Author Archives: hagop sarkissian

In Memoriam: Vincent Shen (1949-2018)

The ISCP just informed its members of the sudden and sad passing of Prof. Vincent Shen, scholar of Chinese philosophy and religion and, since 2000, the Lee Chair in Chinese Thought and Culture at the University of Toronto. He was a past President and Executive Director of the ISCP, and dedicated himself to enhancing and expanding the appreciation of Chinese thought in a global setting. Some info about his scholarly activities and output can be found on his faculty page. Please share any other thoughts or links you may have.

Prof. Shen was an incredibly warm and supportive mentor and colleague, quick with a smile and possessing a playful sense of humor. He was very broad in his learning and had a deep appreciation for the history of philosophy. I’m honored to have studied with him as a graduate student in Toronto in the early 2000s, where we were part of a regular game of ‘Philosopher’s Ping Pong’ (he was more skilled than his students). He was very active and I feel fortunate to have spent time with him in Seoul this past year at a conference on Confucian Spirituality hosted by Sogang University. I will remember his wide, bright grins, the timbre of his voice, and his inquisitive scholarly nature.

Our condolences to all those who knew him.


Erica Brindley – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Spontaneous Arising and an Ethics of Creativity in Early Daoism” Friday Nov 2 at 5:30pm


Welcomes: Erica Brindley (Penn State University)
With a response from: Christopher Gowans (Fordham University)

Please join on us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, November 2nd at 5:30 PM for her lecture entitled:

Spontaneous Arising and an Ethics of Creativity in Early Daoism

ABSTRACT: In the early part of the 20th century, Joseph Needham formulated a substantial claim concerning the Chinese predilection for self-generated creation rather than creator gods and myths. Half a century later, scholars working in the West like Frederick Mote, Derk Bodde, and Chang Kwang-chih picked up on Needham’s insight to discuss the so-called lack of a “creation myth” in early Chinese culture, basing their arguments on what they called the “inner necessity” or “spontaneously self-generating” nature of things in the cosmos. While the claim that there are no creator gods or myths in early China is false and has since been convincingly refuted by many scholars, there may indeed be a way in which Bodde and company were onto something. In this talk, I will show how the notions of “inner necessity” and “spontaneity” are close but not the best fit for understanding certain early Chinese accounts of creation and the creative process. Continue reading →

Eske Møllgaard – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “How I Came to Conclude that Confucian Discourse is not Philosophy” Friday Oct 12 at 5:30pm


Welcomes: Eske Møllgaard  (University of Rhose Island)
With responses from: Andrew Lambert (College of Staten Island, CUNY)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, October 12th at 5:30 PM for his lecture entitled:

How I Came to Conclude that Confucian Discourse is not Philosophy

ABSTRACT: The paper follows and elaborates on a line of argument in my book The Confucian Political Imagination, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan this summer. I do not address the main argument of the book, but sum up a line of thought that has gradually taken form since I began to read Confucian texts. I explain what I learned about reading Confucianism from my teacher Tu Weiming, and why I could not follow the philosophical turn in American Confucian studies. I point to the importance of reading in an emphatic sense, and argue that the philosophical approaches to Confucian texts often leads to an impoverished reading of these texts. Then I provide my own suggestions towards a definition Confucian discourse. I briefly point to the historical reasons Confucian discourse is not philosophy, and finally I ask if all this really matters.

Continue reading →

New entry on Xunzi in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

I just noticed that the SEP has a new entry on the Xunzi, penned by Paul Goldin (published earlier this month). (Look forward to reading it, Paul!) The older entry, penned by Dan Robins, is linked to at the top of the current one. I don’t know what goes behind the editorial decisions to replace existing entries with newer ones by different authors, but I think it’s great that readers will have more than one perspective to look at when turning to the SEP, which has been a go-to site for me when I want to read up on an area of philosophy foreign to me.


Tragic passing of Prof. Young Kun Kim (CUNY)

It is with great sadness that I pass along this news.

Prof. Kim was a member of the doctoral faculty in political science at the CUNY Graduate Center for over four decades. His research was in comparative political thought. Many readers of this blog, especially those in the proximity of New York City, have likely interacted with him in the past, as he was a regular participant in the Columbia Neo-Confucian Seminar as well as the Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy.

He was a generous colleague with a warm sense of humor and kind, encouraging words. To have him fall victim to such a heinous crime is heartbreaking. More information can be found at this link. Here is a statement from Prof. Kim’s family.

Our condolences to all those who knew him.

WARREN FRISINA – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Forming One Body with All Things: Organicism and the Pursuit of an Embodied Theory of Mind” Friday May 5 at 5:30pm


Welcomes: WARREN FRISINA (Hofstra University)
With responses from: BONGRAE SEOK (Alvernia University)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, MAY 5th at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

“Forming One Body with All Things: Organicism and the Pursuit of an Embodied Theory of Mind”

This paper uses the Neo-Confucian slogan that we should strive to “form one body with all things” as a starting point for asking whether the organismic metaphors so central to Neo-Confucian thought might be compatible with and of service to contemporary thinkers in cognitive science and philosophy of mind who believe that an embodied theory of mind is the appropriate goal for our time.  My hypothesis is that the recent pursuit of embodied descriptions of minds and mental activity sometimes appear paradoxical unless set within a broader organismic framework. Thus, this paper argues that those who are working fervently toward establishing a fully embodied understanding of the human mind would do well to look to the role organismic metaphors play in shaping the Chinese understanding of a hsin (heart/mind) that has always been understood as fully embodied. Continue reading →

GARY OSTERTAG – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “The Daoist Dialectic of Enlightenment” Friday Mar 31 at 5:30pm


Welcomes: GARY OSTERTAG (CUNY Graduate Center | Nassau Community College)
With responses from: GRAHAM PRIEST (CUNY Graduate Center)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, MARCH 31st at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

The Daoist Dialectic of Enlightenment

ABSTRACT: Continue reading →

Introducing the WWWOPY awards!

It is often remarked that too many papers are published, too few read. This is likely true of our own area of interest here at Warp, Weft, and Way–Chinese philosophy.

One way to call more attention to published research and, more importantly, have it read and incorporated into ongoing debates, is to highlight exceptional work. The most widely known yearly distinction for philosophy papers is the Philosopher’s Annual (motto: “an attempt to pick the ten best articles of the year”). Alas, it is unlikely anything concerning Chinese philosophy will be nominated for, let alone receive, this distinction in the foreseeable future. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy does choose one article per year for distinction, which has been terrific; but its candidate pool is limited to articles published in that journal. This leaves out several other journals that publish important research, not to mention the numerous anthologies and companion volumes that remain important vehicles for cutting edge research in our field. And as mainstream, non-specialist journals begin to accept more papers in Chinese philosophy, some papers may be overlooked as a result.

But we need not sit idly by while meritorious articles go unrecognized. Hence, we announce the Warp, Weft, and Way Outstanding Papers of the Year (or WWWOPY) Awards. Continue reading →

Christopher Gowans – Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy Lecture: “Self-Cultivation Philosophy as an Interpretive Framework: The Critique of Desire” Feb 24 at 5:30pm

Welcomes: CHRISTOPHER GOWANS (Fordham University)
With responses from: BRYAN VAN NORDEN (Vassar College)

Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24th at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:

Self-Cultivation Philosophy as an Interpretive Framework: The Critique of Desire

ABSTRACT: I will explain and defend a concept of self-cultivation philosophy and argue that it is a valuable interpretive framework for comprehending, comparing and assessing several central philosophical traditions in ancient Greece, China and India (and for envisioning one form philosophy could take today). Continue reading →

Irene Cronin (UCLA): The Notion of Accepted Contradiction in Early Chinese Daoism. 12 Dec 2016 at CUNY Graduate Center

FALL 2016 Logic and Metaphysics Workshop

DateMonday December 12, 4.15-6.15

Place: Room 5382, CUNY Graduate Center.

Speaker: Irena Cronin, UCLA

TitleThe Notion of Accepted Contradiction in Early Chinese Daoism

Abstract: Although the representation of the Dao differs a little between the representative Early Chinese Daoist works Zhuangzi and Dao de jing, the differences are one of degree, rather than “substance”.  In Zhuangzi, the common man as possible master craftsman, whether it be as a cook, woodmaker, or fisherman, or other kind of craftsman, has the capability of understanding and embracing the Dao (although these occurrences would be relatively rare), while in Dao de jing, it is only the Sage, a rare man of extreme ability that can do so; all others do not have this capability and have minor, shadowy and totally indeterminable experiences of the Dao, and are “condemned” to live an ignorant and almost animal-like existence, finding solace in creature comforts.

Continue reading →