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.

Lecture Topics

1. Introduction
2. Mòzǐ: Commitments and Standards
3. Mòzǐ: Ethical Cultivation as Political Project
4. Mòzǐ: The Challenge of Disagreement
5. Mèngzǐ: People’s Nature is Good
6. Mèngzǐ: Moral Cultivation as Natural Development
7. Xúnzǐ: People’s Nature is Ugly
8. Xúnzǐ: Culture and Education
9. Xúnzǐ: The Heart and Desire
10. Zhuāngzǐ: Ethics Without Norms?
11. Zhuāngzǐ: Virtue as Adaptibility
12. Zhuāngzǐ: The Skill Paradigm