Mark Csikszentmihalyi (UC Berkeley) will be speaking on “Confucian Religion, Confucian Philosophy, and The Double Lens of Comparative Studies” on June 25 at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea. More information is here, and the abstract follows.
Peter Park’s Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy: Racism in the Formation of the Philosophical Canon, 1780–1830 makes the case that European philosophers influenced by Immanuel Kant began to formulate the history of philosophy as a direct lineage from the Greeks to Kant, and in doing so excluded East Asian philosophies from the genealogy of the history of philosophy. A century after this exclusion, a systematic effort was made to locate East Asian traditions, and Confucianism is particular, relative to the categories of “religion” and “philosophy”. Instead of looking at the content of particular texts and judging whether each one is “religious” or “philosophical,” this lecture approaches the issue in light of contemporary theories of writers like Talal Asad about the connection between the categories of religion, secularism, and philosophy and the process of state formation. First I will trace the development of the lens through which religious practices and popular values were viewed by writers associated with the state in pre-modern East Asia from Wang Chong 王充 (29-c. 100 C.E.) to Inoue Enryō 井上円了 (1858-1919), I will argue that the modern search for religion and philosophy in East Asia is deeply affected by similarity between the pre-modern gaze on popular culture and the lens applied by moderns to primitive superstitions and irrationality. This “double lens” of comparison provides a more historicist and genealogical approach to questions like, “Is Confucianism a philosophy?” than ones that rely on decontextualized and essentialized definitions of philosophy.