SOAS University of London

The Zhongyong and Confucian A-theistic Religiousness

Roger T. Ames

Date: 21 February 2014Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 21 February 2014Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Lecture

Zhu Xi singles out the Zhongyong among the Four Books, a powerful statement of Confucian religiousness, as the highest expression of the Confucian project. Following Zhu Xi in taking Zhongyong as a linear and coherent document, I would observe that the pace in the early sections of this text begins rather tentatively with expressed concern over the continuing failure of human beings to forge their way effectively in the world. But once under way, the Zhongyong then gradually accelerates, celebrating the human capacity and responsibility to step up as a co-creator with the heavens and the earth in the emergent order of the cosmos. With increasing speed, then, the Zhongyong hastens toward its crescendo—it own “Ode to Joy”—in which it quite literally breaks into song, rejoicing in the consummatory human being’s capacity to create meaning and to realize its world. In the Chinese cosmology expressed in this text, the lived world is the bottomless unfolding of an emergent, contingent world according to the rhythm of its own internal creative processes without any fixed pattern or guiding hand. And in the absence of any creator “God,” this Confucian cosmology lifts the bar rather significantly on the degree of creativity expected from the human collaborator.

Roger T. Ames is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai'i. A leading figure in the study of Chinese philosophy, he is also editor of the journal Philosophy East & West (since 1978) and of the China Review International (since 1992). He holds a Honorary Doctor of Letters of the University of British Columbia (1999) and has been awarded the 2013 Confucius Culture Award (孔子文化獎) by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the Shandong Provincial Government .

The annual AC Graham Memorial Lectures are jointly organised at SOAS by the Early China Seminar at the Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, the SOAS China Institute and the London Confucius Institute.

The 2014 AC Graham Memorial Lectures are supported by a generous grant from the London Confucius Institute (LCI) and SOAS China Institute (SCI).