My book The Philosophy of the Mozi: The First Consequentialists will soon be available from Columbia University Press. The table of contents is here, and I've posted an author's draft of the Preface here. The listing is here.

This coming summer I will be contributing to an exciting interdisciplinary, comparative summer course entitled “What Makes Us Human? Philosophical and Religious Perspectives in China and the West” to be held at Central European University in Budapest from July 4 to 15. The course looks at the question of what it is to be human from a range of intellectual perspectives in traditional Chinese and Greek thought, covering philosophy, psychology, religion,

Applications are still open, for those interested.

Here’s the course description from the program catalogue:


Professor A. C. Graham was among the most influential international scholars of early Chinese thought working in the second half of the twentieth century. In honor of his career, Professors Carine Defoort and Roger Ames are planning an anthology of essays to be published on the twentieth anniversary of his death. The working title is Having a Word with Angus Graham: On the First Quarter Century of his Immortality. The theme of the volume is dialogues with A. C. Graham, so I thought an appropriate contribution would be an actual dialogue about Professor Graham's interpretations of the Mohist Dialectics, Zhuangzi, and the relation between these texts.

The dialogue attempts to do justice to Graham's reading of the texts while also questioning many aspects of his interpretation. It culminates with a conclusion concerning Zhuangzi about which I hope we can agree with Graham.

July 2016: A revised author's draft of the paper can be downloaded here.

In the 2015–2016 academic year, I will be teaching the following:

Semester 1:

PHIL2470 Moral Psychology in the Chinese Tradition (Friday 12:30–14:20)

PHIL3810/6810 Senior Seminar (Friday 15:30–17:20)

Semester 2:

PHIL1034 Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics, East and West (Friday 12:30–14:20)

PHIL6820 Graduate Seminar (Friday 15:30–17:20)






除了各地書局之外,讀者可以透過全華網路書店 訂書。



This paper is a draft of my contribution to Justin Tiwald, ed., Oxford Handbook of Chinese Philosophy, Oxford University Press. The paper attempts to draw out some of the radical implications of remarks on "benevolence and propriety" found in Daoist texts.

The full draft is available here (revised August 2015). An abstract follows.

A Daoist Critique of Morality

Chris Fraser

March 2014

A striking passage from the Daoist classic Zhuangzi likens devoting oneself to benevolence and propriety and seeking to distinguish right from wrong to suffering the ancient Chinese corporal punishments of tattooing the convict’s face and amputating the nose. Commonsense morality is not merely a mistake, the passage implies. It mutilates us, leaving us blind to the features by which to navigate the Way. This astonishing rejection not just of a particular understanding of morality but of the very idea of morality as a guide to action is representative of an intriguing thread of discourse that winds through several of the classical Chinese philosophical anthologies. According to this discourse, benevolence and propriety obscure the Way and impair our ability to follow it. They are a sign of pathology, they interfere with people’s spontaneous capacities, they are redundant, and they are an obstacle to adroit action. This talk aims to elucidate these themes, explain their significance in the context of early Chinese ethics, and relate them to ethical discourse today. I explain how, given early Daoists’ understanding of the structure of action and of the factors that guide it, their critique may be surprisingly plausible. I attempt briefly to situate the Daoist critique in relation to well-known ‘morality critics’ in the West, including contemporary writers such as Nagel, Wolf, and Williams and nineteenth-century figures such as Nietzsche and James. I then consider potential objections to the Daoist position and tentatively suggest how Daoists might respond.

The following is the text of a short talk I gave at a public gathering organized by HKU students on the street in Admiralty next to Hong Kong government headquarters on October 1, China's National Day.

Much thanks to Tim Li, who translated into Cantonese for me.

The same text is cross-posted on Warp, Weft and Way for comments and discussion here.

* * *

The People in Chinese Political Thought

Chris Fraser
October 1, 2014
Admiralty, Hong Kong

Good afternoon. I speak as a professor in the Department of Philosophy at HKU and as a permanent resident of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is my home.

Many of us at HKU are deeply proud of the actions of Hong Kong’s students this week. They have peacefully expressed their political views on issues of profound importance while observing the principles of nonviolent civil disobedience.

This week’s protest is now famous all over the world for the demonstrators’ civility and considerateness. Our young people have set a wonderful example for the entire world.

We should also thank our police for their work the past three days. The violence on Sunday was deplorable. But the conduct of the police since then has been exemplary.

Today is China’s National Day. Let’s celebrate it as participants in the continuing tradition of China’s great civilisation. We are Hong Kong people, but we are also part of China, and we are proud to carry on both our wonderful regional traditions and our broader national ones.

All around us this week, we see banners and hear speeches presenting important, vital ideals from modern, international political discourse. Universal suffrage is one of these. So is open nomination of candidates by the public.

Some people may suggest that these are “Western” ideals, but let me propose that they are not specifically “Western” notions. They are “modern” ones, especially suited to the social and political conditions of the modern world. That is one reason why they appeal to people from all over the world, not only those from Western countries.


In the 2014–2015 academic year, I will be teaching the following:

Semester 1:

PHIL2430 Chinese Philosophy: Ethics (Friday 12:30–14:20)

PHIL3810/6810 Senior Seminar (Friday 15:30–17:20)

Semester 2:

PHIL1034 Introduction to Philosophy: Ethics and Politics, East and West (Friday 12:30–14:20)

PHIL6820 Graduate Seminar (Friday 15:30–17:20)

The following paper is forthcoming in a special edition of Philosophical Topics on comparative studies of happiness, edited by my colleagues Edoardo Zamuner and Timothy O'Leary.

Update: This has been published as "Happiness in Classical Confucianism: Xunzi," Philosophical Topics 41.1 (2013), 53–79.

I set out to write a general explanation of why happiness is not an especially prominent topic in early Chinese thought but quickly concluded the topic was much too ambitious for a single journal article. I found that most of my points could be made more effectively through a careful study of a single ethical system. The result is a detailed, and I hope informative, exploration of Xunzi's ethics with a relatively unusual orientation, offering an interesting interpretive twist on the grounds for Xunzi's views.

* * *

Happiness in Classical Confucianism: Xunzi


This essay contributes to comparative inquiry concerning happiness through a case study of Xunzi, a major Confucian thinker. Xunzi's ethical theory presents values and norms that fill the role of happiness indirectly, through the ideal figure of the gentleman. However, his working conception of psychological happiness and individual well-being turns on aesthetic values that go beyond the universal prudential values to which his ethical theory appeals. Hence I argue that his implicit conception of happiness actually revolves around a way of life grounded in what Susan Wolf has called ‘reasons of love.’

Download full draft of the paper here.

In the 2013–2014 academic year, I will be teaching the following:

Semester 1:

PHIL2470 Moral Psychology in the Chinese Tradition (update: Tuesdays 10:30-12:20, CPD 2.45)

PHIL2443 Xunzi (update: Tuesdays 13:30–15:20, CPD 2.45)

Semester 2:

PHIL1034 Ethics and Politics, East and West (update: Mondays 12:30-14:20, LE1—note that this is a different time from 2012-2013)

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