Associate Professor Karyn Lai

Associate Professor

BA Hons, MA Hons (NUS), PhD, Philosophy (Sydney)

School of Humanities & Languages


9385 1194
326 Morven Brown
Fields: History and Philosophy of Specific Fields, Philosophy, Environmental Philosophy
Tags: Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Dr Karyn Lai is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities and Languages. Her primary research area is in early (pre-Qin) Confucian and Daoist philosophies. She specialises in comparative Chinese-western philosophical research, drawing insights from Chinese philosophies to engage in debates in areas including moral philosophy, environmental ethics, reasoning and argumentation, and epistemology. Her books include:

- Lai, K. Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2017, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press)

- Lai, K., Benitez, R and Kim, HJ (eds.) Cultivating a Good Life in Early Chinese and Ancient Greek Philosophy: Perspectives and Reverberations (2018, London: Bloomsbury Press).

- Lai, K. and Chiu, WW (eds.) Skill and Mastery: Philosophical Stories from the Zhuangzi, (forthcoming, 2019, London: Rowman and Littlefield International).

Karyn is editor of the Chinese Comparative Philosophy section, Philosophy Compass (Wiley-Blackwell), Co-editor of the Chinese philosophy section, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Associate Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.


Teaching and Supervision


Undergraduate courses

  • Chinese Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Reasoning and Argumentation

Current research students and their projects:

  • Olusegun Samuel (PhD, Philosophy): Environmental Philosophy: rethinking monistic ethics.
  • Yu-Yi Lai (PhD, Philosophy): Guan in the Yijing.
  • Charintorn Nongbua (PhD, Philosophy): Dao in the Analects.
  • Andrew Koh (PhD, Philosophy) Shen in theory and practice in traditional Chinese Medicine.

Graduate student completions

  • Mindy Xu (MA, Philosophy): Comparative Bioethics, Graduated 2018
  • Yuzhou Yang, PhD, Practical contextualism in Chinese philosophy. Graduated 2017
  • Thomas McConochie, PhD, Mysticism in the Zhuangzi. Graduated 2017
  • Yu-Yi Lai, MA, Heng in the Yijing. Graduated 2016
  • Wai Wai Chiu (PhD, Philosophy): Zhuangzi’s Concept of Zhi (knowledge, knowing, wisdom). Graduated 2013, currently Assistant Professor at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.
  • Winnie Sung (PhD, Philosophy): Xunzi’s Concept of Xin. Graduated 2010, currently Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
  • Ranie Villaver (PhD, Philosophy): Is there a Tension between the Zhuangzi’s Scepticism and its Normative Recommendations?: A Yangist Interpretation of the Neipian. Graduated 2012, currently Lecturer, San Carlos University, Philipplines
  • Jasim Uddin, (PhD, Philosophy) Interconnectedness as the basis of environmental ethics. Graduated 2004, currently Professor, North South University, Bangladesh.

Honours and prizes

Awards and Distinguished Lectures

  • Representative of the Australian Academy of Humanities (AAH) at the joint conference and MOU treaty with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China, June 2014.
  • Dean’s Award for the Best Contribution to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2011, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. (Lai, Karyn. 2011. Assessing participation skills: online discussions with peers. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education IFirst: 1-15. (26 Jul 2011) DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2011.590878.)
  • Keynote speaker. “Practical Reasoning and Ethics in pre-Qin Confucian Philosophy,” International Society for Chinese Philosophy Conference, National Taiwan University, 2009.
  • Plenary speaker. “Happiness East and West,” Faculty of Arts Strategic Research Theme (China-West Studies), School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong, 2009.
  • Plenary speaker. “Chinese Philosophy and Moral Psychology,” Division of Humanities, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2007.
  • Presidential Address. “Chinese Philosophy and Human Well-Being: Change, Anticipation and Response,” Conference of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy, University of New South Wales, July 2005.
  • Public Lecture. “Philosophy and Philosophical Reasoning of Zhuangzi ― Dealing with Plurality,” University of Queensland, 2005.
  • Anthony Mason Fellow, UNSW. Fellowship awarded for international exchange at Beijing University. Feb-July 1999.

Engagement and Professional contributions

Membership of Professional Organisations

International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP)

  • Regional Representative (Australia) (2005-)
  • President (2003-2005)
  • Vice-President (2001-2003)

Related links

Other information

Recent Administrative Roles

  • Postgraduate Research Coordinator, School of Humanities and Languages, 2017 Dec - ongoing
  • Elected Faculty Representative, Academic Board (UNSW) 2015 - ongoing
  • University Promotions Committee (UNSW) 2015 - ongoing
  • Chair, Bachelor of Arts Degree Program, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (UNSW) 2012-2014
  • Acting Director, Confucius Institute (UNSW) 2012
  • Chair, Philosophy Discipline (UNSW) 2009-2011