E-paper\Across America

US schools miss Chinese philosophy

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-02 10:31

China's growing global importance makes American study of the country more relevant, and that includes Chinese philosophy.

Bryan Van Norden, professor of philosophy at Vassar College, said that "there are more than 120 doctorate-granting programs in philosophy in the US, but only nine of them have a single member of their regular faculty who specialized in Chinese philosophy".

At Chinese universities, both Western and traditional Chinese philosophy are routinely taught.

"We should improve Chinese philosophy curriculums in US universities," said Van Norden, who was a guest professor at the School of Philosophy of Wuhan University in 2014. "China is becoming an increasingly important world power, and traditional Chinese thoughts have continuing relevance to Chinese culture."

A study conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers this year forecast that China will overtake the US as the world's largest economy before 2030.

And China's rapid nuclear expansion will result in it passing the US as the nation with the largest atomic power capacity by 2026, according to BMI Research.

Van Norden also noted that President Xi Jinping has repeatedly praised Confucianism in a number of his speeches.

"Americans students - our future diplomats, representatives and business leaders - need to learn more about Chinese philosophy at school to understand Chinese culture and people better," Van Norden said.

"Most US university students are not exposed to Chinese thinkers in their philosophy classes," said Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at UC Riverside.

"Academic philosophy in the United States has a diversity problem," he said. "Among US citizens and permanent residents receiving philosophy PhDs in this country, 86 percent are non-Hispanic white."

Schwitzgebel said that many of his colleagues suggest that part of the reason for this is that students of color are confronted with a curriculum that is almost monolithically European.

Van Norden believes that Chinese philosophy is rich in persuasive argumentation and careful analysis.

"It's very important in its own right," Van Norden said. "For example, Confucianism can teach us about ways to cultivate virtues, new ways to think about political organizations and also about cooperative spirit."

Confucius and Laozi have been enormously influential , probably more influential in East Asia than Socrates, Plato and Aristotle have been in the West, Van Norden said.

Zhang Ruinan in New York contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily USA 08/02/2017 page2)

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