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2014.09.10 川村覚文, 神戸和佳子



The focus of the UHUT Summer Institute preparation session held on July 8 was Chapter 1 (“Introducing “Appreciating“ Confucianism”) from Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary by Roger T. Ames. The presentation was given by Yui Fujita.

Some of the most prominent themes noted in the presentation were the two different approaches to philosophical thinking (the rational-deductive/top-down approach and the practical/civil/bottom-up approach), the aim of contextualizing Confucian philosophy as a way to gain a better understanding of it, the implications of contextualizing philosophy (seeing philosophical thinking as a part of culture or a tradition of thought rather than reading it without reference to this context), the distinction between appreciating and depreciating Confucianism, the role analogies play in gaining a more contextual understanding of Confucian philosophy, and the mutual benefit of bringing two different philosophical traditions (Confucian and broadly speaking, Western) into conversation with each other. In addition, the attitudes of various philosophers throughout history (e.g. Leibniz, Whitehead, Hegel, James, Dewey) towards the two different approaches to philosophy were also mentioned.

In the discussion which followed, issues were raised concerning essentialism as it pertains to tradition (whether philosophical or cultural), the relationship between essentialism and pluralism, the risks inherent in dialogue (although it may bring consensus, it may also create a deeper divide between the parties involved), the relationship between politics and ethics/morality (the latter often being the domain of practical/civil philosophy), and the inequality (in terms of power-relations) which may exist in the dialogical situation. Discussing these points helped us to clarify our thinking regarding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of bringing different philosophical traditions into dialogue with each other.



The first chapter from Professor Roger Ames’s book on Confucian Role Ethics triggered a hot discussion on various topics concerning cross-cultural interface and language interpretation. Yao-san made a presentation on the summary of the chapter as well as her comments and questions regarding it for about 30 minutes, followed by an intense discussion based on it. Those who participated included Tsurita-san, Yoon-san, Shiroma-san and Wakako-san presided the study session.

In her presentation, Yao-san made attempt to split the chapter into two parts, the appreciation and de-appreciation of Confucianism, more divided into eight sub-parts respectively on the historical development of Confucianism, Leibniz’s appreciation of Confucian China, comparative analysis of Confucianism and western philosophy, the philosophical fallacy of Western Enlightenment Rationality, the depreciation of Confucianism, the necessity of informed generalizations in making cultural comparisons, the inevitability of analogy in making cultural comparisons, and how to make analogies.

After a brief presentation, the discussion first went to the interpretations and explanations of some Confucianism concepts that might be hard for non-Chinese to understand like Xin(心) and Ren(人)brought up by Wakako-san, who introduced how Professor Ames translated Xin into body-heart-minding, and Ren into human-becoming. In this sense, translation can be an indeed challenging task since it requires precise background of the concepts to be translated. From that point, a discussion about the possibility of achieving mutual cross-cultural understanding came out, along with which, the topics about the limitation of language, the linguistic network of certain word and so forth were also discussed. Give several examples to elaborate the discussion content, Yoon-san prompted with the phenomenon that Japan has more words concerning fish type and Eskimo has a variety of words to describe the color of the snow while we just take it as snow white. As well, as Shiroma-san pointed out, every word does not exist on its own. They have a whole networking around it. For example, when people refer to desk/机, they seem to be the same thing, but actually the word tsukue in Japanese consists of the environmental setting of a Japanese-styled room(和室) and so on. In this sense, it’s almost impossible to achieve mutual understanding. However, as we agreed at last, there is a difference between “same” and “analogy” or “equivalence”, which makes much room for the possibility of translation and cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, with the convenient transportation these days, it’s easier to experience another culture by our own. And for common understanding or appreciation of Confucianism, maybe it’s not that necessary to achieve a whole and all-around precision. We have to make compromise between precision and wide acceptance.


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