Trade war contradicts American spirit: philosopher

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/16 22:24:32

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

The 24th World Congress of Philosophy, with the theme "Learning to be human," is being held in Beijing from August 13 to 20. Philosophers from across the world convened for pondering over emerging global issues. Why does philosophy matter in understanding the world? How can Chinese philosophy and wisdom contribute to solving current problems? Global Times (GT) reporter Yu Jincui and Peng Zefeng talked to Luca Maria Scarantino (Scarantino), newly elected president of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, about these issues during the congress.

GT: This is the first time the World Congress of Philosophy is held in China. What's the significance of this to Chinese philosophy? How do you comment on the development of Chinese philosophy?

: I think it's a turning point in the history of philosophy. It means Chinese philosophy is going to be recognized as an equal part of philosophy as any other tradition. When I was a student, we had books on history of philosophy, maybe 10 volumes were about Western philosophy and only the last 50 pages were about philosophy from the rest of the world. This is no longer possible.

Now there is growing awareness that Chinese philosophy is a part of the world philosophy besides German philosophy, Anglo-Saxon philosophy, French philosophy and so on. This is a turning point, because it means members of the Chinese philosophical community are no longer considered sinologists, but are treated in the same way as other philosophical communities. I believe the picture of world philosophy will completely change after this congress.

This is the largest congress of philosophy ever. People come to China, because they want to learn about Chinese philosophy, Chinese culture and China in general. There is need of becoming acquainted with Chinese life, culture and philosophy. People are more than eager to integrate Chinese philosophy into philosophy itself.

GT: Do you support China to host more philosophical events in the future?

: Definitely. We need to learn more about Chinese philosophy, because Western philosophy is no longer sufficient to understand today's world.

GT: Does the West have enough understanding of Chinese philosophy and Chinese values?

There is still a long way to go. I don't want to generalize, but there are assumptions in the West, especially in Europe, that need to be done away with. There must be deep understanding of Chinese culture. This is not only an issue about studying, but about getting together, meeting, and traveling and being exposed to each other.

Culture and philosophy are not only conveyed by books, but also conveyed by behavior and interactions. A Chinese student once asked me: "Professor, I would like to know of a better way of understanding the concepts of Western cultures." I told him to spend some time in countries whose tradition has these concepts, and he will try to understand by observing how people behave. You see these concepts embodied in behavior. And this is true the other way round.

So learning about each other, exchanging, working, doing business together and visiting, by all these forms of interaction, we will have a better understanding of each other.

GT: Do you think Chinese wisdom and Chinese philosophy will help solve or provide some critical thinking on problems facing the West?

I hope so. I think Chinese ideas would be helpful. The idea of caring and the idea that human relations also have to do with feelings and mutual reciprocity do exist in Western society, but that has been kind of cast aside. I think we should bring them back into our way of thinking.

The refugee problem is a big issue in Europe and we have to handle it in a proper way. When people say we don't want refugees here because we want to preserve our values, they seem to forget hospitality, which is a major Western value. Openness and dignity of individuals are also major values of Western countries. By trying to preserve their values they are actually betraying them.

I think Chinese ideas can certainly help, but what it helps is putting the cultures together, learn from each other, and try to behave in a way that would be fitting for everybody.

GT: Many Westerners view China's rise as a threat to their values. Are Chinese values and Western values incompatible?

No. I don't think they are incompatible. I think they need to be in some way merged. Human interaction is about learning to work together. People who have received a lot from society in some way have to give back something, and this is really important for maintaining social cohesion and mutual social care. This is the case in the West as well. I don't see any incompatibility in the way things are done in Chinese culture and Western culture.

I don't think China is an example of values. It's an example of successful development. Despite so many difficulties, economic, social and political challenges, Chinese people live better today than in the past. Critics target China because they want to target China.

GT: How to bridge the value differences?

They stem from history, from different traditions. But I don't think that traditions are something that is there. Some people say tradition is like a land, you receive it and that's your piece of land. In my view, tradition is like a factory, you receive it, your business, but then you have to develop it, to change it, maybe different from what your father and grandfather did. Tradition is something you can work on. You can adapt it. Adaptation is always the case. All traditions evolve. This is something that we have to do now.

GT: Being a philosopher, how do you comment on Trump's trade war against China and Europe?

It betrays the universal spirit of America. The Europeans have looked at America as an antidote against European nationalism since the war, actually before the war. I am unable to give an economic judgment. As a philosopher, I see this is in contradiction to the spirit of America as an open and inclusive place. After all, America presented itself as a place where liberty and freedom and openness came from.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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