Author Archives: Jiyuan Yu

Buffalo ISCP International Conference on Chinese Philosophy

Call for Papers
18th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy
By the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP)

Chinese Philosophy and the Way of Living
July 21-24, 2013
State University of New York at Buffalo

Deadline for submission of the abstracts and symposium proposals: November 30th, 2012.
Please send to

For details, please visit the Conference website:

The theme of the conference
One major characteristic of Chinese philosophical tradition is that it is not just a matter of theoretical pursuit, but is more a practical enterprise. Philosophy is thought to be a “Learning of Living” (生命的学 问), and doing philosophy is to practice a way of life that one chooses and to cultivate and transform character. The central question of Chinese philosophy is “what is the Dao?” and dao (literally, road or way) is the way in which human beings should lead their lives. This conception of philosophy differs from the prevailing modern university conception of philosophy, according to which philosophy is mainly a theoretical discipline and philosophical reflection is peripheral to life.
The conception of philosophy is worth studying, keeping alive, and reviving as an alternative way of doing philosophy. It is similar to the idea that philosophy is the “art of living,” which was prominent in ancient Greek/Roman philosophy, especially in the spirit of Socrates. His motto that “the unexamined life is not worth living” clearly shows that what is examined is “life” rather than “knowledge” or “proposition.” The Jewish tradition is also characteristic of the idea that letter and spirit, idea and life, are inseparable. In the West this conception has been marginalized in modern times, but seems to have experienced a sort of renaissance, as can be seen in the works of (to name only a few) P. Hadot, A. Nehamas, M. Nussbaum, and others.
The Buffalo conference is to explore in details and in depth Chinese conception of philosophy as a learning of living. It seeks not only to deepen our understanding of the nature of Chinese philosophy, but also, through a cross-cultural comparative approach, to enrich the conception of philosophy as a way of living and contribute its revival in contemporary philosophy.

Sub-themes of the conference include but are not limited to:

1.    Chinese philosophy as a learning of living
2. Philosophical discourses and philosophical practicality
3.  Justifying a way of living: metaphysics, aesthetics, and rhetoric
4. Practical wisdom
5.  Moral psychology
6. Formation of self, character, and virtue
7. Happiness, death and suicide
8. Politics and the way of living
9.  Philosophical therapy and spiritual practice
10. The Art of Living: Chinese and Greek
11. The Art of living:  Chinese and Jewish
 12. Methodology of comparative study

Transmitting 述, Innovating作, and Philosophizing in Confucius

Everyone knows the Master’s saying that he “transmits, but does not innovate” (“述而不作”, Analects 7:1), and usually it is taken to mean
that Confucius is not a creative or original thinker, but only hands down the ancient wisdom. Yet this reading must be shallow, given Confucius’s founding
role in Chinese philosophy. I would like to make a few observations about this saying and wonder whether it makes sense to you.

While the Analects 7:1 seems to establish the “transmitting/innovating” dichotomy, at 7: 28  the Master said, “No doubt there are those who try to innovate [zuo] without acquiring knowledge, but this is a fault that I do not posses.” “盖有不知而者,我无是也.” Accordingly, it is not simply that Confucius does not “innovate” or “create;” rather, he does not do this out of ignorance.

(b) The term ‘transmitting’ (shu) also appears in the Doctrines of the Mean to define the virtue of piety. Confucius says there that what makes a son a filial
son is his ability “to continue (ji) the will (zhih) and to transmit (shu) the work of his father.” (夫孝者,善继人之志,善述人之事者也. Ch. 19). If we put this definition of filial piety (xiao孝) together with Confucius’s self-description as a transmitter, it appears that Confucius likens himself to what a filial son does to his father’s work.  A filial son “transmits” his father’s aspirations, causes, and ideals, and seeks to develop and actualize them. Similarly, what Confucius transmits is the spirit, value, and ideals of the tradition. Confucius’s philosophical activity of transmitting traditional values could be regarded as an expression of his piety with regards to the authentic tradition in which Confucius believes the dao of Heaven is embedded.

(c ) More importantly, even the dichotomy of transmission/creation appears in the Doctrine of the Mean. Confucius says: “It is only King Wen of whom it can
be said that he had no cause for grief. His father was King Ji, and his son was King Wu. His father innovated (zuo) it, and his son transmitted (shu)
it.” (子曰:无忧者其唯文王乎。以王季为父,以武王为子,父作之,子述之. Ch.18) . The saying supplements the previous saying about piety in the sense that the son “shu” because his father has already authored or “created”. The father “innovates “(作zuo) and the son “transmits” (述shu), and the sons’ job is to continue pursuing and developing what the father has done.  To apply this to Confucius’ case, he transmits but does not innovate because classical texts have been authored and his work is to pursue that wisdom, to master it, bring it, and develop it.

At this juncture, I would like to recall the original Greek meaning of philosophy. Philosophy by name is the “love of wisdom,” not the possession of wisdom itself. Plato interprets that it is because God has the wisdom, and hence it is more proper to say that we human beings are pursuing it (Plato, Phaedrus, 278d ). This “God possesses wisdom”/ “humans love wisdom” contrast sounds very similar to “father innovates /son transmits” relation in the Doctrine of the Mean. Following this, Confucius’s “transmitting/innovating” contrast could be taken to mean that the real creator is tradition, and what an individual can do is to
transmit, that is, to continue, to extend, to accomplish the ideals in the tradition.

In this way, “shu” in Confucius is strikingly similar to what ‘philosophy’ originally means in the West.

2013 Buffalo International Conference on Chinese Philosophy

The 17th ISCP International Conference on Chinese Philosophy was successfully held in Paris, France, participated by about 200 Chinese philosophy scholars around the world. The conference was organized by Professor Yolaine Escande, of French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) and Graduate School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences(EHESS), July 3-8, 2011. The subject of the conference was “ Interculturality and Philosophic Discourse—Retrospect and Prospect,” and it was organized around the following seven themes: (1) Comparative philosophy: intertraductibility East-West; (2) Cultural philosophy; (3) Philosophy, art and ethics; (4) Value and art and aesthetic appreciation; (5) The new philosophical discourses coming from interculturality; (6) Openness, self-enclosure, and dialogue with others in Chinese philosophy; (7) Theories of knowledge, argumentation, and consensus in Chinese philosophy.   

Since 1976, the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) has been holding bi-annual international conference in different regions of the world.  The conference usually draws large audience and has significantly promoted the interest and development of the study of Chinese Philosophy in the world. 

The 18th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy will take place in summer 2013. My home institution, State University of New York at Buffalo, is honored to be chosen to host this great conference, and I am honored to serve as its organizer. I look forward to welcoming colleagues in Chinese philosophy around the world to the beautiful Buffalo-Niagara region (especially in the summer).  The conference is at its initial stage of planning. With this chance I would like to solicit your suggestions and support.  As a tradition, the subject of the conference is broadly conceived, focusing on the contemporary significance of Chinese philosophy and Eastern-Western dialogues.   You are cordially invited to organize a panel or contribute a paper. Any idea regarding how the conference could be better organized will be deeply appreciated.