THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY
TAO JIANG (Rutgers University)
With responses from:
ESKE MØLLGAARD (University of Rhode Island)
Please join us at Columbia University's Religion Department on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:
"Between Philosophy and History: The Challenge of Authorship to Classical Chinese Philosophy in the Western Academy"
The tension between philosophical and historical inquiries has been a perennial problem. Within the modern academy, the disciplines of philosophy and history are protected by their respective institutional norm and practice, without much need for interaction. However, Chinese philosophy, situated between Sinology and philosophy in the western academy, has encountered extraordinary challenges from both Sinologists (most of whom are historians) and (Western) philosophers. At the root of the difficulty facing Chinese philosophy lies its very legitimacy, torn between the historicist orientation of Sinology and the presentist orientation of mainstream contemporary Western philosophy. Such divergent disciplinary norms have put scholars of Chinese philosophy in a difficult position. On the one hand, they have to defend the philosophical nature, or even the philosophical worthiness, of classical Chinese texts in front of contemporary Western philosophers whose interests tend to be more issue-driven and in the philosophical integrity of ideas, rather than the historicity of ideas. At the same time, these scholars of Chinese philosophy, when dealing with Sinologists, need to justify the basic premise of their philosophical approach to the classics due to the historical ambiguity and compositional instability of these texts.
This presentation focuses a particular aspect of Sinological challenge to the modern project of classical Chinese philosophy through the lens of authorship, using the Zhuangzi as a case study. It explores profoundly troubling philosophical implications for texts whose authorship is in doubt as it undermines the legitimacy of the project of Chinese philosophy, at least in the eyes of many Sinologists. In order to counter such a challenge, I develop a new heuristic model of authorship and textuality in order to carve out a more robust intellectual space for the philosophical discourse on Chinese classics from the dominant historicist Sinological discourse. To do so, I propose a heuristic model to distinguish two sets of scholarly objects operative in Sinology and philosophy respectively, namely original text versus inherited text, historical author versus textual author, and authorial intent versus textual intent. These two sets of scholarly objects are related, at times overlapping but often irreducibly distinct, with the former in the pairs belonging to Sinologists and the latter to philosophers.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
Rm. 101, 80 Claremont Ave, Columbia University