Author Archives: Steve Angle

Year-end Review from Berggruen China Center

Sent by the The Berggruen Research Center, Peking University:

The year has been challenging but not without inspiration. The Center’s first book, Intelligence and Wisdom: AI Meets Chinese Philosophers, was published by CITIC Press Group in February and has sold over 6300 copies. In March, while promoting the book, we moved all the Centers activities online. We hosted two workshops on “AI Narratives in China”, a collaboration with Cambridge Universitys Leverhulme Center, which explores the effects of local culture and historical narratives on the reception of AI in China. We also held three closed-door workshops for our “Facial Recognition and Privacy” program, which focuses on how facial recognition policies can best reflect cultural values and social practices. The Berggruen Seminar series was relaunched online in July, and we have since hosted four events: “Confucian Common Sense Meets the AI Revolution”, “What Should Care Robots Care About?”, “Digital Personality”, and “AI, Emotion, and Ethics”.

We also launched a new online public program, the Global Thinkers series, which featured Jared Diamond at its inaugural event on risk management in coping with the global pandemic.

In October, the Center launched a new online product, Ruin, which brings together translated articles from Berggruen Institute’s journal Noema and other original contributions sourced locally. We hope that Ruin becomes a public square for creative thinkers where innovative ideas are recognized, debated, enriched, and propagated. We also launched an account on video platform Bilibili, attracting more than 40,000 views over three live streamed events.

The Center welcomed a new cohort of Fellows this year: Bai Shunong, Professor of Biology at Peking University; Duan Weiwen, Professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Hao Jingfang, science fiction author and researcher; and Lu Qiaoying and Sabastian Sunday Grève, Assistant Professors at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Peking University.

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New Book: Elstein, ed., Dao Companion to Contemporary Confucian Philosophy

The latest volume in the authoritative Dao Companion series has been published: David Elstein, ed., Dao Companion to Contemporary Confucian Philosophy (Springer, 2021). The editorial description:

This edited volume presents a comprehensive examination of contemporary Confucian philosophy from its roots in the late 19th century to the present day. It provides a thorough introduction to the major philosophers and topics in contemporary Confucian philosophy. The individual chapters study the central figures in 20th century Confucian philosophy in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, as well as the important influences on recent Confucian philosophy. In addition, topical chapters focus on contemporary Confucian theory of knowledge, ethics, politics, aesthetics, and views of human nature. The volume brings together scholars from around the world to provide a sound overview of the philosophy of the period and illustrate the important current debates. Confucian philosophy has been undergoing a revival in China for more than three decades, and this book presents the most significant work of the past century and more. By giving a detailed account of the philosophical positions involved, explaining the terminology of contemporary Confucian philosophy, and situating the views in their historical context, this volume enables the reader to understand what is at stake and evaluate the arguments.

The Table of Contents follows.

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New Book: Chung on Wang Yangming in Korea

Rowman & Littlefield has published Edward Chung, The Great Synthesis of Wang Yangming Neo-Confucianism in Korea. The author adds that for those colleagues who would like to purchase it at the author’s discount (30%), its special promotion code is LEX30AUTH20. The table of contents follows.

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Article of Interest: Batsch, “The Rationality Wars”

Readers may be interested in: Shadi Bartsch, “The Rationality Wars: The Ancient Greeks and the Counter-Enlightenment in Contemporary China,” History & Theory 59:4 (2020). Here’s the abstract:

Amid contemporary discussions about the relationship of logic to knowing, an entirely different conversation about the moral status of rationality is taking place between Chinese and Western thinkers. Although most would agree that deductive thought has been a highly privileged feature of the Western philosophical tradition since Plato (for good or bad), the question of its role in Confucian thought is less clear—and considerations of this topic tend to be highly charged. In turn, the question of whether the West has been tarred by a Weberian descent into a merely instrumental form of rationality has emerged as a hot topic in Chinese scholarship. However, the question merely supplies a way of engaging in cross‐cultural comparisons that are political rather than genuinely philosophical in nature. This article explores the sparring over terminology and concepts that characterizes this recent trend in scholarship. Ultimately, it suggests that instead of Chinese scholars appropriating the ideas of Western authors in order to raise anti‐Western specters of spiritual derangement, both traditions would be better off discarding this outdated and essentializing terminology in the first place.

Angle Reviews Bell and Wang, Just Hierarchy

My review of Daniel Bell and Wang Pei’s book Just Hierarchy: Why Social Hierarchies Matter in China and the Rest of the World (Princeton, 2020) has been published in Ethics; see here. The review ends as follows:

…Perhaps a different approach is in order, one more rooted in China’s dynamic traditions than in the modernism that colors some of Bell and Wang’s thinking. Recalling Zhang Zai’s Western Inscription, we could think about the relationality inherent in the entire, ever-changing cosmos and conceptualize these relations through various degrees of kinship. Care, attention, reciprocity, mutuality, learn- ing, and growth would be the watchwords of such a perspective. There is an important place for just—or maybe more accurately, humane or harmonious—hierarchy in such a vision, and Bell and Wang can be important conversation partners in working out what is and what is not valuable among both traditional and more recent forms of social differentiation. Much of this differentiation (such as sexism and racism) needs strong critique, but at the same time, there is reason to agree with Aaron Stalnaker’s concern that modernity in many societies has been characterized by a “systematic pathologization of dependence” (Mastery, Dependence, and the Ethics of Authority [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020], 24). Drawing on Wang and Bell’s book and also on more thoroughgoing efforts to engage with traditional philosophical resources from around the world, it should be possible to identify and defend unequal but healthy forms of social cooperation.

 

 

 

End-of-term report on “Living a Good Life”

My colleagues Tushar Iriani, Steven Horst, and I have a post at the Daily Nous site about our experience teaching a new “Philosophy as a Way of Life” course that centrally features students doing structured philosophical exercises associated with each of the four main schools we covered (Confucianism, Aristotelianism, Daoism, and Stoicism). The course website itself is here; each of the “Live Like a ______” weeks are linked from here. Comments or questions either here or at Daily Nous most welcome!

CFP: Teaching East Asia in the Humanities

Call for Proposals: Teaching East Asia in the Humanities

April 24-25, 2021 (via Zoom)

The past decade has produced a great corpus of literature which defends and reimagines the value of the humanities—its potential to cultivate critical reasoning and cultural literacy necessary for a healthy civil society (Helen Small, 2013), ethically meaningful reading practices (Peter Brooks, 2014), and the character and judgement required to become “more human” (James Hankins, 2017). For teachers of the humanities, maintaining the sort of engaged pedagogy necessary to deliver on these promises means frequent trial and error. This conference is designed to serve as a forum to discuss both our challenges and successes in achieving our goals as humanities teachers in East Asian fields.

We invite proposals that reflect on your own stories of challenging and rewarding moments in your teaching, as well as common pedagogical strategies within your fields. How do we grapple with tensions between global and local perspectives? How do we account for particularities (philosophical concepts, literary forms, and social institutions) in East Asia while avoiding essentialisms, or introduce students to Western theory without perpetuating discursive hegemony? How should we navigate or challenge the boundaries imposed by the premodern/modern divide, or disciplines such as history, literature, philosophy, and religion? What pedagogical hurdles and advantages accompany teaching translated sources? Ultimately, how should we tailor our pedagogy to foster humanistic thinking?

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CEACOP Workshop: Modern Confucianism between Philosophy and Sociology

The Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy (CEACOP) at the City University of Hong Kong is organising a workshop on 10 Dec in which Prof. Ralph Weber and his team will present their projects on 20th century Confucianism. Please find the event poster here with information about how to register. All are welcome!