REL 250
Scholars, Saints and Immortals: Virtue Ethics in East Asia Fall 2017
Division II Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed REL 250 / ASST 250
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

In East Asian cultures, as in the United States, popular conceptions of morality typically take their shape, not from explicit rules, but from moral paragons–stylized figures that are said to embody a distinctive cluster of virtues. For example, American Christians invoke not only Jesus, but also a pantheon of “secular saints” as diverse as Martin Luther King Jr. and General Patton, George Washington and Cesar Chavez. This course will explore the cultural functions of moral paragons and philosophies of virtue in East Asia by introducing students to examples from Chinese and Japanese history, ranging from Confucian articulations of the ideal scholar-bureaucrat to Buddhist conceptions of the Bodhisattva to Taoist immortals. It will also address the history of ethical thought in East Asia, focusing particular attention on conceptions of “Virtue Ethics.” This approach has come to be seen by some contemporary analytic philosophers as a way out of the impasse produced by ethical relativism and the loss of theological rationales for moral action. Readings will include Euro-American philosophers such as Nietzsche and MacIntyre as well as primary texts in translation by Chuang-tzu, Confucius, Shantideva and others. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative by providing students with tools for cross-cultural analysis of ethics and moral paragons, as part of how societies manage difference and articulate hierarchies of privilege and power.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 30
Expected: 20
Class#: 1338
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation, short writing assignments, midterm, and a self-scheduled final exam
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Religious Studies and Asian Studies majors
Distributions: Division II Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 250 Division II ASST 250 Division II
Attributes: GBST East Asian Studies Electives
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