The Problem of Non-Western Philosophy
Philip J. Ivanhoe
Distinguished Chair Professor
College of Confucian Studies and Eastern Philosophy
Date and Time:
Friday, February 22nd
Academic Building Auditorium
Duke Kunshan University
Abstract: A number of scholars who work on Non-Western philosophy complain that the traditions they study are excluded from the canon of contemporary Western philosophy because Western philosophers are racists. I disagree with this claim: the accusation of racism is generally unfair; moreover, it is largely unproductive. I believe ignorance, ossified disciplinary structures, path dependency, and the very real demands of trying to make a living as an academic are more important factors in the relative neglect of non-Western philosophy. In addition to arguing against the common claim of racism as the primary explanation, I offer two arguments in favor of studying non-Western philosophy. My first argument is that those who advocate a wide “reflective equilibrium” approach to ethics and political theory are not being true to their own principles or are assuming, without evidence or argument, that there are no wise views outside the Western canon. My second argument is that serious engagement with East Asian philosophical traditions offers genuine philosophical insights concerning a number of contemporary problems. I offer an example by examining the two core metaphors Jonathan Haidt employs to represent the relationship between reason and emotion in ethical judgment and showing how East Asian traditions provide a way out of the dichotomy between reason and emotion within which Haidt remains trapped.
Short Bio: Philip J. Ivanhoe is Distinguished Chair Professor in the College of Confucian Studies and Eastern Philosophy at Sungyunkwan University, where he is also the Director of the Sungkyun Institute for Confucian Studies and East Asian Philosophy. His books include Oneness: Eastern Conceptions of Virtue, Happiness, and How We Are All Connected, (Oxford, 2017); Oneness in Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion (co-edited with Owen Flanagan, Victoria Harrison, Eric Schwitzgebel, and Hagop Sarkissian), (Columbia, 2018); Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and the Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea, and Japan (Oxford, 2016), Confucian Moral Self Cultivation, (Hackett, 2000); and Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, Second Edition (co-edited with Bryan W. Van Norden), (Hackett, 2005).