Wednesday, May 29, 2013

477: Non Western Philosophy - an introduction

This project puts me in a very difficult position. Those of you who have attended a number of my lectures may have some idea about my personal philosophical position.

To be honest, and some of you certainly will suspect it, I run the risk of suffering of ethnocentrism in philosophy ("male, white, European"),

because already my first project was about 100 philosophers. Almost all male, white and European, except two female philosophers and three or four American philosophers.

Besides that, you may accuse me of using a rather restricted definition of "philosophy" with emphasis on epistemology, logic and rationality.

You can hardly blame me for that. The emphasis on logical argumentation and epistemology reached its zenith only recently, 

with the logical positivists in the 1930s, when virtually every kind of metaphysics was dismissed as technically "meaningless."

At the university I was educated in that tradition or to be more accurate, I had chosen for that tradition based on the conviction that THAT was the real philosophy.

Of course there are people who fundamentally disagree with that point of view. In the first place by saying that there even does not exist something like "Western" philosophy.

To begin the history of "Western" philosophy with Thales of Milete (600 BC) is in fact already a mistake. On the one hand, he didn't live in Europe,

and on the other hand it is evident that Greek thinking was at least  influenced by philosophical ideas from Asia Minor, the Orient and India.

Recently one of you remarked "Eastern philosophy? You? But isn't that a lot of theology?" A good observation, which shows even more that I am in a difficult position philosophically.

This all may sound a little like "Don't do it…don't start this project!", but on the other hand it is an interesting challenge to put all my (and your, perhaps) biases to the test.

Besides, the distinction between philosophy and theology is typical for us. We can suspend that distinction and just talk about Eastern thinking.

It makes little sense to look down from great height on non Western philosophies and say "Hey, look there, that indian philosopher had the same ideas as David Hume." or things like that.

We may encounter similarities of course, but in the first place we must look at other philosophies on their own account as manifestations of other cultures.

This leads to an other difficulty. There is no objective standard to qualify this as true philosophy and that not. But yet you can not escape the fact that you have to take position.

Choices have to be made. Ideas have to be evaluated, otherwise we are running the risk of cultural relativism by saying that any philosophy is as good as any other…

As you see, and I don't know how you think about it, there are a number of hurdles to take and we need an open mind for this project.

Finally there is the question of "what exactly is meant by non Western philosophy?" Of course everybody immediately thinks of Chinese and Indian philosophy.

They certainly will be a major part of this project, but what about South America, Africa or the Arab world? Interesting question.

It will take some research, but I'll try to include as many non European, non Anglo-American philosophies as possible.

The Discussion

[13:18] herman Bergson: So much for my introduction :-)
[13:18] herman Bergson: Thank you
[13:18] Gemma Allen: well it will be something new for you to research
[13:18] Debbie DJ: Tat was the warning label on the front cover?
[13:19] .: Beertje :.: what about Australian natives? the aboriginals?
[13:19] herman Bergson smiles
[13:19] herman Bergson: More ore less..yes
[13:19] .: Beertje :.: they have a very ancient culture..there must be philosophers too
[13:19] Debbie DJ: Ok. Im still in, it will be fascinating to explore.
[13:19] herman Bergson: I think it is very difficult for me/us to really understand Eastern philosophy...
[13:19] herman Bergson: Yes it is Debbie....
[13:20] herman Bergson: The reading I am already doing promises that
[13:20] herman Bergson: At the moment I focus on Chinese thought....
[13:20] Lizzy Pleides: did I understand right that the distinction between philosophy and religion is only in the western area?
[13:20] Debbie DJ: The african philosophies are interesting for me too, obviously
[13:20] Gemma Allen: maybe we can help with the research too
[13:21] Debbie DJ: oh good question liz
[13:21] Gemma Allen: and send you some links
[13:21] herman Bergson: Sure Gemma...
[13:21] herman Bergson: To answer Lizzy....
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: this will be nice it feels like, and very exciting
[13:21] herman Bergson: that strict distinction between religion and ...say..scientific....epistemological thinking....
[13:22] herman Bergson: yes I think we invented that
[13:22] herman Bergson: You don't see that in Chinese thinking....
[13:22] Lizzy Pleides: religion is always a kind of mythology too
[13:22] .: Beertje :.: whispers..hello Rodney
[13:22] herman Bergson: There is a moment in history where you see it in Indian philosophy
[13:23] Rodney Handrick: Hi Beertje
[13:23] herman Bergson: an absolute denial of any theistic explanation of reality
[13:24] Debbie DJ: Are there any Chinese religions
[13:24] Debbie DJ: ?
[13:24] Taffy: western philosophy tends to think of god as a separate entity
[13:24] herman Bergson: that is hard to say.....
[13:24] herman Bergson: I mean...they had some idea of Heaven.....
[13:24] Debbie DJ: Buddhism isn't really a religion at all
[13:24] herman Bergson: even of a god....
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: need to check the subject up a bit for sure
[13:25] herman Bergson: but not really a personalized god....
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: i know a bit but its clearly different from our "ways"
[13:25] Gemma Allen: one can be any religion and also follow buddhism
[13:25] Taffy: from what I understand the eastern philosophies, people are part of the whole that is god
[13:25] Gemma Allen: as a way of life
[13:25] herman Bergson: This led to serious debates around 1650 between Rome and Jesuit missionaries in China...
[13:25] herman Bergson: What Chinese word to use for God?
[13:26] Debbie DJ: And indian religions are more about nature worship, and multiple gods
[13:26] herman Bergson: then that became even a competition between Jesuits and Dominicans in thosse days
[13:26] Debbie DJ: did they find a word for god herman
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: the word avatar comes from how their gods show themselves to us, like the shiva and other statues u see
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes the poe finally took sides with the Dominicans :-)
[13:27] Merlin: We seem to be drifting onto religion again I think it is inseparable from philosophy
[13:27] Sigmund Oppenbaum: I'm not quite following, what became an issue for the Jesuits and the Dominicans?
[13:27] Gemma Allen: what did the dominicans say
[13:28] Debbie DJ: the word, and the word is god Sigmund
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes Eastern philosophy you can not separate it
[13:28] Merlin: But I found some things said here about Buddhism doubtful
[13:28] Merlin: Ah ok
[13:28] Sigmund Oppenbaum: Thank you, Debbie
[13:28] herman Bergson: it was the word Shang Shi Sigmund.....
[13:29] Sigmund Oppenbaum: Thanks, Professor
[13:29] herman Bergson: But the Chinese used that for Heaven....not really meaning a personalized god...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:29] herman Bergson: so you can not use that when translating the bible...
[13:29] herman Bergson: Rome finally settled for some other word....
[13:30] herman Bergson: which atm I do not recall :-)
[13:30] herman Bergson: The problem was that Chinese didn't like christianity at all....
[13:31] herman Bergson: Mainly because of the disrespect it showed for ancient Chinese tradition
[13:31] herman Bergson: and THAT is important to them....
[13:31] Merlin: when do you mean Herman?
[13:31] herman Bergson: You'll learn about that in on coming lectures :-)
[13:31] Gemma Allen: ancestors?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Oh I am talking about 1650 and later Merlin
[13:32] Merlin: When did the Chinese take a dislike to Christianity
[13:32] Merlin: ok ty
[13:32] herman Bergson: But there was the Ping revolution...1800 so or so I believe...
[13:32] Debbie DJ: Shangdi - means above emperor, and was used before Shung Tian (heaven)
[13:33] herman Bergson: and one western observer didn't believe that it were chinese christians here revolting...
[13:33] herman Bergson: wow...your Chinese is pretty good Debbie ^_^
[13:33] Debbie DJ: thanks prof (quitly closes google)
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes...the transcription of Chinese Kanji in Romanji will be a puzzle now and then
[13:34] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:34] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:34] herman Bergson: the English do it different from the Dutch for instance....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: hahahahah
[13:35] herman Bergson: You get things like Lao-tze....or Laothze..or Lao-ze..
[13:35] herman Bergson: all meaning the same...
[13:35] herman Bergson: But we'll manage that I guess...
[13:36] herman Bergson: for instansce...
[13:36] .: Beertje :.: Shang-Chi (Chinese: 上氣; pinyin: shàng qì; literally "rising of the spirit")
[13:36] herman Bergson: I-Tjing....also know as Yin King...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:36] Merlin: Yes it is largely because they have a different alphabet
[13:36] herman Bergson: That is the problem Merlin..they have no alphabet
[13:36] Merlin: Confuscius is something like Kung Fu Tsu
[13:37] herman Bergson: they have Kanji (characters) and its pronunciation
[13:37] Merlin: oh well you could say that yeah
[13:37] herman Bergson: ah jes...
[13:37] herman Bergson: yes
[13:37] Gemma Allen: they are characters
[13:37] Gemma Allen: thousands of them
[13:37] herman Bergson: to be precize Gemma....
[13:38] herman Bergson: a japanese primary schoolkid learns 1845 Kanji
[13:38] herman Bergson: and of course also all kinds of combinations of these 1845
[13:38] herman Bergson: enough to read the newspaper...
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: 四十四只石狮子是死的 ?
[13:39] herman Bergson: but there are at least a 30 to 40 thousand Kanji
[13:39] Sigmund Oppenbaum: Very inefficient
[13:39] herman Bergson: Lizzy...
[13:39] herman Bergson: your sentence begins with 4 10 4 :-)
[13:39] .: Beertje :.: they are all dead Lizzy?
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: no with 44
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: yes Beertje
[13:40] .: Beertje :.: omg
[13:40] .: Beertje :.: poor lions
[13:40] herman Bergson: true :-))
[13:40] herman Bergson: anyway....
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: it seems i have to learn Chinese
[13:40] herman Bergson: I think that htis is going to be an interesting journey
[13:40] Gemma Allen: forget it
[13:40] .: Beertje :.: I only know ni how
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: and 148 :)))))
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: indeed very interesting
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: ni hao u mean?
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: (my favorite meal)
[13:41] herman Bergson: my goodness...
[13:42] herman Bergson: everybody starts showing of their Chinese :-))
[13:42] Gemma Allen: not me
[13:42] .: Beertje :.: grins
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hehee¨
[13:43] herman Bergson: ok then...
[13:43] .: Beertje :.: 赫尔曼是不是太糟糕,有更
[13:43] herman Bergson: You know what to expect....
[13:43] herman Bergson: next lecture will be delivered by Beertje in Chinese :-))
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: what an exciting theme
[13:43] Gemma Allen: ♥ LOL ♥
[13:43] herman Bergson: seems she is fluent in it :-))
[13:44] herman Bergson: thank you all for your participation....
[13:44] Gemma Allen: well it is something to look forward to it all
[13:44] herman Bergson: unless there is still an unanswered question ?
[13:44] Debbie DJ: 六十六 - lets sit around the lecture and talk :)
[13:45] Debbie DJ: you can use your imagination to translate...
[13:45] Gemma Allen: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:45] herman Bergson: ok Debbie....after class :-)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-))
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: thank you Professor
[13:45] Sigmund Oppenbaum: Thank you, Professor
[13:45] .: Beertje :.: 感謝教訓赫爾曼
[13:45] Gemma Allen: i may be able to be here tuesday next week
[13:45] Debbie DJ: Thanks Herman...
[13:45] Gemma Allen: we will see
[13:45] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:45] Gemma Allen: for now
[13:45] Sigmund Oppenbaum: This is going to be interesting... a challenge
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:45] Sigmund Oppenbaum: Good bye all
[13:45] herman Bergson: I'll keep my fingers crossed Gemma
[13:46] .: Beertje :.: bye bye all
[13:46] Merlin: Bye everyone
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: bye cu soon
[13:46] Bejiita Imako:
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Bye merlin.
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: byee
[13:46] .: Beertje :.: have a goodnight all
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Nice turnout Herman. Clearly a popular topic
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Bye bbertje
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:47] herman Bergson: I hope so Debbie :-)
[13:47] Taffy: yes I'm going now to look for my books on Chinese philosophy!
[13:47] Debbie DJ: Me too taffy...
[13:47] Debbie DJ: see you all next week.
[13:47] herman Bergson: ok Debbie
[13:47] Debbie DJ: btw herman - when is the summer recess?
[13:47] herman Bergson: July 1 Debbie
[13:47] herman Bergson: till September 1
[13:48] Debbie DJ: Much too long :)
[13:48] Debbie DJ: thanks.... you are brave taking this on...
[13:48] herman Bergson: I know..
[13:48] herman Bergson: I'll miss you ^_^
[13:48] Debbie DJ: :)
[13:48] Debbie DJ: Ill be around :)
[13:48] herman Bergson: and I can say hello now and then :-))
[13:49] Debbie DJ: And likewise me...
[13:49] herman Bergson: the funny thing is.....
[13:49] Debbie DJ: ok... cu soon, and have a great weekend
[13:49] herman Bergson: I am retired in you know...
[13:49] Debbie DJ: yes?
[13:49] herman Bergson: and yet it feels as vacation to me..those months :-)
[13:50] herman Bergson: didnt know?
[13:50] Debbie DJ: Old habits die very hard. I was an academic for 11 years.
[13:50] herman Bergson: I for 30 years :-)
[13:50] Debbie DJ: What a good life.
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes :-)
[13:51] herman Bergson: and my class here in SL still gives me the feeling that I am in the old routine :-)
[13:51] Debbie DJ: Well, you are. You get to work some, learn some, stretch your brain, and hangout with the bright students...
[13:51] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:51] herman Bergson: indeed :-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: and always beautiful students too :-)
[13:52] Debbie DJ: You need a canteen at Wainscot - !!!!
[13:53] herman Bergson: No.....
[13:53] Debbie DJ: for endless cups of coffee and chats
[13:53] Debbie DJ: and a postgrad pub...
[13:53] herman Bergson: I like it quite here :-)
[13:54] Debbie DJ: I'm just Just reminiscing. - wouldn't really expect one
[13:54] Debbie DJ: Ok Professor - i must dash... I'm summoned :)
[13:55] herman Bergson: oh dear :-)
[13:55] Debbie DJ: byeeee.
[13:55] Debbie DJ: xxx
[13:55] herman Bergson: take care :-)

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