Confucianism and Liberal Education for a Global Era: Lectures with Tu Weiming

– Good afternoon, everyone
on this beautiful afternoon. My name is Tom Banchoff,
I am vice president for global engagement here at
Georgetown and director of our Berkley Center for Religion,
Peace, and World Affairs. And it’s my great pleasure
this afternoon to welcome you to this Berkley Center lecture
with professor Tu Weiming on the topic Confucianism and liberal education for a global era. Now as many of you know,
over the past several years, we’ve invited distinguished
public intellectuals to spend some time with
us at the Berkeley Center and here on campus to
meet with small groups of faculty and students, but also to give a public lecture on a key
film at the intersection of religion, values, and world affairs. In past years we’ve had
Charles Taylor speak, Jurgen Habermas, so a terrific lineage. And today of course we’re
delighted to welcome Professor Tu Weiming, who is
widely considered the world’s foremost expert on the
tradition of Confucianism, to share some of his reflections with us. Just a brief introduction. Tu Weiming is director of the Institute for Advanced Humanistic
Studies at Peking University, and Peking University chair
professor of humanities, as well as a research
professor and senior fellow of the Asia Center at Harvard University, where he taught from 1981 to 2000. His long engagement in the academy and his stream of publications have helped to define the modern
field of Confucian studies. And his work in and around China has placed him at the center
of a Confucian revival with far-reaching implications and impacts for the world of education which
we’ll be focusing on today, but also for culture, society,
and politics more broadly. Professor Tu has a long
list of publications. I’ll just mention a few of the most influential, really they’re my favorites. His work Humanity and Self
Cultivation from 1979, his work from 1985, Confucian Thought, Selfhood as Creative Transformation, and a remarkable series of
essays published in 2010, the Global Significance
of Concrete Humanity: Essays on the Confucian
Discourse in Cultural China, which marks an even stronger engagement with other cultural traditions
and the global horizon within which we all find ourselves today. Professor Tu is a fellow
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,
position he’s held since 1988, and chair of the Advisory
Board of the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy. He serves on the Editorial
Boards of several journals, including the Harvard
Journal of Asiatic Studies and the journal Philosophy, East and West. His eight-volume series of
collected works, Eight Volumes, is in the process of being
published this year in Chinese. Professor Tu, we’re
particularly delighted today to invite you to speak on the
topic of liberal education and Confucianism from
a global perspective, because here at Georgetown
we’ve started something called the Global Liberal
Education Initiative, just last year, my colleague
Randy Bass, who’s here. It’s a cross-campus effort
to, on the one hand, infuse global themes
into our core curriculum. But on the other hand, and this is what brings us here today, to engage in a global
dialogue across cultures and civilizations about
what a liberal education might and should mean in
this global era we live in. To kind of take ideas that have
been most fully articulated in the United States and in
Europe and in Western tradition, ideas like self-reflection,
ideas like ethical judgment, ideas like engaging with difference, I say fully articulated in
the context of this project of liberal education in the West. But really, ideas that have
analogs in other traditions, traditions from which we can learn. And Confucianism is certainly
at the top of that list, so we’re delighted to have you here and hear your reflections. After Professor Tu’s remarks,
my colleague Jose Casanova, also known to many of you,
will join him on the stage for a conversation and then we’ll
open it up to your questions. Jose is a senior fellow
at the Berkley Center. He’s also professor of
sociology and one of our foremost authorities
on the role of religion in the secular and public life. So thank you all for
coming and please join me in welcoming Professor Tu Weiming. (audience applauding) – Thank you very much,
Professor Tom Banchoff for your generous introduction, Professor Jose Casanova, and colleagues and friends, I’m delighted to have this rare opportunity to address to a question
that’s very close to my heart. That’s Confucian humanism. And, you know, at such
a elegant environment with such a distinguished audience. I knew Georgetown University
when I was very young, when I was in primary school. Because my father was offered a fellowship to study management and transportation in the United States in 1945. The first step was in
Georgetown University to attend a summer school in English. He actually majored in English
Literature and Economics. He told me his great
experience at Georgetown. And also informed me
that Georgetown has one of the great departments
of English literature. So I’m very delighted I’m here. Let me begin with a short reflection on my understanding of
the Confucian project. Educational project. It’s often stated that Confucian learning is learning for the sake of the self. But in Chinese, we use it very broadly. (speaking in foreign language)
Learning to be human. And in the Analects, Confucius
said learning is for the sake of the self, so which may
turn out to be a surprise. In 1985, I gave a course on Confucian philosophy at Peking University. I asked the question, say,
what is Confucian learning for? For the self or for others? Most of my students at the time
probably under the influence of Maoism, say of course,
learning for the others. (speaking in foreign language) Learning for the sake of serving the people. I said, I’m sorry, that’s
not Confucian learning, that’s probably Maoist learning. Confucian learning’s learning
for the sake of the self. And it’s also characterized as learning of the heart and mind. (speaking in foreign language)
Or learning of human nature and destiny, human destiny,
(speaking in foreign language) and Confucius said learning for the sake of the self is authentic learning. You don’t learn for your
parents, you don’t learn for society, you don’t learn
for any external forces. You learn to build your character. This is the primary concern, therefore, Confucian philosophy has also been characterized as the philosophy of (speaking in foreign
language) self cultivation. In one of the great books,
actually one of the four books, the Great Learning, and
there’s the statement that from emperor to the commoner, each should regard
self-cultivation as the root. This is not self-cultivation
for the elite, for the wealthy and powerful, influential, but self-cultivation for everybody. And also, this kind of
learning for the self, learning for the sake of the self, is using Max Weber’s notion,
this worldly learning is not aestheticist, is
not learning in order to develop a vision of the transcendent. It’s learning for the self, here and now, as a concrete living person. And that’s part of the
reasons I decided to use the term concrete humanity to describe the collection of basics in mind. Among the Axial Age civilizations, many of you know Karl Jasper’s idea that roughly in the first millennium, 600, 600 B.C. to millennium, at
least four great civilizations emerged relatively independent continued shaped human destiny
for thousands of years. Greek philosophy to be
sure, the Judaic tradition, later evolved into Christianity
and Islam, Hindu in China. And the Hindu tradition of course, Hindus, and also Buddhism in China,
basically Confucianism in those. Unlike many of the other
great spiritual traditions, Confucianism opted to work
in the world, here and now. Confucius made a remark, which is I think it’s very characteristic, I am a human being among
other human beings, I cannot hurt with birds and beasts. I want to be among the humans. Therefore he considered
himself as a transmitter and not as a maker, in a
sense creating something new. We know that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, is perhaps the most Christian
than anyone you can imagine. Difficult to imagine
Christianity before Jesus. And difficult to imagine
Buddhism before Buddha. But Confucianism, the English
word, is basically a misnomer. It’s very difficult to translate back to Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Because in that language,
in east Asian languages, Confucianism’s called Rujiao. which is probably understood
as the tradition of the scholar or the tradition of the
engaged intellectual. There are many ways of doing that. So Confucius is not the founder of Rujiao He may be one of the most well-known. Confucius himself made it very explicit that one of his great heroes was the Duke of Zhou, Zhou Gong. And of course, beyond Zhou Gong, we have the great sage kings,
like Yao, Shun, and Yu. So some Korean scholars were
aboslutely right, saying, look, maybe more than 1,000
years prior to Confucius, the Confucian tradition began. So he was a transmitter. And very much committed
to the world here now. In 1972, the official
publication of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Daedelus,
published a special issue called the Transcendental Breakthrough. Basically a study of
Axial Age civilizations. Benjamin Schwartz, one of
my mentors, was the editor. An the idea is to say, among
the Axial Age civilizations, the reference to something
beyond, the transcendent, is characteristic. I actually objected to that. I was the only voice. Feeble one, not very consequential. So was not taken seriously. I said, this is not fair
to the Confucian tradition. If you say transcendental breakthrough, then Confucian tradition not only didn’t make the
breakthrough, chose not to. If they did that, it could
be considered as incomplete, or limited, Axial Age civilization. They say, well, you have a better choice. I didn’t at the time, but then, the, the Israeli scholar,
Elkana, later developed a very interesting idea about thinking about thinking,
second-order thinking. He said, maybe in Axial Age civilizations, all of these traditions develop
a form of human reflexivity which has never happened before in the arcade period or before. For the Greeks, they reflect on how the ultimate reason of
reality, a logos, came up. And for the Judaic thinkers, Yaweh. So, transcendent. And for Hindu, Brahman. And for China, Tian. But anyway, Tian. is not
radical transcendence. And especially under the
influence of Confucianism, there’s a different kind of conception, I’ll have a chance to refer to that. Therefore, it is in the
world, transforming the world. Max Weber, despite his real
genius in understanding human civilization comparatively, seems to have got it wrong. He said, look, this
tradition, unlike protestant, or the other traditions,
decided to be in the world. And therefore the transformative
power of this tradition is limited, so they
cannot change the world, because you’re in it,
unlike the Protestant ethic of viewing the world from
the transcendent perspective. You can shape the world, like Calvin, like many of the great Theologians. And therefore, the transformative
power is tremendous. And the Confucian tradition,
by being committed to the world, therefore the notion of our submission to the world. Therefore Confucianism’s
always characterized theologically and
intellectually as conservative. If not reactionary, and
not very powerful, not very creative, very much not very
innovative, and so forth. But, I’ve arguing for
some time now, you can be in the world but, using
the Grecian expression, not off the world, and
you can try to transform the world from within,
if you have an idea of being human which is, if
not diametrically opposed, but significantly different
from the rules that began governing the wealth and
power of the world here now. That’s possible. In fact, the Confucian idea of learning for the sake of the self,
learning to be be human, is predicated on the belief
that the idea of the self is always understood as the
center of relationships. There are two dimensions. One is centered, therefore
a concrete person here now can only reflect upon the world from that particular perspective. So, it has to be centered. But it is also a form of relationships. At the center, the autonomy, independence, and dignity of the individual
has to be established. That’s the reason why
Confucius made it explicit, learning is for the sake of
building your own character. This self-centeredness,
which is predicated on the importance of
establishing personality as an independent, autonomous
being, and with dignity. Therefore, self-cultivation philosophy is at the core of Confucian education. But as relationships, this center can never be an isolated individuality. A human being is never an island. It’s always a flowing stream,
automatically transforming, therefore enters into communication with many other flowing streams. The relationships are precisely defined as a series of concentric circles that begins with people
who are closest to you. That’s human nature


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