Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Confucianism

New Confucianism is a new movement of Confucianism that began in the twentieth century. It is deeply influenced by, but not identical with, the Neo-Confucianism of the and dynasties.

The term itself was first used as early as 1963 . However, it did not come into common use until the late 1970s. There is considerable debate over what exactly "New Confucianism" is, and who counts as a "New Confucian." New Confucianism is often associated with the essay, "A Manifesto on Chinese Culture to the World," which was published in 1958 by Tang Junyi, Mou Zongsan, Xu Fuguan and Zhang Junmai. This work is often referred to as the "New Confucian Manifesto," although that phrase never occurs in it. The Manifesto presents a vision of Chinese culture as having a fundamental unity throughout history, of which Confucianism is the highest expression. The particular interpretation of Confucianism given by the Manifesto is deeply influenced by Neo-Confucianism, and in particular the version of Neo-Confucianism most associated with and Wang Yangming . In addition, the Manifesto argues that while China must learn from the West modern science and democracy, the West must learn from China "a more all-encompassing wisdom." Consequently, we might say that a "New Confucian" is anyone who believes that Confucianism can and should accommodate modern science and democracy, argues that Confucianism has a distinctive contribution to make to Western thought, and interprets Confucianism along the general lines of Neo-Confucianism.

On this characterization, leading contemporary New Confucians would include Liu Shuxian of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Tu Wei-ming of Harvard, Robert Neville and John Berthrong of Boston University, and Chen Lai of the University of Beijing.

Many philosophers would agree with the New Confucians that Confucianism is a living and valuable contemporary philosophical position, but would dissent from reading Confucianism in terms of the thought of Neo-Confucians such as Wang Yangming. It would be an overly loose use of the term to describe such philosophers as "New Confucians."

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