Joint Seminar by Takahiro Nakajima and Joel Thoraval #3 (The Final Session)

26 August, 2008 └Chinese Confucianism, TANAKA Yuki, Contemporary China in Philosophy

The final session of Profs. Thoraval and Nakajima's joint seminar was held on July 17th. In this session, they finished their lectures and discussed some problems with participants.

  Prof. Thoraval took up three main problems discussed in this seminar to understand Confucianism in modern China and Japan.

  The first topic is to consider Confucianism in relation to religion and politics; that is to say, in the context of secularization. The concept of secularization originates in the West. So, we can easily distinguish between religious and non-religious (political, social, and cultural) spheres in the West, and the meaning of secularization is clear. But, in China, religion cannot be dissociated from a non-religious sphere, and thus it is very difficult for us to situate the definition of secularization in a Chinese context.

  The second topic is to reflect on modern Confucianism from a Japanese perspective. Prof. Nakajima took up many important problems, for example, the constitution of academic Confucianism in modern Japanese universities. The discussions of Confucianism in Japanese academia preceded debates in modern China, so we need Japanese experience to understand better what is happening in modern China.

  The third topic is to consider how to use western categories when we approach Chinese culture. In the last two sessions, we considered notions we use today all the time in the world philosophy, namely the notions of axial age and of the age of transcendence. We read some texts that explain Chinese axial age and transcendence, but the problems discussed in these texts were so complex and dissatisfactory. Axial age originates in Jesus Christ, and transcendence is also a Christian notion, so when such notions are applied to a Chinese context, we have great difficulties.

  After Profs. Thoraval and Nakajima's comments, many questions were raised by participants. I take up a few of these――After axial age, how can we appreciate the history of Chinese philosophy? What is the difference between the state religion and the civil religion in a Chinese or Japanese context? In Japanese art, how can we understand the difference between the classical turn of public spaces and that of private spaces? What is the secularization of Confucianism?

  In this seminar, each session had a very important lecture and a lively discussion, and every participant could get something important for his/her study. I would like to thank two professors for giving such a precious opportunity.

Yuki Tanaka (UTCP fellow)

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