Professor Karyn Lynne Lai

Professor Karyn Lynne Lai

BA Hons, MA Hons (National University of Singapore), PhD, Philosophy (Sydney)

Arts,Design & Architecture
Humanities & Languages

Dr Karyn Lai is Professor of Philosophy in the School of Humanities and Languages. Her primary research is in early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucian and Daoist philosophies). She has investigated the nature of moral life in the Confucian tradition and draws on discussions in the Confucian texts to diversify our conceptions of ethics.  More recently, she has been exploring the Daoist texts, particularly the Zhuangzi (4th c. BCE), to understand its what its fascinating stories tell us about mastery, action, knowledge and agency.  She is editor of the Chinese Comparative Philosophy section, Philosophy Compass (Wiley-Blackwell), co-editor of the Chinese philosophy section, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Associate Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy.

She is interested in supervising postgraduate research projects in Chinese and comparative philosophy, particularly in the areas of ethics (including environmental ethics), wellbeing, and epistemology.

+61 (2) 9065 5421
326 Morven Brown



Awards and Nominations

  • Nominee for Best HDR Supervision Award, Dean’s Research Award, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, 2018
  • Representative of the Australian Academy of Humanities (AAH) at the joint conference and MOU treaty with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China, June 2014.
  • Dean’s Award for the Best Contribution to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2011, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. (Lai, Karyn. 2011. Assessing participation skills: online discussions with peers. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education IFirst: 1-15. (26 Jul 2011) DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2011.590878.)
  • Anthony Mason Fellow, UNSW. Fellowship awarded for international exchange at Beijing University. Feb-July 1999.



2019 Plenary Speaker, British Society for History of Philosophy conference, Kings College London, 24-26 April.

2019 Invited Speaker, Curing through Questioning: Philosophy as Therapy Across Ancient Traditions and Modern Applications, University of Oxford, 1-2 June.

2019 Plenary Speaker, International Society for Chinese Philosophy Conference, Bern University, 2-5 July.

2018 Invited speaker, "Horizons of Community: Exclusivity and Inclusivity in Ancient Greece and Early China workshop", University of Melbourne, 22-23 November.

2018 Invited speaker, "Comparing Virtues, Roles, Duties in early China and Graeco-Roman antiquity Symposium", Renmin University, Beijing, 5-8 July.

2018 Invited Speaker "The Epistemic Responsibilities of the Humanities", East-West Philosophy conference, Abraham Kuyper Center, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 30-31 May.

2018 Invited speaker, "Slote Encountering Chinese Philosophy Conference", Chinese University of Hong Kong, 16-17 March.

2017 Invited speaker, Practical Reason: East and West, Aarhus University, conference sponsored by a Humboldt Foundation Grant, November.

2017 Plenary speaker, International Society for Chinese Philosophy Conference, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, July.

2017 Invited speaker, The Art of Feeling: East and West, Berne University, Switzerland, July.

2014 Keynote speaker, Confucius World Consortium, University of Hawai’i, October.

2009 Keynote speaker, Practical Reasoning and Ethics in pre-Qin Confucian Philosophy, International Society for Chinese Philosophy Conference, National Taiwan University.

2009 Invited speaker, Happiness East and West, Faculty of Arts Strategic Research Theme (China-West Studies), School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong.

2007 Plenary speaker, Chinese Philosophy and Moral Psychology, Division of Humanities, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

2005 Presidential Address, Chinese Philosophy and Human Well-Being: Change, Anticipation and Response, Conference of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy, University of New South Wales, Australia.

2005 Public Lecture, Philosophy and Philosophical Reasoning of Zhuangzi: Dealing with Plurality, University of Queensland.

Membership of Professional Organisations

International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP)

  • Regional Representative (Australia) (2005-)
  • President (2003-2005)
  • Vice-President (2001-2003)



Undergraduate courses

  • Chinese Philosophy
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Epistemology