Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Promising Research Area: Asian Philosophy and Embodied Cognition

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One key to successful comparative philosophical research is locating an area in where there is sufficient overlap between different traditions’ approaches that each can see the other as generating relevant challenges or questions, stimulating new ways of framing issues, and so on. I would argue that the “virtue ethics” paradigm has been successful in just this way, bringing together an increasing number of Anglophone and Sinophone philosophers and philosophical projects in fruitful fashion, as judged by the interesting, explicitly work that is being generated by Anglophone scholars (including those with little prior background in Chinese and Chinese philosophy) and some Sinophone thinkers (including those with little prior background in Western philosophy).

Another possible area of overlap and mutual stimulus — though it remains to be seen whether it will generate a similar level of fruitfulness — is virtue epistemology; Michael Chien-kuo Mi and colleagues at Soochow University in Taiwan have been collaborating with Ernie Sosa of Rutgers University and some other Western-trained philosophers in this endeavor.

What I mainly wanted to call attention to here, though, is a third area. The recent APA conference featured a panel (sponsored by the APA Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies) on “Asian/Comparative Views of the Embodied and Enactive Mind.” Drawing on Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism, as well as on various streams of philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and phenomenology, the panelists (Bongrae Seok, Matthew MacKenzie, and Bradley Park) made it eminently clear that there is a major area of overlap and many opportunities for mutual stimulus and learning. I was also struck by the fact that a successful NEH Summer Institute was held last summer on this topic; looking at the range of participants and faculty, it is again clear that there is a lot of room for exciting growth in this area of comparative philosophy.

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