Not only, as the article mentions, does it fulfill a core requirement, but it's also rated as one of the easiest courses going in the student evaluations. It scores a 1.58/5 for workload, and a 2.43/5 for difficulty, both below the benchmark for the Gen Ed department (which itself is pretty low).
I'm sure many people taking the class have a genuine interest, but from my experience a significant number of students spend a lot of time finding core/gen-ed classes that are light on work (this is especially true if you've left your requirement to the last minute to complete).
(I'd link to the evaluation data, but you need a harvard.edu login, so you'll have to take my word for it).
Edit: Turns out the student paper backs this theory up - http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/10/9/hey-atlantic-5-r...
Chinese philosophy nails the importance of the quotidian (to quote the article) in shaping one's world view. It's akin to PG arguing that what you think about in the shower matters or that living with your cofounders is optimal. I found it enriching.
In the end, isn't the point of a good education—to get you to see the world differently, even if it's more superficial lures that draw you in?
"He requires his students to closely read original texts (in translation) such as Confucius’s Analects, the Mencius, and the Daodejing and then actively put the teachings into practice in their daily lives."
You can shape an awesome life for you and others using this "diluted feel-good aphorism".
Every university has terrible students, pre-bankers and pre-consultants who just want a cake walk, and I'm sure there are many who take the course just for the easy A. I also believe there are others who get a lot out of it. Education is, largely, what you make of it.
But this idea that Chinese philosophy is "feel-good aphorisms" is the sickening anti-intellectualism that I fucking hate about business and, increasingly, the tech industry. If the only thing you get out of your study is the superficial, that's on you, not the material.
One manifestation of this agenda is the Confucius Institutes that have spawned hundreds of branches around the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius_Institute). They're pretty nice organizations: they run programs, give funding for projects, give scholarships (heck, my web development job during college was paid partly through the local CI). All in all promote Chinese language/culture, though all pretty much funded by the PRC.
Source: a visiting professor from China
The resulting cultural cross-pollination is usually likely to be a good thing...
Even today, if you go China or Taiwan and you start asking about how to say things in Chinese, people start treating you as a candidate for a civilized person, rather than a foreign barbarian.
Having said that, the cynicism obscures a deeper truth. The core teachings of all religions are essentially the same, and for the people who got deep enough to do that, they know that language and culture are "local flavor". They are genuinely trying to help people get in touch with themselves, regardless of age, race, sex, culture, religious affiliations, political philosophy, caste, likes and dislikes, and the wrongs you have done or have been done to you in the past. None of those things are who you are.
Nope, still speaking English.
Turns out I discovered I really like yoga. :)
So if you were a Harvard student who wanted to get Latin honors (...of which there are more than a few) it's in your best interests to take the easiest general-education (core) courses to ensure you have more breathing space for studies in your major.
I Head TA'd a core curriculum class at Harvard, and you would be amazed at the number of seniors who e-mailed me once grades came out begging to be bumped up as it meant their GPA would be pushed over the honors cut-off.
This was one reason why the Harvard cheating scandal last year was so widespread: the course fulfilled a core requirement, and it had a reputation for being very easy, hence hundreds of people took it.
gpa is not always directly proportional to hard work.
Harvard students are not stupid, and quite rationally choose the path that gives them the greatest returns for the lowest effort.
If the body leads, the mind will follow.
The smallest actions have the most profound ramifications.
Decisions are made from the heart.
Seeing how they just launched another $6B fundraiser...perhaps they were getting pushback from the type of students that were making the press for all the wrong reasons.
The implied question is "Why do Harvard students take this class?"
Rather than resort to philosophical mumbo-jumbo (as the article does) about Harvard students feeling a yearning to improve their overprivileged existence, the simplest explanation is that students take the class because it offers an easy A.
It makes them feel smart. I'm going to put my head through a wall next time I see someone type 'fallacy.'
Most people don't like thinking. Even the people who do like thinking only have a finite capacity for it, and don't like spending their/our thought-power on things they/we don't really care about.
Also, it's sort of condescending. No Western professor teaches Heidegger or Schopenhauer by breaking them up into easy-to-digest, feel-good aphorisms for better living.
This is true, but there is comparable treatment in early Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, with multiple schools arguing very different things getting lumped together as if they are the same.
We spent four months on that. Granted, it was a lower-level course, but I don't think I could say all Hellenistic philosophy gets lumped together when we spent so long just trying to pry the Socratics apart.
A cute bit for us computer nerds: Chrysippus pretty much invented boolean logic (in the Hellenistic period) and was considered the Father of Logic in antiquity. My intro philosophy course with a heavy emphasis on formal logic never mentioned any of this.
It's like saying all Chinese philosophy is based on Confucius, (and to a lessor extent Daoism, and Chinese Buddhism). They became the official schools, so everyone thought of other philosophers as being relative to Confucius.
That might explain Hegel's obscurity.
It's almost obvious when you think about it that abstraction necessitates containers like memory pointers and that referencing the abstractions is more efficient, but in the magic of our minds, the underlying truth is not guaranteed to still be there.
Another quality of what I read in Daodejing is that it basically proclaims itself to only be such a pointer, and that the truth can't be contained and still have a word to call it by. How many other philosophies and religions do you know that try to explain all and -do- claim to have all the answers or have proponents who claim that every truth can be found within their corpus? I did come away believing that Laozi had captured the fact that any all-inclusive truth is ineffable, something that can be logically reinforced by studying paradoxes such as Russel's paradox and self-reference.
To sum up the paradox. Define a set of all sets. The set itself is a set, so in order to be the set of all sets, it has to contain itself. Writing a program to create this set will obviously never terminate because any result must be put inside the result, so there can be no final result. Cool resolutions to many problems of natural thought that would otherwise spiral off into infinity. Teaches you to recognize them and terminate the process, freeing memory and mental cycles for other things.
The epic of gilgamesh came from mesopotamia, the land of a hundred city-kings perpetually at war with each other. Look at what Sargon is famous for. All of our records of mesopotamia come from their clay tablets. Clay will last a long time if you fire it, which the people of the time did not do. Generally, the reason we have a tablet is that it was accidentally fired when a conquering king burned its city to the ground. How does all this say "outside of the world of constant necessary warfare" to you?
Similarly, Chinese history records orderly transitions from one dynasty to the next for political reasons. If you count it up, I believe China spent nearly as much time in a state of several-conflicting-governments as it did under a unified one, up until the modern period.
Put that in that western "we invented the resistance to the unjust government" pipe.
I would suggest that what they did create to successfully end the constant warfare (which Confucianism failed to do), Legalism, was even more horrifying than any monotheism. Have you ever read, say, the Book of Lord Shang?
Apparently the times of legalism were around 3rd century BCE, and then "In later dynasties, Legalism was discredited and ceased to be an independent school of thought."
I don't claim that it was all rosy afterwards, but let's also not forget that it were the British that were literally drug dealers to the Chinese, that even started the war once the Chinese weren't ready to accept it anymore:
Thankfully. Once the empire was united, there wasn't as much need for Legalism and it was beaten out by the much nicer Confucianism.
> I don't claim that it was all rosy afterwards, but let's also not forget that it were the British that were literally drug dealers to the Chinese
I don't see how that's relevant. The British didn't invent opium because they were monotheists, they did it for economic reasons.
Founding moral rules without recurrences to a god.
The fecundity and importance of emptiness.
The non non contradiction: A and not A, yin and yang, etc.
The refusal to let words drive thoughts.
I've found this to be very true in general. That journey can often be difficult, though.
According to http://www.registrar.fas.harvard.edu/courses-exams/courses-i... so does Michael Sandel's Justice course, which can be viewed here: http://www.justiceharvard.org/
It's one of the most amazing lecture series I've seen. I can't see how the one given by Puett could possibly be any better... But then again, Harvard is supposed to be one of the best schools in the world, maybe Puett really offers a better course...
My few cents is that it helps improve your life, taking such a course. At my university, we had an "easy" philosophy course, focusing on Sartre and Kierkegaard, existensialism. The course itself, opened up whole new perspectives to me, and way of perceptions. Maybe this is the one greatest enhancement as a person I gained from my years at the University.
I'd say such philosphy courses should really be mandatory for everybody. Not the usual Examen Philosophicum, but the mind-bending ones.
It's fine to link to your stuff especially if it's useful/educational/etc.
You know what's cool? A billion dollars.
Cs50 collapsed in the first tech boom, and then Malan reinvented the course in 2007, drastically increasing enrollment (including women, relatively) ahead of the current/recent boom
That said, lots of schools saw enrolments climbing again in the late 2000s as the boom reached its onramp.
What bothers me more is the logic of spamming HN, which I would imagine must be one of the places least likely to have people falling for that sort of shit.
Perhaps spam generation could be disrupted... :-)