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Religious Studies talk: Confucian and Daoist perspectives on vocation, April 6

Confucian statues of men bowing in a row

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Professor Mark Berkson will present “The Cultivation, Calling, and Loss of the Self: Confucian and Daoist Perspectives on Vocation,” at 3 p.m. Friday, April 6, in Stevenson 401A.

This talk will focus on how the two most important indigenous Chinese religious and philosophical traditions—Confucianism and Daoism—provide new ways for us to reflect on the notions of calling, work, and a meaningful life. Ultimately, we will focus primarily on this question: What guidance can Confucians and Daoists offer us about how to live life and find our calling in 21st century America?

Deep reflection on the notion of calling brings one far beyond the question of “making a living,” and ultimately into the question of making a life. While we might begin the inquiry into calling with a focus on jobs and careers, we will inevitably arrive at fundamental existential question such as “What is a good human life?” and “What is a self?” The study of what has traditionally been called “vocation” might initially seem like a practical exploration of work, but it ultimately makes philosophers and theologians of us all.

Berkson is chair of the Department of Religion at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Professor Berkson’s research focuses on comparative religion, religious ethics, and interreligious dialogue, and he has twice received Hamline University’s prestigious Outstanding Faculty Award. Professor Berkson has also produced two lecture series with The Great Courses titled Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know and Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures.

This event has been sponsored by the Religious Studies minor at Illinois State University and funded by an Interdisciplinary Initiative Grant from
the College of Arts and Sciences. For further information, please contact Daniel Breyer at

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