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UB to host Chinese philosophy conference

By PATRICIA DONOVAN

Published July 18, 2013

UB will host the 18 International Conference of the Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) July 21-24 in the Center for the Arts, North Campus, and in the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center adjacent to the North Campus in Getzville.

“Using a cross-cultural comparative approach, the conference will explore in detail and depth the Chinese conception of philosophy as the ‘learning of living’ to enrich our understanding of this field and contribute to its revival,” says conference director Jiyuan Yu, UB professor of philosophy.  

“This is one of the largest conferences ever held by the ISCP and will feature 106 speakers representing every continent, including Africa, where once the teaching of Chinese philosophy was rare. Among our speakers are many of the finest scholars in this field.

“Today,” Yu says, “the ISCP is in every corner of the world, promoting the study of Chinese philosophy. Many colleges and universities are adding this to their curriculums, are hiring instructors in this field, an encouraging sign. This conference is meant to further promote the development of the study of Chinese philosophy in the U.S.”

Yu says that one major characteristic of Chinese philosophical tradition is that it is not just a matter of theoretical pursuit, but a more practical enterprise. Philosophy is considered to be a “learning of living” and “doing” philosophy is to practice a way of life that one chooses in order to cultivate and transform character

“The central question of the Chinese philosophy is, ‘what is the Dao?’—that is, what is the road we should follow in leading our lives?” Yu explains. “This conception of philosophy differs from the prevailing modern university conception of philosophy, which holds it to be a theoretical discipline and considers philosophical reflection peripheral to life.”

Conference sub-themes will include practical wisdom; moral psychology; formation of self, character and virtue; philosophical discourses and their practicality; happiness, death and suicide; politics and the way of living; philosophical therapy and spiritual practice; comparisons between the “way of living” as conceived of in the Chinese, Greek and Jewish traditions; and a presentation of the methodology of comparative study in this field. 

The program is available on the conference website.

Among the distinguished presenters and keynote speakers:

  • Robert C. Neville of Boston University, internationally recognized scholar of comparative philosophy and the philosophies of religion, theology, ethics and politics, and a prolific author of many books, including two books in the SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture: “Ritual and Deference: Extending Chinese Philosophy in a Comparative Context” (2009) and “Boston Confucianism: Portable Tradition in the Late-Modern World” (2002).
  • Michael Slote, professor of ethics at the University of Miami (Fla.), and author of many articles on philosophy of mind, ethics and political philosophy. He is the author of “From Morality to Virtue” (1992), “Morals from Motives” (2001) and the forthcoming “Moral Sentimentalism,” and is widely recognized as a leading figure in the renewed field of virtue ethics, which draws on the concept of an ethics of care.
  • Chung-ying Cheng, professor of philosophy, University of Hawaii, Manoa, an internationally known philosopher of East-West integration and a leading representative of neo-Confucian philosophy in the contemporary world. A very prolific author in the field of Chinese philosophy—and the philosophy of Chinese management—he is the founding president of ISCP and has received many distinguished academic honors.
  • David Wong, Susan Fox Biescher and George D. Beischer Professor of Philosophy at Duke University, where he is working on a  book on the classical Chinese thinkers Mencius, Xunzi and Zhuangzi, and on the relations between practical reason, desire and emotion. He is the author of many books, essays and journal articles in his field; one of his concerns is the relevance of Chinese-Western comparative philosophy moral values and moral differences across and within societies.
  • Vincent Shen, professor of East Asian studies at the University of Toronto, whose primary research interest is in the area of Chinese philosophy, specifically Daoism and Confucianism. His secondary research interests are comparative philosophy, phenomenology and philosophical problems of technology, culture and religion. Shen is widely published in the field of eastern and specifically Chinese philosophy, and is the former president and now the executive director of the ISCP.
  • Shun Kwong-loi, professor and chair, Department of Philosophy, Sin Wai Kin Professor of Chinese Culture, and head of New Asia College, Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is former professor and dean of the undergraduate division of the University of California at Berkeley and vice-president of the University of Toronto. Kwong-loi’s principle research project is a multivolume work in Confucian ethics that he began in 1988. The first volume, “Mencius and Early Chinese Thought,” was published by Stanford University Press in 1997. A manuscript of the second volume, “Zhu Xi and Later Confucian Thought” (tentative title), has been completed and is currently under revision.
  • Bryan Van Norden, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, and adjunct in the Department of Chinese and Japanese at Vassar College. He has broad interests in Chinese literature and Western philosophy, and in particular, ethics. His most recent books are a textbook, “Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy” (2011), a translation, “Mengzi with Selections from Traditional Commentaries” (2008) and the monograph “Virtue  Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy” (2007).

Welcoming addresses will be presented by Stephen Dunnett, vice provost for international education; Bruce E. Pitman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; David Herschenov, chair of the Department of Philosophy; Jorge Gracia, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Chair I Philosophy at UB; and Jie Zhang, director of the Buffalo State College Center for China Studies.

Conference sponsors are the UB Department of Philosophy, the Samuel P. Capen Chair in Philosophy and Comparative Literature at UB and the Buffalo State College Center for China Studies. Co-sponsors are UB’s Confucius Institute, Humanities Institute, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of the Vice Provost for International Education, Department of Classics and Asian Studies Program.