Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

ISCWP Need for Chairs and Commentators

Yang Xiao of the ISCWP writes to say that they are in need of two chairs and six commentators for the panels they are organizing for this December’s APA meeting. If you are interested in being a commentator, please email Yang Xiao at xiaoy@kenyon.edu within a week (by Monday May 20th ). Many thanks!

ISCWP Panels for APA Eastern Division Meeting 2013

Panel #1 Zhuangzi and Epistemology

This panel takes a concentrated look at the epistemological concepts and arguments of the Zhuangzi. Beyond engaging now-standard topics like “about what is the Zhuangzi skeptical?” and “does it think some kinds of knowing are more reliable than others?”, our papers advance a more general project of grounding epistemological inquiry about the text. We consider such basic issues as the analysis of knowledge in Chinese and Western traditions, the relationship between knowing and living well (hence, the function and desirability of knowing), and the place of the Zhuangzi among other Warring States texts that deal with epistemological issues. While our solutions to these problems are hardly identical to each other, we share two broad points of agreement:  (1) Given the nature and history of the Zhuangzi anthology, it is not reasonable to construe the Inner Chapters as expressing a unified authorial viewpoint. Our work considers various regions and threads in this exceptionally variegated text rather than trying to reconstruct anything like “the philosophy of Zhuang Zhou”. In part, differences in our philosophical interpretations stem from our different handling of the complex textual evidence, and we hope to convey something of just how complex that evidence is. (2) While there is some overlap and translatability between Warring States and contemporary epistemological discussions, special attention must go to the differences. Chief among these is the practical orientation of the Chinese sources: knowing matters for the ancient authors because, without it, desirable patterns of activity break down. The Zhuangzi looks rather different when its skeptical worries are taken as worries about, say, the authoritativeness of guides for action—rather than about the accuracy with which cognition captures reality.

Chair: _______________

Susan Blake, Indiana University (blakes@indiana.ed), “Knowledge and second-order skepticism in the Qiwulun

Commentator #1: ____________

Donald Sturgeon, The University of Hong Kong (djs@dsturgeon.net), “Knowledge and perspectives in the Zhuangzi

Commentator #2 _____________

Stephen Walker, The University of Chicago (scwalker@uchicago.edu), “Zhuangist critics of Zhuangist metaphysics”

Commentator #3 _____________

Panel #2 “Physical Body, Virtue, and Civil Disobedience in Comparative Perspectives”

Chair _______________

Bilge Akbalik, University of Memphis (bakalik@memphis.edu), “An Ethics of “Great Health” and “Power (de)”: Physical Body, Health, and Illness in Nietzsche and the Zhuangzi

Commentator #4 _______________

Abstract of Bilge Akbalik’s paper:

Chapter 5 in the seven Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi, which in A. C. Graham’s translation of the text is entitled as “The Signs of Fullness of Power [De Chong Fu],” offers a depiction of a number of physically deformed and, in that sense, “sick” people (cripples, mutilated people etc.) who are yet among the most venerable Daoist sages. The apparent paradox of the embodiment of a “fullness of power” and “sickness” within the same person can be understood, in contemporary philosophical terms, as an attempt to deconstruct a conceptual opposition between “health” and “sickness.” An understanding of “health” and “sickness” as mutually exclusive follows a binary mode of thought. The holistic conception of “health” in the Zhuangzi, however, can be interpreted as a non-binary approach towards health, compatible with the notion of “great health” that Nietzsche introduces in Section 382 of the Gay Science.

Nietzsche’s and Zhuangzi’s perspectives can mutually clarify one another. In the Gay Science, Nietzsche offers an overcoming of the idea of a “normal health.” In contrast to a traditional Western understanding of “health” as the absence of “sickness,” Nietzsche suggests that the greatest state of health cannot be attained at the expense of sickness. This paves the way for a conception of health that transcends narrow medical definitions and that becomes particularly relevant in a comparative light. For both Nietzsche and the Zhuangzi the notions of “health” and “sickness” have to be conceived in a larger dimension and to be taken as “ethical”—in the ancient Greek sense of this word as related to a “way of life”. In their respective ways, both Nietzsche and the Zhuangzi understand healthiness primarily as a comprehensive state of being alive that provides those who possess it with efficacy and productivity. It empowers them and, so to speak, allows them to live richly. Such a conception of health opens up venues for criticisms of a static semantics of health which simplistically contrasts it with sickness and thereby runs the risk of making healthiness an elusive, transitory, and ultimately unattainable ideal.

Sean Drysdale Walsh, University of Minnesota-Duluth (spwalsh@d.umn.edu), “The Scope of Moral Concern and the Exercise of the Ethical Virtues in Mencius and Aristotle”

Commentator #5 _______________

Abstract of Sean Drysdale Walsh’s Paper:

In this paper, I try to evaluate the counterfactual ethical question “What would the scope of ethical concern for Mencius and Aristotle be if they were here today.”  This is a little like asking Quine’s counterfactual question “What would Caesar do if he were here today in charge of the Korean War?  Would Caesar use (a) nuclear weapons or (b) catapults?”  One way of interpreting this counterfactual question is to ask which feature of Caesar takes priority—e.g., the feature that Caesar is an expert on catapults and actually preferred to use catapults, or the feature that Caesar tries to use the most powerful weapons available at the time.  In this paper, I argue that Aristotle and Mencius’ accounts of ethics give us resources for both a local and global scope for the virtues.  In my paper, I argue that both Aristotle and Mencius’ scope of concern is something like a polis (political community), and the scope of moral demands depends on which features of a polis take priority.  I argue that for both Aristotle and Mencius, if one feature takes priority, then the local community is the main scope of concern, and if another feature takes priority, then the whole world would be the scope of concern.  Despite this ambiguity, however, I suggest that the sage is able to have both scopes of concern, and would exercise the virtues in both the local and global context.  Sages can find a “3rd way” that unifies the concern for local and global moral concerns.

Mathew A. Foust, Central Connecticut State University (mathew_foust@yahoo.com), “Confucius, Thoreau, and Civil Disobedience”

Commentator #6 _______________

Abstract of Mathew A. Foust’s paper:

While it is generally acknowledged that Asian philosophies are prominent among Henry David Thoreau’s influences, the interpretive literature is remarkably sparing in studies of the Confucian influence upon Thoreau’s thought.  There is, however, ample evidence of such influence.  Thoreau reprinted several quotes from early English translations of Confucian texts in two issues of The Dial (April and October, 1843).  In his own writings, Thoreau duplicates some of the quotes he published in The Dial, and as has been established by Lyman V. Cady (“Thoreau’s Quotations from the Confucian Books in Walden” [1961]), Thoreau often gives his own English translation of a French translation of the Analects, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean (from Guillaume Pauthier’s Livres Sacrés de l’Orient [1841]).  Given its proximity to Thoreau’s engagements of the aforementioned texts, as well as its general renown, it is fitting that Walden (1845) is the text that Cady focused on in his study.  In this essay, I extend the scope of this comparative engagement to another renowned text of Thoreau’s, Civil Disobedience (1849).  I show that Thoreau’s relationship to Confucius in this text is complex, for on one hand Thoreau explicitly takes his own position concerning the relationship of citizen to government to be contrary to Confucius’, while on the other hand, his position very much appears to be guided by Confucian principles.  Both Confucius and Thoreau emphasize the significance of moral integrity (德 de) in the individual, while working toward social and political ends.  I argue that while Thoreau seems to be more skeptical concerning the potential of government to embody this quality, both Confucius and Thoreau exhort individuals to exhibit moral integrity (德 de) when it seems to be lacking in government, as this may in fact be when it is most needed.

May 14th, 2013 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Conference | no comments

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