Associate Professor Karyn Lai


Associate Professor
BA Hons, MA Hons (NUS), PhD, Philosophy (Sydney)
School of Humanities and Languages

Contact

9385 1194
Room 326, Morven Brown
Fields: History and Philosophy of Specific Fields, Philosophy, Environmental Philosophy
Tags: School of Humanities and Languages

Research

Dr Karyn Lai is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of History and Philosophy. Karyn Lai’s primary research area is in early (pre-Qin) Confucian and Daoist philosophies. Her books include Learning from Chinese Philosophies (2006. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing) and Introduction to Chinese Philosophy (2008. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press). She is co-Editor (with Vincent Shen) of the “Chinese Comparative Philosophy” section of the journal, Philosophy Compass, published by Blackwell.

Her work is often of a comparative nature, drawing insights from Chinese philosophies to address issues in a number of philosophical areas including moral philosophy, environmental ethics, reasoning and argumentation and epistemology.

Current research project

Epistemology in Chinese philosophy. I am currently working on epistemology in the Confucian Analects. While ‘knowing’ in this text is often characterised as ‘knowing-how’ rather than propositional knowledge, I propose that this description is not sufficiently sensitive to the concerns of the early Confucians and their focus on self cultivation. I propose that a particular conception of knowing—knowing to act in the moment—is better suited to capturing the Analects’ emphasis on exemplary lives in actual contexts. These investigations might lead us to re-consider knowing-how in epistemology in western philosophy. In the longer term, I will extend these investigations to other traditions in pre-Qin philosophy.

Current research students and their projects

  • Yuzhou Yang (PhD, Philosophy): Practical Contextualism in Chinese Philosophy
  • Thomas McConochie (PhD, Philosophy): Zhuangzi's Great Thoroughfare
  • Theodore Brooks (PhD, Philosophy)
  • Mindy Xu (PhD, Philosophy): Comparative Bioethics

PhD Completions

  • Winnie Sung, PhD: Xunzi’s Concept of Xin (graduated in 2010; currently post-doc fellow 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 in 2012)
  • Wai Wai Chiu (PhD, Philosophy): Zhuangzi’s Concept of Zhi (knowledge, knowing, wisdom) (graduated in 2013)

Publications

    Books

    • Lai KL, 2008, An introduction to Chinese philosophy, Cambridge University Press, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511800832
    • Lai KL, (ed.), 2007, New Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Chinese Philosophy, 1, Blackwell Publishers, Massachusetts, USA
    • Lai KL, 2006, Learning from Chinese Philosophy: Ethics of Interdependent and Contextualised Self, 1, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, UK

    Book Chapters

    • Lai KL; hetherington, 2015, 'Knowing-How and Knowing-To', in Bruya B (ed.), The Philosophical Challenge from China, MIT Press, Massachusetts, pp. 279 - 302
    • Lai KL, 2014, 'Dialogue and epistemological humility', in Seibt J; Garsdal J (ed.), How Is Global Dialogue Possible?, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 69 - 84
    • Lai KL, 2014, 'Daoism and Confucianism', in Liu X (ed.), Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, Springer, Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York, pp. 489 - 511, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2927-0_21
    • Lai KL, 2014, 'Ren ?: An Exemplary Life', in Olberding A (ed.), Dao Companion to the Analects, edn. 1st, Springer, Heidelberg, New York, London, pp. 83 - 94, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7113-0
    • Lai KL, 2014, 'When good relationships are not enough for business: understanding character in Confucian ethics', in Li C; Ni P (ed.), Moral Cultivation and Confucian Character, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, pp. 235 - 250
    • Lai KL, 2013, 'Environmental concern: Can humans avoid being partial? Epistemological awareness in the Zhuangzi', in Meinert Carmen (ed.), Nature, Environment and Culture in East Asia: The Challenge of Climate Change, edn. Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), Germany, Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, pp. 69 - 82
    • Lai KL, 2007, 'Understanding change: The interdependent self in its environment', in , pp. 81 - 99
    • Lai KL, 2003, 'Confucian Moral Cultivation: Some Parallels with Musical training', in Chong K-C; Tan S-H; Tan CL (ed.), The Moral Circle and the Self: Chinese and Western Approaches, Open Court, Chicago and La Salle, Illinois, pp. 107 - 139
    • Lai KL, 2001, 'Classical China', in Dale Jamieson (ed.), A Companion to Environmental Philosophy, Blackwell Publishers, USA, UK, pp. 21 - 36

    Journal articles

    • Lai KL; Chiu WW, 2013, 'Ming in the Zhuangzi Neipian: Enlightened engagement', Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 40, no. 3-4, pp. 527 - 543, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1540-6253.12052
    • Lai KL, 2012, 'Knowing to act in the moment: Examples from Confucius analects', Asian Philosophy: an international journal of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Buddhist, Persian and Islamic philosophical traditions, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 347 - 364, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09552367.2012.729324
    • Lai K, 2012, 'Assessing participation skills: Online discussions with peers', Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 8, pp. 933 - 947, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2011.590878
    • Hetherington S; Lai K, 2012, 'Practising to know: Practicalism and confucian philosophy', Philosophy, vol. 87, no. 3, pp. 375 - 393, http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031819112000289
    • Lai KL, 2009, 'Ethics Without Principles', Sophia: an international journal for philosophical theology and cross-cultural philosophy of religion, vol. 48, pp. 77 - 84, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11841-008-0086-z
    • Lai KL, 2008, 'Learning from the Confucians: Learning from the past', Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 97 - 119
    • Lai K, 2007, 'Ziran and Wuwei in the Daodejing: An ethical assessment', Dao: a journal of comparative philosophy, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 325 - 337, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11712-007-9019-8
    • Lai KL, 2007, 'Understanding Confucian Ethics: reflections on moral development', Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics, vol. 9, pp. 21 - 27
    • Lai KL, 2007, 'Review of Antonio S. Cua's Human Nature, Ritual, and History: Studies in Xunzi and Chinese Philosophy', Sophia: an international journal for philosophical theology and cross-cultural philosophy of religion, vol. 45, pp. 203 - 205, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11841-007-0025-4
    • Lai KL, 2007, 'Confucianism and women: A philosophical interpretation', The China Journal, vol. 57, pp. 226 - 228
    • Lai K, 2006, 'Li in the Analects: Training in moral competence and the question of flexibility', Philosophy East and West: a quarterly of comparative philosophy, vol. 56, no. 1, pp. 69 - 83
    • Lai KL, 2006, 'Philosophy and philosophical reasoning in the Zhuangzi: Dealing with plurality', Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 365 - 374, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6253.2006.00365.x
    • Lai K, 2003, 'Critical notice of Joel J. Kupperman, learning from Asian philosophy', Australasian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 81, no. 1, pp. 126 - 133, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/715690945
    • Lai KL, 2003, 'Conceptual foundations for environmental ethics: A Daoist perspective', Environmental Ethics: an interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the philosophical aspects of environmental problems, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 247 - 266
    • Lai K, 2000, 'The Daodejing: Resources for contemporary feminist thinking', Journal of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 131 - 153
    • Lai KL, 1995, 'Confucian moral thinking', Philosophy East and West: a quarterly of comparative philosophy, pp. 249 - 272

Teaching

Teaching

 

Undergraduate courses

Chinese Philosophy

Ethics

Philosophy of Religion

Reasoning and Argumentation

 

Graduate student completions

Jasim Uddin, PhD, Interconnectedness as the basis of environmental ethics. Graduated 2004.

Winnie Sung, PhD, Xin in the Xunzi. Graduated 2010.

Ranie Villaver, PhD, Zhuangzi’s Scepticism In Light Of Yangist Ideas. Graduated 2012.

Wai Wai Chiu, PhD, The Idea of zhi in the Zhuangzi. Graduated 2013.

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.

Keynote speaker, Confucius World Consortium, University of Hawai’i, 8-12 October 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.

Professional contribution

Editor, Chinese Comparative Philosophy Section, Philosophy Compass, A Journal of Peer-reviewed survey articles from across the discipline. Wiley-Blackwell. ISSN: 1747-9991.

Associate Editor, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, ISSN: 0004-8402.

Assistant editor, Sophia: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology and Ethics, Springer Publishing. ISSN: 0038-1527.

Subject Editor, Chinese Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Book reviews editor (Asia and Europe) and Editorial Board member, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell. ISSN: 0301-8121.

Advisory Board, Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy (CEACOP), Department of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong.

Editorial Board member, Frontiers of Philosophy in China. Brill Publishers. ISSN: 1673-3436.

Editorial Board member, Handbooks to Asian Philosophy (PDF), Bloomsbury Publishing.

Affiliations and membership

Membership of Professional Organisations


International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP)

Regional Representative (Australia) (2005- ).

President (2003-2005).

Vice-President (2001-2003).

 

Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy

President (2013-)

Other information

Recent Administrative Roles

 

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