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LRCCS Noon Lecture Series | Xunzi and Aristotle on Freedom

Michael Nylan, Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
If you would like to attend via Zoom, please register at

In the end, a truly "global perspective" should consider how Chinese thinking, taken seriously, might help us revise our default presumptions and priorities in today's EuroAmerica. Dr. Nylan’s talk will register two main points: (1) that the early thinkers Xunzi and Aristotle both urge due attention to the situation at hand (communal as much as individual, institutional as much as volitional), unlike many modern philosophers intent upon devising universal ethical principles for individual autonomous rational beings; and (2) that these two early thinkers excel in leading us to consider how best to avoid becoming enslaved by people and things, with their kind of self-rule (being "lord over oneself") an attainment that fundamentally depends upon long training by a range of social institutions. Her talk will also suggest that Xunzi's worldview suits the exigencies of the contemporary world somewhat better than Aristotle's perspective.

Michael Nylan 戴梅可 generally writes in three disciplines: the history of the early empires in China (475 BC-AD 316), philosophy, and art and archaeology. Of late, she has been focusing on the sociopolitical context for local communities in China; on aesthetic theories and material culture; and cosmological belief; and on gender history and the history of such emotions as "daring" and "salutary fear" (aka prudential caution). She is finishing up two books, a mammoth translation of the Han-era Documents classic and a book tentatively titled "The Four Fathers of History" (on Herodotus and Thucydides, Sima Qian and Ban Gu). Her comparative interests have been highlighted in such books as "Chang'an 26 BCE: an Augustan Age in Rome" and "The Chinese Pleasure Book," as well as in numerous essays.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, China, History
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures