College of Arts and Sciences | Conceptions of the Self, East and West
E103 | 11046 | Stalnaker
10:10AM - 11:00AM MW
See Schedule of Classes for discussion section times
It is a truism that different cultures propound different visions of
human life. But what are we--as contemporary residents of an
increasingly heterogeneous nation--to make of this diversity? Do we
have any rational basis for evaluating the alternative possibilities
for life presented by different religious and philosophical
traditions? This course examines important statements on the nature
of human existence from the ancient and modern West, and from East
Asia, and endeavors to sensitively compare these diverse visions of
human life without capitulating to nihilism, relativism, or self-
satisfied cultural chauvinism.
Traditions we will examine include Confucianism, Daoism,
Christianity, Marxism, and contemporary democratic political theory.
Recurring issues include the character and relation of reason and
emotions; the nature and source of saving dispositions;
understandings of the relation of our more animal and more human
sides; problems in life that are thought to deform the self; the
need, if any, for transcendent forces to actualize the self; the
form of and rationale for various practices of self-cultivation; and
the relation of individual and communal flourishing. All readings
are in English translation.