Majors

At Duke Kunshan University, each major consists of an interdisciplinary set of courses that integrate different forms of knowledge and a distinct set of disciplinary courses that provide expertise in specific areas.

Ethics and Leadership (Tracks: Philosophy and Religious Studies)
The Ethics and Leadership major, drawing from fields such as philosophy, political theory, history, literature, religion, and the social and natural sciences, seeks to provide students with the specific expertise that is needed to address issues such as global health, pollution and the environment or regulation of corporations and markets. Students will be encouraged and guided in the task of framing specific expertise with a broader and deeper framework of thinking about what kinds of leaders and citizens they should be, and what their ultimate values ought to be.
Ethics and Leadership/Philosophy

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses
Interdisciplinary Courses
And choose two courses from the following six courses
Disciplinary Courses

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

 

Ethics and Leadership/Religious Studies

Required Courses

Divisional Foundation Courses
Interdisciplinary Courses
And choose two courses from the following six courses
Disciplinary Courses

Recommended Electives for the Major

Courses listed below are recommended electives for the major. Students can also select other courses in different divisions as electives.

 

Career Path

The Ethics and Leadership major will prepare graduates for effective, values-based leadership roles in the public and private sector at home and abroad. Graduates may also pursue further study in philosophy, religion, psychology, and literature.  

Foundational Questions in Social Science

People everywhere ponder and debate fundamental questions: What does it mean to be human? How is society to be ordered? What is a moral life? Our ancestors asked such questions as well: it is likely that those questions lie at the origins of humanity itself. They also provide the foundations for much of the most important research in the social sciences today. This course examines the ways in which social scientists from a diversity of disciplines approach these fundamental questions. Study material for the course will include foundational texts from across the social sciences, as well as cutting-edge research from the present day. This course will not attempt to answer these vast questions, or provide neat solutions for students: rather, we want to excite students about the social sciences and whet their appetites for further study.

The Art of Interpretation 1: Written Texts

Training in close reading and analysis of text remains a foundational skill in the arts and humanities, whether the text is literary or documentary. This core course combines practical training in close reading of a variety of texts, with strategies of analysis that are theoretically informed without, however, offering a comprehensive treatment of theory per se. The course will focus both on reading and analysis of literary texts, and on the nuanced unpacking of documents (official, unofficial, personal) with a view to historical method.

Ethics and Leadership

This interdisciplinary course draws philosophy, sociology and public policy to explore ethical leadership in the twenty-first century. From the challenges facing governments to decisions students confront daily, this course seeks to create and evaluate solutions to ethical dilemmas in a global world. Does a government have the right to insist on another government’s adherence to human rights standards? Should a museum be forced to return artifacts that were stolen centuries before the museum acquired them? Do corporations have an obligation to invest in their local communities? Do we have an obligation to help the poor and if so why?

Conceptions of Democracy and Meritocracy

What are the best arguments for and against democracy and meritocracy? Are these two conceptions compatible? What are the strengths and liabilities of each conception? Can a viable government have both democratic and meritocratic elements, and if so, what might be the best combination? How is merit to be assessed? To what extent should voters in a democracy vote for the most able and virtuous? Readings from philosophy, political theory, history, and sociology will address these questions. Potential application of these theories to the United States and to China, among other countries, will be discussed.

Ethics, Markets, and Politics

What should be the relation between markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the state that has a potential supportive and regulatory functions toward the markets, and ethical values such as human welfare, the desire for meaningful work, equality, and justice? To what extent can and should markets be regulated by the state for the sake of such values? Should businesses act on moral values as well as the profit motive? To what extent should consumers guide their choices in the market according to ethical values? An interdisciplinary approach through philosophy, political theory, and economics.

Environmental Ethics

This course addresses the morality of respecting the natural world, including plants, animals and all forms of planetary life for their own sake. Is pollution of air and water wrong in itself, and not simply because it damages resources that present and future generations of human beings need? Does the suffering of nonhuman animals impose a moral claim upon human beings? Do all species have a claim to survive in the face of human development? Different philosophical theories as well as a variety of cultural traditions of thought about the environment will be studied and discussed.

Global Justice and Health Care

The gap between those who receive the best health care and those who receive the worst health care in the world is staggering . Do all people have an equal right to long life and prosperity regardless of where they happen to live? Is there a right to basic health care? What should the most advantaged nations do for the least advantaged? This course studies philosophical theories of global justice, along with particular issues such as the “brain drain” of health care personnel from developing to rich countries, and the alleged bias of pharmaceutical companies against developing drugs most needed in developing markets.

Trust and Cross-Cultural Leadership

Leadership works through the cultivation of trust between leaders and the people they lead. Leaders make trade-offs in providing direction (“coercive control”) versus cultivating trust-based commitment (“enabling control”). Recently, there has emerged the concept of “soft power,” which is the power to get others to want what you want through their attraction to your culture. Leaders often face the challenge of fostering trust when across diverse cultures, values, and beliefs. This course draws on philosophy, political science, organizational behavior, sociology and psychology to study the conditions that foster trust within and across societies, and between leaders, the institutions of governance and the governed.

The Psychology of Justice

What are the conditions under which people come to perceive their societies or their leaders as just or unjust? Distributive justice refers to how people judge fairness based on whether their outcomes (such as pay or status) are seen as matching their effort and qualifications. Procedural justice is based on whether legitimate and fair criteria are used and procedures are followed. Interactional justice is assessed based on how one is treated (for example, with respect) rather than the outcomes or procedure used. This course draws on history and pscychology to examine how leaders can foster perceptions of fairness and affirm the legitimacy of the leader, the institution, and the society.

The Sociology of Morality and Politics

Religious, philosophical, social and cultural psychology explain how morality varies so much across cultures, despite the fact that cultures share so many similarities and recurrent themes. This course explores the foundation, the virtues, narratives, and institutions that sit on top of shared moral foundations, and the ways in which they lead to conflict within and across nations as well as the possibilities for managing that conflict.

Ethics of Nudging

Behavioral economics and the idea of “nudging” have captured the attention of policy makers and the public. The idea that situations can be structured to make some choices and practices easier (and thus more likely) and make others harder (and thus less likely) is well established in psychology, organizational behavior, political science and sociology, but this raises the question of whether it is ethical for those in power to intentionally structure situations to nudge people one way or the other. This course will examine the work on behavioral economics and nudging, and the earlier research in other fields that underpins “nudging,”, and the practical moral dilemmas it raises.

Introduction to Western Philosophy

This course focuses on the origins of the European philosophical tradition, with an emphasis on metaphysics, theory of knowledge, ethics and politics. The course reads primary texts of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius and Epicurus and other key western thinkers in English translation. The course examines the significance of these key approaches to philosophy in the later development of the European philosophical tradition, and considers their relevance for the contemporary global context.

Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy

This course introduces the foundations of Chinese thought with a focus on the Warring States period. Students will read selections from the most famous classical Chinese philosophy texts in English translation, including Confucius’s Analects, Mengzi, Xunzi, Mozi, Zhuangzi and the Daode Jing. The course emphasizes close reading of texts, with a view to understanding their key concepts and issues, as well as forms of argumentation. In so doing, students will think through the key questions that animated intense debate between key schools of philosophy, and examine how these key debates have influenced the development of Chinese culture right through to the present day.

History of Modern European Philosophy

Modern European philosophy centers on the theories of knowledge, morality and metaphysics of key thinkers of the 17th- and 18th-centuries, notably y theories of knowledge, morality, and metaphysics studied in work by Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Together, these thinkers brought to birth a distinctively European approach to humanism, in dialog with science and reason, that has resonated powerfully across the world. This course examines their key arguments by reading selected primary texts, and debates their continued relevance in the contemporary world.

Theory of Knowledge

Do we know anything at all? If we do, how do we know it? How does knowledge differ from opinion and belief? Perception is a major avenue to knowledge, but what is it and under what conditions can we trust it? Our perceptions are influenced by what we already believe about the world. Does this make our perceptions untrustworthy since our beliefs can often be wrong? These related set of questions, collectively understood as the basic problems of epistemology, have challenged thinkers across the world and over centuries. This course examines a variety of aAncient and modern approaches to these questions.

Logic

Logic is the study of the conditions of good reasoning and clear communication. As such, logical reasoning is one of the key hallmarks of science, mathematics and law. While many people claim to be logical in their thinking, they do not necessarily understand the formal properties of logic and are unable to distinguish a truly logical argument from one that merely seems so. A proper study of logic can help all students develop a rigorous approach to thinking, which is relevant for all fields of study. The course introduces systems for deductive thinking and clear communication, and examines the role of logic in different areas of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.

Chinese/Mediterranean Philosophy

The early Mediterranean civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome) and dynastic China have been profoundly influential in the development of world civilizations, and in how human civilization is conceived. How do they compare in their traditions of thought about how one ought to live, theories of government and governance, and methods and aims in study of the natural world? This course offers a basic introduction to early Chinese and Western thought through examination of selected primary texts in English translation. As well as analyzing these approaches to philosophy in their historical and cultural context, the course debates their continuing relevance in a global context.

Philosophy of Mind

This course is an introduction to the basic questions about mind: What is consciousness? Is the mind really like a computer or something quite different? Can thoughts, perceptions, feelings and intentions be explained in terms of events and processes in the brain and nervous system? How do we know there are minds other than our own? Although philosophers across the world have considered these questions for many centuries, the contemporary study of mind is heavily dependent on more recent scientific discoveries in cognitive psychology, neuroscience and computer science. The course demonstrates how philosophy has rapidly developed through engagement with these sciences.

Problems in Philosophy of Science

This course examines the principal philosophical problems of scientific practice with a view to explaining what science is and how it works. Students will learn how science may be distinguished from pseudo-science, how and why scientific theories change, and whether science can ever give us a fully accurate description of reality. The course focuses on what constitutes scientific explanation, how experimentation can confirm or deny scientific hypotheses, and the contrast between instrumentalist and realist conceptions of scientific theory. The course also examines the notion of scientific laws, and how these concepts may be challenged by the question of indeterminism that emerges in post-classical science.

What’s the Right Things to Do? Ethics and Justice in the Modern World

This course examines classical and contemporary theories of justice in Western philosophical ethics and applies them to modern dilemmas that have dominated political and cultural conflict in the modern West. These topics include questions of economic justice in relation to capitalism and communism; the question of human rights as a supreme and universal value that cuts across all social and cultural contexts; the profound challenges of slavery, colonialism and racial justice that haunt American politics in the present day; the continuing quest for gender equality; and contemporary issues of gender politics including same-sex marriage and the recognition of transgender and nonbinary identities.

Foundational Questions in Social Science

People everywhere ponder and debate fundamental questions: What does it mean to be human? How is society to be ordered? What is a moral life? Our ancestors asked such questions as well: it is likely that those questions lie at the origins of humanity itself. They also provide the foundations for much of the most important research in the social sciences today. This course examines the ways in which social scientists from a diversity of disciplines approach these fundamental questions. Study material for the course will include foundational texts from across the social sciences, as well as cutting-edge research from the present day. This course will not attempt to answer these vast questions, or provide neat solutions for students: rather, we want to excite students about the social sciences and whet their appetites for further study.

The Art of Interpretation 1: Written Texts

Training in close reading and analysis of text remains a foundational skill in the arts and humanities, whether the text is literary or documentary. This core course combines practical training in close reading of a variety of texts, with strategies of analysis that are theoretically informed without, however, offering a comprehensive treatment of theory per se. The course will focus both on reading and analysis of literary texts, and on the nuanced unpacking of documents (official, unofficial, personal) with a view to historical method.

Ethics and Leadership

This interdisciplinary course draws philosophy, sociology and public policy to explore ethical leadership in the twenty-first century. From the challenges facing governments to decisions students confront daily, this course seeks to create and evaluate solutions to ethical dilemmas in a global world. Does a government have the right to insist on another government’s adherence to human rights standards? Should a museum be forced to return artifacts that were stolen centuries before the museum acquired them? Do corporations have an obligation to invest in their local communities? Do we have an obligation to help the poor and if so why?

Conceptions of Democracy and Meritocracy

What are the best arguments for and against democracy and meritocracy? Are these two conceptions compatible? What are the strengths and liabilities of each conception? Can a viable government have both democratic and meritocratic elements, and if so, what might be the best combination? How is merit to be assessed? To what extent should voters in a democracy vote for the most able and virtuous? Readings from philosophy, political theory, history, and sociology will address these questions. Potential application of these theories to the United States and to China, among other countries, will be discussed.

Ethics, Markets, and Politics

What should be the relation between markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the state that has a potential supportive and regulatory functions toward the markets, and ethical values such as human welfare, the desire for meaningful work, equality, and justice? To what extent can and should markets be regulated by the state for the sake of such values? Should businesses act on moral values as well as the profit motive? To what extent should consumers guide their choices in the market according to ethical values? An interdisciplinary approach through philosophy, political theory, and economics.

Environmental Ethics

This course addresses the morality of respecting the natural world, including plants, animals and all forms of planetary life for their own sake. Is pollution of air and water wrong in itself, and not simply because it damages resources that present and future generations of human beings need? Does the suffering of nonhuman animals impose a moral claim upon human beings? Do all species have a claim to survive in the face of human development? Different philosophical theories as well as a variety of cultural traditions of thought about the environment will be studied and discussed.

Global Justice and Health Care

The gap between those who receive the best health care and those who receive the worst health care in the world is staggering . Do all people have an equal right to long life and prosperity regardless of where they happen to live? Is there a right to basic health care? What should the most advantaged nations do for the least advantaged? This course studies philosophical theories of global justice, along with particular issues such as the “brain drain” of health care personnel from developing to rich countries, and the alleged bias of pharmaceutical companies against developing drugs most needed in developing markets.

Trust and Cross-Cultural

Leadership works through the cultivation of trust between leaders and the people they lead. Leaders make trade-offs in providing direction (“coercive control”) versus cultivating trust-based commitment (“enabling control”). Recently, there has emerged the concept of “soft power,” which is the power to get others to want what you want through their attraction to your culture. Leaders often face the challenge of fostering trust when across diverse cultures, values, and beliefs. This course draws on philosophy, political science, organizational behavior, sociology and psychology to study the conditions that foster trust within and across societies, and between leaders, the institutions of governance and the governed.

The Psychology of Justice

What are the conditions under which people come to perceive their societies or their leaders as just or unjust? Distributive justice refers to how people judge fairness based on whether their outcomes (such as pay or status) are seen as matching their effort and qualifications. Procedural justice is based on whether legitimate and fair criteria are used and procedures are followed. Interactional justice is assessed based on how one is treated (for example, with respect) rather than the outcomes or procedure used. This course draws on history and pscychology to examine how leaders can foster perceptions of fairness and affirm the legitimacy of the leader, the institution, and the society

The Sociology of Morality and Politics

Religious, philosophical, social and cultural psychology explain how morality varies so much across cultures, despite the fact that cultures share so many similarities and recurrent themes. This course explores the foundation, the virtues, narratives, and institutions that sit on top of shared moral foundations, and the ways in which they lead to conflict within and across nations as well as the possibilities for managing that conflict.

Ethics of Nudging

Behavioral economics and the idea of “nudging” have captured the attention of policy makers and the public. The idea that situations can be structured to make some choices and practices easier (and thus more likely) and make others harder (and thus less likely) is well established in psychology, organizational behavior, political science and sociology, but this raises the question of whether it is ethical for those in power to intentionally structure situations to nudge people one way or the other. This course will examine the work on behavioral economics and nudging, and the earlier research in other fields that underpins “nudging,”, and the practical moral dilemmas it raises.

Comparative Religious Studies

The category of “religion” is arguably a Western concept that is applied to Eastern traditions of thought and practice such as Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. What are the differences, and as well as the similarities that might be hidden by the broad application of this concept, if we compare these traditions of thought and practice with the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam? How do ethical values get related to conceptions of human salvation or enlightenment and the ultimate source of the natural order? Is there a conception of free will that exists across these traditions? Is there a distinction between the realms of the secular and the sacred that runs across these traditions?

Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism

These traditions of philosophical and religious thought and practice have long viewed within Chinese culture as compatible and perhaps complementary. Confucianism is centered on how to live well in the human social world, and Daoism on returning harmony between humanity and the natural world. Buddhism is focused on the problem of suffering and its relation to the way we conceive of our selves. The course will trace the origins of Confucianism and Daoism in ancient China; the introduction of Buddhism from India; and later evolution of Confucianism that involves incorporation of certain elements of Daoism and Buddhism.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

In contrast to the Chinese concept of the “three traditions,”, Islamic tradition came to define the overlapping identity of Jewish, Christian and Islamic peoples by the concept of “the people of the book.”. This course offers an introduction to the three traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by focusing on the concept of the sacred text as the written revelation of God. Comparisons between the Jewish torah, Christian gospels and Islamic law, and the practices of scribes, commentators, and textual scholars illuminate the similiarities and also differences between the three great monotheistic traditions of the world.

Religious and Philosophical Thought on the Environment

This course Explores explores the ways in which a variety of religious traditions across the world have shaped fundamental conceptions of humanity’s place within nature, including the kinds of environmental ethics that arise from these conceptions. The course examines the foundational texts and practices of selected world religions and considers how these texts and practices are being used by contemporary religious leaders to shape religious responses to current ecological challenges, such as environmental pollution, global climate change, and the factory farming of nonhuman animals.

Religion and Leadership

Different religions have portrayed leaders in different ways, through stories, exemplars and which attributes of leaders and followers are emphasized or downplayed. Drawing upon a wide variety of resources in religious studies, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and cultural studies, this course will examine how a wide variety of religions depict leaders and leadership, highlighting both the differences and the similarities across religions and within religious traditions. The course will also draw upon research on leadership, cultural values, and norms to systematically compare and contrast how religion shapes perceptions of leadership. Applications explored will include religion-based portrayals of gender, race ethnicity, and age in assessing leaders. Also considered will be whether these portrayals make specific religious lenses more or less amenable to leadership development in different contexts (for example where innovation is important or where co-leadership is essential).

Prophets and Priests

This course studies the relationships among charismatic authority, priestly tradition, religious institutions, and state power. It uses as a case study the historical context of Palestine in the first century CE and examines the social and political context for the emergence of the Christian movement inspired by the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Topics include the nature of authority, religious resistance to state power, the concept of divine law, and popular sects. Other religious contexts may also be included in order to offer a comparative perspective.

Law and Revelation

This course focuses on the concept of religious law, the traditions of jurisprudence that emerge in religious societies, and their relationship to the modern nation state. It introduces students to the Islamic concepts of of Qur’an, Sharia, and Fiqh (jurisprudence) with a view to understanding how divine laws function in human societies. Topics include concepts of divine revelation, sacred texts, law codes, legal institutions and modern forms of fundamentalism. Other religious traditions may also be included by way of comparison.

Myth and Nation

This course studies the role of religion in establishing the founding mythology of peoples and nations. It introduces students to the Jewish tradition by way of example, and considers the role of the foundational mythology of the Jews in multiple forms of Judaism from early Israelite religion to modern Zionism. The course leads to an examination of the experience of holocaust, the quest for Jewish statehood and its impact upon the political situation in the Middle East. In so doing the course develops broad theoretical approaches in religious studies that can serve wider interests in understanding the relationship between nation, state, ethnicity, and religious belonging. Other religious contexts may be introduced by way of comparison.

Gods and People

This course introduces the Hindu concepts of darsan (vision of the gods) and dharma (path) so as to explore how religious visions, as represented in art, architecture and mythology, engage the social and material reality of religious practitioners’ daily lives. In so doing it exposes the cultural power of religious frameworks to structure normative hierarchies of gender, class and race. Students gain a functional understanding of religious cultures that may be applied to other traditions and contexts by way of comparison.

Modern Buddhism

An examination of Buddhism in Asia, Europe, and the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The course emphasizes how global exchanges resulted in the emergence of Buddhism in the United States and Europe, and the transformation of Buddhism in Asia. The course takes a number of case studies in the transformation of Buddhism including the emergence of humanistic Buddhism in modern China; the American encounter with Japanese Zen; and the relationship between Buddhism and ethnic militarism in Imperial Japan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In all cases the course examines how Buddhism transformed in response to the emergence of new global contexts.

The Human Condition

Exploration of the problem of the human condition for Eastern and Western religious thought. This courses examines theological, philosophical, psychological, and popular cultural conceptions and responses. It explores how traditions of religious thought have conceptualized the basic problem of the human condition, whether as the consequences of karmic bonds, the general condition of human ignorance, or a lack of proper moral training. At the same time the course offers a framework for understanding religious movements as positing solutions to the problems they identify, whether conceptualized as salvation, liberation, perfection, or immortality.

Ethics in Religious Perspective

This course examines how and why religious traditions propose ethical norms, their continued significance in the contemporary world, and recent attempts to foster a more inclusive, global approach to ethics. Whether formulated in divine laws, ritual formulas or monastic codes, religious traditions have asserted their authority and identity by specifying what they regard as the ultimate norms for human conduct. These norms were formulated in the last Axial period around 2,500 years ago and reflect the values and interests of those societies. The course examines the continuing impact and relevance of these norms on contemporary life, and pays particular attention to attempts to shape global ethical norms especially in relation to global issues such as climate change.

Global Philosophy

The Global Philosophy course offers a gateway for students to critically engage with the diverse philosophical traditions that inform the making of the increasingly pluralistic modern world. The aim of the course is to cultivate deep appreciation of diversity and to help students develop a culturally sensible map of the world’s philosophical traditions that will help them deal with the compelling challenges in this multicultural age.

Philosophy and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Recent progress in Artificial Intelligence, via machine learning techniques that leverage big data, has made breakthroughs in a variety of domains. While some believe AI is still nothing but a tool, others believe we are on the verge of a technological singularity – the invention of an artificial superintelligence that will trigger exponential technological advancement that will change humanity in unpredictable ways. In this course we will begin with philosophical reflection on the nature of AI and then consider ethical issues that lie on a spectrum from highly speculative projections regarding the future of AI to highly practical issues that are being generated by actual AI applications being deployed today: internet usage, profiling, and autonomous vehicles among others.

The Problem of Evil

This courses explores the problem of evil for Eastern and Western religious thought and discusses several attempts to confront the reality of evil, to square that with one’s worldview, and to find a way of living with that worldview.  This courses examines theological, philosophical, psychological, and popular cultural conceptions and responses.