Is the afterlife a mirror of our ideal world? Do cunning people live better? Can we divorce the moral from the beautiful?
These are just some of the questions that will take centre stage at a philosophy conference at UNSW this week examining ancient prescriptions for living well.
In pursuit of wisdom: Ancient Chinese and Greek perspectives on cultivation will bring together leading thinkers from across the globe to discuss the practical secrets to a good life.
UNSW Associate Professor Karyn Lai, from the School of Humanities and Languages, said philosophical research often focuses on ideals, with the ‘how to’ sometimes getting lost.
“The way we tend to view knowledge in the West is very cerebral; it often focuses on the intellect and omits the other aspects of what it means to know,” said Associate Professor Lai, one of the conference’s convenors.
“There is a disconnect between ‘wisdom’ and its practical realisation.”
Associate Professor Lai is an expert in early Confucian and Daoist philosophy and said Ancient Greek and Chinese traditions emphasised cultivation, dwelling on the work required to develop the abilities and skills needed for a good life.
“The emphasis in these traditions on practice, experimentation and performance could change the way we think about knowledge, learning and education,” she said.
Conference highlights include:
- Open University (UK)’s Sophie Grace Chappell on the central place of beauty and the aesthetic in our moral and ethical decision-making
- Superstitions and mortuary practices in ancient Han China as a reflection of the ‘ideal life’ by Professor Mu-chou Poo from the Chinese University of Hong Kong
- ‘Cunning’ as an essential quality for living well, with Professor Lisa Raphals from the University of California, Riverside.
In pursuit of wisdom is jointly organised by researchers at UNSW, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.
What: In pursuit of wisdom: Ancient Chinese and Greek perspectives on cultivation – international conference
When: January 15-18, 2016
Where: New College, UNSW Kensington campus.