What is the causal power of Confucian culture?

Ryan Nichols is a professor of philosophy whose main research areas include Early Chinese thought and history, empirical philosophy and methods, and 18th-century European philosophy. He is also interested in cultural transmission, philosophy and psychology of religion, and experimental philosophy. His research is often done in collaboration with psychologists, data modelers, philosophers, and experts in classical Chinese.



The Explanatory Power of Confucianism

How has East Asian morality and religion developed through interactions between products of culture and nature? How did Confucian Heritage Culture change the evolved patterns of parent-child interaction to make conflict less frequent and children more open to the wishes of parents? What role do the effects of historical Confucian culture play in a broad explanation of the high salience of shame in present-day East Asia?
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Text Analytics

Canonical, often sacred texts from around the world contain timeless wisdom that has influenced countless people. Since this wisdom is often sequestered behind accretions of generations of commentary, how can we see these texts for what they truly are? Do quantitative text analytics and machine-assisted interpretations of classics point the way forward?
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Interdisciplinary Metaphilosophy and Method

It is doubtful that the most compelling ‘big questions’ are answerable from an armchair. Those questions are tractable with data, have broad human interest, and demand development of research skills in multiple methods. But how should interdisciplinary research proceed? Do we have a formal account of explanation applicable to interdisciplinary research?
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Are the most important questions in philosophy of religion best answered through a priori reason alone? If not, ought philosophers of religion begin to view such questions as proper subjects of interdisciplinary research? Might the deep and important social and psychological functions of belief in God bias researchers—atheist and theist—in this field?
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History of Early Modern Philosophy

How did 18th-century philosophers negotiate the borders between philosophy and science? What was Thomas Reid’s theory of perception and mind? Did the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 catalyze widespread conceptual change away from belief in God and toward secularism, as so many experts believe? What can we learn about methods in what was called ‘natural philosophy’ from the broad-minded geniuses of 18th-century philosophy?
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