Chinese Philosophy Series: Bryan Van Norden (Vassar College)


Friday, October 14, 2022, 2:00pm to 4:00pm


Emerson Hall, Room 305

Photo of Bryan W. Van NordenProfessor Bryan Van Norden

Confucian Virtue Ethics

Friday, October 14th


Emerson Hall, Room 305



Confucianism can be interpreted as a form of virtue ethics, offering systematic accounts of what it is to live well (human flourishing), what character traits contribute to living well (virtues), and how people develop those traits (ethical cultivation), given what our innate dispositions and capacities are (human nature). However, Confucian philosophers offer accounts of these topics that are intriguingly different from the Aristotelian versions of virtue ethics more familiar to contemporary Anglo-European philosophers. In this talk, Professor Van Norden explains Confucian virtue ethics, focusing on the example of Mengzi (“Mencius”).  Mengzi, a 4th-century BCE Chinese philosopher, is not as well known in the West as Kongzi (Confucius), but he is considered one of the greatest and most influential Confucian philosophers. This talk does not assume any previous familiarity with Chinese culture or Confucianism.

About the Speaker

Bryan W. Van Norden is James Monroe Taylor Chair in Philosophy at Vassar College (USA), and Chair Professor in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University (China). A recipient of Fulbright, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mellon fellowships, Van Norden has been honored as one of The Best 300 Professors in the US by The Princeton Review. Van Norden is author, editor, or translator of ten books on Chinese and comparative philosophy, including Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (2011), Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (2017), Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century (2014, with Justin Tiwald), Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2nd ed., 2005, with P.J. Ivanhoe), and most recently Classical Chinese for Everyone: A Guide for Absolute Beginners (2019). He has also published multiple featured op-eds in the New York Times, and written a Ted-Ed video on Confucius that has been viewed over a million times.  His books and articles have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Estonian, Farsi, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish.  His hobbies are poker (he has played in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas) and video games. His website, which includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources on Chinese philosophy, may be found here.

This is the second of four lectures in this series. Professor Van Norden will be teaching additional lectures on October 28 and November 11, 2022.

Free and open to the public