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Culture News

China Focus: Scholars suggest oriental philosophy offers better future for humanity

2018-08-24 09:33:44

BEIJING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) - International interest in classical Chinese philosophy is growing, with oriental concepts of harmony, community and beauty seen as vital in the period of globalization.

Scholars attending the 24th World Congress of Philosophy have suggested that Eastern wisdom could counter anthropocentric beliefs, which hold that man is the most significant entity, that have somewhat led to tragic consequences.

"We have much to learn about philosophy in China," said Dermot Moran, president of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, in his welcome note to the quinquennial event, which concluded in Beijing this week.

It was the first time in the congress' 118-year history that the event was held in China. More than a hundred leading philosophical researchers gave lectures under the theme "Learning to be human," facing a 6,000-strong audience from across the globe.

"China has an impressively long history of the cultivation of wisdom and has made an enduring contribution to world heritage," said Moran, who expressed his "fervent hope" that the congress could inspire philosophers of East and West to "look at world problems enriched by new perspectives and approaches."

The congress "offers by far the largest, richest, and most diverse, inclusive program that reflects a genuine attempt to move beyond narrow Western ways of approaching philosophy in terms of its traditional categories and was carefully designed to include recognition of East and West, North and South," Moran said.

HEAVEN-MAN HARMONY

Many of the philosophers pointed out that the oriental vision of man in the cosmos as an integral part of the universe could guide the world towards a better future and counter ecological crises.

The academics said that the classical oriental thought of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, should be valued in and applied to our conflict-ridden times.

Comparing the concepts of Ren in Chinese Confucianism, and Ubuntu, literally "I am because we are," in African philosophy, Professor Mogobe Ramose with the University of South Africa pointed out the importance of promoting the two "philosophies of love" in a time of polarization and unjust wealth distribution.

"In order to become fully human or humane, practicing Ren or Ubuntu, man ought to extend his love to others, be they human, non-human or inorganic," said Graham Parkes, researcher at the University of Vienna.

Anthropocentrism, derived from Western philosophical traditions that regard humans as dominant being above all others, "may be our undoing, insofar as we have long been compromising the integrity of the natural ecosystems on which our survival depends," Parkes warned.

He urged going beyond the anthropocentric view of the ecosystem, and to start to embrace Eastern virtues of kindness, mercy and altruism.

"Indeed our current environmental predicament - global warming, pollution of the air, earth, and water, deforestation, decimation of fish and wildlife populations - stems to some extent from a deeply dysfunctional relationship with the things around us," he said.

Professor Yang Guorong with East China Normal University also pinpointed the loss of the perfect interrelation between Heaven (nature) and man as the cause of the ecological disasters, whereas beauty is shared when man and nature live in perfect harmony.

Peter Singer, a renowned Australian moral philosopher, pointed out how modern ethics had trained humans away from cruelty against animals while industrialized farming had been detected as a major source of pollutant emission. He said the Chinese public should go deeper into reflecting on how to define human morality.

LIVE A GOOD LIFE, CHINESE STYLE

"Dialogue between West and East can yield an enlarged understanding of what it is to live a good life, and thereby provide a potent stimulus to learning what it is to be human in a tightly interconnected, globalized world," said Paul Healy, researcher at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

"The Eastern emphasis on 'Heaven-man oneness' can provide a strong challenge to the individualism which typically characterizes Western conceptions of human well-being and flourishing. The cosmocentric orientation of traditional Eastern philosophy can provide a needed counterbalance to Western anthropocentrism."

Likewise, 97-year-old Zhang Shiying, professor of philosophy at Peking University, had a paper presented that regarded the universe as a whole-network where all things were interconnected and from which moral will originated.

"To live morally is to live in an interconnected unity with all other beings, and free oneself from egocentric pursuits to find beauty," Zhang said.

Editor:Jiang Yiwei