Symposium at Oxford on Pluralising Philosophy

Pluralising Philosophy: Learning From the Case of Chinese Thought

Sunday 23 June 2019

Lecture Room (2nd Floor), Faculty of Philosophy, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 555, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6GG

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There are increasing calls to pluralise philosophy: to look beyond the parochial, the colonial, the exclusive. This one-day symposium jointly organised by Minorities and Philosophy Oxford and Philiminality Oxford brings together three leading philosophers to explore the tensions within “canonical”/”Western” philosophy regarding the status of “non-Western” philosophies, with a particular focus on the case of Chinese thought.

Our speakers will address a number of questions – drawing on meta-philosophical, methodological, as well as historical considerations – to shed light on some of these tensions, and identify ways of moving forward. For instance, in what sense might “Western” philosophy be deemed parochial, and how recent is this phenomenon? What forms do attempts to pluralise philosophy take, and what are their payoffs and pitfalls? Moreover, how do philosophers pluralise philosophy in ways that do no further contribute to the marginalisation of both the traditions they draw upon and other traditions which they do not engage with? What are the assumptions made or rejected by those who debate the “legitimacy” of Chinese Philosophy? What are some of the concrete ways in which Chinese thought can shed new light on problems in contemporary “Western” philosophy?

The morning session will consist of three lectures (with time for questions) by our three invited speakers:

  • Prof. Robert Bernasconi – “Narrowing the Philosophical Canon around 1800: The Exclusion of Chinese Philosophy in Context”
  • Prof. Carine Defoort – “The Exclusion of Chinese Philosophy: “Ten Don’ts”, “Three Represents,” and “Eight Musts””
  • Prof. Bryan Van Norden – “Learning from Chinese Philosophy”

The afternoon session will bring together our three speakers in a moderated panel discussion, with plenty of time for Q&A.

*Lunch and coffee/tea will be provided free of charge, but registration is required.*

To register, follow the following link:

The Symposium is organized with the generous support of All Souls College, University of Oxford and Nanyang Technological University of Singapore.

About our Speakers

Robert Bernasconi is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and African American Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the editor of three journals: “Critical Philosophy of Race”, “Levinas Studies”, and “Eco-Ethica”. He has written two books on Heidegger and one on Sartre, as well as numerous papers including a number that raise questions about the role of such canonical philosophers as Locke, Kant, and Hegel with the development of new forms of racism.

Carine Defoort is Professor of Sinology at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. She is the editor of Contemporary Chinese Thought (Taylor & Francis, since 1997) and corresponding editor for Europe of China Review International (University of Hawaii, since 1994). She co-edited The Mozi as an Evolving Text: Different Voices in Early Chinese Thought (2013), and earlier volumes on Mencius, Xunzi, and Mozi in Dutch. Her research is focused on topics such as regicide, the power of naming, abdication, benefit, and the weighing metaphor. Another field of interest is the modern period in which early Chinese thought was interpreted, and its influence on our current understanding of the masters-texts. Research topics in this field have been debates concerning “legitimacy of Chinese philosophy,” Fu Sinian, and the modern portrayals of Mozi and Yang Zhu.

Bryan W. Van Norden is Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor at Yale-NUS College (Singapore). He is also James Monroe Taylor Chair in Philosophy at Vassar College (USA), and Chair Professor in Philosophy in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University (China). A recipient of Fulbright, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mellon fellowships, Van Norden has been honored as one of The Best 300 Professors in the US by The Princeton Review. Van Norden is author, editor, or translator of nine books on Chinese and comparative philosophy, including Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (2011), Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century (2014, with Justin Tiwald), Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2nd ed., 2005, with P.J. Ivanhoe), and most recently Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (2017).

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