Chinese Philosophy, Ethics Discussed at NEH Seminar
American philosophers with a background in virtue ethics will convene this
summer at Wesleyan to explore Chinese philosophy.
The six-week seminar, titled “Traditions into Dialogue: Confucianism and
Contemporary Virtue Ethics,” will take place July 7 through Aug. 15 at the
Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. The event is funded by a
$128,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an
independent grant-making agency of the U.S. government dedicated to
supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the
humanities. Fifteen participants, all doctorates in philosophy, will receive
stipends to support their attendance at the seminar.
to seminar co-director Stephen Angle, associate professor of philosophy,
associate professor of East Asian studies and chair of the Philosophy
Department (at right), virtue ethics has experienced a recent revival.
“Virtue ethics was the predominant approach to ethical theorizing in the
ancient Western world, but in modern times virtue ethics was largely
dormant,” Angle explains. “In the past few decades, partly as a result of
dissatisfaction with the dominant utilitarian and Kantian traditions, virtue
ethics has made a comeback, and it now stands as a leading direction of
research in academic moral philosophy.”
The summer seminar is geared to stimulate new philosophical growth through
broadening the sources drawn on by contemporary virtue ethicists, or those
interested in virtues more generally, to include the Confucian tradition.
Each week of the seminar will be devoted to a particular Confucian thinker
including Confucius (551-479 BC) and the Analects, Mencius, Xunzi, Zhu Xi,
Wang Yangming, and Dai Zhen. Supporting topics include use of specialized
electronic resources relevant to Chinese philosophy; relevant background in
Chinese history; basics of the Chinese language and the various systems for
romanizing it; and the large topic of translation, both of texts and of
particular terms. The seminar also will feature several guest lectures which
will be open to the public.
“Our goal this summer is to provide a context in which participants can
develop the familiarity with Confucianism that they need in order to begin
using it in their research and teaching,” Angle says. “We also hope to
initiate an ongoing conversation about the ways in which putting
Confucianism into dialogue with other work in virtue ethics can contribute
In addition to the seminar, participants will be invited to present a paper
at a conference on “Confucianism and Virtue Ethics” that will bring Chinese
and American scholars together in Beijing during the summer of 2009. Angle
and his co-director Michael Slote, a prominent professor of ethics from the
University of Miami, are also collaborating on planning this conference.
For more information on the seminar, go to
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection