An interesting one, sent via Jeeloo Liu (ACPA president). I’m not sure Tu reads this blog, but comments and discussion are welcome in any case.
To: Fellow Students of Chinese Philosophy
From: Tu Weiming
Re: The State of the Field
It gives me great pleasure to share my tentative thoughts on our field both as an intellectual pursuit and as an academic discipline. Let me first give you some background. Otherwise this might easily be construed as presumptuous and even self-serving. As some of you know, I attended the last Congress in Seoul (June 2008) as the speaker (Maimonides Lecturer for one of the three endowed chair. I was allotted a 90-minute plenary session to present my reflections on the Analects. However, more pertinently, I was elected as a member of the Steering Committee of FISP (Federation of International Philosophical Societies) which, among other things, has the authority to oversee the organization of the Congress. Since its inception in 1900, the Congress had never met in Asia. The 2003 Congress was held in Istanbul, but ironically, even though Turkey is located in Asia broadly defined, its national aspiration is to join the European Union. I was told that during all the plenary sessions there had only been an African voice, and no Asian voice. This reminds me that my Chinese colleagues told me that during the 1998 Congress in Boston, my presentation on the Confucian idea of the educated person was the sole Asian voice.
However, the Seoul Congress must be fully recognized as the single most significant event for Asian and comparative philosophy and with far-reaching implications for Chinese philosophy. It recognized Buddhist philosophy, Daoist philosophy, and Confucian philosophy as integral parts of world philosophy, to be seriously considered as important as metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Furthermore, Chinese was recognized as an official language; unfortunately, however, only as an exception. The issue was taken up during the Committee’s meeting at the Congress but the motion failed. However, at the Moscow meeting in conjunction with Philosophy Day on November 18, 2009, I made a special argument in favor of Chinese being recognized as an official language of the Congress. The motion was carried with only one dissenting vote. Thus, at the next Congress in Athens, Chinese will be an official language. Our colleagues in Greece have made a special plea that they be provided with funds for competent translators. Furthermore, they have requested that a Chinese translation be included on the logo as well as all official publications. The theme for the next Congress is “Philosophy: Inquiries and the Way of Life.” I propose the Chinese translation be: 哲學: 審問明辨與生活之道. Please let me know at your early convenience if this is acceptable.
I was surprised, if not disappointed, to learn that in recent years there has been a major debate in China on “Is there Chinese philosophy or simply philosophy in China?” After Jacques Derrida remarked that there is no philosophy in China when he visited Beijing and Shanghai several years ago, many academic philosophers in China echoed his view and concluded that Confucianism is not a philosophy. I do not think the issue (comparable to the question as to whether or not Confucianism is a religion) is worth debating. I cherish the hope that China will host the next Congress in 2018. I believe that by that time Chinese philosophy will be taught in some of the leading universities in the West.
I appreciate your kind attention to this matter, and I look forward to learning from you so that I can serve our field effectively as a member of FISP. For your information, our Indian colleagues will hold the first Asian Philosophy Congress in New Delhi and there is a serious attempt by Chandel of India and Kuchuradi of Turkey (the President of the Congress that was held in Istanbul) to revitalize the International Society for Asian and African Philosophies. I am critically aware that the best and perhaps only way to make Chinese philosophy a source of inspiration and an “edifying conversation” of the global community of philosophy is that those of us who are dedicated to the field both as a vocation as well as a profession do philosophy well.