Live Like a Confucian Week

Tuesday, September 29 – Monday, October 5, 2020

Live Like a Confucian Week

Over the next seven days you will be putting some of Mengzis and Xunzis views of the good life into practice. The main goal is to engage in intentional work and then reflection on specific steps that Confucians teach. On each day of the week you will be assigned a particular activity to complete. Some of these activities will ask you to complete a task, reflect on a few questions, or engage in a thought experiment. Others will involve cultivating habits, changing your behavior with others in a certain way, or going about your everyday routine a little differently.

All of the philosophical exercises for this week are located on this page and you will need to complete them daily. This will consist of two steps:

  1. At the start of each day in the morning, you should read the assigned exercises and carry them out—you can keep this assignment open on your phone throughout the day for easy access.
  2. At the end of each day in the evening, you should submit in the designated dropbox a short private journal entry (1-2 paragraphs, about 250 words) on what you’ve learned.

Class periods and dialogue sessions that occur during the week will be devoted to discussing and working on your exercises individually or in groups. On the last day of this week (Monday, October 5) you will meet in your breakout section to have a “postmortem” discussion on your experiences putting Confucian views into practice.

Your final assignment for this unit will be a synthesis essay due before 12pm on Tuesday, October 6 on how/whether the approach to living well that you have put into practice has affected your outlook on life. Were some exercises particularly illuminating or instructive? Do you have a better appreciation for Mengzis and Xunzi’s views after putting parts of them into practice? How viable do you find this approach to the good life? What have you learned about yourself?

Specifically, you should review your journal entries for the week and write an essay of approximately 1000 words summarizing your final reflections on Confucianism’s approach to the good life. Your essay should engage with at least one of the theoretical views that we have covered in this unit: e.g., the contrast between focusing on profit (or physical inclinations) versus moral sprouts and their corresponding virtues; the role that public policies and socio-political engagement play in moral growth; different ideas of “nature” versus “disposition,” as well as the claim that we can transform our dispositions so as to act well spontaneously. Cite the texts we have studied where possible.

Readings for the assigned exercises and evening reflections this week are drawn from:

  • The Essential Mengzi: Selected Passages with Traditional Commentary, translated by Bryan Van Norden (Hackett, 2009)
  • Xunzi: The Complete Text, translated by Eric Hutton (Princeton University Press, 2016)
  • The Essential Analects: Selected Passages with Traditional Commentary, translated by Edward Slingerland (Hackett, 2006)
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