9th Annual Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought–Next Week

So the MCCT is finally upon us–it will be happening next week, May 10 and 11, here at the University of Dayton and up the street in Fairborn at Wright State University.  Following is a rough schedule of events and speakers.

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Call for Papers: 9th Annual Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought



Dayton, OH

May 10-11, 2013


The Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought was created to foster dialogue and interaction between scholars and students working on Chinese thought across different disciplines and through a variety of approaches. Submissions are invited for papers on any aspect of Chinese thought, as well as papers dealing with comparative issues that engage Chinese perspectives. Possible themes for submissions include: examining how recovered texts reframe familiar issues and debates in early Chinese thought; texts, movements, and figures from neglected eras and traditions; the current renaissance of philosophy and religious studies in China.

This year’s MCCT will be held on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 at the University of Dayton and Wright State University, in Dayton, OH.

To facilitate blind review, please submit abstracts of 1-2 pages in length to Patricia Johnson at pjohnson2@udayton.edu by MARCH 15th.  For further inquiries about this year’s MCCT, contact Alexus McLeod at gmcleod1@udayton.edu or Judson Murray at judson.murray@wright.edu.

Some Thoughts on Convention and Ritual in Xunzi

I recently returned from the 2012 AAR Annual Meeting, at which I was involved with two excellent panels, on Confucian Ethics (I chaired a session featuring three excellent papers by Cheryl Cottine, Aaron Stalnaker, and Michael Ing), and on Comparative Chinese-Indian thought (I presented a paper on a panel including fantastic papers by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Laurie Patton, and David Lawrence).  I presented a paper on Xunzi and the Mimamsa Sutra, and have been thinking further about this paper in the last couple of days.

Let me throw a particular issue out there that I’ve been thinking about recently, related to part of what I cover in this paper.  I considered the question of the source of ritual in Xunzi, and whether we ought to see Xunzi as endorsing a conventionalist view or a realist view of ritual.  One of my contentions in the Continue reading

Reading the Zhuangzi in a Zhuangist Way

Recently I’ve been working on a couple of articles on the Zhuangzi, and have been thinking about the critically important question of how we read the text, and how this influences our interpretations.  The last few times I’ve read the text through, I’ve tried to approach it in a much different manner than I used to, and this, I’ve found, has both opened up a deeper layer of meaning in the text, and perhaps most strangely, simplified its themes and arguments.  I want to talk briefly here about first, a way of reading the text, and second, a possible misunderstanding of some of the seemingly extreme claims made in the Zhuangzi. Continue reading

Wang Chong in the IEP

My article for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Wang Chong has just been posted, here.  Check it out!  (An outline of what I’m covering in the book, more or less…)

What is 天 Tian?

In Wang Chong’s essay Tan tian (談天) “Discussing Tian” (I leave it untranslated here so as not to beg questions), he (as usual) criticizes a number of common views concerning what tian is and what it does.  This discussion leaves open the question, however, of just what Wang himself thinks that tian is and does.  We get some indication of Wang’s view on this in other essays of the Lunheng, and a bit in the Tan tian itself, but for the most part we are left to piece together his position on tian, as he focuses much more on undermining incorrect positions than advancing his own concerning tianContinue reading

Wang Chong as Philosopher: A Preview

I have recently (since I began working on these Wang Chong posts) been working on a longer work on Wang Chong’s philosophical thought, tentatively titled “Wang Chong as Philosopher”–I’ll likely come up with something better as I go along.  Anyway–I thought that this would be a good place to give a short account of the project, before I get into some of the issues I’m working through in future posts.

I engage with Wang Chong as philosopher, rather than as social critic, political thinker, or historical figure.  Certainly, aspects of these features of Wang Chong’s work must be considered in any study of Wang’s thought, but I focus mainly in this project on the philosophical thought of Wang, as it reveals itself through the method he advocates, his arguments and conclusions, and the sometimes startling ways these arguments can help to inform certain positions and debates in contemporary philosophy.

Thus, my purpose is in some sense historical, but in a larger sense it is an attempt to reflect along side of Wang Chong, thinking about solutions to pressing philosophical problems in ways that often import Wang’s thinking to solve contemporary problems and vice-versa.   I necessarily consider Wang outside of his historical and cultural context, assuming that philosophical method and arguments need not be tied to particular historical and cultural contexts (as we regularly do with philosophers such as Kant or Plato, and to a somewhat lesser extent with religious philosophers like Aquinas, Augustine, or Avicenna, whose central theological motives are often seen as archaic and therefore historically and culturally bound).

One way of seeing the intent of this work, then, is that of thinking through contemporary philosophical problems through the lenses of and with the aid of Wang Chong, a unique and penetrating ancient Chinese thinker, whose method and arguments can be of immense use in contemporary philosophy.  Wang approaches subjects from ethics and politics to metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and philosophical method, in an often very different way than his contemporaries and near-contemporaries in the earliest and most widely studied (by philosophers in the west) period of Chinese thought. Wang Chong’s thought is well suited to inform contemporary debates in ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of language, and contemporary philosophical concepts can also help illuminate Wang’s own project.

Keep an eye out for much more on Wang here on Unpolished Jade in the coming days and weeks!