Carine Defoort: The Power of Words in Early Chinese Philosophy

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 7:30 pm
Venue: JO 2.604
Ticket: Free
Season: 2016-17

Defoort, professor of sinology at the University of Leuven, Belgium, will discuss the potential of words to influence Chinese intellectual history and affect our understanding of ancient texts. 

Title: The Power of Words in Early Chinese Philosophy: How to Call or Not to Call Something is the Question

Abstract: There seems to be a remarkable agreement on a variety of issues among early Chinese masters of all nominations. The condemnation of regicide and chaos, for instance, is largely shared, and so is the positive appreciation of loyalty and filial piety. Hidden under this veil of apparent agreement, there exists however an omnifarious layer of lively disagreements among and even within master-texts on what one calls, and consequently evaluates as regicide, chaos, loyalty or piety. By only looking for obvious and explicit types of disagreement, one risks to miss out on the ongoing controversies and different stances in these underlying debates. An analysis of the argumentative strategies in terms of how to call things introduces a novel approach to China‘s early philosophy, its intellectual history, and even contemporary politics. This presentation focuses upon two particularly interesing points: first, some major evolutions that have taken place in Chinese history under the cover of apparently unchanged ideology; and second, the intellectual suspension created by masters who rejected the then current understanding of a term without providing an alternative.

Biographical Sketch: Carine Defoort is Full Professor in Sinology at the KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium. She studied sinology and philosophy at KU Leuven, National Taiwan University, and the University of Hawaii. Her fields of interest are, primarily, early Chinese thought and, secondarily, the modern period interpretation of that thought. Some of her research topics are the Heguanzi, the “legitimacy of Chinese philosophy,” and the Mozi. She is the editor of Contemporary Chinese Thought (Routledge, Taylor & Francis, since 1997) and corresponding editor for Europe of China Review International (Honolulu, University of Hawaii, since 1994).



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