Chinese Philosophy Series: Bryan Van Norden (Vassar College)


Friday, November 11, 2022, 2:00pm to 4:00pm


Emerson Hall, Room 305

Photo of Bryan W. Van NordenProfessor Bryan Van Norden

Therapeutic Skepticism in Daoism

Friday, November 11th


Emerson Hall, Room 305



The only Daoist philosopher that most Westerners have heard of is Laozi (“Lao Tzu”), the supposed author of the Classic of the Way and Virtue. However, among experts on Chinese philosophy, Zhuangzi (“Chuang Tzu”) is often considered the greatest Daoist philosopher.  Zhuangzi presents arguments for skepticism, relativism, and for the superiority of “knowing how” over “knowing that.”  However, it is not obvious how these arguments are consistent with one another. In this talk, Professor Van Norden explains some of Zhuangzi’s most intriguing arguments, and suggests that Zhuangzi intends these arguments to be “therapeutic.” This talk does not assume any previous familiarity with Chinese culture or Daoism.

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.

Free and open to the public

This is the third of four lectures in this series. Professor Van Norden will teach the fourth  lecture on December 2, 2022.