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Trying Not to Try | Edward Slingerland

  • Cafe Sambal 259 Jiashan Lu Shanghai (map)

The Hopkins China Forum with Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai and UBC Alumni Club of Shanghai cordially invite you to

Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity
Edward Slingerland

We’ve long been told that the best way to reach our goals or to be satisfied is to try harder or strive more intensely, but pushing harder is in fact often counterproductive. Some of the most desirable states in life—happiness, attractiveness, physical skill—are best pursued indirectly. This was recognized by early the Chinese thinkers, both Daoists and Confucians, who embraced an embodied model of the self and focused on the power of spontaneous wu-wei or “effortless action.” How, though, can a person try to be spontaneous? For this presentation, the author of Trying Not to Try, explores and unpacks this paradox, which lies at the heart of tensions surrounding creativity, virtue, and trust, using the tools of ancient Chinese thought and modern cognitive science.


Monday 5 December 2016 | 19.15 - 20.30

Cafe Sambal
259 Jiashan Lu
Jiashan Market, Block A, No 37, near Jianguo Xi Lu

Admission: 50RMB
Please RSVP to Frank Tsai of Hopkins China Forum [email protected]


Edward Slingerland is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, where he also holds appointments in the Departments of Psychology and Philosophy. He is an expert on early Chinese thought, comparative religion and cognitive science of religion, cognitive linguistics, and humanities-science integration. Slingerland is the author of several academic monographs and edited volumes from Oxford and Cambridge University Press, a major translation of the Analects of Confucius, and approximately fifty book chapters, reviews, and articles in top academic journals in a wide range of fields, from cognitive science and linguistics to Asian studies, philosophy, religious studies and international relations. His first popular book, Trying Not To Try: Ancient China, Modern
Science and the Power of Spontaneity (2014) ties together insights from early Chinese thought and modern psychological research. Slingerland is also in charge of a multimillion-dollar, international research project examining the evolutionary roots of human religion and morality and Director of the Database of Religious History. Slingerland holds a BA from Princeton and PhD from Stanford.

Earlier Event: November 18
2016 Shanghai Inter-University Mixer