20th International ISCP, Day 2 – 4

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20th International Conference of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy
Chinese Philosophy in a Multicultural World, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Final Report: 

The 20th ISCP conference has successfully concluded on July 7, 2017.  In the four days of the conference, there were many concurrent sessions covering a rich array of topics from the comparative angle, the hermeneutic angle, the angle of textual analysis, the angle of reconstructive reading, and the philosophical angle.  The distribution of Chinese and English sessions is about 50-50.  A distinctive feature of this conference is to showcase junior scholars and advance graduate students amidst established scholars. These junior scholars carry themselves impressively well, presenting refreshing approaches and novel ideas. The ISCP aims to continue this direction set by this conference to integrate junior and senior scholars.

At the business meeting, it is announced that the next ISCP conference will be held at the University of Bern in Switzerland in 2019.  Professor Richard King, our current Vice President, will be the key organizer of this conference, and the tentative theme is “Knowledge, Persuasion, and Argument in Chinese Philosophy.”  More information will be updated on our website when available.  The Nomination Committee also decided to nominate Professor Yang Guorong from East China Normal University in Shanghai, China to be considered for the next VP after Professor Chenyang Li finishes his term at the end of 2017.  There will be an official e-vote among current members in November.

It is also announced that starting January 1, 2018, we will raise our membership fees to $30 a year. There will be a membership page posted on our website, and everyone can consult the page to see the status of his or her membership.

The 24th World Congress of Philosophy will take place in Beijing (Peking University), China, on August 13-20, 2018, and the ISCP will propose a one-day mini-conference at this venue.  We aim to produce a philosophically attractive and engaging mini-conference, with four sub-themes and high quality papers. We welcome suggestions on innovative themes. Once we have chosen the themes, we will do a call for papers and the selection will be rigorous.  To expose Chinese philosophy to philosophers outside of this area of expertise, all papers will be written and read in English.

At the conclusion of this conference, the ISCP banner was passed from Chenyang Li to Richard King, to symbolize the passing of the torch. It is with great commitment that the ISCP officers will continue the professionalism and academic rigor exemplified in this conference, and we look forward to seeing more participants at the next conference in Bern in 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Other Plenary Talks:

The third plenary session was held on July 5th, the second day of ISCP conference. The session was chaired by Carine Defoort from University of Leuven, who introduced the first speaker, Prof. Vincent Shen (沈清松) from the University of Toronto, and the second speaker, Prof. Bryan van Norden (萬百安) from Vassar College and Yale-NUS. Prof. Shen, in his lecture “Daxue: The Great Learning for University Today,” emphasizes the significance of Daxue in today’s higher education, as well as in the modern society of globalization. Prof. Shen promotes the method of strangification as the ideal way to handle various issues encountered in today’s multicultural society. The method of strangification, inspired by Daxue, is understood as a method of consensus building through the process of universalization. It is also called waitui (外推), since strangification is rooted from one’s own generosity and extends from one to the others with the principle of reciprocity. Prof. Shen compares his theory with Habermas’ theory of communicative action and considers his own theory superior. Shen’s talk generated a lot of interesting questions from the audience.

Prof. van Norden, in his lecture, “Like Loving a Lovely Sight: Simile and Metaphor in Chinese Philosophy,” gave a vivid presentation on the use of metaphor and simile in Chinese philosophy, particularly in the Confucian tradition. van Norden focused on a popular and influential statement made in Daxue, “It is s like hating a bad odor, or loving a lovely sight” (如恶恶臭如好好色), and elaborated various ways of interpreting this statement. He found the traditional interpretations of “loving a lovely sight” inadequate as they tend to avoid the sexual reference implicit in the statement (se 色 means a beautiful woman rather than a beautiful color), and so in such interpretations the immediate connection between perception (seeing a beauty) and action (loving the beauty) is missing. The intended parallel between hating a bad odor and loving a lovely sight is also absent under traditional interpretations. van Norden further examined Chen Yi’s idea of true knowledge with Chen’s example of a farmer once mauled by a tiger, Zhu Xi’s discussions on deeper understanding, and Wang Yangming’s claim that there is a direct link between knowing and action. This relates well to the perennial issue of knowledge and action, and van Norden’s presentation generated lots of discussion.

On Day 4, July 7, there were three plenary talks.  Professor Haifeng Jing gave the talk on the three dimensions of hermeneutical reconstruction of Chinese classics: First, it should respond to the challenge of modern Western culture, such that it can have a dialogue and correspondence with Western hermeneutics in terms of its domain of problems and its means of expression. Second, it should be enriched by the profound Chinese cultural heritage by which it can mobilize all past interpretations of Chinese classics inclusively with regard to past records and modes. Among the traditions, Confucian classics should be its core, but not the sole element, whereas elementary studies of the texts and words (xiaoxue) should provide a foundation, but not to set the limitation.  Third, it should have an explicit aim.  The reinterpretation of Chinese classics is not meant to sort out national cultural heritage, but to shed light on the philosophical import and core essence of past thinking, so as to establish the identity of contemporary Chinese culture, to provide written testimony and to explore its modern significance.  He argues that the philosophical imports of the Confucian classics might be better preserved by neo-Confucianism of the Song-Ming era. If we want to further develop the philosophical dimensions of Chinese hermeneutics of the classics (jingxue), we need to draw upon the texts of neo-Confucianism (zixue).  The study of neo-Confucian texts can enhance our hermeneutic reconstruction of Confucian classics. He concludes that “philosophizing” Confucian classics is already a trend, a “must”, not an option and not in dispute. Nowadays we must acknowledge Confucianism as philosophy, not merely a form of religion or a way of life.

Professor Karyn Lai’s talk is entitled “The Devil is in the Detail: the Significance of the Analects for Moral Theory and Practice.”  She begins by citing Immanuel Kant’s derogative and dismissive attitude toward Chinese philosophy, in particular, his denouncing the existence of Chinese ethics.  She continues to present the negative assessment of Chinese ethics, especially in the Analects, that is echoed in many other earlier scholars on Chinese philosophy.  However, in all these criticisms, there are some presuppositions on what “ethics” should have and what the Analects is lacking.  Lai suggests that we take a different approach: study the text of the Analects closely to see what it does offer. She points out that the Analects manifests the paradigm of examples and situationality.  Book Ten of the Analects, for example, is filled with trivial examples of etiquette and Confucius’ demeanor in various situations.  According to Lai, an important route to becoming moral is to learn from examples — familiarizing oneself with norms of behavioral propriety, practicing what one learns, having discourse with others — which in turn builds a repository of appropriate behavior.  Stories in the Analects are not meant to set up normativity in all situations, nor to define various virtues. If we take it to be doing the latter tasks, then of course we would be disappointed.  It is time that we go beyond seeking moral “theory” in the Analects.  She emphasizes that it is not that norms are not important; however, moral principles often cannot help us to make moral decisions in particular situations.  She cites Linda Zagzebski’s view that moral theory is like a world map — it helps us to situate ourselves in the world, but cannot offer us practical guidance.  She concludes that moral theory by itself is never sufficient and we need many examples to help guide us through the multiple ethical situations in life.  And the Analects offers us a rich moral repertoire.

Professor Chung-ying Cheng gave the final plenary talk on the anthropic roots of Confucianism. What he means by anthropic principle (AP) is his rendition of the Chinese phrase: tianrenheyi, which means literally the unity of heaven and human.  He suggests that there are two versions of the AP: The strong anthropic principle suggests that this universe has a power and age and cosmological constants to accommodate human emergence and development.  The weak anthropic principle suggests that this universe must be consistent with our capability and performance in observing and knowing this universe so that what we know cosmologically is true of the universe.  Heaven is the root of our emergence, and at the same time, human ought to aim for cultivating the virtues of Heaven to perfection.  Hence, the unity of heaven and human is basically the unification of virtues in nature and in human conduct.  In the history of Chinese philosophy, many Confucians emphasize unification in various aspects.  Unification is a matter of grounding humanity and its moral efforts for completion and perfection. Cheng suggests that this principle can better explain the world than current scientific models, because it enables us to answer the initial questions of human being, human understanding and human action.

 

Respectfully submitted,

JeeLoo Liu
Executive Director of the ISCP
Weimin Sun
Secretary of the ISCP

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