John C. Maraldo, My impressions of the UTCP seminar

20 February, 2009 └Japanese Intellectual History

On January 25 and 27, 2009, a group of a dozen or so philosophers and other scholars sat around a table in the seminar room of the UTCP to listen me talk about some alternatives to oppositions in mainstream academic philosophy.


My idea was to develop alternative notions of autonomy, agency, and normativity—all part of a larger project to present "the promise of Japanese philosophy," as I call it. I very much appreciated the fact that the participants allowed me to present work that is still very much in progress, with many problems yet to be resolved and gaps to be filled. I was encouraged by the vigorous discussion that followed my talks in two sessions that lasted almost three hours each. The participants were not at all reticent in pointing out weak parts and gaps in my work, and because of their comments that work will be strengthened. To give only a two examples of their critical points, in the first talk, one participant noted that I had used mostly classical Chinese sources to help me develop an alternative sense of autonomy, despite my title, "The Promise of Japanese Philosophy." In the second session, I learned that Maruyama Masao, invoking Ogyū Sorai, had argued that it was imperative for Japanese thinking to maintain a distinction between factual and normative, although I had attempted to find Japanese sources that undermine this distinction. All in all, it was a very gratifying experience for me.


My impression is that the UTCP is one of the most active international venues in the world for the exchange of philosophical ideas and their relevance for real-world problems. I have been at other prominent international centers of philosophical research, such as the Institute of Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, but none that has the diversity of interests represented at UTCP. A quick look at its web site will show the amazing intensity of the center's activities, ranging from workshops in cognitive philosophy to discussions of what we can learn form the Palestinean-Israeli conflict. The scholarship of UTCP members is equally impressive. My hope is that the Center will become a permanent part of the University, and will be able to include a program in the international study of Japanese philosophy, which is an increasingly recognized field.

John C. Maraldo
(Roche Chair, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nanzan University, Nagoya; Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of North Florida)

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