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Yearly Archives: 2015

Makarand Paranjape’s Talk

Makarand Paranjape is professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Anxieties of Reason: Colourful Cosmopolitanism and the Emergence of Modernity in India (Jointly supported by Religious Studies, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, and CCP at Duke)

 Time: September 17th 2015 4:30 – 6:00 pm
 Location: 220 Gray Building, Duke University

Abstract: India’s tryst with modernity was complicated by colonialism. English-educated Indians, beset by an anxiety to prove their worthiness, staked their claims to modernity primarily through the nationalist project, which was their answer to the depredations of colonialism. On the one hand, they resorted to cultural and civilizational tropes to assert their difference from the modern West. On the other hand, by embracing rationality, science, and several Enlightenment values, they also attempted to avow how deserving they were of liberty, dignity, and equality. Crucial to the emergence of modernity in India was not only the idea of a pre-colonial, worthy past, but also a vision of a pluralistic post-colonial alter-nation, different from nations in Europe and elsewhere. The vision of such a nation and, what is more, of an alternative world order, was articulated by what may be termed “colourful cosmopolitanism.” Referring to the work of key thinkers and change agents such as Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, and Sri Aurobindo, this talk tries to offer a new way of understanding the making of modern India.

Sungmoon Kim’s Talk

Sungmoon Kim photo

Sungmoon Kim is Associate Professor of Department of Public Policy in City University of Hong Kong

Public Reason Confucianism (CCP Talk)

 Time: April 8th 2015 12 – 2pm
 Location: West Duke 101
Abstract: If perfectionism is understood as the state’s non-neutral promotion of a valuable way of life, Confucian political theory, often pursued as a pluralist correction to global monism of liberal democracy, is ineluctably perfectionist. But how can Confucian perfectionism, committed to particular Confucian values, reconcile with the societal fact of value pluralism within the putative Confucian polity? This article argues that a potential tension between Confucian perfectionism and value pluralism can be avoided by making Confucian perfectionist goods the core elements of public reason with which citizens can justify their arguments to one another and by which the state can justifiably exercise its public authority to reasonable citizens who otherwise subscribe to various comprehensive doctrines. By defining a mode of Confucian perfectionism working through Confucian public reason broadly shared by citizens as public reason Confucianism, this article attempts to balance the Confucian polity’s internal societal pluralism and the people’s collective self-determination.


Philip J. Ivanhoe’s Talks

PJ Ivanhoe photo

Philip J. Ivanhoe is Chair Professor of East Asian and Comparative Philosophy & Religion at City University of Hong Kong, where he serves as director of the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy (CEACOP) and director of the Laboratory on Korean Philosophy in Comparative Perspectives.


1.  The Values of Spontaneity (CCP Talk)


 Time: Feb 18th 2015 12 – 2pm
 Location: East Duke 209 (auditorium)
Abstract: There is a widespread intuition that acts displaying “spontaneity” possess value at least in part by having this quality. While many share a belief in the value of spontaneity, there is less of a consensus concerning what spontaneity is. We find two primary senses of the word in Western philosophical writings. The first takes spontaneity to be that quality of actions that arise or proceed “entirely from natural impulse” or that come “freely and without premeditation or effort.” Sorting out the various aspects of these and other Western senses of spontaneity is a worthy and challenging problem but not the concern of this essay. I shall, though, return to the two Western senses of spontaneity noted above in the conclusion of my presentation. My primary concern is to describe and analyze two early Chinese views of spontaneity. I will take as my sources Confucian and Daoist texts from the pre-Qin period (i.e. before 221 B.C.E.). My goals are first to describe two related yet distinct types of spontaneity found in these texts, which I shall refer to as “untutored” and “cultivated” spontaneity, and show that they share deep and important similarities. Next, I shall argue that the similarities they share are the primary source of the feelings of satisfaction and joy that such actions are thought to arouse in both those who perform and those who observe them. Finally, I will argue that these two early Chinese conceptions of spontaneity can help us to understand some of our own intuitions about the ethical value of spontaneity.



2. The Contemporary Significance of Confucian Views about the Ethical Values of Music (CCP&PAL Joint Talk)

Time: Feb 20th 2015 12 – 2pm
Location: West Duke 202 
Abstract: For most people in contemporary society, music is a form of recreation: a means of personal enjoyment and relaxation, widely regarded as primarily a kind of diversion and largely thought to be a matter of individual taste. For the greater part of human history, however, music most often has been regarded as a spiritual enterprise, laden with meaning, power, and significance and closely related to the well-being of individuals, groups, institutions, and states. In other words, for most of human history, music has been regarded as a much more serious matter; this was how it was understood in ancient China. The Confucian tradition teaches us important lessons about the music in and of our lives. In this presentation, which represents a chapter in a forthcoming book on the contemporary relevance of Confucian philosophy, I describe some of the ways traditional Confucians thought music was critical for personal and social wellbeing and explore respects in which these ideas remain important resources for understanding both music as well as our selves today.