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“Logos and Polis” program in PKU: Read for returning to life
Mar 22, 2018
Peking University, March 13, 2018: Twenty-odd students follow the teachers and hold discussions in the deep night. The scene is reminiscent of the old days when Confucius preached to his disciples. A thousand years later, similar scenes reappeared in the “Logos and Polis” program of Peking University.

In 2017, PKU’s “Logos and Polis” program began to recruit students. The project aims to provide multi-discipline knowledge such as philosophy, sociology, and political science, allowing students to experience the profound intellectual traditions of Chinese and Western society, politics, and ethics, and to reflect on the current situation of human beings.

The 2018 “Logos and Polis” Calendar

Powerful Combination:1+1>2

Peking University is the sanctuary of Chinese humanities and social sciences. The history of PKU Department of Sociology can be traced back to the sociology class in 1916. PKU Department of Philosophy is hailed as the "cradle of thinkers" in China. Philosophy and sociology dominate the “Thinking and Society” program with history, law, and pedagogy as complementary subjects. Veteran teachers with various disciplinary backgrounds gather to give full play to their own strength, trying to lead the students to see the wider world and help lay a firmer academic foundation.

Comprehensive and Free development

“I don't want this project to be catered for just a few students. Instead, it should be an open platform for all students interested in philosophy and sociology. Opening courses to all students and rendering students access to exploration are the unanimous desire of teachers,” said Wu Zengding, a teacher from the Department of Philosophy.

The program is open to all freshmen. The first batch of students are not limited to the Department of Philosophy or the Department of Sociology, but also include those from Yuan Pei College, School of International Studies, etc. Notably, a Kazakhstani student also participates in the program. Mentoring system is implemented in the program. Each student can choose a tutor to guide his or her course selection and self-study outside of class. In order to ensure the quality of instruction, the number of students each tutor guides is restricted to three. Wu Zengding will meet with students at least once a month to inquire about the problems they encounter in their study. Students are expected to achieve personalized development in the program.

Reading and Thinking

Studying in Department of Philosophy and Department of Sociology, students’ academic lives include a great amount of reading. It is more effective and time-saving to read following the guidance of instructors and launch regular discussions.

Since reading texts is very personal, instructors tend to play a role to lead and inspire. During the lecture, the instructor introduces the theme of the text and points out some problems and resolutions, leaving students with a series of questions. In the seminar after class, the teaching assistant will lead the students to discuss and figure out the problems.

Professor Li Meng instructing in the seminar on On the Citizen

Reading of the texts is not only academic research but also a path to the discovery and realization of the realistic meaning, which will be revealed by the instructors. From this perspective, the study is closely associated with “Logos and Polis” program.

According to Mr. Zhou Feizhou’s instruction, both reading mechanically and not reading texts are detrimental to the study of philosophy and sociology. Although reading brings knowledge, the students will be confused without guidance, which is just what “Logos and Polis” program tries to provide.

The reading list for the first semester includes the Prince, Leviathan, the Republic, and On the Citizens. The students of “Logos and Polis” have known much more about the classical works on politics, philosophy, sociology, and law. Many students noted that they have started to know the right way to read and study.

Not Only the Books

“Logos and Polis” also provides students with chances apart from lectures and books. During the last semester, Professor Qu Jingdong from the Department of Sociology has taken the students to watch the play Macbeth, which was directed and performed by the senior students. The activities also include seeing Beijing Opera, visiting a calligraphy exhibition, and watching a movie adapted from "The Ten Commandments”. Aside from these activities led by instructors, the students also have organized investigation and research of urban villages by themselves.

Professor Qu Jingdong with students at the calligraphy exhibition of Zhao Mengfu’s works, Forbidden Palace

At the end of the semester, Wang Sining, an undergraduate from the Department of Sociology, told us about the dinner after watching Beijing Opera with Professor Li Meng in a Sunday evening, where they had a great time and heard many anecdotes of Professor Li.

The unforgettable dinner

As Wang has told us, teachers not only teach the techniques and methods of academic research but also the ways of making friends and leading a better life. Professor Zhou Feizhou agrees on that. He says, “the project aims to teach our students how to be a decent person, not merely to cultivate academic talents or elites. All the learning is in the words and deed of the teachers, both inside and outside of the books.”

Merging the advantages of different subjects, “Logos and Polis” is a program combining reality and knowledge. It encourages students to reach out to the stars and also study down to earth.

Written by: Qian Kang & Hu Yue
Edited by: Zhou Yijing
Source: PKU News (in Chinese)