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活动回顾|CHINESE PHILOSOPHY NOW AND THEN: ECNU 2023 GRADUATE PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE

发布日期: 2023-12-03   浏览次数 10



The East China Normal University 2023 Graduate Philosophy Conference was held from November 17–19, 2023. The in-person portion involved 30 presenters from 12 different universities, and 7 additional scholars presented at the online conference. Presenters came from Asia, Europe, and America. Three keynote speeches were delivered by professors from ECNU, the University of Macau, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Presentations and keynote speeches touched on different aspects of the theme “Chinese Philosophy Now and Then” and provided a chance for the sharing of work and exchange of ideas. The conference was organized by the Department of Philosophy, ECNU. The organizers thank all participants and keynote speakers and look forward to the next conference.



Opening Ceremony: Paul D’Ambrosio德安博and Dimitra Amarantidou易冬兰


The conference proceedings began on Saturday morning, 18th November, 2023, with opening remarks from Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Professor of Chinese Philosophy at ECNU,Dean of the Center for Intercultural Research, and Fellow of the Institute of Modern Chinese Thought. His remarks reflected the theme of the conference, “Chinese Philosophy Now and Then,” highlighting the difference between philosophizing in the context of contemporary academia and in the contexts of ancient China and ancient Greece. Prof. D’Ambrosio advised that it is important to always be cognisant of this difference and to always return to the original texts as well as read secondary materials. Prof. D’Ambrosio also emphasized the importance of exchange between Chinese and non-Chinese scholars of Chinese philosophy. He encouraged young scholars to cooperate and help strengthen each other’s language skills, as Chinese and English proficiency are essential to understanding Chinese philosophical works and promoting dialogue on a global stage.


The opening ceremony continued with remarks from Professor Dimitra Araminditou of the University of Macau, who offered some thoughts under the theme of being “in between.” This included how philosophy is between the most useful endeavour, as it has potential to aid us in tackling our most pressing concerns, and the least useful as it does not have any immediately obvious use. She spoke also of being in between teacher and student, as a philosopher always continues to question what they know even when they reach the level of a teacher. She spoke of the space in between humans and machines, as generative AI comes into our academic sphere and poses opportunities and many challenges. And she spoke of the in-betweenness of the present conference: Chinese and international scholars discussing Chinese philosophy.


Keynote Speaker: Ellen Ying Zhang张颖, with comments by Daniel Sarafinas一波


Comparative Philosophy: Why Bother?

比较哲学:何必多此一举?


The first keynote speech of the conference was given by Professor Ellen Zhang, who addressed the crucial issue of comparative philosophy. Starting with the traditional characterization of comparative philosophy as involving twocomparanda and atertium comparationis, Professor Zhang stressed the importance of a fourth element: the comparer. A comparison always tells something about the person that draws it, and thus the reason why this specific comparison is made always plays a role in the comparison itself. Doing comparative philosophy is not merely about looking at similarities and differences, but should also include a point in which we, the comparers, ask “why bother” about the comparison we are making. Exploring themeanings of different texts or traditions is a way to make thesignificance of these comparisons emerge. In this sense, comparative philosophy is a complex discipline, whose difference from philosophy in general has been historically controversial. Professor Zhang also reflected on thetertium comparationis as a framework that informs the comparison itself: metaphysics or ethics, for example, are Western frameworks which can be used to discuss Chinese philosophy, as far as we can explain why using them in this context is significant. At the same time, an awareness of the role of thetertium comparationis makes room for using non-Western frameworks as well, such as the Chinese stress on the commentarial tradition or thegeyi格義model (crucial in the transmission and assimilation of Buddhism in early China). Professor Zhang concluded with the hope that a conscious exercise of comparative philosophy will affirm the relevance of Chinese philosophy not merely as a meaningful “other”, but as good philosophy in itself, regardless of its being “Chinese” or not.



HE Yuping何禹平


ChatGPT: A New Dao?

ChatGPT:新的“道”?


He Yuping’s presentation “ChatGPT: A New Dao?” explored the ways in which new developments in artificial intelligence have begun to change our interaction with the world. He’s presentation began by discussing the benefits of ChatGPT, such as its application in fields from governance and healthcare, but she then turned to the possible ethical implications that arise from the usage of ChatGPT. In particular, this new technology may erode human interactions and connections. It is precisely here that Zhuangzi’s concept ofjixin机心, or “machine mind” comes into play. Under the influence of recent technological advancements, humans have lost their role as masters of machines and are slowly becoming slaves to modern technology. Zhuangzi’s concept of the “machine mind” reminds us that while we do not need to reject such technological advancements altogether, we must be careful in how we use and interact with technology. Technology must be used for human ends and to promote human flourishing.


WANG Fen王芬


Did Jung MisreadThe Secret of the Golden Flower?

荣格是否误读《太乙金华宗旨》?


There have been several scholarly disputes on whether Jung misreadThe Secret of the Golden Flower. Wang Fen’s presentation used such scholarly disputes as a starting point to discuss Jung’s interpretation of Daoist texts. Rather than ask whether Jung misread the text, Wang Fen used comparative analysis to show how Jung’s reading is innovative and serves as a hermeneutical tool that highlights the differences between Eastern and Western philosophy. According to her analysis, Jung tried to show how looking to the East could solve several of the long-term problems faced by Western cultures. Eastern psychology’s focus on the unconscious could help rectify many of the problems faced by the Western overemphasis on conscious and rational thought. However, Jung warned against the uncritical adherence to Eastern practices: the importance of Eastern psychology was found in its ability to combine with Western thought and balance out its negative tendencies.


CHEN Huizhen陈慧贞


How Does Ethics Lead to Aesthetics? Transcultural Interpretation and Reconstruction of the Zhuangzi

伦理何以为美学——跨文化《庄子》的诠释和重构


How does Ethics Lead to Aesthetics? Chen Huizhen tackled this question in her presentation on theZhuangzi. Chen introduced the third wave of Zhuangzi studies along with some of the current problems concerning ethics and aesthetics. She then showed how a reconsideration of Zhuangzi’s understandings of subjectivity could aid scholarship by introducing three dimensions to the discussion of ethics and aesthetics: difference, (chayi差异), cultivation (xiuyang修养), and power (liliang力量). The first can aid us in reflecting on normative ethical viewpoints by focusing on and recognizing the differences between self and other. The second understands cultivation not as a trained skill but as aesthetic transformation applied to the activities of daily life. Zhuangzi’s idea of the true person (zhenren真人) shows how this kind of cultivation can rid one of prejudices and biases. Yet this practice is not one of gaining knowledge but is based on aesthetic and practical activities. The final element, power, uses the body and the aesthetic elements of the person to deepen ethical interactions with the world. Combining these three elements together may aid us in reconstructing a new Daoist ethics, one that is both critical of normative ethics and is also brimming with creativity and potential.


WU Amiao巫阿苗


A Narrative Inquiry into the Chinese Chan Conception of Temporality

叙事学视阈下的中国禅宗时间观


Wu’s presentation explored how much of the unnaturalness associated with Chan storytelling has to do with its notion of temporality. By looking intogong’an cases, she showed how when temporal sequencing is extenuated, the rhetoric of mediation fails, and the narrative has to come to an end. She discussed how given that temporal order is inherent in the experience of physical phenomena that are devoid of existential structure, time itself becomes characterized by unreality, in which no thing is linked to a systematic continuation from past to future and as such all things therein are free from the self. Thus, Wu concludes that Chan time is beyond storytelling, in that Chan storytelling frequently deconstructs the mimetic function of plots, pointing to a non–plot-based narrative which demonstrates its teaching philosophy of “using poison to counteract poison” and informs its conception of time. Insofar as Chan time deprives a cause-and-effect relationship underlying the phenomenal world, it undermines the ontological realm, depriving the real world of its narrative thread. In doing that, it creates a time that synchronizes all events to coalesce into “pure simultaneous existence.”



Christian Forteza Españo


Towards a Philosophy of Rhetoric

走向修辞哲学


Christian’s presentation began with a discussion of why Plato wrote, with reference to his views about writing in theRepublic andPhaedrus. In that regard, he refers to the dialectic method and the philosophy of rhetoric. Firstly, he discusses that it is necessary to criticize rhetoric using the dialectic method to amplify a scientific approach to it, whereby the task is to eliminate inconsistencies, and the initial task of a true rhetorician is to discern the soul. He shows how in Plato’s account, rhetoricians have a linguistic power to influence and even mobilize other people, insofar as ideas have social power through the exploitation of verbal usage. In that sense then, it may turn out that Plato’s decision to write dialogues, generating the tendency of that linguistic power to influence via the dialectic method, has a decisive political implication. The presentation then concludes with a brief sketch of the philosophy of rhetoric as a branch of phenomenology. He claims that philosophy is exact while rhetoric is always shifting, and thus rhetoric is always relational, so no final truth is to be attained. It begins whenever you are, wherever you are, and whoever you are, and it is an encounter with the world.



WAN Zhongshu万中淑


An Anarchist Daoism: On Le Guin’s Utopian Imagination in The Dispossessed

道家哲学的无政府主义演绎:论勒奎恩在《无所依归》中的 乌托邦想象


Wan’s presentation focused on American novelist Ursula K. Le Guin’s understanding, imagination, and reformulation of Laozi’s philosophy in her utopian novelThe Dispossessed. Wan shows how Le Guin’s understanding and rendition of theLaozi is built upon her own cultural context, insofar as her emphasis is on the relation between Daoism and anarchism. Since Roger Ames states that Daoism is essentially anarchism if properly understood, Wan takes Ames’ four conditions of political anarchism and uses it to outline the main features of Le Guin’s understanding and reformulation of Laozi’s philosophy, as she creates her anarchist ideal world in The Dispossessed. Wan lists the application of four Daoist concepts which includeshengren,ziran,shen, andbuyan, and discusses how they are aligned with Roger Ames’  four necessary conditions of a comprehensive anarchist theory in order to show how Le Guin’s understanding, imagination, and reformulation of Laozi’s philosophy in the novel is conducted from an anarchist perspective.



Henry Allen安河木


Ethical Pluralism in the Lunyu

《论语》中的伦理学多元主义


Allen’s discussion addressed the tension between moral principles and moral flexibility in the
Lunyu by reading together Analects 18.8 and 17.4. He suggests that the famous expression “无可无不可,” which many scholars read as representative of Confucius’ flexible approach, was not considered by Confucius himself as a better way compared to the more principled ones described in the same passage, but just a different one. On this basis, he then reads Analects 17.4, suggesting that Confucius’ joke might aim at taking a critical distance from the rigid application of moral principles, offering Ziyou子游an opportunity to rethink his actions and take a more flexible approach. However, this kind of moral flexibility is extremely difficult to achieve and thus principlesper se are not despised by Confucius: correct moral principles can be taken as guidelines for the path of ethical development and therefore they should be followed – at least if we cannot make do without them.


Joseph Murse


Chinese Philosophy Now vs. Then: Extraction vs. Abstraction

现在与过去的中国哲学:效法与抽象化


Murse’s presentation addressed the difference between “abstraction of concepts” and “extraction of models.” In Pre-Qin Confucianism, the focus was not on the clear-cut definition of core concepts to be grasped intellectually, but on the observation of historical and symbolic figures engaging with different contexts and situations from which the reader had to extract always negotiable models of worthy behavior. Modern academia, however, requires definitions for debate, critique, and coherence and thus has often tried to abstract well-defined concepts from Pre-Qin Confucian texts. While Murse does not deny the benefits of concept clarity, he suggests that paying attention to the details of the figures involved—their context, functions, and symbolisms—and engaging in this modelling process are crucial to avoiding misinterpretations and improving our reading of the classical Confucian texts.


Riccardo Peruzzi


Ancient Paradoxes and Contemporary Readings

古代悖论与当代解读


Peruzzi’s discussion addressed a traditional interpretation that emerged in the early 20
th century which equates Huizi’s惠子paradoxes with those of Zeno of Elea. Against this interpretation, he suggests that, if read in the context of theZhuangzi and the Mohist Canons, Huizi’s paradoxes appear quite different from their “Greek counterparts.” He analyzed two of Huizi’s paradoxes that are similar to Zeno’s and suggested that, whereas Zeno focuses on the contradiction that arises when the whole is considered as the sum of its parts, Huizi’s concern is with the extremes, the limits and boundaries between things and events, which are also the transition points where the application of names change. On this basis, he proposes that, to investigate again the comparison between these two philosophers, it is first necessary to try and interpret Huizi’s philosophy in the context of Warring States thought.


YE Qing叶晴


Can Internalism and Externalism be Reconciled? —An Answer Based on Zhu Xi’s Thought on Compassion (Ce Yin)

内在主义与外在主义可以调和吗?——朱熹“ 恻隐” 论视角下 的一个解答


Ye Qing’s presentation asked whether Zhu Xi’s concept ofceyin恻隐could solve a long-standing debate in modern action theory. Ye Qing began by giving an overview of the philosophical problem, summarizing the views of thinkers central to the modern debate. The views of so-called internalists and externalists diverge on the relationship between normative values and their connection to moral judgment. Internalists believe that judgments motivate due to their connection with subjective desires. Externalists understand normative values as external and objective, but they must then explain how these can motivate an agent to act. Here Ye Qing drew on Zhu Xi’s philosophy to reconcile the two views. Zhu Xi posits that all things have internal patterns orli, which are normative values within objects that exist independent of the moral subject. At the same time,li exists within the mind and expresses itself as moral emotions. For Zhu Xi, the moral agent must gain genuine knowledge of thisli, and in doing so, they are able to gain objective moral knowledge that combines with subjective motivations.


LIU Menglu刘蒙露


Can Moral Autonomy Be Compatible with Concern for Others? A Comparative Study of “Autonomy” in Kantian and Wang Yangming’s Ethics

道德自律可与对他者的关怀相容吗? ——关于康德与王阳明 “自律”的比较研究


While many scholars have compared Confucianism and Kantian ethics, Liu Menglu’s presentation took a different approach by understanding Wang Yangming in light of Kantian views of autonomy. Menglu gave an overview of a major controversy in Kantian ethics: moral subjects should be autonomous individuals who self-impose moral laws. However, this Kantian view of moral autonomy has been criticized by thinkers such as Bernard Williams, who believe that it created a deficient view of ethics wherein the moral agent shows little concern for others. However, alternative understandings of autonomy may help in presenting a different picture. Much like Kant, Wang Yangming believed in moral autonomy with moral laws innate in the individual. Where Wang Yangming differs from Kant is in the fact that these moral laws cannot be separated from the empirical world. In addition, the knowing that manifests from such moral laws contains emotions and sensitivity that then serve as the foundation for other-regarding behavior. The embodied other-regarding nature of Wang’s moral autonomy thus overcomes the criticisms made against Kantian autonomy.


HU Xiangnong胡湘农


Why a Sage King Does Not Disclose the Misdeeds of His Kin: RethinkingMengzi 5A3 and 7A35 in the Context of Moral Dilemma

圣王不举亲过之故:以道德困境为语境重思《孟子》5A37A35


Passages 5A3 and 7A35 of theMengzipresent two stories of the sage king Shun acting in ways that seem perplexing to the modern reader. In two situations, Shun refused to disclose the misdeeds of his family, in some cases acting in ways that had negative effects on his subjects. How is it that a sage king, a moral exemplar, could make a less than exemplary decision? Hu Xiangnong analyzed these cases as examples of moral dilemmas, and in doing so, worked to solve interpretive problems that have long puzzled readers of the text. A moral dilemma is a situation in which there exists no absolute right answer, and where the best solution is to choose the better of two options. According to Xiangnong, Shun was a benevolent person, which in Mengzi’s thought meant that he could not have non-benevolent or non-virtuous characteristics. Though hiding the misdeeds of one’s kin might not be an absolutely correct choice, when presented with a dilemma, the decisions made by Shun were satisfactory, as they were generally better than the alternatives.


Keynote Speech: Paul D’Ambrosio德安博, with comments by Dimitra Amarantidou易冬兰


The Confucian Contingency Model: Person, Agency, and Morality

儒家的权变模型:个体、能动性、道德


Professor of Philosophy Paul J. D'Ambrosio delivered the second keynote of the conference, presenting on what he terms the Confucian Contingency Model. Contingency is anything that relies on other things and is philosophically accidental rather than essential. It is related to chance, luck, and happenstance (relevant Chinese terms are
偶然性,不测,巧合, and遇合_. Contingency is at the root of much philosophical discourse, especially in conjunction with discussions of autonomy, personhood, and agency. Specifically, it has been conceived of as existing on a spectrum with autonomy. For thinkers like Plato, Kant, and Augustine, morality is conceived as being tied to personal autonomy and judgement and outside the realm of contingency. Other thinkers (Aristotle, MacIntrye, Taylor, Sandel, Rorty, Nussbaum) take an in-between position wherein the person has a pregiven reflective power that works with contingencies, such as culture and social norms. Meanwhile, a purely contingent position would say that a person is only an aggregate of contingencies, which ends up looking like determinism or physicalism.


By contrast, D'Ambrosio showed how in early Confucian texts, morality and agency emerge entirely out of contingencies yet are categorically distinct from them. As part of this, there is no strong distinction between the moral and amoral spheres; Chapter 10 of the Analects, which gives many examples of how Confucius carried himself in daily life, is a good example of this. D'Ambrosio noted that this contingency model is also present in theZhuangzi, Nietzsche, and some types of Buddhism. The Confucian version leads to an understanding of the self as a "situatedly reflective person" and a "morality of luck." One's moral task is to cultivate, through various contingent factors, a cogent self and strong sense of agency. The "situatedly reflective person" refers to how a person can be critical of their roles, traditions, and self, but not because of any pregiven will or power outside of contingency. The "morality of luck" refers to how contingent factors bear on one's moral development and how one should aim to develop oneself and cultivate circumstances so that oneself and those close to one are as lucky as possible. Two contemporary Chinese thinkers who take this contingency position in new directions and Yang Guorong杨国荣and Li Zehou积淀论. After Professor D'Ambrosio's presentation, Professor Dimitra Amarantidou gave a response and Professor D'Ambrosio also engaged in discussion with Professor Zhang.


Angela Shen申元瑛


Learning to be the Sage”:Jinsilu近思录 ’s Understanding of Sage and its Modern Significance

学以至圣人之道”——《近思录》的圣人观及其时代意义


Angela Shen
申元瑛’s presentation focused on the Southern Song textJinsilu近思录(“Reflections on Things at Hand”). First, she discussed what it means to be a sage and why we have sages in our society from a historical perspective. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, there was a shift from reverence for gods, or spirits (shen) to reverence for sages, who embodied reason, intelligence, virtue, and made significant worldly achievements. They possessed both moral perfection and political adeptness. Second, she addressed the question of whether sagehood is a trait that can be acquired. TheJinsilurests on the assumption that one can learn what is necessary to become a sage, which involves cultivating talents (cai) and enhancing moral qualities (de). Third, Shen discussed two approaches to achieving sagehood: one from the top down (zi shang er xia自上而下) and the other, which is emphasized in theJinsilu, from the bottom-up (自下而上). The bottom-up method, exemplified by individuals following the path of Yan Hui颜回, involves continuous self-cultivation and the accumulation of knowledge, with the ultimate goal of naturally progressing to a state of virtue and sagehood. The presentation concluded by connecting these perspectives on sagehood with contemporary Chinese society. The pursuit of sagehood aims to provide individuals with a sense of stability and to maintain societal order. However, with the modernization, urbanization, and informatization in Chinese society, the ideal of the sage has gradually lost its social relevance. Rather than choosing between traditional and modern ways of life, it is perhaps more productive to draw on different intellectual resources to create a conceptual system suitable for modern Chinese society.



DING Hongran丁洪然


BothMing andRen: Confucian Understandings and Responses Concerning Moral Luck

与命与仁:儒家对道德运气的理解与应对


Ding Hongran’s丁洪然presentation highlighted how understanding and responding to unpredictable factors in ethical life, such as fate, is a crucial aspect of moral philosophy. Current research on moral fortune primarily follows one of two approaches pioneered by Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel. William’s approach emphasizes analyzing the significance of fortune from the perspective of the integrity of an ethical life and seeking a good life within uncertainty. Nagel’s approach attempts to ensure the primacy of reason in moral judgment. Under the Confucian ethical framework of “combining fate and benevolence” (yuming yuren与命与仁) these two approaches can potentially converge. In the dynamic balance between “fate” and “benevolence,” Confucianism provides a comprehensive examination of the moral significance of fortune and outlines corresponding paths for pursuing a good ethical life within uncertainty. Within this Confucian framework, four kinds of moral luck should be considered: constitutive luck, causal luck, circumstantial luck, and resultant luck. Constitutive luck primarily refers to those factors that innately influence an individual’s temperament, innate qualities, abilities, and inclinations. Causal luckand circumstantial luckpertain to the decisive influence of the environment, beyond the control of one’s will, on the outcome of actions. Resultant luck refers to the luck associated with the consequences of actions. This final outcome significantly affects the moral evaluation of the actor.



YANG Chaoyi杨超逸


Wang Fuzhi’s Theory of Principle (li) and Tendency of Power (shi) and its Future Dimension

王夫之的理势论及其未来之维


Yang Chaoyi’s杨超逸presentation demonstrated how Wang Fuzhi’s王夫之theory of “pattern and circumstance” (li shi理势) reveals profound insights into his historical perspective. The theory takes the transformation of ideals into future reality as its focal point, with a structure of four interconnected notions: the origin of the relationship between pattern and circumstance has a natural unity, it diverges and evolves in the actual world, it reflects different value orientations in people’s normative evaluations, and thus it gives rise to a potential unity that can be realized in a new form of civilization. In Wang Fuzhi’s interpretation of theMengzi孟子, the theory of pattern and circumstance requires small states facing oppressive power to emulate the virtue of King Wen, achieving a future transformation of patterns and circumstance through governance based on virtue. Wang Fuzhi uses this as a model case to deepen his reflections on the pattern and circumstance relationship in the operation of the state, exploring new approaches to realizing the ideal of “making common all under heaven” (gong tianxia公天下) in the future, particularly through the design of a political system like “administration of prefectures and counties” (junxian zhi郡县制). Recent interpretations of Wang Fuzhi’s theory of pattern and circumstance in modern China cannot avoid the critique based on He Lin’s贺麟juxtaposition of “feigned private motives concealing public motives” and Hegel’s concept of “rational cunning.” However, He Lin’s argument, influenced by contemporary neo-Hegelianism, emphasizes the substantiality of the absolute spirit above the subject, aiming to dissolve historical irrational contingencies. Revisiting this topic today, it might be beneficial to consider recent advancements in the field of Hegelian studies.



Filio Eleni Goula


Relationship Between Philosophy and Anthropology: Using Metaphilosophy to Approach the “East”

哲学与人类学的关系:用元哲学走近“东方”


Filio Eleni Goula’s presentation explored the relationship between anthropology and philosophy. On the one hand, both are intrinsically interdisciplinary and present reflections on the situatedness of human experiences while contemplating humanity as a whole. On the other hand, the methods used differ remarkably. By an extensive analysis of several branches of the humanities (cultural anthropology and philosophical anthropology in particular), Goula highlighted some of the issues involved: from the critique of the term “culture” to the relation with natural sciences and issues of ethnocentrism or colonial mindsets. She concludes that, since philosophy and anthropology share similar key questions but use different methods (and thus reach different answers), cooperation and heterogeneity are essential not only for intercultural practices but also on a scientific and academic level.


Gene-George Earlé


The Past as a Foreign Country: The Confucian Tradition as an Anthropological Object

把历史视为“外国”:作为人类学对象的儒家传统

Gene-George Earlé began with stating that while the Spring and Autumn period was a time of great tumult, it was not a time of decline. It was a heterogeneous environment, with a vast increase of contact between diverse cultures and higher social stratification compared to previous eras. This triggered a shift in how people framed their identity (less based on blood lineages and kin relationships and more on socioeconomic class and social role) and a shift in the religious aspect of rites and rituals, now less linked to the realm of the supernatural. Earlé understands early Confucian philosophy as a way to reframe rites according to the needs of these new circumstances. The focus on education (xue) as essential to establishing oneself in this new public sphere is one of the novelties of Confucius’ approach, who thus appears, paradoxically, as an innovator rather than as a mere transmitter.


ZHANG Qian张茜


Jiren (畸人): Daoism, Healthcare, and Atypical Bodies

畸人:道家、医疗与非典型身体


Zhang Qian focused on the concept ofjiren畸人in theZhuangzi, which refers to people with “atypical bodies”: those who are lacking a limb or are considered exceptionally ugly by the standards of their time. TheZhuangzi often describes these figures as examples of inner virtues so as to affirm the worth of all humans regardless of their external appearance. The concept ofjiren, therefore, can help us rethink how we treat and consider people with atypical bodies in contemporary societies. Zhang takes examples of those with disabilities and “intersex” people (people born with both male and female traits): in these cases, social pressure and discrimination often cause psychological issues and hinder the implementation of healthy public policies. In the case of transgender people, Zhang claims that, while theZhuangzi does not encourage radical measures such as surgical operations, it also does not condemn the will to change, as far as this is done to achieve both physical and psychological well-being.


Jordan Palmer Davis戴佳腾


Human Goals and Nature’s Ends: Teleological Explanations in the Early Chinese Tradition

人类的目标与自然的目的:早期中国哲学中的目的论


Jordan Palmer Davis examined teleological ends within traditional Chinese philosophy, pushing back on the assessment from many philosophers that the Chinese did not possess teleological concepts within the classical period. Davis started with the Greeks to explain how teleological terms have both anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric forms. In his research, Davis found a fair number of classical Chinese works which used/to imply a teleological “for the sake of,” yet each referent was to teleological ends of things only in so far as they benefitted humans. He concluded by revisiting the dominant philosophical view of traditional Chinese as lacking teleology in favor of a自然(self-so) pattern of nature. The examples he presented, where teleological notions are strongly implied, suggest a broader picture that is worth further exploration, challenging the commonly held assumption.


Pritam Saha彭雨


Exploring the Ethical Aspects ofDeandGua in theLaozi老 子and theBhagavadgītā

《老子》和《薄伽梵歌》中“德”与“Gua”的伦理学探讨


Pritam Saha engaged in a cross-cultural exploration of similarities betweendeas it is portrayed in theLaozi老子and the Hindu concept ofgua. He first began by delineating his use ofdeas a certain “dormant power,” a pure potential that can bring about a person’s full realization. He quoted Hans-Georg Moeller who conceptualizesde as concentric radiations, starting from the self and extending outwards. Saha then turned to defineshangde上德andxiade下德(Laozi 38). He explained thatshangde is spontaneous, unbound, and can take a great variety of forms. Meanwhile,xiade is artificial, derived from moral regulations, and bound by rules, choking possibility. Turning from the Chinese tradition to the Hindu, the philosophy ofgua was explored. In general,gua is split into three levels, the good (sattva), the passions (rajas), and dark inertia (tamas), but Saha dividedgua into two categories. Becausede appears closely related to the concept of human nature in theLaozi, Saha approximatedshangde with the Hindu good, whereasxiade was approximated with the passions. Dark inertia, dealing with feelings of self-worth and doubt, by its nature imperils and destroysde. Dark inertia has the potential to transform into the passions and the passions can ascend to the good. Saha concluded that the notion of endless transformation means thatxiade can also becomeshangde, just asgua in its three levels can transform.


ZHANG Yunqi张云起


Changing as Unchanging: A Comparison Between Guo Xiang and Seng Zhao’s Theorization of Change

作为不变之变:郭象与僧肇变化观的比较


Zhang Yunqi proposed a comparison between the Neo-Daoist thinker Guo Xiang and the Madhayamaka Buddhist Seng Zhao’s views of time and change. Zhang suggested that both Guo and Seng Zhao start their argument from the observation that things in the past can no longer be found in the present. However, the two interpret this in opposite ways. Guo thinks that this shows that each moment is completely different than the previous and that in each moment the world thoroughly changes. On the other hand, Seng Zhao thinks it shows that the past never comes to the present, so that past events always stay in the past. Zhang then suggested that the two in fact both display change and unchangingness as interimmanent; the reason they reach opposite conclusions is because of their different motivations. Guo tried to advocate that no determinate value or valuable thing could be clung to because of irrevocable change. On the other hand, Seng Zhao tried to give an alternative interpretation of change to show that any determinate characterization of the world is paradoxical and illusory. Zhang concluded by pointing out the divisions between Guo Xiang and Seng Zhao’s thought. To Guo Xiang, change denies determination while to Seng Zhao, change is determination.


Krischan Reese


Desire Management and a Critique of Innovation in the Han Feizi

《韩非子》中的创新批判与“欲”之管理


Krischan Reese presented on the
Han Feizi with the goal of enriching the image of theHan Feizi, including drawing out the Laozian Han Feizi. He started by discussing a story that appears twice in theHan Feizi, in which the introduction of ivory chopsticks leads to ever-increasing levels of decadence, with the lesson being that “who beholds smallness is called enlightened.” The latter includes the concept of “minding the minute”见微, which is key toshuandfa, and also the notion of limiting desires. Both of these ideas are found in many places in theHan Feizi and can be traced back to the Laozi. By providing further analysis of each of these concepts, Reese finds thatfa andshu in theHan Feizi are based on Laozian ideas and united in a concept of desire management, which constitutes a nonmoral self-cultivation. This is expressed in a cautiousness towards innovation and is somewhat in tension with the progressive spirit of theHan Feizi.


Elena Magdalena Agent


On Personal Cultivation, Crime, and Rehabilitation: Revisiting the Confucian Conceptualization of Uprightness (zhi) in the Stolen Sheep Case

论自我修养、犯罪与改造——重新考虑“子为父隐”与儒家关 于“直”的理解


Elena Magdalena Agent’s presentation focused on Analect 13.8 and the question of why Confucius countenances covering for your father when he steals a sheep given that stealing a sheep is wrong. She finds a deeper issue in this case to be the question of how the harmonious society can be achieved. Why did the father steal the sheep, she asks? In Confucianism the son has the duty to care for his parents, so if the theft was caused by poverty, his son was responsible and should thus protect his father from punishment for his own unfilial conduct. Even if the son was not to blame here, does the state punishing the father address the root of the father’s wrong? Maybe the son covering for the father gives the father a higher chance of rehabilitation. In that case, the conflict is not between(filial piety) and(humaneness), but betweenand(loyalty to the ruler). When considering this case, we need to consider how Confucius’ solution may lead to a more harmonious society.


Rory O’Neill欧宁瑞


The Morality of Being Amoral: Shenzi, Leviathan, and The Moral Fool

非道德观的道德观:《慎子》、《利维坦》、《道德愚人》


Rory O’Neill presented on amorality in three texts: the
Shenzi, theLeviathan, andThe Moral Fool.The Moral Fool explicitly presents a defense of amorality while the other two texts are often discussed as presenting amoral viewpoints. O’Neill used this presentation to disentangle notions of amorality in each text, arguing that in fact, none of the three texts are fully amoral as all still make normative prescriptions that can lead to a better society. InThe Moral Fool, amorality is advocated for in response to the moralizing tendencies in contemporary society, such as in the United States judicial system. The text advocates for systems that work towards protecting wellbeing and fairness without bringing in moral judgement. In theLeviathan, commentators identify amorality in the sharing of power between civil and ecclesiastical institutions, and especially a check on the Church. In theShenzi, it comes out in wariness about Confucian sages and personal virtue and a turn instead to mechanisms and systems. Rory notes that because none of these are merely descriptions, they do each present their own moral position, even though this might include some form of “we should not cling to particular moral convictions.” Insofar as these “amoral” positions move towards more accepting and adaptable modes of being and decision-making that produce better effects, O’Neill wondered if this is not more deeply moral.


QI Boxian祁博贤


An Interpretation of Wang Bi’s Concept of “Ti-Yong” Based on Chapter 38 of the Commentary on Laozi

王弼体用论解义——基于《老子注》第三十八章“虽贵以无为 用,不能捨无以为体”


Qi Boxian
祁博贤talked about Wang Bi’s concepts oftiandyong, based on chapter 38 of Wang’s commentary on theLaozi. He began with a quote from Lou Yulie’s樓宇烈works to illustrate Wang Bi’s王弼(d. 249) position and make a comparison between the characterssheandshe

that later transform into the idea ofjuliu居留that Wang Bi used in his commentary on theLaozi. Qi pointed out that the wordshethat is used in Wang Bi’s commentary to chapter 38 means “to leave,” but some scholars give it a different interpretation. Furthermore, to clarify the concept oftiin Wang Bi, Qi explained that the idea ofshe wu yi wei ti捨无以为体transforms intoquan wu yi wei ti全无以为体. Then he moved to Chapter 25 to discusssida四大(four greats), which is a key concept to understand the idea ofyong. He also explained Wang Bi’s position on this view and made a clear distinction betweentiandxing. He further claimed that compared toxing,tiis obviously a concept closer to “essence” or “nature.” Andti as essence is undoubtedly a kind of “non-being.” He summarized his ideas by saying that from the side of “nonbeing,”ti andyong are continuous, whereas from the side of “being,” the concept ofyong means thatti realizes itself through some kind of activity and it must deal with concrete beings.



Suzanne Murphy莫非


Wang Bi: On the Use and Abuse of(zhi) for Life

王弼:“知”对于生活的利弊


Suzanne Murphy’s discussion revolved around Wang Bi’s commentary to Lunyu 17.2 and the theme of the dangers of desire (yu) and knowledge (zhi) in regards to the expression of innate human nature and feeling (xing qing性情). She began by showing how his commentary aligns with similar issues from Pre-Qin Ruist texts, such as the theme of the movement ofqing and the stillness ofxing, and the importance of Dao’s achievement resting upon the inseparability ofxing,qing, andming(fate). She also pointed to where these texts warn about the departing of Dao if their relationship betweenxing and qing not maintained, which also aligns with Wang Bi’s commentary. However, theLiji礼记warns that ifxing is moved by desires,tianli (天理) will be extinguished, whereas Wang Bi discusses the same problem in terms of losing one’s genuineness (zhen). Murphy also shows how Wang Bi’s commentary departed from ideas popular during the Han Dynasty, particularly the idea thatxing is good whileqing is bad. Wang Bi states thatqing may or may not be able to be aligned withxing—it depends on whetherxing is moved by desires.



ZHENG Heyang郑鹤杨


What Kind of Epistemology Zhuangzi Holds: Arguments Based on Chapter 22

不知之知”与“光而不耀”——《庄子·知北游》新解


What kind of epistemology does Zhuangzi hold? Zheng Heyang’s郑鹤杨presentation attempted to answer that question based on Chapter 22 of theZhuangzi. She divided her presentation into three parts. She began with the first passage from thezhibeiyou知北遊(Knowledge Rambling in the North) chapter to point out three characteristics of knowledge and compare the limitations ofzhiandhuangdi黄帝. She then moved to another passage to discuss the conceptions ofwuandyou. She made a comparison between some contemporary scholars’ understandings to clarify the meaning ofwu–you in relation tozhi(knowledge) in theZhuangzi. In addition, by connecting knowledge with the image of light and dark (xuan), she discussed the idealDao, form of knowledge, and image of the sage. Finally, she provided a brief discussion of knowledge in the light of epistemology and made a comparison between knowledge and epistemological terms in theZhuangzi.


WU Jie吴婕


The Special Definitions of Shen in the Philosophy of Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi

理本论视域下“神”的内涵及定位


Wu Jie’s吴婕presentation concerned the meaning of the charactershenin the writings of Cheng Yi程颐and Zhu Xi朱熹and how this term should be translated in various contexts. The connotations of the wordshen, from the theoretical perspective ofliin the writings of Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi, originated in the Book of Changes. Thereshen is not simply a definition ofli, nor is it equivalent toqi. Zhu Xi used a method of finding “traces” and “no traces” to differentiate between physical function (gongyong公用)and mystical function (miaoyong妙用), both of which can roughly be mapped onto the meaning ofshenin different contexts. Wu Jie then looked at the understanding of one of Zhu Xi’s students, Huang Gan黄干. Huang’s analysis did not differ much from Zhu Xi. Huang Gan analyzed the termshen in detail and also summarized Zhu Xi’s views. By exploring the understanding ofshenamong Cheng Yi, Zhu Xi and Zhu Xi’s students, and by discussing various aspects of Neo-Confucianism’s internal deliberations, we can not only work reflect on Neo-Confucianism’s own considerations but also show the continuous refinement and development of this school.



HE Bohong何波宏


How Does a Nobleman Deal with Himself and the Society: Starting from Wang Bi’sZhou Yi Zhu

君子的自居与处世:从王弼《周易注》出发


He Bohong’s何波宏presentation discussed how in theZhou Yi Zhu周易注, Wang Bi王弼discusses ajunzi’s way of getting along with himself and society. As Wang Bi interprets it, thejunzi not only has the ideal Confucian personality that matches one’s position with one’s virtue but also contains the distinct imprint of his era. Wang Bi believes that a true junzi should maintain his inner virtue and comply with different occasions but not lose his independence. In this way, thejunzi can recognize his position and preserve himself in changing situations while always implementing his own subjectivity and pursuing the Dao in the process of balancing and adapting. Therefore, Wang Bi’s depiction of thejunzi is not totally opposed to Confucian ideals. The importance of understanding the ever-changing Dao and navigating the intricate relationship between self-awareness and conformity to societal processes is emphasized. Wang Bi’s exploration extends beyond abstract philosophical notions to the practical integration of self-preservation and adherence to the Dao in social governance and political practice, offering valuable insights for subsequent discussions in Neo-Confucianism.



LI Yudong李羽东


The Source, Unique Interpretation, and Final Direction of Ye Shi’s Tao of Qianyang

叶适乾阳之道思想的来源、独特阐释及其最终指向


LI Yudong’s
李羽东presentation discussed howthe Way of Qianyang乾阳is the core subject of Ye Shi's thought in the Easy Learning school. The Way of Qianyang is not arbitrarily derived. It originates from a grasp of the fundamental spirit of Confucianism and is influenced by Kong Yingda’s孔颖达theory of taking images and Ouyang Xiu’s欧阳修debate on the distinctions between the noble and the base,yinandyang, and hardness and softness. Ye Shi’s叶适Way of Qianyang primarily adopts the methods of taking images and interpreting the Book of Changes and forming hexagrams. The Way of Qianyang has pureyang as its essence. It is “solelyqian, notkunand “solelyyang, withoutyin.” The Way of Qianyang ultimately points towards the accomplishment of human affairs and deeds. Ye Shi discusses that the Way of Qianyang will inevitably be realized in the cultivation of personal virtues leading to sagehood. In this virtue of Qianyang, internal sagehood and external kingliness are mutually complementary.



T. J. Bonnet (online)


Mengzi’s Aesthetics of Bearing (ren)

孟子的“忍”的美学


T.J. Bonnet discussed how the idea of “bearing” () within the Mengzi can be interpreted in a way that implies positive connotations compared to the negative that is often associated with it. Bonnet tiedto a sensuous notion: it only comes from the outside and is external to us, but our hearts then internalize it in different ways. Bonnet comparedto the Greek concept ofkarteria, which means endurance, perseverance, or self-control. Bonnet believes thatimplies that one shouldn’t let external things spur a person emotionally. Ignominy should be endured and even welcomed as one more test of one’s own mettle. These things (bearing, tolerance) stimulate people’s resolve.is supposed to inspire stimulus and project itself within moral practice. Finally, Bonnet outlined the example of Ox Mountain in this same manner. One must work and strive to keep their own Ox Mountain beautiful, and in experiencing hardship one must tolerate the difficulties that arrive.



ZHANG Jian张建(online)


The Problem of the Origin of Evil in theXunzi

论《荀子》中恶的起源问题


Zhang Jian begins his argument by stating that the origin of evil in Xunzi is out of alignment with the rest of the ideas in the text and relies too much on the human will and the actions of past human sages for this to be an all-defining concept. Rather, there must be more that is not outright emphasized. The presentation then moved towards looking at other thinker’s beliefs regarding Xunzi’s views. These scholars believed that because Heaven is not metaphysical in Xunzi, it is not the source of goodness, and therefore there is no goodness. Zhang pointed out the logical fallacy in that line of thought by quoting the Xunzi in various parts (man should serve Heaven and Earth, why serve an “evil” Heaven?) to show the thread which ties his refutation together. Turning from evil, he looked at those who say that, for Xunzi, human nature is amoral. This argument posits that human nature is a simple material that is then imprinted on at the start. Zhang pointed out that the rationale for this comes from a contested part of the work and may not be considered a coherent argument when aligned with the rest of the text. To discuss his own view, Zhang presents the triad of Heaven/Earth/Human as being crucial to understanding Xunzi’s ideas of human nature. Human nature is good from the start, as Earth and Heaven are good, but that nature is lost the moment we come to be because humans are too distant from Heaven and Earth and immediately are inundated by desire. Zhang suggests that Xunzi’s hope was to bridge this gap between Heaven and Human through thousands of years to find our way toand recover a certain innate goodness lost in the physical strife of the world.



Timo Ennen (online)


On Philosophy as Living: Xinxue and the Infinity of the Individual

论人生的哲学:心学与个人的无限性


Timo Ennen spoke about the strengths of possibility that occur when two philosophical ideologies clash. In Ennen’s view, comparative philosophy is problematic when it starts from a presupposition that stifles possibilities and keeps things in a narrow set of circumstances from which to draw from. By comparing ideas, we have a biased starting point, and if we don’t find a way to fit the ideas into our existing world view we call itirreconcilable. What is important philosophically speaking should be that “clash” of ideas. That clash creates something new in the philosophy and individuals who began the clash. Ennen’s presentation then moved towards universal concepts expressed by removing the particulars. To Ennen, it is not important who said what in whichever context it arose, but that it was said at all, acting as knowledge anyone could utilize. While exploring the心学of Wang Yangming, Ennen makes the observations that we comprehend the world through the first person; we can never be another person and no study of their biography or thought will let us know another person as close as we know ourselves. Wang Yangming’s says that he and the heterodox schools of thought all reach towards the same end, but the others were altered through selfish notions. This is made a keystone for the idea that all were of the same substance, altered in certain ways. Ideas collide, morph, and change one another, if they didn’t could they really be philosophy?



LI Huanyou李欢友(online)


Wang Fuzhi and the Revival of Mind-only School in Late-Ming Dynasty

王夫之与明末唯识宗之复兴


Li Huanyou presents the case that Wang Fuzhi was not just influenced by the Buddhist tradition but had a good number of friends within the tradition—well-known monks and practitioners who are referred to throughout his works, men that he had personal relationships with. Li proposes that Wang Fuzhi was similar to Vimalakirti, someone who understood the Buddhist’s teaching but was not a Buddhist. Wang Fuzhi sought to integrate Confucianism into both Daoism and Buddhism in the belief that there was a certain “oneness” within the three teachings that could be explicated and explored on a deeper level. Through these ideas, Li suggests that this was crucial to the revival of the Mind-only school.



Keynote Speaker: HUANG Yong黄勇, with comments by Robert A. Carleo III and HU Jianping胡建萍(online)


Virtue Ethicist of an Ideal Type: Aristotle or Zhu Xi?

理想类型的美德伦理学家:亚里士多德还是朱熹?


Professor Huang presented on the notion of a virtue ethics of the ideal type and proposed that Zhu Xi’s virtue ethics is more ideal than Aristotle’s. By “ideal,” he means one in which virtue, as opposed to moral principle or consequences, really is primary. For Aristotle, eudaimonia rather than virtue is primary. By contrast, Professor Huang claims that Zhu Xi’s ethics is a virtue ethics of the ideal type. Like Aristotle’s, Zhu Xi’s account of virtue begins with human nature and both take the highest good to be living a uniquely human life. But unlike Aristotle’s, which takes virtues as character traits that make the characteristically human life of rational action excellent, for Zhu Xi the virtues are what define humans and enable them to live the best life. Professor Huang specified that this is not to say that Zhu Xi’s ethics is superior to Aristotle’s. Rather, Huang’s task is one of naming and classification—he would rather see Zhu Xi as the standard bearer of virtue ethics than Aristotle.


Following Professor Huang’s talk, Robert A. Carleo III and Hu Jianping provided comments. Professor Carleo praised Professor Huang’s talk but pushed on Professor Huang’s distinction between deontology and consequentalism. Carleo proposed that both put  rational principle as primary, although each uses different principles, and in fact virtue ethics is just a matter of acting out our duties according to these different conceptions of moral principle. Professor Huang specified that for consequentialism, if you follow the correct  principle (e.g. to maximize benefit) but don’t achieve a great outcome, your action is morally wrong. Jianping Hu asked Professor Huang to clarify what he means by an “ideal virtue ethics”: does it mean that this virtue ethics is morally good? Professor Huang clarified that it is just about the structure of the ethics and does not imply a normative judgement of the ethics.



Joseph Emmanuel Sta. Maria (online)


Addressing Political Polarization in Social Media from a Confucian Perspective

以儒家的视野论社交平台的政治极化


Joseph Emmanuel Sta. Maria presented a project that aims to apply Confucian ethics to issues related to digital wellbeing. In particular, the project uses Confucian philosophy as a conceptual resource for approaching and mitigating polarization in social media. As a foundation for this project, he rejects the common epistemic approach to the problem of polarization. The epistemic approach treats social media users as isolated, but in fact they are far less isolated than commonly assumed. Rather, the problem seems to be one of affective polarization, and this polarization might actually be increased through the means proposed to overcome the supposed isolation that the epistemic approach takes for granted. Confucianism can be used as a resource to solve the problem of affective polarization because it has a tradition of employing the natural (positive) affection people feel towards others. Specific ideas include the familial care model, the Mengzian idea of human nature, and the use of language in a behavior-guiding way to promote harmony. As one example of how this may be implemented, Maria suggested using prompts when social media users write posts to get them to interact with strangers as they might their family members.



Jordan Jackson乔丹(online)


From Zhuangzi to Jen Wright: Defending a Skill-Based Approach to Moral Philosophy从庄子至珍·莱特:基于技术道德哲学的辩护


Jordan Jackson started by endorsing Jen Wright’s proposal to shift from a principle-based approach to a skill-based approach in ethics. The goal of the principled approach is to discover moral principles that can be used to provide guidance and allow for moral judgment. Wright argues that these principles are not usable in complex real-life situations that depend on many contingent factors. A similar critique can be found in the second chapter of the Zhuangzi. As an alternative, Wright proposes a skill-based approach. As Jackson argues, the many skill stories in the Zhuangzi can be interpreted as advocating for such an approach. They illustrate something similar to the skill-based approach to moral cultivation that describes a development of expertise leading to automated responses to diverse situations. In this way, as Jackson argues, Wright and Zhuangzi can both be seen as proposing a skill-based morality.



Karel Jõeleht (online)


Wittgenstein’s Early Thought in China: Preliminary Reflections on Zhang Shenfu’s Translation of theTractatus

维特根斯坦的早期思想与中国:关于张申府《逻辑哲学论》中 文译本的初步反思


Karel Jõeleht presented on the first translation into Chinese of Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicusin the context of republican China and discussed some problems with thattranslation. The first translator of theTractatus was Zhang Shenfu, who pioneered in introducing analytical philosophy and mathematical logic to China, in addition to being a co-founder of the CCP. A problem with Zhang’s translation is his choice of rendering “the case” and “not the case” of the first proposition in Chinese. He renders “the case” as “发生的事情”(literally “things that have happened/occurred”) and “not the case” with the same phrase negated by “未”. Both renderings evoke dynamic movement, but Wittgenstein is strictly dealing with logic and is talking about tautologies that imply a static idea of the world. The reason for these renderings might be Zhang’s interpretation of Wittgenstein, which was inspired by traditional Chinese philosophy and more importantly dialectical materialism. Zhang himself claimed that he tried to be a bridge between these traditions. Therefore, the misleading rendition in Chinese might not be based on a misunderstanding but on the attempt to bring multiple traditions together.



Closing Ceremony: Ellen Ying Zhang张颖and LIU Liangjian刘梁剑


Professor Ellen Zhang began the closing ceremony with a brief summary of the conference, offering some reflections on the presentations that took place. Liu Liangjian, Professor of Chinese Philosophy and Dean of the Philosophy Department at ECNU, expressed his gratitude to Prof. Zhang and all the participants for coming to Shanghai and cultivating an atmosphere of learning and exchange at the conference. Professors Paul J. D’Ambrosio and Daniel Sarafinas finished by sharing some upcoming activities, including the “Works in Progress” series, part of the “Collaborative Learning” (Sihaiweixue四海为学) platform.


Report by: Henry Allen
Rory O’Neill

Riccardo Peruzzi

Joseph Murse
Jordan Palmer Davis

Krischan Reese

Suzanne Murphy

Pritam Saha