China300x: Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science


An introduction to early Chinese thought, exploring connections among Chinese thought and Western philosophy, modern science and everyday life.  

About this Course

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This course is designed to give students a thorough introduction to Warring States (5th-3rd century BCE) Chinese thought, focusing on Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Legalism. Sometime known as the age of “the Hundred Schools of Thought,” this period of Chinese history witnessed the formation of all of the major indigenous schools of Chinese thought, which in turn had an impact on the development of East Asian cultural history that is still felt today. Important themes to be discussed include conceptions of the self, models of self-cultivation and rationality, and differences in spiritual and political ideals. Students will be exposed to both received texts and recently discovered archeological texts; this combination of sources will both enrich students’ understanding of the world of thought in early China and call into question the boundaries drawn between the traditionally-defined “schools” such as Daoism or Confucianism. Parallels with developments in Western philosophical and religious traditions will be highlighted. We will also explore the relevance of early Chinese thought for contemporary debates in ethics, moral education, and political philosophy, as well as the manner in which early Chinese models of the self anticipate recent developments in the evolutionary and cognitive sciences.

All required readings are available within the courseware, courtesy of Crown Publishers and Hackett Publishing Company. Print version of the books from which most of the readings are drawn, Trying Not to Try and Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, are also available for purchase through the publishers’ site or amazon.

Course Staff

  • Edward Slingerland

    Edward Slingerland is Professor of Asian Studies and Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia, where he also holds adjunct appointments in Philosophy and Psychology. His research specialties and teaching interests include Warring States (5th-3rd c. B.C.E.) Chinese thought, religious studies, cognitive linguistics, ethics, and the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences. Prof. Slingerland has published multiple academic monographs and edited volumes, as well as over twenty referred articles in top journals in a wide variety of fields, and is currently Director of the Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC) and the Database of Religious History (DRH). His latest work, a trade book entitled Trying Not To Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity (Crown/Random House, 2014), integrates ancient Chinese and modern scientific understandings of spontaneity
  • 14 October 2014, 7 weeks
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  • Language: English Gb


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