• David Wong

  • Professor and Susan Fox Beischer & George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy
  • Philosophy
  • 203E West Duke Building
  • Campus Box 90743
  • Phone: (919) 660-3046
  • Fax: (919) 660-3060
  • Office Hours: Monday 1:20-2:10 & by appointment
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Specialties

    • Ethics
    • Moral Psychology
    • Chinese Philosophy
  • Research Description

    David Wong (Ph.D. Princeton, 1977) is the Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy. Before he came to Duke, he was the Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Philosophy at Brandeis University and the John M. Findlay Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Boston University. His works include Moral Relativity (University of California Press, 1984) and Natural Moralities (Oxford University Press, 2006, translation in Korean by Chulhak-kwa-Hyunsil forthcoming, and translation in Chinese from Renmin University Press is in the works), "On Flourishing and Finding One's Identity in Community" (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 1988),"Universalism versus Love with Distinctions: An Ancient Debate Revived" (Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 1989), "Coping with Moral Conflict and Ambiguity," (Ethics, 1992), "Xunzi on Moral Motivation" (Chinese Language, Thought, and Culture: Nivison and his Critics, 1996), "Reasons and Analogical Reasoning in Mencius" (Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Mengzi, 2002), "Relational and Autonomous Selves" (Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 2004), "Zhuangzi and the Obsession with Being Right" (History of Philosophy Quarterly, 2004), and "Moral Reasons: Internal and External," (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2006). He has written articles on moral relativism for A Companion to Ethics, The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Encyclopedia of Ethics, and Dictionnaire de philosophie morale. He was interviewed on the subjects of cultural and moral relativism for the Public Television Series, "The Examined Life." He has written on comparative ethics for The Encyclopedia of Ethics and on comparative philosophy for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy. He is co-editor with Kwong-loi Shun of an anthology of comparative essays on Confucianism and Western philosophy: Confucian Ethics: a Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy and Community (Cambridge University Press, 2004). The main subjects of his research include 1) the nature and extent of moral differences and similarities across and within societies and how these differences and similarities bear on questions about the objectivity and universality of morality; 2) the attempt to understand morality naturalistically as arising from the attempt of human beings to structure their cooperation and to convey to each other what kinds of lives they have found to be worth living; 3) the nature of conflicts between basic moral values and how these give rise to moral differences across and within societies; 4) how we attempt to deal with such conflicts in moral deliberation; 5) the relevance of comparative philosophy, especially Chinese-Western (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) comparative philosophy, to the above subjects; 6) Whether our reasons to feel and act are based solely on what we already desire or whether reasons transcend what we desire and are used to critically evaluate and shape our desires; 7) the extent to which a person's recognizing that she has reasons to feel and act in certain ways can enter into the constitution of her emotions and change those emotions.
  • Current Projects

    A book on the classical Chinese thinkers Mencius, Xunzi, and Zhuangzi. Work on the relation between practical reason, desire, and emotion
  • Areas of Interest

    Ethical Theory, 
    Moral Psychology, 
    Comparative Ethics, 
    Chinese Philosophy
  • Teaching

    • PHIL 216.01
      • White 107
      • M 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
    • PHIL 701S.01
      • SEE INSTRU
      • F 03:05 PM-05:35 PM
    • PHIL 798S.01
      • Crowell 106
      • F 03:20 PM-05:50 PM
  • Education

      • PhD,
      • Princeton University,
      • 1977
      • B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Special Honors in Philosophy,
      • Macalester College,
      • 1971
  • Awards, Honors and Distinctions

      • Fellow, National Humanities Center,
      • 2007-8
      • Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy,
      • July 2007
      • Harry Austryn Wolfson Professorship in Philosophy,
      • Brandeis University,
      • 1993 - 2000
      • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers,
      • 1992 - 1993
      • Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer,
      • University of California at Irvine,
      • 0 1990
      • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship,
      • 1986 - 1987
      • NDEA (National Defense Education Act) Fellowship,
      • 1971-1974
      • Phi Beta Kappa,
      • 0 1971
  • Recent Publications

      • D. Wong.
      • "Response to Blum, Response to Geisz and Sadler, Response to Hansen, Response to Gowans, Response to Bloomfield and Massey, Response to Huang."
      • Moral Relativism and Chinese Philosophy: David Wong and his Critics.
      • Ed. Yang Xiao and Yong Huang.
      • SUNY Press,
      • 2014.
      • 183-278.
      Publication Description

      This is a book of commentaries on my book Natural Moralities, and includes my responses to the commentators.

      • D. Wong.
      • ""Growing Virtue: The Theory and Science of Developing Compassion from a Mencian Perspective"."
      • The Philosophical Challenge from China.
      • Ed. Brian Bruya.
      • MIT Press,
      • Accepted, 2014?.
      Publication Description

      This paper is a development of earlier attempts of mine to interpret what conception of the moral development of natural compassion is contained in the Mencius. I bring crucial features of this conception into dialogue with contemporary science on the development of empathy.

      • D. Wong.
      • ""Integrating Philosophy with Anthropology in an Approach to Morality"."
      • Anthropological Theory
      • (Accepted, 2014)
      • .
      Publication Description

      Philosophy and anthropology need to integrate their accounts of what a morality is. I identify three desiderata that an account of morality should satisfy: 1) recognize significant diversity and variation in the major kinds of value; 2) specify a set of criteria for what counts as a morality; and 3) indicate the basis for distinguishing between more or less justifiable moralities, or true and false moralities. I will discuss why these three desiderata are hard to satisfy at the same time, and why they are controversial. Anthropologists and philosophers will differ on which ones they are inclined to reject. I argue that all three should be accepted and can be satisfied.

      • D. Wong.
      • ""The Different Faces of Love in a Good Life"."
      • Moral Cultivation and Confucian Character: Engaging Joel J. Kupperman.
      • SUNY Press,
      • Accepted, 2014.
      • D. Wong.
      • ""Xunzi as Moral Craftsman"."
      • Contemporary Philosophy in the Age of Globalization, v. 3, Hawaii Conference.
      • Ed. Takahiro Nakajima & Tomokazu Baba.
      • Contemporary Philosophy in the Age of Globalization,
      • Accepted, 2014.
      • 19-32.
      Publication Description

      Opening paragraph:I have been exploring the possibilities that early Chinese philosophy offers for fresh thinking about the development of ethical excellence. Today I discuss the possibilities suggested by the Xunzi's conception of how human beings should go about transforming their emotions and desires. This conception allots a crucial role for the individual's reflection on why and how to go about transforming oneself, but that reflection prompts one to enter into relationships and ritual practices with others. This relational conception provides illuminating correction to the intellectualist and individualist bias we often see in contemporary philosophical approaches to understanding moral development in the West. I shall also suggest that some forms of scientific inquiry reinforce and support the methods suggested by the Xunzi. I highlight the value of these methods as they contrast with dominant ways of thinking about the respective roles of reflection and emotion in Western moral philosophy.

  • View All Publications
  • PhD Students

    • Jing Hu
      • 2013 - present
      • Status: PostPrelim
      • Web Page
    • Daniel J. Stephens
    • John J. Park
      • 2011 - 2013
      • Status: PostPrelim
      • Web Page
    • James Abordo Ong
      • April, 2009 - present
      • Status: PostPrelim
      • Web Page
    • Hagop Sarkissian
      • September 01, 2005 -2008
      • Status: Graduated
David Wong