PHIL 1034 Ethics and Politics, East and West

Second semester, 2019–2020 academic year
Lectures: Thurs 10:30-12:20
Tutorials: TBA
Tutors: TBA

This survey course is a comparative introduction to philosophy focusing primarily on topics in ethics and politics. Lectures and readings will draw equally on the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions and indicate various respects in which the two can be put into dialogue. Readings may include selections from Confucius 孔子, Mòzǐ 墨子, Mencius 孟子, Dàodéjīng 道德經, Xúnzǐ 荀子, Zhuāngzǐ 莊子, Hán Fēi 韓非, Huáng Zōngxī 黃宗羲, Tán Sìtóng 譚嗣同, and Luó Lóngjī 羅隆基 on the Chinese side, along with Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, Russell, Hart, Hampton, Wolff, Wolf, Nussbaum, Taylor, and Scanlon, on the Western side.

Course Outcomes

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the major fields of philosophy and central concepts in philosophical method

  • Describe central issues in ethical and political philosophy and major approaches to these issues from the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions

  • Critically examine a range of positions on and approaches to these issues and identify their strengths and weaknesses

  • Demonstrate interpretive, analytical, and argumentative skills in oral presentation and writing by discussing these issues and theories in written assignments and tutorials

  • Demonstrate appreciation of the complexity of basic questions in ethical and political philosophy and their relation to individual and social life

Provisional Syllabus

1. Introduction: What is Philosophy? (1/23, 2/6)

Required reading: 1-1 (Blackburn, “Philosophy as Reflection”), 1-2 (Rachels, Right Thing, 20–28)
Optional reading: 1-3 (Russell, “The Value of Philosophy”), 1-4 (“How to Study Philosophy” and “How to Read Philosophy”), 1-5 (Handout on critical thinking)

2. Why Be Moral? (2/13, 2/20, 2/27)

Reading: Reading 2 (Selections from Plato, Aristotle, Xúnzǐ, Mòzǐ, Mencius, Mill, Nietszche, Dàodéjīng, Zhuāngzǐ, Wolf)

Tutorial: week of Feb 24–28

Assignment 1

3. Right and Wrong (3/5, 3/19, 3/26)

Reading: Reading 3-1 (Rachels, Right Thing, 1–20), 3-2 (Kant, Mill, Analects, Xúnzǐ, Mòzǐ, Zhuāngzǐ, Nussbaum, Scanlon)

Tutorial: week of Mar 23–27

Midterm quiz

4. Political Authority (Apr 2, Apr 9)

Reading: Reading 4 (Book of Documents, Analects, Mòzǐ, Mencius, Xúnzǐ, Huáng Zōngxī, Tán Sìtóng, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Hume, Hampton, Bentham, Hart, Wolff)

Tutorial: week of Apr 6–10

Assignment 2

5. The Individual and the State (Apr 16, Apr 23)

Reading: Reading 5 (Mòzǐ, Xúnzǐ, Hán Fēizǐ, Dàodéjīng, Zhuāngzǐ, Luó Lóngjī, Plato, Hegel, Mill, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Berlin, Taylor)

Tutorial: week of Apr 27–May 1

Final quiz

Final essay due May 8

Coursework and Assessment

(1) Two brief writing assignments (500 words each) (20%).
(2) Short final essay (750 words) (20%).
(3) Two brief in-class quizzes — midterm (10%) and final (20%).
(4) Online discussion (10%). For each of the four tutorial topics, each student must post at least one comment (250 words maximum) to the online discussion forum. (Your tutor will explain the details.)
(5) Four tutorials (20%). Students are expected to attend and participate actively in tutorials. You will be assigned discussion questions before each tutorial.


The course readings will include lecture notes and selections from primary sources. All readings will be posted on the course Moodle page for students to download.

Course Discussion Forum

All students must participate in the discussion forum on the course Moodle page. Posts are limited to 250 words and must be substantive discussions related to the course content. Your tutors will give detailed instructions.