, in theory building as in transformation of the person. Through a focus on the formal characteristics of the dialogues, careful textual analyses, perceptive interpretations, and coherent arguments, Dr. Defoort convincingly shows that the instruction of the Zhuangzi’s masters hint at the importance of non-teaching in various senses; it also focuses on attitudes and skills (knowing how) rather than knowledge (knowing that). The essay thus breaks ground not only in our interpretation of the Zhuangzi but also in our understanding of philosophy per se. It is the type of work that Dao promotes.
A fascinating experiment this next week: live like a stoic. Having taught a course, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” that included a five-day practical exercise at the end (living for those five days as inspired by Seneca was one option; the Analects and Zhuangzi were other options), I am intrigued! (Here is a link to some discussion on our blog here prior to my teaching that class. I keep meaning to post some follow-up thoughts, but haven’t yet gotten around to it….) There is a lot of interesting material available at the website linked above, including specific exercises!
Thursday, October 4 from 6:00-8:00pm, there will be an open panel discussion entitled “Buddhism and the Future of the Liberal Arts” held at Eugene Lang College in New York. The location is Room 510, 66 West 12th St. Continue reading “Panel on Buddhism and Liberal Arts this Thursday in NYC”
Wm. Theodore de Bary, among the most influential scholars of Confucianism in the United States, will be discussing a paper titled “Neo-Confucianism and the Core Curriculum” at the Columbia Neo-Confucianism Seminar on Friday, October 5. These seminars are open to any interested parties; contact the organizers for a copy of the paper (which should be read in advance). Details follow. (Also, note that the organizers are soliciting ideas for future sessions this year.) Continue reading “DeBary at Oct 5 Neo-Confucianism Seminar”
Like many of you, I suspect, I regularly use Wikipedia as a first-stop when looking something up on the internet. It has many limitations, of course, but often enough it proves useful. It is only as useful as its contributors make it, though. Since I have been struck by the paucity of informaton in Wikipedia concerning topics in 20th-century Chinese philosophy, I decided to see what would happen if I made improving a Wikipedia page one of the assignments in my Modern Chinese Philosophy course this semester. Continue reading “Wikipedia and Modern Chinese Philosophy”
As the semester winds toward its end, and with it, my class on Modern Chinese Philosophy,I find myself reflecting on how much new scholarship has become available on 20th- and 21st-century Chinese philosophy in just the last 18 months. Most of these books are, alas, quite expensive, but the quality is very high. This slew of excellent books makes me feel that the field of modern Chinese philosophy has suddenly come of age — and, at the same time, become eminently teachable. Reflect with me on this list:
Continue reading “New Scholarship on 20th Century Chinese Philosophy”
May 4, 2012: “Introducing Asian Philosophy: A Discussion of Texts and Strategies”
5:45-7:45 pm, Rm. 101 in the Department of Religion 80 Claremont Avenue
Back in 2009 and 2010, Minh Nguyen surveyed a wide range of instructors of course on Chinese philosophy to learn about the challenges they faced and about resources they found particularly useful. He has now published the survery data in the Fall 2011 Newsletter of the APA Committee on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies. He and Manyul Im are working on an essay extracting lessons from the survey, but in the meantime, discussion of its results are welcome here.
Regular blog reader Joel Dietz offers his thoughts, in this guest post, on teaching Chinese thought—mainly as viewed from the “consumer” or student end of the interaction. In the comments, please respond to Joel.
Despite the recent interest in China from an economic perspective, relatively few colleges offer courses which attempt to offer an “Introduction to Chinese Thought” or, perhaps more ambitiously, an “Introduction to Chinese Philosophy.” Indeed, in a recent course providing an introduction to Chinese classical thought at the University of Pennsylvania, it was unclear what if any, Ivy League institutions, besides the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University offer such a course (presumably others do, and it would be delightful to know the details). As an undergraduate at Brown studying with Henry Rosemont and Harold Roth, graduate student at Penn, and reviewer of other related syllabi, especially those for a comparative philosophy class offered by Chris Fraser at Hong Kong University, I make some preliminary pedagogical observations extrapolated from my experience, including related benefits and challenges. Continue reading “Teaching Chinese Thought: Observations on Pedagogy”
I have just finished taking part in a two-day planning session for the liberal arts college that Yale University and the National University of Singapore (NUS) are collaboratively designing, called Yale NUS College (or YNC). It is scheduled to open in Singapore, adjacent to the main NUS campus, in Fall 2013, and the first wave of faculty recruitment will take place this fall. A great deal about the structure of the college and its curriculum is still in flux; teams of faculty and administrators from Yale and NUS, and more recently some invited faculty from colleges and universities in the US, are continuing to debate many aspects. But Chinese and/or comparative philosophy is likely to play a role, so I thought I’d report a bit here. Continue reading “Philosophy at Yale NUS College”
It’s the middle of the summer in the US, but a new academic year will be on us soon enough, and we have decided to devote a new section of the blog to teaching Chinese philosophy, including Comparative courses (broadly speaking–i.e., combining significant amounts of Chinese and non-Chinese philosophical content in a single course). The new page is here.
Our goal is to collect syllabi, links to reviews of teaching-related resources, and anything else that our community thinks might be helpful. Anyone can also use the comments area on that page to make suggestions, ask questions about pedogogy, and so on. We still encourage blog contributors to post their thoughts on teaching in the normal fashion; search the category “pedagogy” for recent posts on this theme.
If you have a resource you would like shared here, please email it to Steve Angle or Manyul Im. Either a PDF or a link to stable on-line materials is preferred. For syllabi, please include: (1) Coverage (i.e., time period, main figures/texts, or main topics), and (2) Notes & Special Features (e.g., designed for large lecture-style introduction; assumes prior course in Pre-Qin Philosophy; upper-division seminar; etc.).
Comments or suggestions here on how to make this initiative maximally useful are hereby encouraged!
This is a follow-up to Manyul’s recent post about the TLS.
I’m wondering whether professors of Chinese philosophy at English-speaking universities encourage their students to begin to access terms in the original Chinese. Perhaps it would be as simple as referring them to the glossary in the back of Ivanhoe and Van Norden’s Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy and then prompting them to be aware of those key terms in their reading, or it could be as complex as asking them to research a particular term across various texts.
There are a couple of reasons for asking. The first is that I have a belief that beginning to entertain the notion that there is more to a Chinese term’s semantic field than is represented in any particular translation yields a more profitable understanding for the student, and (assuming others hold the same belief) I’m curious about how others go about encouraging that. The second is that the potential of computing power to help in this regard is now quite high, and so I am wondering how electronic resources may be playing a role. The perspective I’m looking for is that of the professor who is teaching the student who is not competent in Chinese.
There are also other perspectives that will be different but just as illuminating for me: Continue reading “Which Resources Do You Recommend for Interpreting Classical Chinese Terminology?”
An announcement from the Center for East West Relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University:
You are invited to the 2011 Confucian Studies Summer Camp for Teachers of Chinese Culture at the Nishan Birthplace of the Sage Academy in Shandong Province, China. Continue reading “2011 Confucian Studies Summer Camp”
Next Fall I am planning on teaching a first-year seminar–the first time I’ll ever have taught a course just for first-year students–called “Philosophy as a Way of Life.” The title comes from Pierre Hadot’s wonderful book, which we’ll read some of, and the idea comes in part from past classes I have taught about the “sagehood” ideal. I want to offer comparative perspectives on what it might mean to take seriously some sort of “philosophical life,” partly as a way of myself thinking more about whether philosophy in our day and age can be anything more than a classroom activity. Continue reading “Teaching Chinese Philosophy as a Way of Life”
For what it’s worth, I’ll post a chunk of the paper I just gave at the APA meeting in New York, at a panel on the challenges of teaching Chinese philosophy. Though not a paper that I’m going to pursue much further I am, as always, still interested in any comments or questions that you may have. Continue reading “Is a Little Bit of Chinese Better or Worse than None?”
In my Classical Chinese Philosophy class I like to include some discussion of why Yang Zhu was seen as such a powerful adversary for Mengzi and the Confucians, but given the paucity of texts the task is not an easy one. Continue reading “Teaching Yang Zhu”
(Please fill out this survey if you have not yet; this survey began back in the summer at the old blog, manyulim.wordpress.com. It has been moved up to the front per request from Minh Nguyen — see below.):
Minh Nguyen, who is on the APA Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, is working on a report for that committee on teaching Chinese philosophy. Minh would like to survey anyone who teaches the subject, and collect some data for the report. Here is his request and below it, the survey itself. The survey is being collected via Minh’s email; I imagine the easiest thing to do would be to cut and paste the survey into an email or doc and answer each question therein. Send him your thoughts! Continue reading “Survey for Instructors of Chinese Philosophy”
I’ve been off the air for a bit, trying to catch up to a few things. One of them is ordering books for the Fall semester. I’m teaching a Daoism course and I’ve been pondering a change in the Daodejing translation that I use. I’ve used the Addiss and Lombardo recently–I’m kind of a sucker for their sparse style. I’ve used Lau in the past, and once tried using LaFargue. I’d like to do something different from any of those. I’ll take suggestions. As I implied, I like translations that are not as wordy as Lau and that have some poetry to them. I also like consistency–e.g. dao 道 translated with either the same or with a cognate form of the same word each time. A lot of translations flub that, as far as I’m concerned, in the very first lines of the traditional Chapter 1. Anyway, it’s a good way for me to get back into the flow of blogging. So tell me about a translation you like, and why you like it. Thanks!
I know that at least Chris was interested in Karyn Lai‘s Chinese philosophy textbook (2008). I thought I would share part of my review of it, written for NDPR, here with you. At the very least, you’ll have some sense of one of the things that kept me busy during the past week. Comments, of course — including your own impressions if you have looked at the book yourself — are welcome. I’ll post a link to the full review when it is posted on NDPR’s site.
Lai, Karyn L. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2008, 307pp., $34.99 (bpk), ISBN 9780521608923.
by Manyul Im, Fairfield University
It is noteworthy that the two most recent textbooks that bear this title, the current one by Karyn Lai, and one by JeeLoo Liu (2006, Blackwell; also reviewed on NDPR)), limit themselves to introducing the reader to early Chinese philosophy (Warring States period through the Han—roughly 5th century BCE through 3rd century CE) and the early schools of Chinese Buddhism (from ca. 1st through 6th centuries CE). This means that the title is quite misleading for both volumes since there are also significant periods of Chinese philosophy in the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and up to the post-dynastic present; so, roughly 1400 years of the 2500-year tradition are not represented. The similarity and temporal proximity of the two textbooks invite comparison, but for the purposes of this review, I will leave that exercise to others.
Lai’s volume is interesting and bold, as introductory textbooks go. There are aspects to her approach that those who are concerned with issues of historiography will find controversial. Those who care more about comparative philosophy should be pleased to find that Lai’s presentation of Chinese philosophy provides a very useful update to the collection of textbooks that are available. Lai’s discussion provides an excellent sense of the most current interpretations and uses of early Chinese thought by philosophers working in the specialization of Chinese and comparative philosophy, among whom Lai herself numbers.
The penchant to treat early Chinese thought as of primary importance—and to some, the only really interesting philosophical material from the tradition—runs deep through the professional field of Chinese and comparative philosophy in the English speaking world. Some people still refer to Chinese philosophy and simply mean the early material, without apology. That is slowly changing. However, it may very well be that this predilection tracks an affinity, or at least the widespread perception of affinity, that the concerns of early Chinese thought have with those of contemporary ethical theorizing, as broadly construed in western philosophy. On the other hand, the more metaphysical, spiritual, and soteriological concerns of medieval Neo-Confucianism may suffer in comparison in the eyes of contemporary professional philosophers. Those are not Lai’s overt reasons, however, for omitting discussion of the entirety of medieval Neo-Confucian philosophy, not to mention the entirety of modern Chinese “New,” or “Third-Wave,” Confucianism. Rather, she offers this apology:
[I]n order to keep the volume to a manageable size, it has not been possible to include a discussion of Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism was a development of Confucian doctrines and was a prominent philosophical movement from the tenth century [and onward]…. Many of the discussions by Neo-Confucian thinkers focus on metaphysical and meta-philosophical issues and it is unfortunate that these cannot be included…. Hopefully, the discussions in this volume will provide readers with a good understanding of the fundamental conceptual frameworks and concerns of Chinese philosophy and thereby equip readers to understand later developments in Chinese philosophy. (p. 2)
I’m not sure I am convinced by this rationale for this particular editorial choice. Surely it would have been possible to include at least cursory discussion, in at least one chapter of an introductory text, of the main outlines of Neo-Confucianism. To complicate matters in a necessary way, it is worth pointing out that interpretations of early Chinese texts by the Neo-Confucian movement through its commentarial tradition were, and continue to be, very influential in shaping contemporary interpretations and translations of them. From an intellectual history perspective, it is slightly inadequate to think of the tradition as having established “fundamental conceptual frameworks and concerns” early on and then simply having been built upon those as time progressed. Instead, many of the “orthodox” scholarly options available for understanding the early frameworks and concerns have been the product of the ways they were constructed and then retroactively fitted onto the early period by later figures and movements. But a reader who is receiving an introduction to the tradition may not fully appreciate this without seeing at least portions of the larger picture. Some part of that picture, of course, is present in Lai’s inter-textual juxtapositions, according to theme, of Han and pre-Han early Chinese sources, among themselves. By means of that, she hopes “to capture a sense of intellectual debt and cross-influences between the traditions” (p. 2), by which she means, between what are more traditionally called the “schools” of pre-Qin and Han dynastic Chinese thought (Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, Legalism, School of Names, and Buddhism). Though she states this to be a “secondary objective” (ibid.) of the volume, in actuality it would be very difficult to do anything aside from this in order to understand what the individual, compiled sets of teachings were trying to convey, argue, or establish philosophically—at least with regard to the clearly contemporaneous schools.
Lai has a keen sense of the currents running through recent philosophical secondary literature that concerns itself largely with the early figures of Chinese philosophy. Much of it that is interesting to the western philosophical audience buoys, or at least attempts to buoy, the early texts to contemporary philosophical relevance through contemporary understandings or renderings of the issues, all the while maintaining a healthy concern for historical plausibility. Lai’s discussion of each prominent figure and school of thought is peppered throughout with her presentation and assessment of the views, which are sometimes in disagreement with each other, of major English-writing interpreters of the texts. As a textbook of Chinese philosophy, this is highly unusual but in a good way. Chapters 2-8 read in many respects like a literature survey of contemporary scholarship on early Chinese Confucianism, Daoism, and Mohism rather than the usual presentation of readings of the associated texts as if those readings were uncontestable. The effect, it seems to me, is exactly the sort of thing for which an introduction to this type of literature should aim. These chapters of Lai’s book, at least, give an appropriate sense of the differing interpretive possibilities for the ancient texts.
In particular, two chapters worth singling out for praise are the ones on early Mohism (ch. 4) and later Mohism (ch. 7). Neither of these movements is ordinarily treated with the level of scholarly evenhandedness and care that Lai provides. This reflects Lai’s awareness of the traditional, very strong bias against Mohism that has existed in Chinese philosophy because of the largely Confucian identity of the scholars who have created and transmitted orthodoxies about early Chinese figures.
Lai’s understanding of the later Mohists is filtered largely through A.C. Graham and Chad Hansen’s emendations and reconstructions of the “drastically compromised” (p. 124) bamboo strip copies that form the basis for the received text. There have been notable scholarly criticisms of those reconstructions. In that respect, Lai is perhaps treading on thin ice. Nonetheless, it is clear that the later Mohist writings, which seem to aim for a kind of near mathematical precision of definition and explanation, represent an important departure from the stylized, literary writing of much of the rest of early Chinese philosophy. Given the nature of the text, it may be risky to draw too many conclusions about what the later Mohists were “onto”—for example, with respect to their understanding of propositions—but it is the sort of risk that makes Lai’s volume not only bolder, but more thought provoking than the usual textbook.
By comparison, Lai’s discussion in chapters 9-11 of Legalism, Han dynasty Confucianism, and Chinese schools of Buddhism seemed somewhat rote to me. This perhaps reflects Lai’s own intellectual background and interests. Though rote, these chapters provide an adequate accounting of those movements. To point this out is less a criticism of their adequacy as it is a compliment to Lai’s much more interesting treatment in the former chapters.
I want to take up an issue that Bill raised in the last thread (China’s First Philosophers?, comment #18): integrating Chinese philosophy into introductory courses in philosophy. Have folks taught or taken courses that try to do this? Or tried to imagine such a course? What works and what doesn’t? What challenges are there? Are they any different from the challenges involved in integrating a variety of western texts into a single introductory course?
The one such course I’m most familiar with is a comparative introduction to philosophy that Chad Hansen teaches at the University of Hong Kong. (I was a tutor on the course a few times when I was a grad student.) One thing that helps make this course work is that (as those who know Chad’s scholarship might expect) a significant theme of the course is the ways in which the two traditions differ—so some of the issues that might otherwise make it hard to treat Chinese and western texts side-by-side get dealt with front and center. (Of course you might not consider that an advantage if you think Chad’s all wrong about the ways in which the traditions differ.)
What other approaches might work? Bill’s suggestion was that the Mohists might fit well in a course that also touches on utilitarianism. And I know there are a few regulars here who’ve included Chinese texts in courses on virtue ethics (though mostly at a more advanced level, I think). So there are ways of linking up materials from the different traditions thematically.
I guess my own main worry (and now that I’m putting it in writing it seems like a pretty dumb one) has been that getting at some of the ideas I’d want to cover if I were teaching Chinese texts requires a degree of contextualisation and interpretive work that wouldn’t suit an introductory course that isn’t specifically devoted to Chinese thought. (One reason for thinking this is dumb: maybe this would be a good way to teach skills in close reading. And of course the interpretive issues I’m thinking of don’t arise only with ancient Chinese texts.)
Well, those are my (rather scattered) thoughts. What do you think an introductory course that incorporates both Chinese and western materials might look like? (Or does anyone think this would be a bad idea?)