Archive for the ‘Textbooks’ Category

Chinese Philosophy: A Solid Counterpart of Western Philosophy

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Guest Author: Dr. Haiming Wen

Many people wonder how China’s history of thought can be identified as “philosophical.” Professors and students, both in China and the West, wonder whether it is proper to claim there are philosophical ideas in the Chinese tradition. Given Western definitions of philosophy, are the Chinese classical works really philosophical? My answer is yes. China has her own philosophical system which has evolved through history, independent of other philosophical systems. However, it is not enough to just claim that Chinese philosophy can be described in its own self-sufficient jargon, especially when there are many Chinese terms which are not prima facie compatible with Western philosophical categories. I am taking a risk in writing this introduction to Chinese philosophy by applying western philosophical categories – such as metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology – in order to reconstruct Chinese traditional thought. In answering the question, “what is the Chinese philosophical sensibility,” I try to construct Chinese philosophical systems as solid “philosophical” counterparts of Western philosophy. We can claim that the Chinese are “philosophical” in their own way, and at the same time see that the Chinese provide different answers to familiar western philosophical issues.

Ever since the origin of “Chinese philosophy” as a discipline in modern era, researchers have made great efforts and achieved much. However, there is very little special study or discourse by scholars on the “Chinese philosophical sensibility.” The Chinese philosophical sensibility is built out of the shared assumptions of traditional Chinese philosophers throughout a long historical development. From the perspective of academic research, Chinese philosophical sensibility is the theoretical agreements of Chinese philosophers based on the sense of Chinese philosophy as “philosophy.” Therefore, “Chinese philosophical sensibility” is not only a new direction of thought and a theoretical focus based on the traditional horizon of Chinese philosophical problems, but also the researchers’ basic theoretical starting-point and self-awareness when exploring traditional Chinese philosophical problems.

The relationship between human beings and the world is the central concern of Chinese philosophers. Chinese philosophical sensibility encompasses the use of wisdom in regard to human life, and various arguments regarding the perception of the world. Most Chinese philosophies, such as The Book of Change (Zhouyi周易), Confucianism, and Daosim pursue the meaning of life through revealing the relationship between tian (tian天/heavens) and human beings. This focus leads to philosophical reflection on a human being’s place and role in the world.

We might say that traditional Chinese thinkers try to help people live good lives so they could enjoy their single journey of living existence. In the eyes of traditional Chinese philosophers, people naturally have puzzlement about life and world, but this confusion comes from their misunderstanding of dao (dao道/way-making). Dao is the road we walk in life, which is analogous to a person’s behavior and development. Throughout this life journey, we remain unclear of its direction because we lack understanding of our nature, or xing (xing性/nature). Thus, the basic philosophical inquires of Western philosophers, such as social, political, and cosmic problems concerning life and knowledge, are also those of Chinese philosophers. It is in the process of answering these fundamental philosophical problems that Chinese philosophers develop a unique “Chinese philosophical sensibility.”

In this illustrated introduction I explore the characteristics of different philosophers in Chinese history and distinguish the “Chinese philosophical sensibility” motivating their thoughts. Employing Western philosophical categories to describe significant issues in the history of philosophy, I examine Chinese political philosophy in the pre-Qin era, Chinese metaphysics from the Han to Tang Dynasties, Chinese epistemology from the Song to Ming Dynasties, and modern Chinese-Western comparative philosophy. I try to provide a clear, accessible conception of the Chinese philosophical sensibility and its evolution throughout history.

Author’s Bio: Dr. Haiming Wen is a scholar of Chinese and comparative philosophy. He is a professor at the School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China (RUC). Professor Wen received his Ph.D. in comparative philosophy from the University of Hawaii in 2006. His published books include Confucian Pragmatism as the Art of Contextualizing Personal Experience and World (in English), 2009, Lexington, and Chinese Philosophy (in English), 2012, Cambridge University Press; (in Chinese), 2010, China International Press. He has also published more than 50 journal articles in both English and Chinese, including nearly 10 articles in English peer-reviewed journals like Asian Philosophy, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, Contemporary Chinese Thought, Culture and Psychology, Frontier of Philosophy in China, etc.

Assisted Reproduction Techniques: A Technological Insight to IVF or Test Tube Baby

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Guest Author: Dr. Khaldoun Sharif

While over-population is often cited as one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, this is no comfort to the millions of couples having problems getting pregnant. About 1 in 6 couples wishing to conceive need medical help, totaling over 100 million worldwide. Their distress has been biblically highlighted by barren Rachel who said “Give me children, or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). The mainstay of treatment for many of them is assisted reproduction, mainly in-vitro fertilization – better known as IVF or test-tube baby. Relatively speaking, human IVF is a new science, with the world’s first IVF baby turning 35 later this year. However, in this short time in terms of scientific evolution, IVF has progressed and spread all over the world, with more than 5 million IVF babies born so far. Assisted reproduction is needed, and is here to stay. But the more we use it, the more challenges we face. How do we treat those with infection such as HIV? How do we treat older women? Does it cause cancer? Does it lead to early menopause? What are the complications and how to treat them? Better still, how to prevent them? For challenges and questions that both providers and users of IVF face and ask, but to which they may not find readily available evidence-based answers, here comes our new book, Assisted Reproduction Techniques: Challenges and Management Options.

For a global issue such as infertility, a global perspective is needed, and this book is truly an international joint effort, written by 122 experts from all over the world. The process of IVF treatment involves various counseling, medical, surgical and laboratory steps, and at each step challenges may be faced. The aim of this book is to stimulate resourceful thinking in the IVF practitioner when dealing with those challenges, by outlining various management options, the reasoning behind them, and the evidence on which they are based. The practitioner would then be better equipped to choose the most suitable solution that best fits the needs of each patient. Each of the 100 concise chapters includes clinical cases, background, evidence-based practical management options, preventive measures and key-point summaries of the important details.

Author’s Bios: The book, Assisted Reproduction Techniques: Challenges and Management Options” is edited by Khaldoun Sharif and Arri Coomarsamy. Khaldoun is a consultant in reproductive medicine and surgery and the director of the Istishari Fertility Center in Amman, Jordan. Arri is a professor of gynaecology and a sub-specialist in reproductive medicine and surgery at the Birmingham University, Birmingham, United Kingdom. They collaborate from different corners of the world in writing, research, and to treat their patients who are, in the final analysis, the most informative teachers. Khaldoun’s website is http://www.jordanivf.com/ and Arri’s is http://www.ammalife.org/

Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Guest Author: Robin R. Wang

Yinyang concept is at once utterly simple and wildly complicated. The book Yinyang: The Way of Heaven and Earth in Chinese Thought and Culture traces the historical development and diversified manifestations of yinyang, drawing together the different uses and models of yinyang, starting from its origins in early classical texts to lay out the ways in which yinyang functioned as the warp and woof of Chinese thought and culture. The goal is to give a more nuanced, synchronic account of the richness meanings and applications of yinyang, from logical reasoning to aesthetic understanding, from divination to medicine, from the art of fengshui to the art of sex. Westerners tend to assume the Chinese mind runs like a Swiss clock that goes tick/tock…when in fact it yins and yangs.

Yet yinyang is not simply or just about balance or harmony but far beyond those common assumptions. One of the most important functions of yinyang is a matrix to describe, guide, and structure concrete phenomena. The yinyang matrix is a way of linking and classifying particular phenomena or all things and leading to actions. It functions analogous to scientific accounts, although extending more broadly to encompass ethics, politics, health and well-being. It arranges human knowledge into a simple, integrated, and flexible pattern, which can be applied to an extremely wide range of phenomena. For example, “mother” is a predicate for a woman who has given birth or has a child. If one were to follow deductive logic, one could go by this: all mothers have a child; Mary is a mother, therefore, Mary has a child. According to the yinyang matrix, mother belongs to the category of yin, things with giving and nurturing functions, and thus can be grouped with earth, moon, and water. Anything perceived as yin or nurturing fits into this image of giving and nurturing. Mary is a mother, therefore, she has the yin properties of x, y, and z.

Yinyang matrix is also flexible and complex in its application on different levels and with different scopes. Two things can be in the same group of yin or yang in one sense, however, in different on another level; for example, the sun and ginger belong to the same group of yang because they both have properties of being hot and warm. Snow and watermelon belong to the group of yin because they have properties of being cool. However, because sun and snow belong in a group in heaven, and ginger and watermelon belong to the group in earth.

AUTHOR’S BIO: Prof. Robin R. Wang is Daum Professor in the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of Asian Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University. She got her MA in Philosophy at University of Notre Dame,  USA, and Peking University, China before  received her Ph.D. in Philosophy, University of Wales, Cardiff. She is the editor of Chinese Philosophy in an Era of Globalization, (SUNY Press, 2004) and Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from the Pre-Qin Period to the Song Dynasty (Hackett, 2003).  She has published many articles and essays and regularly given presentations in North America, Europe, and Asia. She has also been a consultant for the media, law firms, museums, K-12 educators, and health care professionals, and was a credited Cultural Consultant for the movie Karate Kid, 2010.

The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Guest Author: Alicia Aldrete

In a rapidly changing world obsessed with newness, the latest craze, being up-to-date, and its own modernity, does the past still matter?  In an era when the phrase “That’s ancient history” has become a put-down suggesting obsolescence and irrelevance, do we still feel the effects of long-dead civilizations in our daily lives?  My husband, Gregory S. Aldrete, a professor who teaches ancient Greek and Roman history, often encounters students who assume that history is boring and pointless, and it is his mission to convince them otherwise.  With our new book, The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us?, we seek to demonstrate how numerous Western customs, rituals, and attitudes have their roots in the ancient world.  Along the way, our book offers readers entertaining and enlightening anecdotes and points out many unexpected connections between then and now.

Our calendar, the shapes of our cities, the holidays we celebrate, the English alphabet and language, and even how we measure time all bear the imprint of ancient Greece and Rome. Many of our beliefs and behaviors–from how we view, exercise, and clean our bodies to how we celebrate important milestones such as marriages and funerals—have their origins in classical antiquity. The profound contributions of the Greeks and Romans to such areas as architecture, government, literature, and law are widely acknowledged, and this book fully, clearly, and engagingly explores all of these topics, but it also exposes the various ways in which we still walk in the footsteps of the ancients in our everyday activities. 

We examine striking parallels between those ancient societies and the world today.  Celebrity athletes, maniacal sports fans, fad diets, fashion trends, superstitions, soap operas, high-rise apartments, voter fraud, and tourist hot spots—the classical world had them all. This book takes you on a lively tour through antiquity, pointing out instances when we copy, repeat, and parallel the Greeks and Romans.  Having a familiarity with the ancient civilizations that preceded and shaped the world enables one to better understand and make sense of the present.  That is why, in the 21st century, we should still care about the ancient Greco-Roman world, which has helped to make us who we are.

The book “The Long Shadow of Antiquity is the result of joint efforts by Gregory S. Aldrete and Alicia Aldrete.

Author Bios: Gregory S. and Alicia Aldrete are graduates of Princeton University, and hold advanced degrees from the University of Michigan in, respectively, History and Literature.  They are co-authors of a book on ancient armor made of linen, and Greg has written four other scholarly books on antiquity.   They live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Greg is a history professor.  Visit Greg’s website at: http://www.uwgb.edu/aldreteg/

Economic Development in the Americas Since 1500: Institutions and Endowments

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Guest Author: Stanley L. Engerman

 

“A book by Stanley L. Engerman and Kenneth L. Sokoloff”

 

Ken Sokoloff and I were concerned with two related questions.  First, what were the relative levels and growth patterns of income in North America (Canada and the United States) and Latin America (South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean) after the arrival of Columbus.  Second, what has been the explanation for the growth patterns observed.

The answer to the first question is that prior to 1750 economic development in Latin America exceeded that of North America, but after that the growth rates of per capita income in North America greatly exceeded those in South America, so that in the twentieth century per capita income in Latin America basically fell to less than one-half that in the United States and Canada.  The early high per capita income in South America and Mexico resulted from the century-long lead in settlement for the Spanish and Portuguese, and the fact that they went to the richest, most populous, and most developed societies in the Americas, the areas settled by the Aztecs and Incas, which together accounted for nearly three-quarters of the Native-American populations of the New World.

The explanation for these growth patterns has been a source of considerable debate among scholars. This has been concerned with the development of economic and social institutions in the Americas, and the relative importance of the patterns brought over to the New World by colonizers from the various European nations and the effects of the characteristics in the Americas, particularly the differences due to climate, resources, and topography which influence the nature of the crops (and livestock) that can be grown in different areas.  The tropical climate permitted the growth of sugar for export to Europe, and sugar was produced on large plantations utilizing large amounts of labor.  This labor was frequently done by slaves, and the existence of large landowners with political and economic power led to great inequalities of income, and Latin America has long been the area with the greatest extent of inequality in the world.  The natural conditions in most of the United States, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states differed.  The climate there was also too cold to permit sugar production and the principal crops were wheat and grains, which could optimally be produced on small scale, family farms by landowners or free laborers, often immigrants from England and elsewhere in Europe.  Thus the degree of inequality was less than in Latin America, and this was reflected in North America’s more extensive suffrage, the greater spread of education, a more liberal banking system, and a more egalitarian system of land allocation.  These favorable conditions for economic growth were influenced by the natural attributes in North America.  The various colonies of each European settling nation often had different institutions because of differences in natural conditions (as suggested by comparing New England and the British Caribbean).

 

Author’s Bio: Stanley L. Engerman is the John H. Munro Professor of Economics and Professor of History at the University of Rochester, and Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Professor Engerman has authored and co-authored many books such as  Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (with Robert Fogel); A Historical Guide to World Slavery (with Seymour Drescher); Slavery, Emancipation, and Freedom: Comparative Perspectives; and Slavery (with Seymour Drescher and Robert Paquette).

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