East Asian Thought
This course will trace the development of East Asian thought through an examination of some of the most influential thinkers in Chinese and Japanese history. Issues that will be covered include East Asian perspectives on the “self” and “human nature,” the relationship between humans and the universe, and the influence that these ideas have had on East Asian conceptions of the socio-political order. Although a variety of different perspectives will be explored, the course will focus on the evolution of the three major traditions of East Asian thought — Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism — with particular emphasis on the dialogical process of mutual influence that defines the East Asian intellectual tradition as a whole. More fundamentally, however, this course will provide an opportunity to reflect on a variety of philosophical issues that are as relevant to global citizens of the 21st century as they were to East Asians of the past.

The distribution of grades for the course is as follows:
Class/BodhiBlog Participation
Mencius/Xunzi Debate
Midterm Paper
Topic Paper/Annotated Bibliography
Final Paper

You final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:

A-/A  Possesses a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course. The “A” student is able to consistently identify and explain key ideas in the primary sources, develop genuine insights into the broader significance of these texts, and demonstrate a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.

B-/B/B+  Demonstrates a serious commitment to the course (i.e. attendance and participation) and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.

C-/C/C+  Demonstrates a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions as well as a basic grasp of the course material.

D  Demonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.

F  Fails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.

Class/BodhiBlog Participation
The Class Participation mark will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material. All attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will contribute to your grade. You can further enhance your grade by posting comments on a Blackboard discussion forum that I call the BodhiBlog (“the blog that leads to enlightenment”). Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your participation efforts, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and post at least three comments on the BodhiBlog.

Written Assignments
Papers should be submitted to Blackboard/Assignments by the provided deadline; late papers will be penalized a full grade (e.g. from A to B) for the first day and one degree (e.g. from B to B-) thereafter. All papers should include appropriate references to “academic” (i.e. peer-reviewed) sources; both direct quotations and indirect references to the ideas of another author should be properly cited using Chicago Style footnotes. Papers that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs. All submitted work may be used for program assessment (with names removed).

Mencius/Xunzi Debate: A Memorial to the Qin King
After exploring the thought of Confucius and his two most important early followers, Mencius and Xunzi, we will have an in-class debate on the question of whether human nature is inherently good or bad. In preparation for the debate, you will write a 4-5 page paper (1000 word minimum) in the form of a “memorial” to Zhao Zheng, who reigned as the King of Qin from 247-221 BCE and then as the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huang Di) from 221-210 BCE. The purpose of your memorial is to convince the Qin ruler to allow you participate in an upcoming court debate between the followers of Mencius and Xunzi, respectively. The memorial should be dated to the year 240, when Zhao Zheng was mature enough (at the age of nineteen) to develop his own ruling philosophy, but before he had fully settled on the “Legalist” policies that ultimately led to the unification of China in 221 BCE. (Take a look at the “The First Interview with the King of Ch’in: A Memorial” to see an actual memorial to Zhao Zheng by the Legalist thinker Han Feizi.)
       Your paper should open with a discussion of the historical context that will frame the debate (i.e. the sociopolitical turmoil of the Spring & Autumn and Warring States periods). You should then go on to present a coherent argument for either Mencius’ or Xunzi’s position on human nature, illustrating key points with direct quotations from primary sources. Finally, you should conclude by demonstrating (with as much specificity as possible) how the adoption of your chosen position will help Zhao Zheng become a “true king” — one who is capable of securing the “Mandate of Heaven” that Zhao Zheng’s great-grandfather (King Zhaoxiang) implicitly claimed when he extinguished the Zhou dynasty in 256 BCE.

       Some of the questions you may wish to reflect on as you write the paper include: how do Mencius and Xunzi define “human nature” (M: 6A1-2, 6A6; X: 180-181); how do they account for “bad” behavior (M: 6A6, 6A8-9, 6A15; X: 179-180); how do they feel that “goodness” should be cultivated (M: 6A14-15; X: 179-180, 182); and do they value “humaneness” (ren) and “ritual” (li) equally, or do they give priority to one over the other (M: 6A16-19; X: 182-183). You may also find it helpful to look at the index for major themes in Mencius on page 116 and read the brief introductions to the chapters from Xunzi. Your paper must be submitted to Blackboard/Assignments before class on the day of the debate in order to avoid the late penalty described above.

Midterm Paper: Exegesis
The midterm paper is a 4-5 page essay (1000 word minimum) exploring the historical significance of a “primary source” passage from the assigned readings on Daoism (Laozi and Zhuangzi), Legalism, or Huang-Lao that was not discussed in class (though you may use material that was discussed in class to elucidate the meaning of your chosen passage). Your paper should begin by quoting the passage that you wish to focus on (or just the relevant parts if it is too long to cite in its entirety). You should then provide an introduction in which you state your “thesis” (i.e. the main point that you hope to demonstrate in the body of the essay). Your exegesis of the passage should explain not only the meaning of the text as it relates to the fundamental principles of the tradition with which it is associated, but also how it contributed to that tradition’s response to the sociopolitical turmoil that arose from the collapse of the Zhou feudal order during the Spring and Autumn (722-481 BCE) and Warring States (475-221 BCE) periods. Your argument should be supported through relevant quotes from both “primary” sources (i.e. the original writings of authors from the period in question) and at least four “secondary” sources (i.e. works that discuss various “primary” and “secondary” sources).

Topic Paper/Annotated Bibliography/Final Paper
The final assignment will be a 12-15 page research paper (3000 word minimum) on one of the main figures or traditions studied during the term. Your paper should include biographical and other contextual information about the thinker or tradition in question, but it must also deal with the ideas of the thinker or tradition, as well as the significance of these ideas within the broader history of the East Asian intellectual tradition. In order to help you develop an appropriate thesis for your paper, you will be required to submit a 1 page (250-word) paper describing your topic, together with an annotated bibliography of the sources that you intend to use. The topic paper should identify the issue that you wish to explore in the final paper and explain how you intend to pursue your research; you may not have a fully developed thesis at this point, but the topic paper will help you define a particular question that you hope to answer through your research, which is the first step toward developing a thesis. The annotated bibliography should be divided into two sections: one for “primary sources” and another for “secondary sources.” Altogether, your bibliography must include a minimum of seven “academic” sources (i.e. peer-reviewed books and journals, as opposed to non-academic websites), at least two of which must be “primary sources.” Each source should be followed by an “annotation” that summarizes the source, assesses its reliability, and reflects on its relevance to the project. To give you some ideas to get you started, I’ve provided a list of “Potential Paper Topics”; feel free to revise any of these topics however you see fit, or develop a topic of your own choosing. The final paper must include appropriate citations for both direct and indirect quotations using “Chicago Style” footnotes, as well as a final bibliography (without annotations). Since this paper is worth a significant portion of your final grade (40% for the paper plus 10% for the Topic Paper/Annotated Bibliography), you should expect to devote a considerable amount of time to this project; towards this end, I will be happy to meet with you individually to provide further guidance at any stage in the process.

Required Texts
 Liu, JeeLoo. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006. (ICP)
 Fingarette, Herbert. Confucius: The Secular as Sacred. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1998. (SAS)
 de Bary, Wm. Theodore and Irene Bloom (compilers). Sources of Chinese Tradition. Second Edition, Volume 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. (SCT)
Additional readings are available by clicking the links on the syllabus.

Office Hours, Etc.
225 North Loomis Road, Room 23
Monday: 4-5    Tuesday: 2-4    Wednesday: 3-4    Friday: 3-4    Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4-5
Phone: 630-637-5619
E-mail: bhoffert@noctrl.edu
Home Page: http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu