Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Crisis in Chinese Philosophy

The American Philosophical Association's Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies has recently posted a discussion of the crisis in Chinese philosophy -- the perceived crisis being the fact that no highly-ranked North American philosophy department has a specialist in Chinese philosophy. I recommend the entire newsletter to those interested in the state of graduate education in Chinese philosophy -- perhaps starting with Bryan Van Norden's article.

My own take is that the situation is very serious for those hoping to receive graduate training in the area in the near future, but that the crisis is likely to be temporary, given what seems to me the generally increasing quality of work in that field, combined with the gradually increasing ethnic integration of North America.

Update, 5:05 p.m.: Manyul Im has opened a thread on the topic on his Chinese philosophy blog. No comments there yet, but I expect that's where the most informed discussion will be.


Anonymous said...

Hey Eric; I have a discussion string started about this newsletter at my blog,, for anyone interested. Best, Manyul.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Good! I'll direct people there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric, I'm a little curious about what precisely is Chinese about Chinese philosophy. Is it just a matter of provenance? Is Chinese philosophy primarily concerned with ancient Chinese philosophy, or does it include a more or less distinct strain of modern thought comparable to so-called French or German or Anglo-American philosophy?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

What I (and most people) mean by "Chinese philosophy" is the branch of history of philosophy that focuses on Chinese philosophers (especially ancient Chinese philosophers). In that sense, the meaning is a little different in structure than "Continental philosophy".

Steve Angle said...

Hi Eric and all, a comment on what might count as "Chinese philosophy." I think there's a sense which is much closer to (e.g.) "Continental philosophy." I'm right now teaching a course called "Modern Chinese philosophy" that covers a range of 20th century views. Some are overtly Confucian (although responding in various ways to Hegel, Marx, Kant, etc.); others are explicitly Marxist or Liberal or quasi-positivist, but with various underlying connections to local traditions. Furthermore, to one degree or other, philosophers in China (and even to a small degree, elsewhere) today are continuing to work in these modes. Contemporary Confucian philosophy is a live thing, as is contemporary Chinese-Marxist philosophy, etc.

At least back when I was in grad school at Michigan, these 20th century folks were within the scope of what we studied, though admittedly not as centrally as the ancient or Neo-Confucian thinkers.