What Is Chinese Philosophy?

If a man has no humaneness what can his propriety be like? If a man has no humaneness what can his happiness be like?

- Confucius, The Analects, Chapter III

Podcast of the Day

In celebration of the lunar New Year, the Philosopher's Zone examines Chinese philosophy. To anybody schooled in Western philosophy, Chinese philosophy doesn't look much like philosophy at all: there seems to be no argument, no analysis, just a lot of proverbs and stories. But this is real philosophy and Dr Karyn Lai gives us an overview. And Chin-Ning Chu, author, motivator and strategist explains what relevance the oldest military treatise in the world has in today's boardroom.

Listen to The Philosopher's Zone episode on Chinese Philosophy

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Picture a world where human relationships are challenging, narcissism and self-centeredness are on the rise, and there is disagreement on the best way for people to live harmoniously together. 

It sounds like 21st-century America. But the society that Michael Puett, a tall, 48-year-old bespectacled professor of Chinese history at Harvard University, is describing to more than 700 rapt undergraduates is China, 2,500 years ago.

Puett's course Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory has become the third most popular course at the university. The only classes with higher enrollment are Intro to Economics and Intro to Computer Science. The second time Puett offered it, in 2007, so many students crowded into the assigned room that they were sitting on the stairs and stage and spilling out into the hallway. Harvard moved the class to Sanders Theater, the biggest venue on campus.

Why are so many undergraduates spending a semester poring over abstruse Chinese philosophy by scholars who lived thousands of years ago?...

Continue reading Christine Gross-Loh's article: Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy?

Further Reading

The tradition of Chinese ethical thought is centrally concerned with questions about how one ought to live: what goes into a worthwhile life, how to weigh duties toward family versus duties toward strangers, whether human nature is predisposed to be morally good or bad, how one ought to relate to the non-human world, the extent to which one ought to become involved in reforming the larger social and political structures of one's society, and how one ought to conduct oneself when in a position of influence or power. The personal, social, and political are often intertwined in Chinese approaches to the subject. Anyone who wants to draw from the range of important traditions of thought on this subject needs to look seriously at the Chinese tradition. The canonical texts of that tradition have been memorized by schoolchildren in Asian societies for hundreds of years, and at the same time have served as objects of sophisticated and rigorous analysis by scholars and theoreticians rooted in widely variant traditions and approaches. This article will introduce ethical issues raised by some of the most influential texts in Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, Legalism, and Chinese Buddhism...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Chinese Ethics by David Wong

Related Topics

If you’re interested in Chinese philosophy, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Daoism | Confucius | Indian Philosophy

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1 comment

Thank you for bringing up the ‘humaneness’ angle, Bindiya. It’s wonderful to hear from respectful professionals like you- who want to make a difference.

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