"Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science and the Power of Spontaneity"

September 17, 2018 - 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm (already occurred)
Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall
Poster featuring lecture information on stripes of orange over a background sketch of a Chinese scholar

Edward Slingerland is Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, with associate appointments in philosophy and psychology. His research specialties and teaching interests include early Chinese thought, religious studies, cognitive linguistics, ethics, and the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences. His publications include several academic monographs and edited volumes and approximately 30 refereed articles in top journals in a wide variety of fields.

Many early Chinese thinkers had as their spiritual ideal the state of wu-wei, or effortless action. By advocating spontaneity as an explicit moral and religious goal, they inevitably involved themselves in the paradox of wu-wei—the problem of how one can try not to try—which later became one of the central tensions in East Asian religious thought. In this talk, Slingerland will look at the paradox from both an early Chinese and a contemporary perspective, drawing upon work in economics, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary theory to argue that this paradox is a real one, and is moreover intimately tied up with cooperation dilemmas in large-scale societies and concerns about trust and moral hypocrisy.

The public is welcome. Refreshments and meet-and-greet will follow the lecture.

Contact Info

Lisa Ballou
(413) 542-2181
image of e-mail address@amherst.edu