Doubleheader Friday (11/5) at Columbia

There will be two lecture/seminars at Columbia University this coming Friday, November 5, 2010:

  • John Berthrong will present “Boston Daoxue 道學 Architectonic” at the Neo-Confucianism Seminar at 3:30; and
  • Stephen Angle will present “Rethinking Confucian Authority and Rejecting Confucian Authoritarianism” at the Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy at 5:30.

Details below.

John Berthrong’s paper, “Boston Daoxue 道學 Architectonic: Boston Daoxue’s Ru 儒 Philosophical Lexicographical Chart Tu 圖 of Architectonic Concepts,” is available in advance; for a copy of the paper or for more information, please contact one of the Neo-Confucianism Seminar’s three co-chairs or the rapporteur: Yong Huang of Kutztown University at, Tao Jiang at, On-cho Ng at, or Steve Boyanton at

The meeting will convene on Friday, November 5 from 3:30 to 5:30pm in the Common Room of the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.

Stephen Angle’s lecture, with a response from Hagop Sarkissian, will take place: Friday – November 5, 2010, 5:30-7:30 pm, Rm. 101, Department of Religion, 80 Claremont Avenue

ABSTRACT: Early Confucianism saw “Tian” 天 or Heaven as the source of authority, as kings ruled in accord with its “mandate.” The clearest communication of Tian’s intentions comes through the actions of the “people” (min 民), whose well-being thus forms the bedrock of Confucian politics. The essay begins by rehearsing both the strengths and the limitations of such a framework, as well as pointing to a tension concerning the status of “the people” that runs throughout traditional Confucianism. Next, I analyze Kang Xiaguang’s 康晓光 contemporary Chinese effort to justify an authoritarian state by means of an only modestly revised version of the early Confucian view. Having found fault with this approach, I then articulate an alternative approach to Confucian authority, drawing in significant ways on the political thought of Mou Zongsan 牟宗三. Very roughly, on this model something like Tian remains the source of authority, but a re-conceptualized “people” themselves are the holders of authority. This authority is delegated through democratic processes to a government, and its exercise is constrained and influenced in two ways: by a constitution and by a particular kind of state moral education. This essay’s project is intended as a contribution to contemporary Confucian political philosophy. It is “Confucian” in several ways: It is motivated by concerns that have lain at the heart of the Confucian tradition throughout its long history; it builds from and comments on critical Confucian texts; some of the key terms in which the essay’s ideas are developed are distinctive of the Confucian tradition; and it is addressed in part to those in the contemporary world who consider themselves to be (or are sympathetic to) Confucians. This project is “contemporary” in two senses: It engages with current and recent philosophers—and in so doing, takes the Confucian tradition to be a live, on-going enterprise—and it takes seriously the concerns of our contemporary world, including the values and institutions of societies around the globe today.

Finally, there will be a joint dinner of the two seminars held at 7:30, location TBA, attendees of either or both meetings are welcome!

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