Loading Events
This event has passed.


The classical Greeks give us a substance ontology grounded in “being qua being” or “being per se” (to on he on) that guarantees a permanent and unchanging subject as the substratum for the human experience. With the combination of eidos and telos as the formal and final cause of independent things such as persons, this “sub-stance” necessarily persists through change. This substratum or essence includes its purpose for being, and is defining of the “what-it-means-to-be-a-thing-of-this-kind” of any particular thing in setting a closed, exclusive boundary and the strict identity necessary for it to be this, and not that.

In the Yijing 易經 or Book of Changes we find a vocabulary that makes explicit cosmological assumptions that are a stark alternative to this substance ontology, and provides the interpretive context for the Confucian canons by locating them within a holistic, organic, and ecological worldview. To provide a meaningful contrast with this fundamental assumption of on or “being” we might borrow the Greek notion of zoe or “life” and create the neologism “zoe-tology” as “the art of living.” This cosmology begins from “living” (sheng 生) itself as the motive force behind change, and gives us a world of boundless “becomings:” not “things” that are, but “events” that are happening, a contrast between an ontological conception of human “beings” and a process conception of what I will call human “becomings.”



Roger T. Ames 安樂哲 is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, Senior Academic Advisor of the Peking University Berggruen Research Center, and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i. He is former editor of Philosophy East & West and founding editor of China Review International. Ames has authored several interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture: Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China (1995), Thinking from the Han (1998), and Democracy of the Dead (1999) (all with D.L. Hall), Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (2011), and most recently Human Becomings: Theorizing ‘Persons’ for Confucian Role Ethics (2020). His publications also include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (1993); Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (1996) (with D.C. Lau); the Confucian Analects (1998) and the Chinese Classic of Family Reverence: The Xiaojing (2009) (both with H. Rosemont), Focusing the Familiar: The Zhongyong (2001), and The Daodejing (with D.L. Hall) (2003). Almost all of his publications are now available in Chinese translation, including his philosophical translations of Chinese canonical texts. He has most recently published the new Sourcebook in Classical Confucian Philosophy (2023) with its companion A Conceptual Lexicon for Classical Confucian Philosophy (2021), continues to write articles promoting a conversation between world pragmatism and Confucian philosophy.