My Feelings about the 5th Sino-US Process (Postmodern) Philosophy Summer Academy
(Prof. & Dean, School of Law and Politics in BISU, August1 , 2010. Beijing, China)
From July 23 to August 1, 2010, The Fifth Sino-US Process (Postmodern) Philosophy and Postmodern Law Summer Academy has been held at Beijing International Studies University and Crab Island Holiday Village, Beijing, China. I am very delighted and honored that this Summer Academy was held in our beautiful campus of BISU and the delightful Crab Island Holiday Village.
First of all, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to Prof. Jay McDaniel, PhD. He offered an excellent class on process philosophy to us. Our class included not only verbal explanations, but also his drawing of vivid pictures of postmodern concrescence, as displayed, for example, in persons, mountains, river, stars, moon, and flowers. In addition he patiently interpreted the meaning of basic terms of Process and Reality, often illustrating them not only in words but his nice and charming personality. Like an old brother, he impressed all of us in the class; his nice and wise “face” – to use the metaphor from Levinas which he shared — will be remembered by all of us forever. His drawings, his explanations, his personality, his face: all will be prehended in our minds and hearts for years to come. So will his wonderful book, What is Process Thought: Eight Answers to Eight Questions and Eight Appendices on Special Topics. It is and will be a very good introduction to Whitehead’s process philosophy for Chinese people today. It already functions in excellent ways to help Chinese students and scholars read and understand Whitehead’s process philosophy.
Second, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Wang Zhi-he for his great contributions to communication between Chinese scholars and American scholars. Without Dr. Wang’s tireless and skilled efforts, it would have been impossible to have such a successful summer academy of this year; and it would be impossible to enjoy the vast and remarkable spread of process philosophy in China. Dr. Wang’s life is an “adventure of ideas” in constructive postmodernism, a primary illustration of which is the building of the Institute for the Constructive Postdmodern Development of China. This bridge is being crossed daily by hundreds of scholars, researchers, and even government officers from both sides of the ocean. New occasions are emerging that never existed before – novel occasions of experience – and they are found not only in China and the United States, but also in other nations such as India and Austria, thanks to his own work. The many have become one are being increased by one, and by more than one. The world is different today, due to his efforts. There is a creative advance into novelty. Here, too, part of the increase is due to his charming personality, his strong sense of humor in class and ordinary conversation, his piety and love for his mother and his family, the harmony of his own extended family, hishelp to every one of exchange-scholars in America. Through his efforts countless circumstances – countless seeds of hope – have been spread in the world, opening the door for the very hopeful possibility that a “postmodern China” can develop. A broad gate has been opened through Dr. Wang’s work. Many are passing through it, and adding gates of their own.
Third, I want to thank all the participants of this year’s summer academy, your active participation and interaction in the class about process thought has made it a creative learning activity. In our time together there have been many positive prehensions: prehensions of the ideas of process thought, of possibilities for the future, of one another. These prehensions are now part of our memories, too. Yet they live on within us as seeds for further development, for stepping forward in new directions in our lives.
Finally, I want to thank BISU and especially Prof. Ji Jing-biao, vice-president of BISU, as well as my assistant, the teaching secretary Dr. Chen Wei-gong, monitor of this summer academy, and vice-monitor Dr. Dong Hui, and our two students, Lu Chao and Zhou Ya-sang, and other participants. I can say, without BISU’s financial support, without the hard work of Chen Wei-gong, Dong Hui and others in the class, especially Dr. Xie Bang-xiu’s and Cassie Zhang’s excellent interpretation in the class and outside the class, it would have been impossible for this summer academy to go ahead so smoothly and successfully.
Obviously, three obvious characteristics of this summer academy deserve conclusion here:
1. Actively participation. All of the participants actively attended the discussion and responded positively to each other in the class. We put forward questions, problems, and suggestions about how to understand process philosophy; we freely and frankly talked, shared our opinions, and discussed; we felt, we sensed, perceived, we imagined, in one word, we experienced; and we did so through a creative synthesis of listening, speaking, thinking, and opening our hearts: that is, wisdom. We deeply discussed the meaning of life and values of living in this world. We discussed how to use process thought to education, economics, and other practical areas of social life. We did games of how to form four triangles with six matchsticks, and showed our body’s intelligence with our fingers. Laughing, jokes, games, and water-melon breaks, impressed us very much.
2. Questions discussed in the class were deep and significant. All participants rapidly entered Whiteheadian temple and began to understand the core ideas of Whitehead’s process philosophy from the perspective of organic philosophy. Although our understanding of them may be elementary, even maybe not exact, we are changing our perspective and viewpoint of looking at the actual world. The world is just there, our understanding of the actual world completely depends on how we watch it, how we experience it. And our experiences of the actual world are themselves a part of this actual world. We have our own intrinsic values, and the world and cosmos have their own intrinsic values; it is so even before we human beings have been born in this world. We are the children of sacred nature and cosmos. As human beings, from the perspective of ontology and epistemology, we experience therefore we are, not “I think therefore I am.” In Whitehead’s terms, thinking is a kind of experience, that is to say, we are experiencing something in our mind, our body, our surrounding, our cognitive objects, and cognitive ability. Each of the actual knowing activities in the actual world is involved and concerned with the whole history of human being’s practice. All of our languages, our ability to know, our tools for knowing, our surrounding of knowing, even our organs of knowing, are the products of the entire history of human life and beyond that: the whole cosmos up to now. Through these feelings and understandings, maybe we have a deepened our understanding, our prehension, of Process Philosophy. We have developed a good starting point for further reading and understanding.
Here I want to express my sincere thank to Dr. John. B. Cobb. Jr, for he has given us an easily-understood work, namely, Whitehead Word Book, a useful interpretation to Process and Reality, and my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Jay McDaniel, who also has given us an excellent introduction and interpretation to process thought, namely, What is Process Thought, even though he honestly says in privacy that he is only a soldier, not a general like Dr. John Cobb, in the movement of process thought, However, in my opinion, it is none other than a soldier who plays an important role in the concrete charging forward.
3. We respected each other and made good friendships with each other. Some of participants in this class are old friends, some are new. But it seems that we once met somewhere in the past, and especially the openness of mind and richness of feelings that keep us together and make us open like old friends. Whether we are young or a little bit elder, all of us are brothers and sisters, no feelings of unfamiliar or strangeness or alienation; and Whiteheadian inter-relational ideas have turned on the charm, and we are all charmed by its fascination. In the future process of life, all of us, I think, will always keep in touch each other and become better and better friends, and this affinity between us will remain in our mind and body forever. Whitehead once said that there are three layers of life: To live; to live well, and to live better. I wholeheartedly wish all of us and our families, that all human beings – and, yes, that all the other actual entities, too — can live with satisfaction: can live, live well, and live better. Living better is living creatively, in a spirit of love, with health and thanksgiving. In Whitehead’s word, we are in a way seeking for the notion of a Harmony of Harmonies, and seeking for a civilized society whose members participate in the five qualities——Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art, and Peace. Having a peaceful life was the wisdom of ancient Chinese wise persons in the past, and in the 21st century we also should have such an ideal spirit and seeking of life.