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2010 Beijing Conference: Metaphysics and Epistemology in Chinese Philosophy

Metaphysics and Epistemology in Chinese Philosophy, 10-11 July, at Renmin University of China, Beijing, China

The Conference on Metaphysics and Epistemology in Chinese Philosophy was jointly sponsored by the International Center for Chinese and Comparative Philosophy (ICCCP) of Renmin University of China, the School of Philosophy of Renmin University, and the Association of Chinese Philosophers in America (ACPA). The motivation behind this conference was that there have been numerous conferences on Chinese ethics, but not enough attention has been devoted to Chinese metaphysics and Chinese epistemology. The current conference aims to take a step toward a more systematic study of these two themes in Chinese philosophy.

The first keynote speaker Chung-ying Cheng opened the conference with an exposition of his long-held view that Chinese epistemology is distinct from Western epistemology in that the notion of “the ultimate being” is differently construed in the two metaphysical traditions. The Western tradition, beginning with Greek philosophy, conceives of the ultimate being primarily in passivity and fixation. The Chinese tradition, on the other hand, conceives of the ultimate being in process (becoming) and generation. This ultimate being is called ‘benti’ (literally, the original substance or the original state), while Cheng depicts it as ‘onto-generative’. The discussion on ‘benti’ or the nature of Chinese metaphysics became one focus for this conference. Bo Wang (Peking U.) analyzed the notion of ‘nothingness’ in the Daoist tradition. Shiling Xiang (Renmin U.) traced the origins of the notion ‘benti’ in the Chinese philosophical tradition. Chenshan Tian (Beijing Foreign Studies U.) asked whether we should use the phrase ‘Chinese metaphysics’ when the basic structure of Chinese thinking is so different from those in the Western tradition. Ralph Weber (U. of Zurich) questioned whether we should use “Chinese” as the depiction of particularist metaphysics, since it is not clear what would count as “Chinese” in this context.

The second keynote speaker Guorong Yang (East China Normal U.) took a constructive approach to delineate a new form of metaphysics that is fundamentally of the Chinese tradition, but infused with contemporary Western ideas as well. He argued that metaphysics should not be detached from concrete human existence, and that we should construct a form of metaphysics that integrates dimensions of human history and human society, human morality and values, human languages and knowledge, etc. He further defined ‘ultimate concern’ as the inquiry of the origin of the meaning of our existence, and not the inquiry of some unknowable realm. In the same vein, JeeLoo Liu (Cal State Fullerton) constructed what she calls ‘Neo-Confucian qi-naturalism’ and suggested that under this theory, normative facts of value and normativity exist in the natural states of qi. Hence, the theory could provide an answer to Hume’s ‘is/ought’ problem. She further argued that Confucian moral metaphysics, according to which values exist as fabric of the world, might provide the most robust form of moral realism.

There were other constructive attempts to various theories in Chinese epistemology. Weimin Sun (Cal State Northridge) reconstructed the epistemology of Zhu Xi, and examined the possibility of Zhu Xi’s being interpreted as a reductionist. Based on the conviction that there is a long tradition of epistemological theories in the history of Chinese philosophy, Haiming Wen (Renmin U.) analyzed how the epistemology of Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism made a further breakthrough in the investigation of the relationship between mind and things.

Another notable theme of the conference was comparative studies done by various scholars on different sets of comparisons, such as Zhu Xi’s and Aristotle’s notions of the Supreme Good. The conference reflected pluralistic approaches to Chinese metaphysics and epistemology. The prevailing sense of participants is that such an international conference is a helpful venue to bring scholars working with different methodologies together to exchange ideas and to stimulate new thoughts.


APA Eastern 2009 (NYC)  DECEMBER 27-30, 2009

GROUP SESSION VI – 7:30-10:30 P.M.

GVI-3. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America

7:30-10:30 p.m.
Topic: Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism in A New Light: Dao, Word and Experience
Chair: Weimin Sun (California State University-Northridge)

Speaker: Stephen Walker (University of Chicago)
“From Ways of Acting to the Way Things Act: Ontologies of Dao in Early China”
Commentator: Steven Geisz (University of Tampa)

Speaker: Chien-hsing Ho (Nanhua University-Taiwan)
“One Name, Infinite Meanings: An Analysis of Jizang’s Thought on Meaning and Linguistic Reference”
Commentator: Xiaofei Tu (West Virginia University)

Speaker: Haiming Wen (Renmin University-China)
“Confucian Pragmatism on Contextualizing Mind and Experience”
Commentator: Suk Choi (Towson University)

GROUP SESSION X – 7:00-10:00 P.M.

GX-4. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America

7:00-10:00 p.m.
Topic: Classical Confucianism and Greek Philosophy
Chair: Tongdong Bai (Xavier University)

Speaker: Sean Walsh (University of Minnesota)
“Confucius and Aristotle on Contemplation and Friendship in Political Scien ce”
Commentator: Tongdong Bai (Xavier University)

Speaker: Wang Huaiyu (Georgia College and State University)
“Euthyphro and Gong the Upright: Reflecting on the Meanings of Piety in Socratic and Confucian Moral Teachings”
Commentator: Stephen Walker (University of Chicago)

Speaker: David Schiller (Confucian Policy Initiative)
“Chinese Ke-ji (Is it ‘Discipline’ or ‘Enabling’?) vs. Greek AcediaAkrasia and Arete
Commentator: On-Cho Ng (Pennsylvania State University)

GROUP SESSION XII – 11:15 A.M.-1:15 P.M.

GXII-1. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America

11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Topic: Dao Annual Best Essay Award
Chair: Yong Huang (Kutztown University)

Speaker: Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University)
“A Right of Rebellion in the Mencisu?”

Commentators: Tongdong Bai (Xavier University)
Chad Flanders (St. Louis University)
A. P. Martinch (University of Texas-Austin)


ACPA Central, Feb. 2010, Chicago

Confucian Moral Concepts in a Contemporary Context

1. Linghao Wang & Lawrence B. Solum (University of Illinois, College of Law): “Names as Thick Ethical Concepts”

2. Yanxia Zhao (University of Wales, Lampeter, UK): “On the Modernization of Confucian Concept of Harmony”

3. Sean Patrick Walsh (University of Minnesota, Duluth): “The Happy Fortune of Aristotle’s Torture on the Rack and Confucius’ Yan Hui: Moral Luck in Classical Greece and China”

4. Yitian Zhai (DePaul University): “Trouble with Gender Trouble-- A Critique of Butler's Critique of Identity Politics”

Issues in Daoism:

1. Jennifer Lundin Ritchie (University of British Columbia): “Cultural Implications in the Interpretation and Classification of the Guodian Laozi and Taiyi Sheng Shui”

2. Sean Walker (University of Chicago): “What technique could I, an artisan, possess? Unraveling skillful attainment in Zhuangzi

 3. Sean Winkler (Loyola Marymount University): “The Possibility of Daoist Inner Alchemy in Martin Heidegger’s ‘What Calls for Thinking’”


Past Events

ACPA 2009 Shanghai Workshop

On June 19-20th, 2009, ACPA and East China Normal University successfully organized an International Symposium on Chinese Philosophy and Analytic Philosophy.


APA Pacific 2008, March 18-22 at Pasadena, CA

GII-B. Wednesday Evening, March 19

Association for Chinese Philosophers in America, Session 1

6:00-9:00 p.m., Location TBA

Language and Logic in Chinese Philosophy

Chair: Weimin Sun (California State University–Northridge)


Manyul Im (Fairfield University)

“Term-Guidance, Disputation (bian), and Normative Categorization in Early China”

Commentator: Xiaomei Yang (Southern Connecticut State University)


Jung-Yeup Kim (University of Hawaii–Manoa)

“An Investigation of Difference and Continuity in Zhang Zai’s Understanding of Qi”

Commentator: Robin Wang (Loyola Marymount University)


Weimin Sun (California State University–Northridge)

“Deductive Logic, Theoretical Sciences, and Chinese Sciences”

Commentator: Zijiang Ding (California State Polytechnic University–Pomona)


GIV-C. Thursday Evening, March 20

International Society for Chinese Philosophy and Association of Chinese Philosophers in America

6:00-9:00 p.m., Location TBA

New Work by Philosophers from Hong Kong on Confucian Ethics

Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)


Yiu-Ming Fung (University of Hong Kong)

“Disposition or Imposition? Some Remarks on Fingarette’s Interpretation of the Analects

Commentator: Chan Lee (University of Hawaii–Manoa)


Siu-Fu Tang (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

“The Heart-Mind’s Apporval (ke) and Second-Order Desires”

Commentator: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)


Wai-ying Wong (Lingnan University)

“The Unity of Heaven and Man: A New Interpretation”

Commentator: Stephen Angle (Wesleyan University)

GVII-A. Friday Evening, March 21

Association for Chinese Philosophers in America, Session 2

8:00-11:00 p.m., Location TBA


Confucianism, Women, and Care Ethics

Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)


Xinyan Jiang (University of Redlands)

“Confucianism, Women, and Context”

Commentator: Xianduan Shi (University of Utah)


Lijun Yuan (Texas State University–San Marcos)

“Confucian and Feminist Notions of Relational Self and Reciprocity: A Comparative Study”

Commentator: Ann Pang-White (University of Scranton)


Ann Pang-White (University of Scranton)

“Confucian Care Ethics and Some Practical Applications”

Commentator: Deborah Sommer (Gettysburg College)

APA Eastern Division Meeting at Baltimore, MD

December 27-30, 2007

Friday Evening, December 28 Group Session V – 6:00-8:00 p.m.

GV-2. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Topic: Rethinking Zhu Xi (1130-1200) – A Representative Neo-Confucian Philosopher

Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)
Speaker: Al Martinich (University of Texas–Austin) “Ideal Interpretation: The Theories of Zhu Xi and Ronald Dworkin”
Commentator: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)
Speaker: Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University) “A Euthyphro Problem in Neo-Confucian Welfare Theory”
Commentator: Suk Choi (Towson University)
Speaker: Vincent Shen (University of Toronto) “Zhu Xi’s Explanation of Cosmic Process and Natural Phenomena”
Commentator: Chan Lee (University of Hawaii–Manoa)


APA Pacific Division Program at San Francisco, April 3-8, 2007

Thursday Evening, April 5, 2007

Group Session GV — 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Topic: New Work on Chinese Philosophy from Taiwan

Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)

Speaker: Wan-Chuan Fang (Academia Sinica) “Zhuangzi’s Sage as a Moral Agent”

Commentator: Yang Xiao (Kenyon College)

Speaker: Terence Tai (National Zhengzhi University) “Xunzi on the Nature and Mind of Human Beings”

Commentator: Weimin Sun (California State University–Northridge)

Speaker: Rong-Po Chen (Tunghai University) “I-Ching’s Philosophy of Management”

Commentator: Craig K. Ihara (California State University–Fullerton)

Friday Evening, April 6, 2007

Group Session GVII-A -- 8:00-11:00 p.m

Topic: Topics in Confucian Ethics

Chair: Weimin Sun (California State University–Northridge)

Speaker: Sin Yee Chan (University of Vermont) “The Cultivation of Moral Emotions in Early Confucianism"

Commentator: Manyul Im (California State University–Los Angeles)

Speaker: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)
“The Path from Natural Emotions to Moral Sentiments: The Moral Psychology of Wang Fuzhi (1619-92)”

Commentator: Andrew Terjesen (Washington and Lee University)

Speaker: Derong Chen (Wuhan University, China) “Beyond Relativism: Examining Tan Sitong’s Criticism of Confucian Ethics”

Commentator: Jinmei Yuan (Creighton University)

APA Central Division Program at Chicago, April 18-21, 2007

GI-12. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America
9:00 a.m.-Noon

Session: New Philosophical Works by ACPA Members

Chair: Peimin Ni, Grand Valley State University

  1. Speaker: Jessie Jia Chen, (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) “Embodied Perception, Expression, and History: an Examination of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Aesthetic Theory of Painting.”
  2. Speaker: Brian J. Bruya, (Eastern Michigan University ) “On the Absence of an Anti-Confucian Polemic in the Guodian Laozi.”
  3. Speaker: Haiming Wen, (Renmin University of China) “Meaning and Naming: Chinese Relational Creativity.”


APA Eastern Division Meeting at Washington D.C. December 27-31, 2006

GX-2. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America
Friday Evening December 29
7:00-10:00 p.m.

Topic: The Buddhist Philosophy of Mind Meets Contemporary Cognitive Science
Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)
Speaker: Joel Krueger (Southern Illinois University–Carbondale)
“The Extended (No-)Self in Classical Zen Buddhism and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind”
Commentator: JeeLoo Liu (California State University–Fullerton)
Speaker: Ashby Butnor (Ithaca College)
“Moral Perception and Action in Zen Buddhist Philosophy”
Commentator: Haiming Wen (University of Hawaii–Manoa)
Speaker: Kelvin J. Booth (Southern Illinois University–Carbondale)
“No-Mind as Animal Mind: Daoist and Zen Contributions to Comparative Cognition”
Commentator: Weimin Sun (California State University–Northridge)

GXI-2. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America and the International Society for Chinese Philosophy

Saturday Morning December 30 
9:00-11:00 a.m.

Topic: Ontology and Morality: Chinese and Western
Chair: Chung-ying Cheng (University of Hawaii–Manoa)
Speakers: Chung-ying Cheng (University of Hawaii–Manoa)
“Benti-ontology and Onto-ethics: In Reference to Mencius”
Vincent Shen (University of Toronto)
“Buddhist Ethics of Generosity: With the Illustration of the Awakening Faith”
Xuanmeng Yu (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences)
“Ontology or Non-ontology? A Sign for Distinguishing Traditional from Contemporary Philosophy?”
Shenchon Lai (National Taipei University)
“Onto-Hermeneutical Approach to Buddhist Ontology and Morality”
(This session will continue past 11:00 a.m.)

APA Eastern Division Meeting at New York, NY, December 27-31, 2005

GVI-3. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America
Wednesday, 12.28.05, 7:30-10:30 p.m., Concourse D

Topic: Chinese Philosophy: New Reflections and Comparisons

Chair: JeeLoo Liu (California State University-Fullerton)


Haiming Wen (University of Hawaii-Manoa)  "What is Chinese Philosophical Creativity?"

Desheng Zong (Utica College)  "Sentences, Truth-Bearers, and Chinese Philosophy"

Xiaomei Yang (Temple University)  "Does Chinese Moral Psychology in Pre-Qin Period Operate on the Contrast between Reason and Desire?"

Chung-ying Cheng (University of Hawaii-Manoa) "Understanding Kant through Confucius"

GVII-1. Association of Chinese Philosophers in America
Thursday, 12.29.05, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Concourse F

Topic: The Multiple Dimensions of Neo-Confucianism

Chair: On-Cho Ng (The Pennsylvania State University)


John Krummel (Temple University) "Li: Transcendental or Immanent? Its Significance and History in Chinese Philosophy"

Yong Huang (Kutztown University) "The Cheng Brothers on Human Nature: The Confucian Problem of Evil"

Pauline Lee (Washington University-St. Louis) "Li Zhi's (1527-1602) Concept of the Mind (xin)"

Here is a brief summary of the two sessions. 
Session 1 (reported by JeeLoo Liu)

The first session focused on comparative studies of Chinese philosophy, chaired by Dr. JeeLoo Liu (from Cal State Fullerton).  Professor Chung-ying Cheng commenced the session as the keynote speaker.  His talk was on a comparative study of Kant and Confucianism, which drew a lively discussion. After a brief intermission, Haiming Wen (currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawaii) gave the first conference paper.  Haiming’s paper gives an interesting comparison between Chinese philosophy and Process philosophy from the perspective of creativity.  Dr. Descheng Zong (from Utica College) presented a paper on the absence of propositional truth in ancient Chinese philosophy.  His view provoked many objections and questions.  Finally, Dr. Xiaomei Yang (from Temple University) delivered an outline of her extensive paper on the notion of reason in ancient Chinese philosophy. The session went from 7:30 to 10:30pm.  Even though the crowd was not as big as expected, the discussion was quite intense.  In all papers and discussions, we seem to have found a central concern for comparative philosophy: Can we find comparable notions in Chinese philosophy to those present in Western philosophy?  Do we modify the definitions for these notions to construct comparisons or do we focus on dissimilarities and deny the presence of comparable Chinese notions?

Session 2 (reported by Yong Huang)

The ACPA panel on Neo-Confucianism, held in the morning of December 29, was well attended. There were about 20 people, other than panelists, present. The panel punctually started at 9:00. Dr. On-cho Ng of Penn State University chaired the panel. There were three presenters. Dr. John W.M. Krummel of temple University presented a paper entitled "Li: Transcendental or Immanent? Its Significance and History in Chinese Philosophy." In this paper, with some background discussion of Hanfei Zi in the classical period, Dr. Krummel focused on the rationalist neo-Confucian Zhu Xi and the materialist neo-Confucian Luo Qinshu. His conclusion is that the transcendental understanding of li, if there has even been such an understanding, is very exceptional in the history of Chinese philosophy.  Dr. Pauline Lee of Washington University in St. Louis read a paper entitled "'Spewing Jade and Spitting Pearls': Li Zhi's (1527-1602) Context Sensitive Ethics." Dr. Lee aligned Li Zhi with some contemporary ethicists, particularly virtue ethicists, and argued that Li Zhi's context sensitive ethics provides a needed and viable alternative to both moral relativism and moral universalism. Dr. Yong Huang's paper is "Cheng Brothers' on Human Nature: The Neo-Confucian Problem of Evil." Dr. Huang read the part of his paper on the problem of evil. Since neo-Confucians, unlike Mencius, argued that human nature is originally fully good, they face a different task to explain the origin of evil. A common understanding is that they accomplished this task by the idea of qi (vital force). However, they also argued that all humans, as different from animals, are originally born with clear qi. Dr. Huang suggests that this problem is solved by the Cheng brothers by their distinction between guest (ke) qi and host (zhu) qi. After the three papers were presented, there was a lively open discussion, which lasted for about an hour. The session ended at 11:15 am, fifteen minutes past the scheduled time. 


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