Spontaneity in Ancient Thought

The Quest for Spontaneity in Ancient Chinese Thought

This course examines a fascinating issue that attracts the attention of all the major Chinese thinkers in ancient times, that is, the freedom of acting without calculation or conscious effort—a state of being that can be best summarized as ziran (self-so) in Chinese, or “spontaneity” in English. Through close readings of selected passages from the original texts by such big names as Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, Xunzi, Liezi, and especially Laozi and Zhuangzi, students will learn to detect and analyze the differences—and similarities, if any—between the varied understandings and interpretations of this “spontaneity” from the perspectives of different schools of thought.

Required Text:
Dao De Jing: Making This Life Significant, A Philosophical Translation. Translated with commentary by Roger Ames and David Hall. ISBN 0-345-44419-1;

Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi: Basic Writings. Translated by Burton Watson. ISBN-10: 0231129599
Language School
Requirements Fulfilled:
Civ Cul & Soc


Summer 2015 Language Schools

CHNS6661A-L15 Lecture (Lian)

Summer 2014 Language Schools

CHNS6661A-L14 Lecture (Lian)