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Mapping the frontiers of philosophy

Author  :  Zeng Jiang     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2016-12-04

Mapping philosophy has become an important task of Chinese academics in recent years. These projects aim to chart the distrbution, development and frontiers of philosophy, and outline the depth, breadth and trends of philosophical research and education. Since the beginning of November, there have been two academic forums with the theme “mapping philosophy” in Beijing. Over 160 scholars attended the meetings and exchanged ideas on related issues.

Philosophical task

Chen Dezhong, deputy editor-in-chief of the journal World Philosophy, said the journal has added a special column for “mapping philosophy,” which drew attention from the academy. He suggested that the philosophical maps include “spatial maps,” “conceptual maps” and “problem maps.”

The forum looked at categorizations of philosophy and starting points for research. Zhao Dunhua, a professor from the department of philosophy at Peking University, talked about various popular theories that originated in the Qing Dynasty, along with more modern theories, such as the theory of Chinese classics forming the foundation of education with Western technological disciplines as auxiliaries. Zhao also looked at the relationship between the Enlightenment Movement and Chinese culture. He argued that over a long period of development, China should build up its cultural confidence in a rational way, and that both arrogance and self-abasement should be avoided.

Chen Jiaying, a professor from Capital Normal University (CNU), elaborated on the position of philosophy in contemporary thoughts and culture. Chen Lixin, a professor from East China Normal University, said philosophy should not deviate from its original purpose, which is coming down to earth and back to people’s daily lives. Researchers of philosophy should think about the social impact of their studies. Jiang Yi, a professor from the College of Philosophy and Sociology at Beijing Normal University, said philosophical studies mainly focus on three aspects: ontology and methodology, objects and domain, as well as concept and practice.

Zhao Tingyang, a research fellow at the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that “negation” is the first philosophical term. It marks the critical point when revolutionary ideas revealed their purpose. He also posed the question: Is the linking verb “be” the basis of all philosophical questions? In this respect, the ancient Chinese language failed to bring up philosophical questions about “existence” because it lacked a word meaning “be.” Zhao suggested characters in preQin times were simple, not using “be” as linking verb, but judging and describing through the use of grammar. It is not that the language was flawed, but in a sense, the ancient Chinese had a more detailed and precise method of expression like modern mathematics.

Academic trends

Philosophical problems are fundamentally about the survival of man as a special being. This problem has been rethought in every era. Huang Yusheng, a philosophy professor from Peking University, said that three basic questions are worth thinking about: the premise of pluralism, the humanistic base of religion, and foundations of society.

Scholars observed the rise and fall of philosophies of different schools, and re-identified the location of each on the map. Sun Zhouxing, a professor from Tongji University, said that after the Second World War, philosophy and art exchanged their position in the German and French cultures. For example, while it still advanced on the path of phenomenology-hermeneutics, socialpolitical philosophy and philosophy of technology, German philosophy is generally conservative. In contrast, German art has had a glorious history. This transposition between Germany and France highlights a significant aspect of contemporary culture.

Philosophical education

After examining in detail the similarities and differences between ancient and modern Chinese and Western philosophical education, Cheng Guangyun, a professor from CNU, thinks that the training of problem consciousness, thinking methods and academic norms are the three main aspects lacking in philosophical education. Philosophy education ought to emphasize dialogue on the basis of general and classical education.

In addition, scholars also discussed the issues of causality philosophy, artificial intelligence, aesthetic ecology, game theory, paradigm shifts, body phenomenology and other related issues.

Editor: Yu Hui

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