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Eastern and Western Conceptions of Human Nature, Ethics, and Politics


Owen Flanagan (Duke) & P.J. Ivanhoe and Sungmoon Kim (City University of Hong Kong)

We are citizens of plural, multicultural, cosmopolitan worlds.  Understanding and dealing with differences of value requires understanding a variety of traditions, and understanding such traditions requires understanding the ways different people have conceived of human nature as well as how such conceptions connect with views about the good human life, duties, responsibilities, rights, and the proper forms of political governance.  An international team will lead weekly seminars discussing these issues from a comparative and cross-cultural perspective.  The seminars will interweave critical examination of work from Western sources (Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau) with Chinese and Korean sources (Confucius, Mozi, Mencius, Xunzi, Zhuangzi, Han Feizi), and Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain sources, as well as descriptions and analyses of how these ideas are manifested in and shape both contemporary Western, East Asian, and South Asian culture.  All of this material will be brought into productive conversation with contemporary scientific sources on human nature from psychology, anthropology, and primatology.

This course is part of an exciting new partnership between Duke’s Center for Comparative Philosophy and the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy in Hong Kong.