Friday, Mar 18
Venue for Talks: McCosh 50
3-5pm | Talk 1
Lin Yueh-hui 林月惠, "耿寧對陽明後學的詮釋與評價" (Iso Kern's Interpretation and Evaluation of Wang Yangming's Successors"). Link to paper.
瑞士現象學家耿寧（Iso Kern, 1937-），以現象學的進路，開啟「現象學的陽明學」之研究視野，具有典範的意義。耿寧指出陽明有三個「良知」概念，由此也導致陽明後學「致良知」工夫的不同。他對陽明後學致良知的詮釋，以是否根據第二個良知概念（知善知惡）為基礎來判定；且對追求第三個良知概念（始終完善的良知本體）的王畿與羅洪先，評價最高。本文認為陽明並無三個良知概念之不同，而陽明後學的問題意識則在於如何「致良知」，故「悟良知本體」是陽明後學致良知工夫的共同追求，由此展開「 悟本體即工夫」（頓悟）、「由工夫以悟本體」（漸修）兩路「致良知」之異同，此乃詮釋陽明後學之關鍵所在。本文也修正耿寧強調羅洪先與聶豹之異而力陳羅洪先與王畿之同的評價，主張羅洪先、聶豹在理論與工夫實踐之同，遠大于王畿。就哲學高度來說，王畿最能彰顯陽明思想的獨特性。
The Swiss phenomenologist Iso Kern (1937- ) in his exemplary work has adopted a phenomenological approach and inaugurated the field of “phenomenological Yangming studies”. Kern pointed out that Wang Yangming had three concepts of liangzhi, and that these led to differences among Wang’s successors in their understanding of the method of “extending/perfecting (zhi) liangzhi”. In interpreting Wang’s successors’ understanding of extending/perfecting liangzhi, he judges them on the basis of whether they take the second concept of liangzhi (knowledge of good and bad) as fundamental, and he rates most highly Wang Ji and Luo Hongxian, because they seek the third concept of liangzhi (the constant perfection of the original substance (benti) of liangzhi).
This paper argues that there are not three different concepts of liangzhi in Wang Yangming, and that the problematic of Wang’s successors lies in the question of how to extend/perfect liangzhi. Thus, “awakening/understanding the original substance (benti) of liangzhi” is a method (gongfu) for extending/perfecting liangzhi which is common among Wang’s successors, and from this developed the similarities and differences between the two approaches of “awakening/understanding the original substance is training (gongfu)” (sudden enlightenment) on the one hand and “using training (gongfu) to awaken/understand the original substance” (gradual cultivation) on the other. Herein lies the key to interpreting Wang’s successors. This paper also alters Kern’s emphasis on the differences between Luo Hongxian and Nie Bao and the similarities between Luo Hongxian and Wang Ji, holding instead that Luo Hongxian and Nie Bao are similar both theoretically and in their practical method, and that they are both very different from Wang Ji. As far as philosophy is concerned, Wang Ji can best demonstrate the distinctive character of Wang Yangming's thought.
5–7:30PM Dinner (Prospect House)
7:30–9PM | Talk 2
Wu Zhen 吳震, “作为良知伦理学的'知行合一'论” ("The Theory of 'The Unity of Knowledge and Action' As Liangzhi Ethics") Link to paper.
In recent years, with the assistance of the progress of comparative study on Chinese and Western philosophy, the underlying meaning of “the unity of knowledge and action”( 知行合一) by Wang Yangming has been reconsidered. However, in the relevant discourse on this topic,“when a thought is aroused it is already the presentation of moral knowledge and action” ( 一念发动便是知亦便是行) is an important statement which has long been neglected due to its only appearance in the Complied Works of Wang Yangming’s Remaining Words. It is undoubtedly the supplement of the familiar statement “when a thought is aroused it is already action” ( 一念发动处便即是行) and an complete explanation of “the unity of knowledge and action”. It indicates that when “knowledge-action” is in the process of the moral knowledge through a sudden thought ( 一念良知), “knowledge” is not of experience ( 闻见之知) but of virtue ( 德性之知), and it also refers to will and intention, which cannot be separated from the action that aroused from thought. Moral knowledge’s ability of self-reflexive enables the accomplishment of the “unity of knowledge and action”. In this sense, since liangzhi is“unity of knowledge and action”, therefore, this is a liangzhi ethics statement rather than epistemological statement.
Saturday, Mar 19
Venue: 399 Julis Romo Rabinowitz
10–11:15AM | Talk 3
Justin Tiwald, "On Wang Yangming’s Claim that 'Establishing Sincerity' (Licheng 立誠) Can Help Us Fully Grasp Everything that Matters Ethically"
In this paper, I take up one of Wang Yangming’s most ambitious philosophical claims, which is that an achievement that is entirely concerned with correcting one’s own inner states, called “establishing sincerity” (licheng 立誠) can help one to fully grasp or fully fulfill (jin 盡) all ethically significant concerns, including those that would seem to require some ability to know or track facts about the wider world (e.g., facts about people very different from ourselves, facts about the needs of plants and animals). Wang makes a claim to this effect in some of his letters and recorded discussions, and makes similar claims about the basic value of “making one’s thoughts or inclinations sincere” (chengyi 誠意) over and above outwardly-directed study and inquiry.
I begin with a brief, historical reconstruction of what Wang means by “establishing sincerity” and then turn to two sets of controversies regarding his ambitious claim. The first has to do with how we should understand the proposal that establishing sincerity helps or positions a person to fully grasp all ethically significant concerns. On the interpretation of Chen Lai 陳來, Wang doesn’t think that establishing sincerity is sufficient by itself to have this grasp, only that it lays a necessary psychological foundation for all attempts to do so, so that it leaves much more work to do. I largely agree with Chen’s reading but find it isn’t strong enough to capture what’s most controversial about Wang’s view. On my stronger reading, Wang doesn’t just think that establishing sincerity provides a necessary foundation for a complete grasp, he also thinks that it describes the most difficult and demanding step or part of the process – the other steps come much more naturally and easily. I illustrate this view in detail by drawing on some of Wang’s own examples and develop two arguments that help make it more plausible, the most novel being what I call the “righteousness of ambivalence” argument. The second set of controversies has to do with whether we can make Wang’s ambitious claim plausible without presupposing some sort of heroic metaphysics, according to which we have an inherent capacity (endowed in us by a cosmic source) to track what is ethically important or salient about people and things very much unlike ourselves. I consider some arguments and interpretations of Wang’s thought that might allow us to bypass or explain away the heroic metaphysical assumptions, and conclude that they do not succeed. Even without the heroic metaphysics, however, there are a range of important ethical norms for which Wang’s prescriptions are powerful and prudent. The result of this study, I hope, will be an account of Wang’s thought that better positions us to see what parts are (and are not) worth bringing to ongoing debates about the nature of ethics, moral knowledge, and moral virtue.
11:15–12:30PM | Talk 4
Rivi Handler-Spitz, "Absent Teacher Present Reader: Narrative, Dialogue, and Fragment in Zuolin jitan"
What did readers who were unable to meet Xinxue teachers in person hope to glean by reading yulu about them? In what ways did the printed books readers held in their hands substitute for the authoritative physical presence of a teacher? To what extent did students’ reading afford them an experience different from – yet similar to – that of studying in person with a master and alongside flesh-and-blood classmates? And how did the shift in the medium of instruction affect the power dynamics between teachers and students? Focusing on Zuolin jitan, a text by Yuan Zhongdao about Li Zhi, this paper explores how the literary form, rhetorical structure, and generic conventions of yulu may have conditioned implied readers’ responses to works in this genre.
1:30–2:45PM | Talk 5
JeeLoo Liu, "The Metaphysical and the Ethical: A Pragmatist Reading of Wang Yangming’s “Xin ji Li (心即理)”
According to Wang Yangming, “The principles of things are not outside one’s heart-mind. If one looks outside the heart-mind and seeks the principle of things, one will find no principles.” In Chen Lai’s interpretation, Wang Yangming’s thesis that there is no principle outside of mind is the same as claiming that there is no good outside of mind. Chen Lai thinks that in Zhu Xi’s philosophy, principles of things include what must be and what ought to be; the former refers to natural laws, the latter refers to moral principle. Wang Yangming, on the other hand, only deals with moral principle and “does not give adequate answer to” questions relating to principle in the first sense (Chen 2011, 287). Using the famous quote about the flowers in the remote mountains, Chen Lai concludes that Wang Yangming failed to satisfactorily deal with the issue about mind-independence of external things (Chen 2011, 291). Wing-tsit Chan thinks that “the fundamental difference between Zhu and Wang lies in the fact that while Zhu's approach is intellectual, Wang's is moral.” He further criticizes: “Actually Wang's theory is entirely subjective and confuses reality with value… His interpretation is of course based on the theory that the mind and things are one. But this theory of his is founded on very shaky grounds… The point, however, is that his whole emphasis is on moral values” (Chan 1963: 655).
This talk offers to construe Wang Yangming’s view through the lens of pragmatist metaphysics. Pragmatist metaphysics is the view that “metaphysical issues ought to be approached pragmatically,” and by this claim, its advocates mean that we should settle metaphysical issues by considering them “through our human practices of coping with the world we live in” (Pihlström 2009, 2). From this perspective, we can see that what Wang Yangming emphasizes is the view that reality is nothing but human reality, and since human existence is inevitably imbued with values and normativity, human reality is grounded on humans’ valuational perspectives and ethical concerns. The metaphysical and the ethical are merged as one in Wang Yangming’s worldview.
2:45–3:05PM | Break
3:05–4:20PM | Talk 6
Harvey Lederman, "The Introspective Model of Genuine Knowledge and the Unity of Knowledge and Action"
This paper presents a new interpretation of the great Ming dynasty philosopher Wang Yangming’s (1472-1529) celebrated doctrine of the “unity of knowledge and action” (知行合一). Wang held that action was not unified with all knowledge, but only with an elevated form of knowledge, which he sometimes called “genuine knowledge” (真知). I argue for a new interpretation of this notion, according to which genuine knowledge requires freedom from a form of doxastic conflict. I propose that, in Wang’s view, a person is free from this form of doxastic conflict if and only if they are acting virtuously.
4:20–5:20PM | Long Break (optional walk around campus)
5:20–6:35PM | Talk 7
Peter Bol, "A New Contradiction: Yangming Learning Arrives in Jinhua"
This is a study of what happened when Yangming learning began to gain a foothold among local literati In Jinhua Prefecture in central Zhejiang. Debates between the two camps made intellectual life more exciting and offered literati new opportunities for gaining fame, whether as leaders of the new or as defenders of the old. However, the differences between Zhu Xi learning and Yangming learning became so pronounced that the traditional tension between cultural learning and moral philosophy, which local intellectual culture had long accommodated, was superseded by an irreconcilable contradiction between what were now two versions of Daoxue.
6:35–7:15P | Drinks (Chancellor Green Rotunda)
7:15–9P | Dinner (Chancellor Green Rotunda)
Sunday, Mar 20
Venue: 399 Julis Romo Rabinowitz
10–11:15AM | Talk 8
Leigh Jenco "Doing Things with Words: The Philosophical Consequences of Late Ming Interest in Non-Elite Literature" Texts translated in the talk.
In this paper, I explore the philosophical consequences of late Ming interest in non-elite literary practices, particularly vernacular literature and folksongs, among the second generation of students of Wang Yangming. Interest in these practices was prompted by Wang's claims about the universal possibility of sagehood, and dovetailed with ongoing critiques of received literary convention: Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610) and Feng Menglong (1574-1646) saw in the oral poetry of village alleys an unconstrained expression of natural “spirit” that could guide literary innovation; and Li Zhi (1527-1602) viewed vernacular literature as enabling more authentic self-expression. These critiques are not necessarily mutually compatible, but they share a conviction that the aesthetic qualities of literary production both enabled and constituted a capacity for moral realization and judgment. Yuan, Li and others saw in non-elite sites of literary production the potential to realize a higher state of moral awareness no longer available within late imperial civil exam culture, which in their eyes instrumentalized the reading of classic texts and shored up a sclerotic obsession with outdated literary forms. Their collation of these non-elite forms of literature in compendia such as Feng Menglong’s Shan’ge (Mountain Songs, c.1610) therefore cannot be reduced to mere connoisseurship, a fascination with the extraordinary, or even an interest in empirical knowledge for its own sake. I argue that these interests signal a shift in aesthetic sensibility which, because the aesthetic and the moral were seen as mutually constitutive, entailed a new appraisal of the sites and content of moral values. The study and emulation of folksongs, oral poetry, and vernacular literature by these writers effectively relativized elite literary practices through the recognition of alternative moral possibilities realized in these diverse literary forms, making possible a new kind of equality—in which non-elite literature, and the non-elite values that literature embodied and supported, could be seen as different and legitimate rather than as aberrant or inferior.
11:15AM–12:30PM | Talk 9
Peng Guoxiang, "Political Orientations and the Dilemma of the School of Wang Yangming"
There were various dimensions to “Yangmingxue 阳明学” or the school of Wang Yangming, as defined not only by Wang Yangming himself but also by his students and followers in the mid-late Ming dynasty. This article will treat “Yangmingxue”as a whole from the perspective of political culture. It will explore two political orientations in the school of Wang Yangming, “dejunxingdao”and “juemingxingdao,”analyze the implications of these two orientations and scrutinize their relationship, and then examine and evaluate the concept of the “political subject of the common people” implied in “Yangmingxue”and the political ideal in the Confucian tradition. The core questions that will be discussed are: First, how should we understand the political orientation, “juemingxingdao,”pioneered by the school of Wang Yangming, in addition to “dejunxingdao?” Second, how should we understand the relationship between “juemingxingdao” and “dejunxingdao” in the school of Wang Yangming? Third, how should we understand the concept of the “political subject of the common people” implied in “Yangmingxue” and what is the dilemma it had to face?
1:30–2:45PM | Talk 10
Jennifer Eichman, "Reclaiming Nonduality for the Confucians: Wang Ji and his Buddhist Interlocutors"
The prominent second-generation Yangming Confucian leader Wang Ji王畿 (1498-1583) had an admirable command of Buddhist texts and ideas so much so that he often schooled his well-informed Buddhist interlocutors on Buddhist history, doctrinal concepts, and viable therapeutics. Moreover, in his attempt to recover a fuller more expansive Confucian vision he often accused contemporary Confucians of holding heterodox positions. In his view they had failed to develop a secret storehouse of Confucian transmission which he thought included vacuity, calmness, subtlety, and secrecy. He also claimed nonduality as the ultimate teaching of the sages. In this paper, I focus on a few select texts to highlight Wang Ji’s redefinition of nonduality as he
attempts to tamp down certain Confucian excesses, ‘reintroduce’ nondual approaches to thinking, and undermine Buddhist ontological commitments and soteriological trajectories. In a word, through a careful curating of Buddhist and Daoist texts, Wang Ji finds a malleable vocabulary through which to better develop his own Confucian hermeneutic and advance a new vision of the perfect activation of liangzhi良知.
3-4:15PM | Talk 11
Stephen Angle, "A Halfhearted Defense of the Perceptual Model"
In a series of incisive papers, Harvey Lederman has articulated four different approaches to interpreting Wang Yangming's view of "genuine knowledge" and has argued for his own approach, which he calls the "Introspective Model" (IM). Lederman maintains that most recent scholarship supports an alternative, the "Perceptual Model" (PM). This paper begins by reviewing some of Lederman's key arguments against PM and for IM, and then raises a few doubts about IM. I then review evidence that might be taken to support PM but may be better understood as undergirding an alternative "Affective Model."
4:45–6:00PM | Talk 12
P. J. Ivanhoe, "Reflections on the Introspective Model"
Professor Harvey Lederman has challenged interpretations of Wang Yangming’s philosophy that understand him as holding that pure knowing (liangzhi 良知) is a faculty of moral sapience. The unobstructed functioning of pure knowing enables us to spontaneously and properly construe and respond to things and events, both in the world and within our own heart-minds. When pure knowing is operating freely, the result is genuine knowledge (zhenzhi 真知). Such interpretations advance a “perceptual model” of moral knowledge. As an alternative, Professor Lederman proposes the “introspective model,” which holds that all genuine knowing is introspective; such knowledge obtains when liangzhi is aware that one is free from a particular form of doxastic conflict. My talk presents a critique of Professor Lederman’s work on Wang’s philosophy and notes a couple of issues where our accounts of Wang’s ideas diverge.