From “Drawing Analogies” to “Meaning Pointing”: A Method of Argument in Chinese Philosophy

April 4, 2023


Time: 3:30-5am PT / 18:30-20:00 Beijing Time
April 4, 2023

Language: Chinese

Streaming Platform

Chinese philosophy offers a distinctive approach to understanding and articulating the Dao (daoti 道体) and the nature of the heart-mind (xinxing 心性). Such approach focuses on concrete, visible things and patterns rather than abstract metaphysics. The Dao and patterns (li 理) are not presented in terms of purely conceptual or logical principles and inferences but are explained through observing images and analogies to reveal the symbolic manifestations of the Dao hidden in things. This seminar explores the examples of “drawing parallel or close analogies” (nengjin qupi 能近取譬) in pre-Qin Confucianism and “pointing out the meaning of matters” (zhishi wenyi 指事问义) in the history of medieval Chan Buddhist thought.

Discussion Topics:

– How does classical Chinese philosophy offer a unique and genuine way of talking about the Dao and reality?
– In what ways did classical Confucianism employ the use of analogies to engage in philosophical interpretation?
– What is the nature of the discourse of “pointing out the meaning of a matter” in Chinese Chan Buddhism?

Professor of Philosophy, Sun Yat-sen University
2022-2023 Berggruen China Center Fellow

GONG Jun is a professor at the Department of Philosophy and a director at the Center for Buddhist Studies at Sun Yat-sen University. He is a member of the academic editorial board of New History, and editor-in-chief of the Chinese Buddhist Review. He is mainly engaged in research on the history of Buddhist thought, East Asian Zen Buddhism, interpretation of Buddhist classics, Buddhism and society, and ecological ethics. His publications and translations include The History of Modern Buddhism as ‘Knowledge’ – An Intellectual History Discourse in the East Asian Perspective, Introduction to Chinese Chan Studies, A History of Zen: A Problem-Centered Discourse on the History of Ideas, Pruning the Bodhi Tree: The Storm over Critical Buddhism” (translation), etc.

Professor of Philosophy, Peking University

WANG Song has been teaching Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Peking University. His studies have been focusing on the history and thought of Huayan/Kegon School and he has published several books, such as: A Study on the Thought of the Huayan School in the Song Dynasty, Japanese Buddhism: From the Beginning till 20th Century, and A Critical Annotation and Study on the Huayan Fajie Guanmen.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.