Wednesday, October 26, 2011

EASC Colloquium

PRESENTER: Xiaoqing Diana Chen Lin
TOPIC: Feng Youlan, Historical Materialism and Marxism among Chinese Intellectuals, 1930s-50s
DATE: Friday, November 4, 2011
TIME: 12:00-1:15 p.m.
LOCATION: Ballantine 004

(Light refreshments will be served. You are also welcome to bring your own lunch.)

Unlike most Chinese intellectuals in the 1930s who were interested in finding in materialism and Marxism a programmable guide to the transformation of Chinese society, Feng Youlan (1895-1990), a prominent philosopher in 20th century China, found in historical and dialectical materialism a means to understand the relativity of values. In other words, Chinese and Western values as seen through the lenses of historical and dialectical materialism were viewed as influenced by their respective social conditions and environments. And with social changes these values could shift in significance and adapt to new social needs. Feng's use of Marxism helped him minimize the differences between Chinese and Western values by relativizing them through dialectical materialism (social change leading to change of social value) and thereby disparaging radical political or cultural transformations of society. Dialecticism also helped him establish in the 1930s what in the 1950s would be called "abstract inheritance"--an inheritance of Confucian and other classical Chinese social values by stripping off their original meanings from their original social contexts so that they could be better adapted to the present. Feng's use of Marxism shows the divergent approaches to Marxism in China in the 1930s-40s. As the Communist takeover was completed by the 1950s, Marxism was established as a program of action, and any scholar not using it for action, but rather for intellectual contemplation, was reined in. Feng Youlan was criticized several times in the 1950s for his championing of Confucian values by adapting them to modern times through abstract inheritance. He had to undergo self-criticism to conform to the use of Marxism as a program guide to action instead of a tool of intellectual contemplation. Through a study of Feng Youlan's changing use of Marxist historical and dialectical materialism, this talk will explore how Marxism was incorporated into modern Chinese philosophical studies and how the combination of Marxism as a philosophy and a program of action affected philosophers like Feng Youlan's views on "experience," and "reality."
Xiaoqing Diana Lin is an associate professor of history at Indiana University Northwest, currently working on an intellectual biography of Feng Youlan. Her article "Creating Modern Chinese Metaphysics: Feng Youlan and New Realism," has been accepted for publication by Modern China.
Persons with disabilities interested in attending our events who may require assistance, please contact us in advance at (812) 855-3765.

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