Teaching Chinese Philosophy
In the last few days I’ve learned that Tsinghua may not want me to teach the culture class I was scheduled for next semester — instead they want me to teach Chinese Philosophy. This is fine with me, and would likely be a lot of fun, but I’ve never taught this as a standalone course. Instead, I’ve taught courses that deal with a focused area within Chinese philosophy (such as my “Confucian Virtue Ethics” course) or that deal with a wider Asian theme (such as my “Asian Ethics” course that also covers Indian thinkers). So if I do wind up teaching this course, I’ll have to build it quickly, which means selecting the right books and figuring out which thinkers to cover.
I would certainly stick with pre-Qin, as I don’t feel confident with the neo-Confucians at this point (maybe after sabbatical). So this leaves the big seven: Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Han Feizi. Given the total hours of the course over the semester (2 credit hours a week), I don’t think I could cover all seven without being overly superficial. Five seems more reasonable. I certainly would cover Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi and Laozi. Which one of the remaining three? Mozi?
Of course, if anyone has a different set of five that they would cover, I’d be interested in seeing which five of the seven you’d pick, and why.
2. Primary Texts
I’m pretty sure that — although I am not a fan of reading “selections” from works — I would use Ivanhoe’s and Van Norden’s Classics of Chinese Philosophy. Unless there are some better ones out there? I’d prefer to have an anthology, just to make things easier given the situation.
3. Secondary Texts
I’ve used Joel’s (Kupperman) book before, Classic Asian Philosophy, and found it helpful (in “Asian Ethics”), but I need something more in-depth for a course like this (also, Joel’s book doesn’t cover all the authors I would teach). Looking around, I’ve come across three, but I’m not familiar with any of them. They are:
1. Fung Yu-Lan’s A Short History of Chinese Philosophy (1948, reprinted 1997). I know many people like the book, but it seems more theme based and covers lots of topics I would likely skip over. So is it a good book to use as a secondary text if you just want to move from author to author?
2. JeeLoo Liu’s An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2006). Shirong Luo seems to like the book as a whole, even if he has some quibbles with the particular arguments or interpretations Liu advances. Luo dislikes the fact that the book fails to cover neo-Confucianism, but I only intend on covering pre-Qin, so that’s fine by me.
3. Karen Lai’s An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2008). Couldn’t uncover any thing about this one – it might be too new.
If anyone has any ideas on any of these different questions, I’d be grateful!