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Something to Die For: Mencius on What People Really Want A Special Talk with Franklin Perkins

Feb 25 2020 - 11:00am to 12:15pm
Arts & Sciences Auditorium

The ancient Confucian Philosopher Mencius (Mengzi 孟子) claimed that everyone has things they would refuse to do, even if refusing would lead to death. That is, everyone has something they would die for. If true, this is a profound observation, because it means that ultimately, our deepest concerns are not for our own self-interest. In addition to discussing this claim, the talk will also examine the seemingly paradoxical fact that while many of us would risk our lives to help a person in danger, we often resist minor sacrifices that might greatly benefit others.

Franklin Perkins is a professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and has been a professor at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and at DePaul University (Chicago), where he was also director of the Chinese Studies Program. His main teaching and research interests are classical Chinese philosophy, early modern European philosophy, and the challenges of doing philosophy in a comparative or intercultural context. In the past few years, he has focused particularly on the philosophical significance of recently excavated Chinese texts that were buried around 300 BCE.  He is the author of "Heaven and Earth are not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy" (Indiana, 2014), "Leibniz: A Guide for the Perplexed" (Bloomsbury, 2007), and "Leibniz and China: A Commerce of Light" (Cambridge, 2004), and he was co-editor (with Chenyang Li) of "Chinese Metaphysics and Its Problems" (Cambridge, 2015). His books have been translated into Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. He is editor of the journal "Philosophy East and West."

Co-sponsors: Philosophy, Religion and Liberal Studies, Honors Program, Dean, Arts and Sciences


James Winchester
Professor of Philosophy
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