24 February 2020 from 15:40 to 17:30

Lecture: Indian and Chinese Philosophies in Dialogue on Self, Ethics, and Society

university college utrecht

A cross-cultural dialogue by two eminent philosophers

Bryan van Norden and Purushuttama Bilimoria


  • Welcome by James Kennedy, Dean
  • Lecture by Bryan Van Norden:  Confucian Monism 
  • Lecture by Purushottama Bilimoria: Indian Absolutism and other Ultimisms
  • Discussion between Bryan van Norden and Purushottama Bilimoria
  • Discussion with audience


Bryan Van Norden: Confucian Monism

Although there have been notable exceptions, most Western philosophers seem to take it for granted that we exist in a universe of distinct individuals.  However, this view has been challenged by a variety of philosophers in South Asia and East Asia who have defended monism, the view that ultimately only one thing exists.  There are a variety of different reasons for believing in monism, though, and a variety of different formulations that monism can take.  In his talk, Professor Van Norden will explore some arguments given by the Confucian philosopher Wang Yangming for the claim that each of us “forms one body” with other humans, birds and beasts, plants and trees, and even rocks and tiles.  Furthermore, Professor Van Norden will also consider the ethical implications that Wang draws from this metaphysical conclusion.

Professor Bryan William Van Norden is James Monroe Taylor Chair in Philosophy at Vassar College (USA), and Chair Professor in the School of Philosophy at Wuhan University (China). A recipient of Fulbright, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mellon fellowships, Van Norden has been honored as one of The Best 300 Professors in the US by The Princeton Review. Van Norden is author, editor, or translator of ten books on Chinese and comparative philosophy, including Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (2011), Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (2017), Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy:  Han to the 20th Century (2014, with Justin Tiwald), Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2nd ed., 2005, with P.J. Ivanhoe), and most recently Classical Chinese for Everyone: A Guide for Absolute Beginners (2019).  He has also published multiple op-eds in the New York Times, and written a Ted-Ed video on Confucius that has been viewed over half a million times.  Many of his books and articles have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Farsi, German, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Turkish.  His hobbies are poker (he has played in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas) and video games. 


Purushottama Bilimoria: Indian Absolutism and other Ultimisms 

Professor Bilimoria’s starting point is the terrain of Philosophy of Religion, with a cross-cultural reference to Philosophical Theology.  In his talk, he will question whether every tradition has to have a concept of the Ultimate, or to begin with, or maybe end with some transcendentally-conceived Ultimate, which can of course, take various forms and names. He will explore whether the Ultimate might be the focus of concern that believers of the tradition bestow to it – some, after Paul Tillich – would call the Ultimate Concern.  Couched in these terms, the Abrahamic traditions do assert such an Ultimacy whose common factor is a theistically-conceived Omni-God. The question that arises from the perspective of non-Western traditions is whether the Brahman of classical Hindu philosophy, Buddha-Nirvāṇa of  Buddhism, the Tao of Daoism, and the Heavenly Principle in Neo-Confucianism form likely candidates for Ultimacy. The metaquestion that arises in the context and course of this dialogue is best framed as the following; how would Chinese philosophy respond to this rather extreme and world-exclusionary  metaphysical view?  Finally, what might be the ethical ramifications of such a worldview?  Is morality possible within a monistic (nondualist) philosophy?  And what of theodicy, free-will, determinism, and retribution? Read the full abstract.

Professor Purushottama Bilimoria is Senior Fellow, Center for Dharma Studies, GTU; Visiting Professor UC Berkeley; honorary professor Deakin University; senior fellow, Melbourne University in Australia; Editor-in-Chief, Sophia International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions, Springer. Professor Bilimoria is world expert on many fields among which Contemporary and Classical Indian Philosophy; Comparative Philosophy and Ethics and Post Colonial Studies. He just edited an important History of Indian Philosophy for Routledge (2018)  and is the author of Horizons of the Self in Hindu Thought (2016). 


All are welcome. Please sign up as “going” on the Facebook event page.

If you wish to do some readings in advance, please contact Chiara Robbiano, email: c.robbiano@uu.nl

Start date and time
24 February 2020 15:40
End date and time
24 February 2020 17:30