When I was in Taiwan last week, friends there recommended that I should look at the new book 《公民儒學》 (Civic Confucianism) by Norman Teng 鄧育仁, recently published by National Taiwan University Press. Professor Teng, who received his PhD a number of years ago from Southern Illinois University, is now a researcher at the Academia Sinica; I had a chance to meet him and talk with him at length about his book and future research projects while I was there. The book is fascinating. He proposes that in this age of democratic pluralism, a “civic philosophical 公民哲學” approach should be to seek serious dialogue among philosophical traditions, in the spirit of egalitarian democracy. In particular, he is interested in how we should think about Confucians and Confucianism in a pluralistic, democratic society like Taiwan. His book combines a number of innovative methodological approaches (e.g., paying special attention to the ways that early Confucians use narrative reflection and the reframing of premises, rather than explicit deductive logic, which techniques can then be applied in the present day as well) in order to explore a particular means of developing a form of democratic Confucianism today. He draws extensively on John Rawls in some chapters; that, plus his emphasis on a rootedness in the actual experience of Taiwan’s democratic society, suggests some very interesting comparisons between Teng’s work and that of Sungmoon Kim (whose work on modern Confucian democracy is rooted in the experience of South Korea). In any event, well worth serious attention for those of us thinking about the future of Confucianism.
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