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Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought | 中国哲学思想中的人类与自然观

The University of Hong Kong via edX


We make ethical or behaviour guiding right / wrong judgments all the time but have you ever wondered where Ethics comes from, what it is about and why it is important? This course provides an introduction to traditional Chinese ethical thought and focuses on the pervasive contrast in the way Chinese and Westerners think about ethical guidance or guidance concerning what is right and what is wrong, good or bad. Traditional Western orthodoxy uses the metaphor of a law – in its most familiar popular form, the command of a supernatural being backed by a threat of eternal punishment or reward – to explain ethical guidance. The Classical Chinese philosophers by contrast were all naturalists. They talked about ethical guidance using a path metaphor – a natural dào.

We will look at two rival directions this natural dào model took in ancient China. The first direction views ethical paths as generated from human sources such as human history and past social practices. The other Confucian version views guidance as arising from a distinctly human guiding organ, something like a combination of our faculties of heart and mind. This organ issues the right/wrong or this/not-that judgements naturally. This internal map to moral choices branches, like a plant, as we mature. The alternative to human-based naturalism in China treated normative guidance as natural in a broader sense, such as the dào of water or one guided by what is beneficial vs harmful. Finally, we will take a brief look at a development after the classical period that resulted from the invasion of the more super-naturalist, Indo-European way of thinking about guidance – Medieval Chinese Buddhism.

Although Chinese concepts will be the focus of our discussion, all the content of this course is intended to be accessible to beginner students. For those who are beginners in Philosophy, we will include a brief introduction to the ideas of logic that further shape the Western metaphor of a law and help us understand its role in Western ethics, science and psychology so you can better understand the different ways these two philosophical metaphors explain where norms of behaviour come from, what they are about and why they are important.



• 学习描述中国古代哲学思想中的人类与自然观;
• 学习辩证思考中国哲学思想中的人类与自然观,明辨其优缺;
• 反思人类与自然的关系;
• 培养解释说明及分析辩证技巧。

Taught by

Chad Hansen

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4.6 rating, based on 7 reviews

Start your review of Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought | 中国哲学思想中的人类与自然观

  • Karen Carlson completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I began to truly appreciate Chinese philosophy in this course. The lectures are wonderful, and informative, the staff was very responsive to questions and comments on the discussion forums. I highly recommend it to someone who's curious about Chinese philosophy, even if you have no background (I had only the slightest background and found it very manageable).

    FMI, see my personal blog post at
  • Pilar Reyes completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Although I didn't complete the course (no essays) due to time constraints, (I watched all of the lectures and did all the quizzes) I want to say that I really enjoyed the experience. Two main reasons: oustanding teaching (thanks, Chad) and beautiful animations. More reasons: I loved the introductory melody for each lecture and the quizzes at the end of each lecture helped me to summarize the main points. Oh, I forgot something important, I enjoyed the humor that permeated the lectures.
  • Anna K

    Anna K completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Great course if you're interested in philosophy / Chinese culture or just thinking sometimes about the right/wrong and your place in the universe. Lots of interesting information, engaging lectures, thought-provoking topics. Overall, very enriching experience. Liked it a lot! Wish they make follow-up course on Daoism, etc.
  • Profile image for Neshow V
    Neshow V

    Neshow V completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    An Australian in China, teaching students globally about Chinese philosophy? What could go wrong?
    Well, nothing really. Hugely attractive course, that can be introductory or you can dig deeper by reading all the texts. Very well explained the difference between western thought and Chinese.
    Thank you everybody involved in this project.
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