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Classical Readings: Daoism, Wisdom, Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to second-year BA students in Philosophy enrolled in the BA Plus-traject.


Based on a close reading of primary texts (in translation), including classics such as the Dao De Jing and the Zhuangzi, this class considers the dimensions and significance of the (ancient Chinese) Daoist intellectual tradition as a contribution and challenge to philosophy today. The class will consider the extent to which it is helpful or appropriate to talk about Daoism as philosophy, but will also investigate the characteristics of Daoism’s contributions to perrenial philosophical questions about the nature of human existence, the meaning of the good life, and the composition of reality. Daoism will not only be read as an ancient Chinese tradition but also as a modern, transnational tradition. Particular emphasis will be placed on questions of ethics and cultivation.

Course objectives

The course aims to give students an understanding of the central questions, concepts and arguments in the philosophy of Daoism.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • characteristic Daoist positions on the nature of human existence, including the mind-body problem;

  • characteristic Daoist positions on questions of ethics, politics, and the dimensions of the good life;

  • characteristic Daoist positions on questions of metaphysics and the nature of reality, as well as typically Daoist methodologies for inquiry into the same;

  • the (historical and conceptual) relationship between Daoism and Western Philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically analyse primary sources in translation, paying attention to issues of origination;

  • critically analyse recent literature in the fields spanned by the course: this includes primary philosophical literature and also relevant research in Asian/Chinese Studies as well as Religious Studies;

  • formulate and defend well-reasoned positions on the questions covered in the course in writing, and in-class discussions.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2015-2016, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject) tweede jaar.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (5 EC x 28 hrs): 140 hours
Attending seminars: (14 weeks x 3 hrs): 42 hours
Time for studying the compulsory literature: 68 hours
Time for completing assignments: 10 hours
Time for completing take home exams (2 × 10 hrs): 20 hours

Assessment method

  • Participation in class and web-assignments (20%)

  • Mid-term (take home) exam (30%)

  • Final (take home) exam (50%)


The resit consists of one take-home examination (in two parts) for both written components. No resit is possible for participation. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term test. The resit covers the entire course content and the mark will replace previously earned marks for subtests.


Blackboard will be used for texts, announcements, and discussion, as well as for web-assignments before each class.

Reading list

Primary texts will include:

  • Laozi, Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation (Ballatine Books, 2003).

  • Zhuangzi, The Inner Chapters (Hackett, 2001).

Further readings to be announced.
As much as possible, readings will be made available through Blackboard.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. Chris Goto-Jones