FAH/PHIL Guest Lecture – “Agency, Culture, Modernity: Towards A New Understanding of Confucian Practical Reasoning” by Prof. Kai Marchal, Soochow University, Taiwan


18 Feb 2016





Since the days of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the question of rationality has been a priority for philosophers. In modern times, rationality is often understood as a matter of means-ends calculation: to make a rational decision requires reasoning about the appropriate means to an end. Many analytic philosophers follow economists in understanding rationality from the idea of deliberate maximization. By contrast, some philosophers have emphasized the close relation between practical reasoning and culture; and quite a few continental philosophers, with the advent of postmodernism, have developed a general distrust of reason itself. In my talk, I want to argue for a historico-critical perspective on the issue of rationality: in our global age, we need to acknowledge that reasonable arguments can emanate from very different communities and traditions; and we also should come to terms with the fact that non-Western traditions of thought have developed complex and nuanced forms of practical rationality. In order to flesh out this approach, I will first give a brief overview of the Confucian vision of practical agency. Secondly, I will explain how Zhu Xi (1130-1200), who has often been interpreted as a secular, rationalistic thinker, has rearticulated the Confucian vision. And, thirdly, I will demonstrate why a comparative perspective may enrich our reasoned engagement with individuals in the Chinese-speaking world, and elsewhere. If we want to develop forms of global reasoning, we should make sure that they are neither parochial nor difference-blind.


All are welcome




Philosophy and Religious Studies Programme
Tel: (853) 8822 4768
Email: fah.philosophy@um.edu.mo