Public Lecture: How Does Xunzi Really Disagree with Mencius? How Their Differences Might Help Us Think about Human Nature and Morality by David Wong (12 August 2011)

Public Lecture  jointly presented by Philosophy Department, NUS and School of Humanities & Social Sciences, NTU: 12 Aug 2011, 4:30-6:30pm (light refreshments provided at 4pm), NUS FASS Auditorium AS7-01-02; Speaker: David Wong; Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy, Duke University; Moderator: A/P Tan Sor Hoon

Abstract:In the Mencius, there are really two different conceptions of the way that morality is based on human nature.  One is based on the metaphor that natural human goodness is like water flowing downward.  The other is based on the metaphor that natural goodness is like sprouts that need nurturance.  Xunzi’s explicit criticism is directed towards the Mencian conception based on the water metaphor.  But the far more plausible Mencian conception is the one based on the sprout metaphor, and in this talk I shall explore how Xunzi’s rival conception, which is based on the craft metaphor of steaming and straightening wood that is naturally bent, really differs from the sprout conception.   I relate these different conceptions to current work in developmental biology and evolutionary psychology, and argue that both Mencius and Xunzi still have a lot to say to us.

u1540About the speaker: David Wong (Ph.D. Princeton, 1977) is the Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy. Before he came to Duke, he was the Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Philosophy at Brandeis University and the John M. Findlay Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.