Skip to content

Spring 2023 Course

The Conduct of Life in Western and Eastern Philosophy

Prerequisites: None

Exam: No Exam; Paper in lieu of examination

A study of approaches in the philosophical traditions of the West and the East to the conduct of life. Philosophical ethics has often been understood as meta-ethics: the development of a method of moral inquiry or justification. Here we focus instead on what philosophy has to tell us about the first-order question: How should we live our lives?

This year a major concern will be the study and contrast of two such orientations to existence. One is the philosophical tradition focused on ideas of self-reliance, self-construction, and nonconformity (exemplified by Emerson and Nietzsche). The other is a way of thinking (notably represented by Confucius) that puts its hope in a dynamic of mutual responsibility, shaped by role and ritual and informed by imaginative empathy.

Note: This course is jointly-listed with HDS and FAS.