LS 813:  Confucian Ideals and Western Modernity: Conversations across Cultural Horizons

Fall 2012  | Dr. Paul Crowe

Western nations have already entered a period in which their economic interests have become inextricably tied to those of China. Furthermore, China is no longer remote: In some parts of the world, including British Columbia, unprecedented demographic transformation due to Chinese migration has begun to take place. For its part, China too is going through a process of coming to terms with Western modernity as it transforms and expands its influence. Western societies need to rethink their relations with and understanding of China in terms very different from the colonial past and, for its part, China will need to find ways of negotiating gradual political, economic and social transformation. 

One potentially fruitful avenue of exploration is through an encounter with the literati tradition (ru 儒) usually referred to in the West as “Confucianism.” China is presently experiencing a popular revival of classical Confucian ideals and the government of the People’s Republic of China is open to this process. Given that these ideals have shaped  the very notion of how to become fully human and, more particularly, education, bureaucracy, and family dynamics in East Asia for more than two millennia it would be helpful to look to them for shared resonances and instructive differences if we are to develop a shared discourse.

The legacy of Confucius has, since the nineteenth-century, been viewed with hostility by many intellectuals and government officials in China and beyond. It was thought responsible for holding back economic and technological progress. The communists assumed that Confucius and his successors justified a hierarchic society in which political and economic elites dominated and exploited workers. This course will consider the possibility that there is much in this classical tradition of self-cultivation that is progressive and supportive of broadly democratic governance and just economies and societies.

We will begin by reading three classics of early Confucian tradition: The Analects of Confucius (Lunyu 語論), the Mencius (Mengzi 孟子) and the Hsün Tzu (Xunzi 荀子). With a good grounding in these primary texts we will then read a series of essays that explore broad conceptual comparisons between Chinese and European traditions of philosophy. Next, having read primary sources and reflected on larger conceptual questions, we will read a collection of essays that address specific topics related to practical matters of political, economic and social organization of societies. Finally, major questions faced by modernity concerning ethics, ecology and the status of women will be considered through readings of essays on Confucianism, ethics and gender.

Required Texts  (in order of use)

Ames, Roger T. and Henry Rosemont Jr. The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1998.

Lau, D.C., trans. Mencius. London: Penguin Books, (1970) reprint 2003.

Watson, Burton, trans. Hsün Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press, (1963) reprint 1996.

Van Norden, Bryan W.  ed. Confucius and the Analects: New Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (Full Text online at SFU LIb)

Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. (Full Text online at SFU LIb)

Li, Chengyang  ed. The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucius, Ethics, and Gender. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co. 2000.

Course Requirements

1.  30% Lead two discussions on one of the three primary texts or on the principal argument put forward in one or two of the essays in the three collections we will be reading

2.  20% Term paper proposal and annotated bibliography

3.  50% Term paper

Schedule of Course Readings

 

Introduction

Bryan W. Van Norden, Confucius and the Analects, Introduction

Analects of Confucius

Ames, Roger T. and Henry Rosemont Jr. The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1998.

Mencius

Lau, D.C., trans. Mencius. London: Penguin Books, (1970) reprint 2003.

Hsün Tzu

Watson, Burton, trans. Hsün Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press, (1963) reprint 1996.

Van Norden, Confucius and the Analects

Joel J. Kupperman, “Naturalness Revisited: Why Western Philosophers Should Study Confucius.”

 

Kwong-Loi Shun, “Rén 仁 and 禮 in the Analects.”

Van Norden, Confucius and the Analects

Robert B. Louden, “‘What Does Heaven Say?’ Christian Wolff and Western Interpretations of Confucian Ethics.”

 

Stephen A. Wilson, “Conformity, Individuality, and the Nature of Virtue: A Classical Confucian Contribution to Contemporary Ethical Reflection.”

Van Norden, Confucius and the Analects

Leed H. Yearly, “An Existentialist Reading of Book 4 of the Analects”

 

Lisa A. Raphals, “A Woman Who Understood the Rites”

Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World

Hahm Chaihark, “Constitutionalism, Confucian Civic Virtue, and Ritual Propriety”

 

David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames, “A Pragmatist Understanding of Confucian Democracy”

Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World

Daniel A. Bell, “Confucian Constraints on Property Rights”

 

Joseph Chan, “Giving Priority to the Worst Off: A Confucian Perspective on Social Welfare”

Bell, Daniel A. and Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World

Albert H.Y. Chen, “Mediation, Litigation, and Justice: Confucian Reflections on a Modern Liberal Society”

 

Chan Sin Yee, “The Confucian Conception of Gender in the Twenty-First Century”

Li, Chengyang  ed. The Sage and the Second Sex

Chengyang Li, “The Confucian Concept of Jen and the Feminist Ethics of Care”

 

Joel J. Kupperman, “Feminism as Radical Confucianism: Self and Tradition”

Li, Chengyang  ed. The Sage and the Second Sex

Philip J. Ivanhoe, “Mengzi, Xunzi and Modern Feminist Ethics”

 

Ingrid Schafer, “From Confucius Through Ecofeminism to Partnership Ethics”

Li, Chengyang  ed. The Sage and the Second Sex

Pauline Lee, “Li Zhi and John Stuart Mill: A Confucian Feminist Critique of Liberal Feminism”

 

Paul Rakita Goldin, “The View of Women in Early Confucianism”