Read about it here.
Exemplary Women of Early China: The Lienü zhuan of Liu Xiang
Translated and edited by Anne Behnke Kinney
When Yale-NUS College in Singapore opens its doors this fall, it will have one of the strongest comparative philosophy faculties and curriculums in the world, despite its tiny size (initial class of 150, growing to a four-class total of 1000 students). Its common curriculum features a year-long course in Philosophy and Political Theory that has been designed from the ground up to introduce students to multiple philosophical traditions, and it has recently been announced that in addition to the outstanding young philosophers they have already hired (some of whom have substantial comparative interests), Jay Garfield and Scott Cook have signed on as well. Exciting times!
The rather surprising question in my title is inspired by three things. Most immediately, I have just returned from the AAS Conference in San Diego, where I participated in a panel on Elite and Popular Confucianism, presenting a paper called “American Confucianism: Between Tradition and Universal Values.” Second, I have heard some talk about the establishment within one or more Chinese universities of explicitly Confucian-themed academic units. Finally, I recently became aware of Soka University, a liberal arts college in Southern California that was founded by the Soka Gakkai Buddhist organization from Japan.
This was kind of a fun read. (Read the rest at the New York Times website, here.) Any thoughts?
THE LEARNING VIRTUES
Jin Li grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. When the madness was over, the Chinese awoke to discover that far from overleaping the West, they were “economically destitute and culturally barren.” This inspired an arduous catch-up campaign. Students were recruited to learn what the West had to offer.
Li was one of the students. In university, she abandoned Confucian values, which were then blamed for Chinese backwardness, and embraced German culture. In her book, “Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West,” she writes that Chinese students at that time were aflame — excited by the sudden openness and the desire to catch up.
Li wound up marrying an American, moved to the States and became a teacher. She was stunned. American high school students had great facilities but didn’t seem much interested in learning. They giggled in class and goofed around. Continue reading
A fascinating experiment this next week: live like a stoic. Having taught a course, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” that included a five-day practical exercise at the end (living for those five days as inspired by Seneca was one option; the Analects and Zhuangzi were other options), I am intrigued! (Here is a link to some discussion on our blog here prior to my teaching that class. I keep meaning to post some follow-up thoughts, but haven’t yet gotten around to it….) There is a lot of interesting material available at the website linked above, including specific exercises!
This post proposes a book project, for anyone who wants it.
Two kinds of serious conversation
By “serious” conversations I mean conversations that work toward knowledge (at least for one party), or good decision (at least by one party), or designing something complex.
The serious conversations glimpsed in the Analects are mainly between a master and student. The Mencius is more concerned with how an adept should counsel a king. 1A7 looks like a handbook for that.
These two kinds of conversation get their shape and point from inequalities: unequal wisdom and unequal power. Between master and student, one side has the wisdom and the power. Between counselor and king, one side has the wisdom and the other has the power. The point of both conversations, as understood by all parties, is to transmit some wisdom from the wiser party to the other — within constraints imposed by the powerful party, such as limited time.
One could do a study of these two forms of conversation in Confucian literature: the varieties of each and the guidance on how to do them well. That’s not my main proposal here.
Is it fair to say that when early Confucianism thought about serious conversation, these two are the main kinds it thought about?
The Western tradition saliently values another kind of conversation, aiming more at discovering or creating than transmitting. Continue reading
At dinner at a recent conference I had a very interesting conversation with Liu Qing from East China Normal University. He told a few of us how the television show Growing Pains (starring Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron) had made a big impression when it was shown in China. For many children at the time, it was their first acquaintance with parents who reasoned with their children instead of just giving orders. He said the younger generation (meaning now people in their late 20s or 30s) began to ask their parents why they couldn’t be more like the parents on the show and explain their position to their children instead of expecting to be obeyed all the time. They began to question the parameters of the parental relationship they had grown up with and ask for more equal treatment
Not really Chinese or comparative philosophy but tangentially relevant, I suppose, and interesting. The whole piece is here, at the New Republic. Here are Nussbaum’s summary, concluding remarks:
It is time to take off the rose-colored glasses. Singapore and China are terrible models of education for any nation that aspires to remain a pluralistic democracy. They have not succeeded on their own business-oriented terms, and they have energetically suppressed imagination and analysis when it comes to the future of the nation and the tough choices that lie before it. If we want to turn to Asia for models, there are better ones to be found: Korea’s humanistic liberal arts tradition, and the vision of Tagore and like-minded Indian educators. I’ll take up their more enlightened approaches in my next column. Continue reading