Three “Collaborative Learning” (四海為學) Seminars in March/April

Reading Sunzi Bingfa

In the history of Chinese thought the Sunzi Bingfa plays many different roles. It has influenced ways of thinking about politics and warfare, but also efficacy in many arenas, and even environmental issues. The Sunzi Bingfa is also written in a way that provides a great introduction to reading classical Chinese, making it a useful text for students to read for many different reasons. In this course we will do a close reading of the Sunzi Bingfa.

Led by: Dimitra Amarantidou, University of Macau, and Paul J. D’Ambrosio, East China Normal University

This course meets from 6:00-8:30pm Beijing time, March 5, 12, 19, 26, April 2, 30, May 7, 14, 21.
Skype link:

Concrete Humanism: Major Confucian Texts and Thinkers

In this seminar we will read major works of the concrete humanist strand of Confucian tradition, with a focus on the post-Ming development of that tradition. The main figures we look at are Dai Zhen, Liang Shuming, Xu Fuguan, and Li Zehou. Each of these, in their own way, argues against interpretations of Confucian ethics that posit a transcendent, metaphysical, or otherwise non-empirical basis for right and wrong. Each also offers a unique set of arguments for an alternative vision of Confucian ethics that understands right and wrong as constituted and shaped by the situated, lived and felt relations among particular humans in society. For each thinker we will seek to compassionately interpret their views and then to evaluate them. Throughout we will maintain a consistent eye to questions such as: Does morality need a metaphysical foundation? How can we reliably make judgements about right and wrong? What are the roles of culture and emotion in ethics?

Led by: Robert A. Carleo III, East China Normal University
This course meets from 8:45-10:15 am, March 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27. Skype link:

Rethinking Legalism

This seminar provides a critical look at the category of Legalism and some of its representative thinkers. Session 1 provides an Overview of classical descriptions of Legalism (fa jia 法家) and critically appraises the traditional placement of thinkers in the category. Session 2 is an examination of the ethical considerations implicit in the Hanfeizi 韩非子, such as concern for the well-being of the people and social harmony. Session 3 is a close reading and discussion of “Da ti 大體,” Chapter 29 of the Hanfeizi, which describes the rule of the ancients, the principles that guided them, and a Legalist utopia. Session 4 uses the work of Maurice Blanchot’s Unavowable Community as a comparison to shows how the “Baixin 白心” chapter of the Guanzi 管子is paradoxically critical of politics while offering a positive political project. Session 5 shows how the Shenzi 慎子treats administrative methods (fa 法) as a means to establish “publicness” (gong 公) and eradicate “private” (si 私) interests. The sixth and final session is a Q&A and Open Discussion.

Led by: Rory O’Neill (East China Normal University), Bobby McCullough (University of Hawaii at Manoa), Ruel Mannette (University of Hawai’i at Manoa), and Krischan Reese (East China Normal University)

Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 15:00 (Beijing time), April, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25.
Skype link:

Information about these and other “Collaborative Learning” seminars can be found on the website (


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