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Professor of Asian Studies

Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition

Associate Member, Depts. of Philosophy and Psychology

I received a B.A. from Stanford in Asian Languages (Chinese), an M.A. from UC Berkeley in East Asian Languages (classical Chinese), and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Stanford University.

My research specialties and teaching interests include Warring States (5th-3rd c. B.C.E.) Chinese thought, religious studies (comparative religion, cognitive science and evolution of religion), cognitive linguistics (blending and conceptual metaphor theory), ethics (virtue ethics, moral psychology), evolutionary psychology, the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences, and the classical Chinese language.

My first trade book, Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science and the Power of Spontaneity was released by Crown (Random House) in March 2014, and will be appearing in five languages. My current primary work in progress is an academic monograph with the working title Body and Mind in Early China: Beyond the Myth of Holism, an article-length version of which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in 2013. Other recent major publications include Creating Consilience: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities (co-edited by myself and Prof. Mark Collard of SFU), a statement on the importance of a “second wave” of science-humanities cooperation, and articles including a qualitative coding analysis of ancient Chinese texts published in Cognitive Science, a response to the situationist critique of virtue ethics published in Ethics, and the article “Metaphor and Meaning in Early China,” which was awarded the 2012 Annual Best Essay award from the journal Dao.

I am also the Primary Investigator on a $3 million, 6-year SSHRC “Partnership Grant” awarded last year to UBC-SFU’s Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC) on the topic of “The Evolution of Religion and Morality,” which has resulted in the creation of an interdisciplinary, international Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC), as well as plans for a new program in Religious Studies at UBC. We hope this project will not only do quite a bit to illuminate the cultural evolutionary origins of religion and its link to human cooperation, but also change the way scholars approach problems in religious studies. Our latest statement of our central hypothesis is forthcoming as a target article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. See the CERC link in the sidebar and my Media section for more details.

During the 2015-16 academic year I will be serving as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Please click here for my C.V.

photo by Paul Joseph

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