Challenges for a Globalizing Philosophy and a Globalizing Writer, Composing, 12/07/2018

Back in March, I published a review at SERRC of Bryan Van Norden’s book Taking Back Philosophy. I thought it was a pretty good review, and that Van Norden had written a pretty good book.

It’s a straight-up polemic – a political pamphlet for the university sector. The language is direct, but you can tell how deep the knowledge roiling in the background of this fascinating book goes. Van Norden has some of the most comprehensive knowledge of ancient and contemporary Chinese and other East Asian philosophical works as anyone I've encountered in my professional life.

When there are always too many things to read.
Only my old supervisor Barry Allen has knowledge that rivals Van Norden’s. His two recent books on Chinese philosophy, Vanishing Into Things and Striking Beauty, provide a history of the philosophical vectors of development across Chinese and Indian cultures.

Of course, I say this because I myself haven’t gotten to know very many Asian people who themselves are experts in the history of Asian traditions of philosophy. Or any, really.

My own review offered a few directions to anyone who has any expertise or experience in the Western tradition of philosophy – and no others. I gave a summary of my own knowledge of Asian philosophy, and the ideas in Chinese traditions that offers some crackling synergies with my own work.

The process-focussed ontologies and ethics of Daoist traditions offer a lot of profundity and depth to Western process thinking. Western traditions tend to keep process thinking in a minoritarian, obscured position. So a tradition where process thinking is mainstream and a subject of centuries of commentary can offer Western process thinking a lot.

I’m working now on another review for SERRC, on my colleague Raphael Sassower’s book The Quest for Prosperity. It’s a complex argument on behalf of communitarian approaches to economic, moral, political, and ethical matters.

A Chinese Daoist funeral service. Complex philosophies that have
grown out of thousands of years of culture, intellectual work,
religion, and engagement with the world.
I took a lot of notes on Sassower’s book, so I’ll be rolling through a few of those ideas as riffs on the blog for the next while. This is going to be a bit weird because I haven’t written the actual review yet.

I have the outline, which is based on a bunch of those notes that I took as I was reading the book. So I was of two minds for a while about whether I’d even mention Sassower’s book on the blog at all.

Ultimately, I decided that I would. Two reasons why.

First reason. The review is going to be a unified 2,000-word composition discussing a core concept of Sassower’s book – his communitarian vision of prosperity as a network of friendship.

The blog doesn’t do that. My cousin Hulk Stuart MacLean has described my blog as a profound act of improvisation, like the improvisations he plays with his colleagues as jazz musicians. He’s right. I’ve written blog posts where I haven’t even known where it was going to end, and ended in a totally different place than it began. That’s in less than 500 words.

Second reason. When I was reading The Quest For Prosperity, I had no idea what I was going to write about in this review. So I was taking notes on everything I found interesting as I was reading it. That’s what you’re going to see over the next while. Much more weird than what you’ll see at SERRC in a couple of weeks.

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