Yale NUS professor Bryan van Norden holds lecture in Oslo on February 25, 2020

It’s a great honor for SGOKI to offer the lecture «Learning from Chinese Philosophy» by the distinguished professor at Yale NUS (founded by Yale University and the National University of Singapore) and Vassar College, professor Bryan W. van Norden – the author of Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia University Press, Dec. 2017).

The event will take place on Tuesday February 25th, 2020, 6 pm-8 pm. Bryan van Norden’s talk will be part of the new monthly lecture series «Food & Knowledge» («Mat & Viten«), which was launched by Anders Bettum of the Intercultural Museum of Oslo (IKM, English link) and Dag Herbjørnsrud (of SGOKI, English info) on Tuesday September 3, 2019 (link to Facebook event).

Venue: The Intercultural Museum of Oslo, IKM (Interkulturelt Museum)

Address: Tøyenbekken 5, Grønland, Oslo, Norway.

This event is a cooperation between IKM and Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas (SGOKI).

Please reserve your seat – e-mail kontakt@sgoki.org

Abstract of the lecture «Learning from Chinese Philosophy»

«When Europeans first encountered Chinese Confucians, Daoists, and Buddhists, they immediately recognized them as serious philosophers. However, this attitude changed due to the influence of imperialism and pseudo-scientific racism, so that (beginning with Kant) Chinese philosophy was dismissed and banned from academic philosophy in the West. This lecture provides several examples of the profound and distinct philosophical debates that existed in China on issues such as consequentialism, human nature, ethical egoism, relativism, and skepticism.»

Biography of Bryan W. Van Norden

Bryan W. Van Norden is James Monroe Taylor Chair in Philosophy at Vassar College (USA), and Chair Professor 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 ten books on Chinese and comparative philosophy, including Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (2017).  

From the web site of van Norden:

Bryan W. Van Norden lives in Singapore, where he is currently Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Visiting Professor at Yale-NUS College. His hobbies are poker (he has played in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas) and video games.

Van Norden is the author, editor, or translator of ten 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)

On Taking Back Philosophy (2017):

«Are American colleges and universities failing their students by refusing to teach the philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and other non-Western cultures? This biting and provocative critique of American higher education says yes. Even though we live in an increasingly multicultural world, most philosophy departments stubbornly insist that only Western philosophy is real philosophy and denigrate everything outside the European canon. In Taking Back Philosophy, Bryan W. Van Norden lambastes academic philosophy for its Eurocentrism, insularity, and complicity with nationalism and issues a ringing call to make our educational institutions live up to their cosmopolitan ideals.»

Excerpts from the Aeon article «Western Philosophy is Racist» (Oct 2017)

«Academic philosophy in ‘the West’ ignores and disdains the thought traditions of China, India and Africa. This must change.»

«Mainstream philosophy in the so-called West is narrow-minded, unimaginative, and even xenophobic. I know I am levelling a serious charge. But how else can we explain the fact that the rich philosophical traditions of China, India, Africa, and the Indigenous peoples of the Americas are completely ignored by almost all philosophy departments in both Europe and the English-speaking world?

Western philosophy used to be more open-minded and cosmopolitan. The first major translation into a European language of the Analects, the saying of Confucius (551-479 BCE), was done by Jesuits, who had extensive exposure to the Aristotelian tradition as part of their rigorous training. They titled their translation Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, or Confucius, the Chinese Philosopher (1687). (…)

«To anyone who asserts that there is no philosophy outside the Anglo-European tradition, or who admits that there is philosophy outside the West but thinks that it simply isn’t any good, I ask the following.

Why does he think that the Mohist state-of-nature argument to justify government authority is not philosophy? What does he make of Mengzi’s reductio ad absurdum against the claim that human nature is reducible to desires for food and sex? Why does he dismiss Zhuangzi’s version of the infinite regress argument for skepticism? What is his opinion of Han Feizi’s argument that political institutions must be designed so that they do not depend upon the virtue of political agents? What does he think of Zongmi’s argument that reality must fundamentally be mental, because it is inexplicable how consciousness could arise from matter that is non-conscious?

Why does he regard the Platonic dialogues as philosophical, yet dismiss Fazang’s dialogue in which he argues for, and responds to, objections against the claim that individuals are defined by their relationships to others? What is his opinion of Wang Yangming’s arguments for the claim that it is impossible to know what is good yet fail to do what is good? Does he find convincing Dai Zhen’s effort to produce a naturalistic foundation for ethics in the universalisability of our natural motivations? What does he make of Mou Zongsan’s critique of Kant, or Liu Shaoqi’s argument that Marxism is incoherent unless supplemented with a theory of individual ethical transformation? Does he prefer the formulation of the argument for the equality of women given in the Vimalakirti Sutra, or the one given by the Neo-Confucian Li Zhi, or the one given by the Marxist Li Dazhao?

Of course, the answer to each question is that those who suggest that Chinese philosophy is irrational have never heard of any of these arguments because they do not bother to read Chinese philosophy and simply dismiss it in ignorance.»

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