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 Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2017, 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press) and Karyn Lai, Rick Benitez and Hyun Jin Kim, (eds.) Cultivating a Good Life in Early Chinese and Ancient Greek Philosophy: Perspectives and Reverberations (2019, London: Bloomsbury Press). She 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