EAS381 Moral Agency in Chinese Thought

The course explores selected Chinese philosophical texts addressing moral motivation, cultivation, reasoning, and action to examine their treatment of how human beings can become morally virtuous and live an ethically ideal or fulfilling life. Topics discussed will include people’s typical moral dispositions; morally relevant features of people’s nature (xìng); the role of the heart (xīn) in guiding action; the role of desire, emotion, and normative judgment in motivation and action; methods of moral education and training; the nature and function of virtue; and the structure of action. In different years, the course may focus on classical texts such as the Mòzǐ, Mèngzǐ, Xúnzǐ, and Zhuāngzǐ or on later Confucian figures from the Sòng, Míng, and Qīng dynasties, such as Chéng Yí, Chéng Hào, Zhū Xī, Lù Xiàngshān, Wáng Yángmíng, and Dài Zhèn.

Tentative Lecture Topics

1. Introduction
2. Mòzǐ: Commitments, Standards, and Practice
3. Mòzǐ: Ethical Cultivation as Political Project
4. Mèngzǐ: People’s Nature is Good
5. Xúnzǐ: People’s Nature is Bad
6. Mèngzǐ vs Xúnzǐ: Two Views of Moral Development
7. Zhuāngzǐ: Virtue as Adaptibility
8. Zhuāngzǐ: The Skill Paradigm of Action
9. Zhū Xī: Recovering the Pattern Within
10. Wáng Yángmíng: Conscientiousness and Integrity
11. Zhū vs Wáng: Inward Reflection vs External Criteria
12. Dài Zhèn: Oneself and Others