Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science - Part 1

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Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science - Part 1

Course Details

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edX online courses
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be tau...
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be taught by David J. Malan, a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard University for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But there's not just one professor - you have access to the entire teaching staff, allowing you to receive feedback on assignments straight from the experts. Pursue a Verified Certificate to document your achievements and use your coursework for job and school applications, promotions, and more. EdX also works with top universities to conduct research, allowing them to learn more about learning. Using their findings, edX is able to provide students with the best and most effective courses, constantly enhancing the student experience.

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Sciences & Technology
Business & Management
23854 reviews

Course Description

This course is designed to give students a thorough introduction to early (pre-221 BCE) Chinese thought, its contemporary implications, and the role of religion in human well-being. Important themes to be discussed include the ideal of wu-wei or “effortless action,” the paradox of how one can consciously try not to try, mindfulness techniques and self-cultivation, models of the self and society, rationality versus emotions, trust and human cooperation, and the structure and impact of different spiritual and political ideals.

This period of Chinese history witnessed the formation of all of the major indigenous schools of Chinese thought (Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Legalism), which in turn had an impact on the development of East Asian cultural history that is still felt today. We will also explore parallels with Western philosophical and religious traditions, the relevance of early Chinese thought for contemporary debates in ...

This course is designed to give students a thorough introduction to early (pre-221 BCE) Chinese thought, its contemporary implications, and the role of religion in human well-being. Important themes to be discussed include the ideal of wu-wei or “effortless action,” the paradox of how one can consciously try not to try, mindfulness techniques and self-cultivation, models of the self and society, rationality versus emotions, trust and human cooperation, and the structure and impact of different spiritual and political ideals.

This period of Chinese history witnessed the formation of all of the major indigenous schools of Chinese thought (Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Legalism), which in turn had an impact on the development of East Asian cultural history that is still felt today. We will also explore parallels with Western philosophical and religious traditions, the relevance of early Chinese thought for contemporary debates in ethics, moral education, and political philosophy, and the manner in which early Chinese models of the self-anticipate recent developments in the evolutionary and cognitive sciences.

This course provides a full university semester’s worth of material broken into two parts. Each part of the course will last 5 weeks, with a week-long break in between. For each part, there will be four weeks worth of new material. The fifth week will be reserved for review and completion of the final exam.

Part 1 introduces the basic philosophical, religious and scientific concepts that will be drawn upon throughout the course, and then goes on to cover early Shang and Zhou religious thought, the Analects of Confucius, the Daodejing (a Daoist text attributed to Laozi), the utilitarian thinker Mozi, the newly discovered and very exciting Guodian texts, and the momentous philosophical changes that occurred in the mid Warring States period.

See also: Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science - Part 2

Reviews 10/10 stars
31 Reviews for Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science - Part 1

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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

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Jñānam Gan profile image
Jñānam Gan profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 5 reviews
  • 3 completed
4 years, 7 months ago
The professor and material presented are very engaging, The videos are professionally well-produced and impressive. After taking this course, I examined similar/other social psychology courses related to the subject of the soul (psyche) and I found they pale in comparison. This course gives a solid, structured treatment of the subject of the soul and related topics, such as evolutionary psychology. Most learners take this course because of an interest in China. My interest, however, is in philosophy and psychology. Overall, I felt that it was worth paying for the verified certificate, and I recommend the course to anyone with an interest in the subject.
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9/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 5 months ago
Professor Slingerland is a fantastic lecturer. There were some moments that with a less engaging professor would have been very dull, but he manages to make everything both interesting and relevant. The course material itself is well-put-together and does an excellent job of contextualising early Chinese thought in the current views in social psychology and neuroscience. Would highly recommend and I am looking forward to Part 2.
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Bette Nowack profile image
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Bette Nowack

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 7 months ago
This is an excellent course! It was the first MOOC I took and it has spoiled me. I have since taken a couple of ChinaX courses through HarvardX and they just don't live up to this one. I really enjoyed Prof. Slingerland's video lectures and the guest lecturers. It was always fascinating and very informative. The videos were very well edited and the pictures and clips inserted during the lectures were very entertaining. The length of Prof. Slingerland's video lectures was perfect. I found other courses' videos that ran in the 2 to 5 minute range to be much too short and chopped up. I found that there were many participants who made very thoughtful and pertinent comments in the discussion boards and the interactive discussions made me feel like a part of the class. Thanks to Prof. Slingerland and team for putting the effort into producing this great course. If only all MOOCS were as good as this one!
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Goh Yong Siang Ivan profile image
Goh Yong Siang Ivan profile image

Goh Yong Siang Ivan

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 9 months ago
5 Stars! Professor Slingerland is passionate about Chinese history and philosophy. I can even go so far to say he emits 'De' when he lectures. The TAs Robin and Daniel were very helpful in providing clarifications to our questions on the forum. The weekly review of the highlights of the Discussion are definitely a highlight. Even if you are not interested in this course, please check out Prof Slingerland's book, 'Trying not to try' on amazon. I'm sure that everyone can learn something useful from it.
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Alfredo Pizzirani profile image
Alfredo Pizzirani profile image

Alfredo Pizzirani

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 10 months ago
This has probably been the most engaging MOOC I have followed, and the quality of the lectures is entirely to thank for it. Obviously, a lot of effort went into producing quality, lively lectures. If you have any experience with video production, you will know that that effect takes a lot of effort to achieve. Prof. Slingerland really deserves to be commended for it. This is an introductory course, so if you already have spent some time on these topics, you will probably want a little bit more depth than the course is able to deliver, but there is a rich bibliography section to point you to further reading.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
4 years, 10 months ago
I loved this course. Edward Slingerland was very engaging and covered many interesting topic, relating ancient philosophies to modern societies. I've been wanting to learn about Chinese philosophy for a long time but have never found reliable resources to read. This is exactly what I was looking for. Definitely doing part 2.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
This was one of the (if not the) most interesting, stimulating and best organised MOOCs I've taken. Learning about the great diversity and depth of ideas from these thinkers of ancient China was in itself a treat, but Prof. Slingerland brought an unexpected freshness and actuality to the topics. It was a joy from beginning to end.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
Since it was a new topic for me, it was hard work to follow the lectures. But I loved them and I was looking forward to the next ones every week. Prof. Slingerland made it easy for a WEIRD person to understand the main aspects of the chinese concepts. Especially his remarks about the relations to modern science and european philosophy were most helpful. The only thing I disliked was the week without lectures!
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Steven Collins profile image
Steven Collins profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 3 reviews
  • 3 completed
5 years, 7 months ago
The course content was truly excellent and far exceeded my expectations. This is the first MOOC I have done, and is easily one of the best courses I have ever done. It was more in depth than I expected, so be prepared to devote a large portion of time to this each week. The videos were excellent, very well produced with good graphics, Prof. Slingerland made arcane texts accessible, understandable and relevant to the modern world. I especially like the way it was connected to modern research in psychology, neuroscience and philosophical issues. Each video had a self test quiz to help you embed the things you had just learned, and a quiz at the end of each module, plus an optional peer reviewed assignment which I also completed and enjoyed doing. There were also comprehensive further reading lists and links provided. Prof Slingerland and the teaching team were active on the discussion boards answering questions and Prof Slingerland pro... The course content was truly excellent and far exceeded my expectations. This is the first MOOC I have done, and is easily one of the best courses I have ever done. It was more in depth than I expected, so be prepared to devote a large portion of time to this each week. The videos were excellent, very well produced with good graphics, Prof. Slingerland made arcane texts accessible, understandable and relevant to the modern world. I especially like the way it was connected to modern research in psychology, neuroscience and philosophical issues. Each video had a self test quiz to help you embed the things you had just learned, and a quiz at the end of each module, plus an optional peer reviewed assignment which I also completed and enjoyed doing. There were also comprehensive further reading lists and links provided. Prof Slingerland and the teaching team were active on the discussion boards answering questions and Prof Slingerland provided a weekly wrap up video answering questions that had come up in the discussion threads. I looked forward to the new videos being released each week and it was one of those courses that I didn't want to end!
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
This is a superb course from one of the leading experts in the field. I learned a lot about the historical development of Warring States thought, recent discoveries in the field that you can't find in most books, and the role of cognitive science in modern philosophy.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
Wonderful course that shows how the various schools of thought during the Warring States period are still relevant and contain the basic arguments of ethical and psychological discussion today. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in philosophy, psychology, or history.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
Excellent introduction to the subject matter. Will keep you fully occupied throughout and will give yo a thirst for more.
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Wai Man Sin profile image
Wai Man Sin profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 7 months ago
Brilliant course taught be a most inspiring professor.
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
I had no idea that I would be presented with so much material and that I would be inspired to learn more. I particularly liked the "meets modern science" approach. I had read Prof. Slingerland's book "Trying not to Try" and that had attracted me to this MOOC. I found this a really inspiring and thought- provoking course, and will be waiting for the next one from Prof. Slingerland and UBC - many, many thanks to all the very talented and dedicated people involved.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
I fully agree with all those positive reviews, I appreciated the cross- disciplinary approach a lot. Thanks for the windows opened! I'm eager to learn more about the various topics this course dealt with.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
This was an extraordinary and brilliant course. For me it was like the first rays of sunlight in spring after a long winter: no boundaries between ancient times and modernity, humanities and science, psychology and philosophy, academia and the "real" world, West and East. Lots of topics to think about, excellent references and very professional videos.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
Fantastic course, well taught, lots of references and many new and old ideas explored. Would highly recommend.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
This is definitely one of my favorite course in EDX. I got more than what I had hope to learn when I joined this course. This course helped me gain a better understanding of Chinese culture and their philosophies. I also recommend China X course from Harvard to complement this course.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
A great course! The professor is engaging and makes complex ideas seem straightforward. I've come away feeling I've learnt a lot, and loved every minute of it!
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
This was a really interesting and enjoyable course. It gave great insight into the thinking of major Chinese philosophers and made it relevant to modern life. The production quality was high - easily the best online course I have done in both content and presentation.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 8 months ago
Drawn in to another world with beautifully written prose, a well-constructed mystery, a haunting piece of music or an exquisite painting I did not want to leave this course. The material was denese especially for a WEIRD who has never studied Chinese philosophy. The linkages to modern cognitive sciences was brilliant and cements the concepts from the past firmly in my intellectual tool box as the basis for futures analysis. Thank you Dr. Slingerland and the edX production team for an exceptional learning experience.
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10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
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Nico Marzian profile image
Nico Marzian profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 7 reviews
  • 7 completed
5 years, 7 months ago
This MOOC was most captivating and rewarding. Professor Slingerland and his team managed to lead the students to a great understanding of how ancient philosophers and schools of thought built the very fundament for China and Asia today, and how modern science shows that they fit into Western concepts as well.
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6/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 7 months ago
The course was very interesting, but to me Professor Slingerland speaks too fast.I enrolled to other courses and did not have this problem. Raffaella Paci,Italy
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Geoffrey Morton-Haworth profile image
Geoffrey Morton-Haworth profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 7 months ago
Initially, I was not very interested in Confucius/Kongzi. I came to the course hoping learn more about Laozi and the Daodejing. Overall the course far exceeded my wildest expectations. I loved its depth and the breadth: making complicated things simple without dumbing them down. I only wished the course could have gone on and on. Seven weeks is far too short for such a meaty topic. I have no basis to judge the Chinese scholarship offered here. But the content would be still more riveting (from my perspective) if it explored a few of the fascinating resonances with contemporary management thinking (such as Tom Malone on Collective Intelligence, Ed Schein on Culture, John van Maanen on Organizational Socialization, Donald Schön on Reflective Practice, Pearce and Littlejohn on Moral Conflict, and so on).
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Brian Chung profile image
Brian Chung profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 8 months ago
This course was challenging in that a lot of material was covered (I have exactly 100 pages of notes!) but it was well worth it. I came out the course with a strong understanding in Warring States Chinese philosophical thought and how this relates to our modern understanding of science and psychology. Thanks to Prof Slingerland and the China300x team for making an excellent course.
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Paul Hundal profile image
Paul Hundal profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 138 reviews
  • 119 completed
5 years, 8 months ago
Excellent course, well delivered but it did have much more lecture time than most MOOC's so prepare to put in the hours. i considered the time well spent and wouldn't change a thing because so much material was covered as a result. I learned more than I expected and now feel I can speak as more of an expert on Confucius and those after him who interpreted him. Thank you Prof Slingerland, UBC and Edx for this challenging model MOOC.
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 8 months ago
a beautiful and important class that covers ancient chinese thoughts on the origin of life and morality, the best part is professor slingerland would interject them with modern studies in behavioral economics & positive psychology and deepen our understandings in both... simply brilliant!
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Sasha Norkin profile image
Sasha Norkin profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 9 months ago
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student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 10 months ago
As a Chinese who was raised up in South East Asia, I am always fascinated about the great wisdoms of our ancestors. I feel an inexplicable urge to immerse myself in them. I admit that there's certain sentimentalism in it but at the same time, I firmly believe I'd be able to learn a lot and be inspired in this course!
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Rating Details


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  • 1 stars
  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.