Confucius Institute Hosts International Philosophy Symposium
November 20 – 21, 2015
The Confucius Institute recently hosted scholars of Eastern philosophy and comparative thought for a two-day colloquium on the relevance of classical Chinese thought in the global age.
"It is remarkable that so many internationally renowned scholars on Chinese and comparative thought gathered together at UT Dallas for this high-level symposium," said Dr. Ming Dong Gu, director of the institute. "It is a testimony of our University's commitment to scholarly excellence in humanities as well as in social and natural sciences."
Fifteen scholars from countries and regions, including China, France, Australia, Canada, Belgium, England, the United States and Hong Kong, attended the symposium, and presented their latest research. Universities represented included the University of Paris, University of Leuven, National University of Australia, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Rice University, Penn State, University of Hong Kong, the University of Toronto, Renmin University of China, Florida Atlantic University, University of California and UT Dallas.
Gu said many scholars in the postmodern age have created a dichotomy between ancient Eastern thought and modern Western philosophy with many believing Chinese philosophy to be an object of antiquated curiosity removed from modern times.
"Classical Chinese philosophy has been viewed as an area of study that should be conducted separately from modern and postmodern Western thought," Gu said. "Reacting against the separation of Chinese and Western philosophy, we view the intellectual divide itself as incompatible with the spirit of the global age."
Traditional Chinese thought is not only relevant to modern times but also can be helpful in finding new ways of understanding and expanding on comparative studies in philosophy, he said.
Dr. Richard J. Smith, professor of humanities at Rice University, presented his paper, "Why the Yijing (Classic of Changes) Matters in an Age of Globalization."
The Yijing, is an ancient Chinese text and one of the Five Classics that comprise the traditional Confucian canon.
"The Yijing is worth studying because it has been an enormously influential document in China for well over 2,000 years, and it continues to play a significant role in certain spheres of Chinese life today," Smith said. "Its spread to almost every part of the world over the past few centuries sheds useful light on the ways that important books and ideas travel across borders and boundaries, and how they are transformed in the process."
Other talks touched on Zen enlightenment, the ideology of individualism and Chinese ethical theory.
Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, said the symposium encourages the University's mission to nurture wisdom.
"We are all philosophers," he said during his opening remarks at the symposium. "Everyone is guided by values and a vision of the good life. The question is: how deeply will we think about this essential aspect of our lives, and how deep will the reservoir of wisdom be from which we draw inspiration? As a symphony orchestra employs multiple instruments, so our philosophies gain power and beauty by harmonizing multiple viewpoints."