Yang Xiao 蕭陽 has been teaching in the Department of Philosophy at Kenyon College since 2003. He can be reached at xiaoy@kenyon.edu.

Xiao's major in college was theoretical physics. He received a master degree in philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and a Ph.D. at the New School for Social Research in New York. Xiao was a visiting student at Wolfson College at Oxford University. He has studied with Peter Strawson, Richard Bernstein, Agnes Heller, Yirmiyahu Yovel, Reiner Schürmann, Axel Honneth, Albrecht Wellmer, Jerome Kohn and Seth Benardete. When he lived in Berkeley, he took courses with Bernard Williams, Robert Bellah, Donald Davidson, Hubert Dreyfus, Barry Stroud and Frederic Wakeman.

Xiao was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and at Harvard. He has spent his sabbatical years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Institute for Advanced Study at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou.

Xiao has been the book review editor of "Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy" since 2005.

In 2011 Xiao was elected as vice president of the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy (ISCWP) for the term 2011-2014. Xiao was the president for the term 2014-2017.

Xiao was the director for the Sino-British-American Summer School of Philosophy in 2019 held at East China Normal University 華東師大 in Shanghai, and the theme of the year was "Environmental Philosophy".

Xiao started teaching a course dealing with climate change in 2016, "The Anthropocene as a Philosophical Problem", which might have been the first course of its kind.

For PDF versions of his articles and chapters, please go to Xiao’s website at academia.com.

Areas of Expertise

Ethics, Political Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Eco-Philosophy (Environmental Philosophy and Climate Change)

Courses Recently Taught

This course examines moral issues we encounter in our private, as well as public, lives from a philosophical point of view. We discuss various ethical approaches such as Kantianism, utilitarianism and value pluralism through analyzing issues such as abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, the moral status of nonhuman animals, the environment, climate change, war, world poverty, inequality and the ecology of rural life. There is a strong emphasis on discussion and we use diverse methods such as Brandeis Brief and moral heuristics. This course is suitable for first-year students. This counts toward the ethics requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

This course is a philosophical introduction to the environmental humanities, taking the concept of the Anthropocene as our point of departure. We are especially interested in critical examinations of the following concepts and topics: the meanings of ahumana and anaturea, Big History, religion in human evolution, global environmental history, how humans are connected to nature and nonhuman animals, the pastoral ideal and technology, rituals and place, ecology and production of space, environmental justice and the environmentalism of the poor. We also explore how traditional disciplines in the humanities, especially philosophy and religion, might be rethought in light of these new intellectual developments. Scholars we read include Hannah Arendt, Robert Bellah, Rachel Carson, William Cronon, Cora Diamond, Ian Hacking, Donna Haraway, David Harvey, Martin Heidegger, Carolyn Merchant, Ramachandra Guha, A.N. Whitehead and Ludwig Wittgenstein, as well as thinkers from Chinese philosophical tradition. ENVS 112 is recommended. This counts toward the metaphysics requirement for the major. No prerequisite.

Language plays a central role in our life. But how does language work? For instance, how does communication take place in our everyday life? How should we interpret literary or religious texts? What is the relationship between language, thought and the world? How do we "do things with words"? We examine these issues through the writings of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson, Austin, Grice, Lewis and Brandom. This counts toward the metaphysics requirement for the major. Offered occasionally.

This course examines concepts and issues at the intersection between moral philosophy and psychology or theory of human nature. We discuss philosophical ideas regarding the nature of action, agency, practical reasoning, moral heuristics and moral freedom. We examine these issues through the writings of Aristotle, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Murdoch, Frankfurt, as well as novels by Jane Austen and Tolstoy. This counts toward the ethics requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered occasionally.

This seminar examines important topics in normative ethics as well as meta-ethics; it emphasizes 20th-century philosophers. We discuss contemporary normative ethical theories such as ethical naturalism (Foot and Thompson), Neo-Kantianism (Korsgaard), agent-based virtue ethics (Zagzebski and Slote), utilitarianism (Smart and Singer) and critique of modern moral philosophy (Anscombe, MacIntyre, Taylor and Williams). We also discuss meta-ethical issues such as moral realism, relativism, the sources of normativity, the concept of virtue and the possibility of moral understanding. This counts toward the ethics requirement for the major. Prerequisite: philosophy major and junior standing or permission of the instructor. Offered in a three-year rotation with PHIL 405 and 410.