Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why We Must Understand Chinese Philosophy

Wikipedia Commons
Most American know little about Chinese philosophy. They know little beyond the idea that Confucianism is based on five relationships and Doism has something to do with nature.

In addition, few philosophy departments in the top universities even have a regular faculty member who teaches Chinese philosophy.  Of course, you can find a lot of Greek philosophy.

But, according to Bryan W. Van Norden, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor at Yale-NUS College, understanding Chinese thought is a matter of urgency.  He outlines three reasons in an terrific essay for The Conversation called, Why the US doesn’t understand Chinese thought – and must.
  1. China's economy could become the largest in the world by 2030. We should understand the philosophical and religious framework of a country with so much influence  because, notes Professor Norden, "traditional philosophy is of continuing relevance in China." 
  2. Chinese philosophy has lot to offer. For example, Confucian ethics can "provide a deeper understanding of ethical issues regarding the family and can even inform policy recommendations."
  3. Finally, Professor Norden argues that we need more cultural diversity in our philosophy departments. They are too Euro-centric in focus. They should diversify into Asia and consider feminist, indigenous American, Islamic, Latin American and South Asian philosophies.
Just as one might need to understand the Judeo-Christian background of the Untied States in order to understand some of the political policy, one should understand the Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist philosophies that inform Chinese policy.

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