Angle: “How Buddhist is Neo-Confucianism?”

I trust that everyone who is interested has heard about the upcoming Rutgers Workshop on Chinese Philosophy (RWCP), “Conversations with Western Philosophers”; more info is here. The prior afternoon, I will be giving a public lecture in which some may be interested:

“How Buddhist is Neo-Confucianism? The Roots and Branches of Zhu Xi’s Epistemology”

Thursday, April 14, 2016, 4:30-6:00pm.  Pane Room, Alexander Library, College Avenue Campus, Rutgers University.  Free and open to the public.

7 thoughts on “Angle: “How Buddhist is Neo-Confucianism?”

  1. Prof. Angle, do you know whether your talk will be video recorded and/or live streamed? Failing that, are you willing to make slides or other materials available for interested people who, unfortunately, can’t attend your lecture?

    • Hi Vance, I do not know, but if it is available on-line, I’ll post something here. Failing that, please feel free to write me an email after the 14th and I’ll see what I have that I can share! For now, here’s the abstract:

      Scholars have long debated the relationship between Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, and a proper answer to this question should inform not just historical understanding, but also the way we assess the religious and philosophical significance of Neo-Confucianism. I explore this question by focusing on the epistemological theories of Zhu Xi (1130-1200), the greatest of the Neo-Confucians. I proceed in three steps. First, I spell out the four layers of Buddhist–Confucian interactions that collectively shape the ways in which Zhu was influenced by and reacted to Buddhism. Second, I summarize distinct Chinese Buddhist approaches to the question of “knowing 知” and look in particular at the roles played in these different approaches by epistemic terms and categories that will eventually be important to Zhu Xi. Finally, I spell out the parameters of what I call Zhu’s “epistemology of discernment” so that we can look for specific ways in which Zhu is appropriating and, more explicitly, rejecting particular aspects of Buddhist thinking. My conclusion is that despite the many layers of Buddhist influence on both Neo-Confucianism in general and Zhu Xi in particular, Zhu correctly understood his epistemology to be a rejection of Dahui’s radical Chan Buddhist approach. More generally, Zhu Xi’s epistemology does not coopt the Buddhist structure seen, for example, in the Buddhist Zongmi, but is importantly different, responding to a distinct discourse context which, while getting some of its underlying shape from the shared discourse, has quite distinct concerns and goals.

    • Hi–It’s looking like there will not be a video, though please see my reply to Vance above. Thanks for your interest!

  2. I enjoy the conclusion. There is a ‘banal’ curiosity among Western religious scholars questioning how Ruism, Daoism and Buddhism could get along with each other well in late medieval China. Some even claims that that is because there is no essential difference among the three. I definitely disagree. For me, the relationship between Buddhism and neo-Ruism is pretty much what Prof. Angle says. This means for a religious practitioner, both Buddhism and Ruism are ‘holistic’ systems that can organize details of human life in an impressively different way. Thus said, I am trying to search for the reason why these three teachings can get along well with each other in a way which is different from Abrahamic Religions. My initial thought is that none of these three traditions of China is ‘revelatory’, which makes their competition more like philosophical argument, rather than religious war. Thanks, Prof. Angle, I hope I can be in that lecture.

  3. Fascinating observation, Bin Song. The absence of contention among Buddhists, Ruists and Daoists may be due to a reason unconnected to your conclusion.

    Just because ideologues do not collide does not mean they “get along well”. They are just running on different tracks. Abrahamic religions are all running on the same track.

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