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CANCELLED—Global Philosophy Research Interest Group Talk (Curie Virág, Warwick)

Friday April 19, 2024, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Please note that the talk today has had to be cancelled due to illness. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

The Global Philosophy Research Interest Group is delighted to welcome as guest speaker Curie Virág, who will take her position as an associate professor in World Philosophy at the University of Warwick later this year. She is a specialist in the philosophy and intellectual history of early and middle period China, and in the cross-cultural study of thought and learned traditions in premodern cultures. She has previously worked at the University of Toronto, Central European University, and the University of Edinburgh, where she served as co-director and co-investigator of PAIXUE, a multi-year research project funded by the European Research Council on the cross-cultural study of classicizing learning in Byzantium and China. She has published numerous articles on the conceptual history and ethics of emotions in the pre-Qin and Song periods, particularly in relation to cognition, practical reasoning, moral agency and self-cultivation. She is the author of The Emotions in Early Chinese Philosophy (Oxford, 2017) and co-editor, with Douglas Cairns, of In the Mind, in the Body and in the World: Emotions in Early China and Ancient Greece (Oxford, forthcoming).

This is an in-person event, but you can join the livestream.

Passcode: 777591

Talk Title

Cosmic and Human Agency in the Daodejing

Talk Abstract

It has often been argued that the Daodejing, with its emphasis on non-action (wuwei 無為) and spontaneity (ziran 自然), does not recognize agency as a normative ideal for human beings – that the human ideal is precisely one who is not an agent. But there is a significant case to be made for reading the Daodejing as not only recognizing agency as an important feature of its ideal conception of the human being, but also as centrally concerned with the enhancement of human agency. Thus, even if the conception and framing of human agency in the Daodejing is premised on different criteria from those that have been salient in certain canonical approaches in the modern western philosophical tradition—such as autonomy, engagement in rational deliberation, self-motion—we can nevertheless identify in the Daodejing a meaningful, normative account of human agency. This paper develops an account of human agency in the Daodejing that is premised on the attributes of responsiveness, adaptability, and alignment with the patterns and processes of the cosmos, highlighting the way in which the human agent is embedded in a web of relations with other beings and is interdependent with the world. Such attributes, it will be shown, do not eliminate the possibility of agency but represent the inescapable fact that human beings are situated in the world, and are faced with the predicament of navigating its complex forces in a way that is favorable. Moreover, it emphasizes that human agency in the Daodejing is not limited to the sphere of practical action but, crucially, extends to the realm of cognition as well, and argues that the Daodejing offers a robust account of agency in a cognitive and evaluative sense. The text thus forwards an ideal vision of the human agent that is marked by a capacity for perspicacious understanding (ming 明) and right forms of volition. This dimension of ideal human agency is inseparable from the much-emphasized practical and prescriptive orientation of the text.

The Global Philosophy Research Interest Group explores the benefits of drawing on diverse traditions of thought in approaching philosophical questions. These include novel insights into familiar problems, new questions and research directions, and fresh methodologies. We work to deprovincialize and decolonize all aspects of philosophy in the academy. The group currently has strengths in Sanskrit philosophy, and Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy in English, and classical Islamic philosophy.



Friday April 19, 2024
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Global Philosophy Research Interest Group


Jackman Humanities Building, Room 418
170 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2M8 Canada
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