Classical Chinese Philosophy

In this series of episodes, Peter and co-author Karyn Lai present themes and figures of classical Chinese philosophy, first focusing on the traditions that emerged in the "Warring States" period and then moving on to the period of the Han Dynasty. Major "schools" addressed will be Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. In the Han period we also look at the arrival of Buddhist thought in China. Of course we will not look only at the most obvious texts and topics but also devote episodes to, for instance, women in ancient China, music, and medicine. 

Further Reading

S. Angle, Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life (New York: 2022)

C. Defoort, “Is There Such a Thing as Chinese Philosophy? Arguments of an Implicit Debate,” Philosophy East and West 51 (2001), 393–413

C. Fraser, Late Classical Chinese Thought (Oxford: 2023)

C. Fraser, The Philosophy of the Mòzĭ: The First Consequentialists (New York: 2016)

P. Goldin, The Art of Chinese Philosophy: Eight Classical Texts and How to Read Them (Princeton: 2020)

A.C. Graham, Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (Singapore: 1986)

A.C. Graham, Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (La Salle: 1989)

K. Lai, An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (Cambridge: 2017)

F. Perkins, Doing What You Really Want An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mengzi (New York: 2022)

M. Puett and C. Gross-Loh, The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life (New York: 2017)

A. Olberding, The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy (New York: 2019)

E. Slingerland, Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity (New York: 2014)

R. Sterckx, Chinese Thought: From Confucius to Cook Ding (London: 2019)

1. Journey of a Thousand Li: Introduction to Chinese Philosophy

Posted on

Introducing Chinese philosophy through the concept of "dao," a fundamental word in classical Chinese philosophy, with a range of meanings across its different traditions.

2. The Only Constant: Change and the "Yi Jing"

Posted on

Early Chinese philosophers were deeply aware of a world that is constantly changing. We consider how they responded to uncertainty about change.

3. Karyn Lai on Classical Chinese Philosophy

Posted on

Co-host Karyn introduces herself to the listeners and talks about the challenges of tackling classical Chinese philosophical texts.

4. Open Season: the Historical Context

Posted on

The historical context of classical Chinese philosophy, and how ancient Chinese historical works themselves became works of philosophy.

5. Going Paperless: Ancient Chinese Texts

Posted on

What were ancient Chinese philosophical texts written on? How did writing relate to orally transmitted wisdom? How were texts read and used? And what even counted as a “text” in ancient China?

6. Franklin Perkins on Excavated Texts

Posted on

In this interview, we learn how newly discovered texts are changing our understanding of Warring States period philosophy.

7. Uncrowned King: Kongzi (Confucius) and the Analects

Posted on

An introduction to Kongzi, the founder of Confucianism, and to the text that has come to represent his thought, the Lunyu (Analects).

8. Confucius Says: Reading the Analects

Posted on

Lessons we can take from the teachings of Kongzi (Confucius) in the Analects: challenging authorities, adhering to “benevolence (ren),” and practicing “propriety (li)” in ritual and everyday life.

9. Family Values: Confucian Role Ethics

Posted on

Confucianism puts relationships with family members at the core of their ethical thinking. Is this a strength or a weakness?