Confucius Institute Lecture: How to Promote More Openness and Freedom in Chinese Studies

Presented by Liu Dong, Professor of Chinese and Philosophy at Tsinghua University and Associate Director of the Institute for National Studies

Koessler Room, Michigan League, 12 - 1 pm, Monday, April 13, 2015

Currently the state of Chinese Studies in China alternates between consensus and contestation. This situation offers a rare opportunity. It is only because of this rich academic culture of debate, that we have the opportunity to revive the tradition's vitality, and so help China to reform its current state of disarray in regard to social norms. With this in mind, this essay develops further Feng Youlan's distinction between "illuminating speech" and "communicating speech" - Illuminating speech explains and interprets the literature of the past, whereas communicating speech transmits past literature to later generations. I point out that, according to the basic principles of hermeneutics, all "illuminating speech" must become "communicating speech", but under current global conditions, "communicating speech" must also become "confrontational speech" (or debate). Following this line of reasoning, the author offers a framework for examining the dialectical relationship between pluralism and freedom on the one hand, and conservatism and openness on the other.

Liu Dong studied with Li Zehou, the leading scholar of Chinese aesthetics before his passing, but Liu's fields include Comparative Literature, philosophy, and cultural critique. He is founding editor of Zhongguo xueshu 《中国学术》 (China Scholarship), the first blind-peer-reviewed academic journal in China for humanities and social sciences; he is also Professor of Chinese and Philosophy at Tsinghua. A prolific writer, his books include studies of anti-aesthetics, Max Weber, Lu Xun, Karl Jaspers, and an introductory textbook on Chinese culture for Chinese undergraduates, as well as translations of Wittgenstein and Jacques Gernet. Last year he was a Neubauer Collegium Visiting Fellow at the University of Chicago, and will remain active over the next two years as one of four collaborators involved in Judith Farquhar and Haun Saussy's Neubauer Collegium project, History, Philology, and the Nation in the Chinese Humanities.