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The Humanities Conference 2003

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A Confucian Reflection on the Future Prospects of Humanities Education: A Contemporary Re-reading of Confucian's "Great Learning"

EvaKW Man.

For centuries, words of the traditional Confucian text, the “Great Learning,” have been popularly quoted by Chinese institutes of higher education. They have acted as the summaries and the supreme goals and objectives of the Chinese Humanities education.
This paper would contemplate on the contemporary revelations of this classical work, examine the relevance of the teachings to the state of higher education today, especially to the study of the Humanities and see in what ways the traditional wisdoms (if any) imply in the teachings could shed light on the future prospects of Humanities teaching. Questions raised would include: What is knowledge and how does it form? What is the importance of knowledge and how should we utilize it? What should we learn and what is more important in our learning? How can we learn and what is the meaning of human learning? Finally, the paper would reflect on the situation of the study of the Humanities today, the problematic situation and the future prospects. The paper would also draw some of the basic ideas in this influential classical text in formulating possible new approaches in Humanities education.
One of these aspects is the practical, the volitional and the emotional elements of knowledge. It includes the knowing of what is right to do and what one is capable of doing, and the knowing of the readiness to act and the actual performance of action worthy of knowing. Humanities education in this formulation reconsiders practical attitudes and states of mind, the accomplishment of values presupposed and the attainments of dispositions and capabilities for practice. The paper welcomes discussion in the ways and the predictable problems in carrying out these new approaches.


EvaKW Man  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Head in Humanities
Department of Religion and Philosophy
Hong Kong Baptist University

Eva K W Man got her Ph.D. in Chinese Studies (Aesthetics) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1990. She is at present an associate professor in Religion & Philosophy Department and
Head in Humanities Programme of Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research interests include
Aesthetics, Chinese Philosophy, Woman Studies, Feminist Philosopy, Cultural Studies, Gender studies and Problems in Art. She has published numerous books and journal articles on Comparative Philosophy and Gender studies. Her manuscripts include:

"Gender and Creativity: Feminist Aesthetics and Related Issues in Hong Kong, " "Selected Feminist Literature Writings in Taiwan and Hong Kong," "Traditional and Contemporary Aesthetics in China" etc.

  • Great Learning
  • Illuminating the illustrious virtue in the world
  • Self-cultivation
  • Regulating family
  • Governing well a state
  • Pacifying the world at large
  • Supreme goodness”
  • Innate knowledge of good
  • Rectification of mind
  • Making one's intention sincere
  • The volitional and the emotional elements of knowledge
Person as Subject
  • Confucian

(30 min Conference Paper, English)