Whether we realise it or not, the Western philosophical tradition forms the bedrock of many of our ideas and assumptions about the good life well lived. But what if there was another way to think about how we think and act?
Professor of Chinese history and philosophy Michael Puett has taken Harvard by storm in recent years, delivering its most popular undergraduate course, and attracting thousands of students to his lectures on the ancient teachings of Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, Zhuangzi and Xunzi.
At the RSA, he invites us to re-examine the impact of Western philosophy on our lives and some of our deepest held assumptions, and to "unlearn" many ideas that inform modern society. The ancient Chinese philosophers show that the key to living well is not by "finding" ourselves and slavishly following a grand plan, as so much of Western thought would have us believe, but rather through a path of self-cultivation and engagement with the world. Believing in a "true self" only restricts what we can become - and tiny changes, from how we think about careers to how we talk with our family, can have powerful impact on our lives and relationships.
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In all probability, it is too late to post a question to Michael Puett (I had some difficulties with the RSA website that are happily now resolved). I attended Prof. Puett's fascinating talk last Thursday and I had wanted to put this question to him: is our understanding of the significance of Cunfucius illuminated or obscured by his identification with the so called "axial age" (e.g. Bettany Hughes). If Prof. Puett is unable to respond, I should appreciate reading any responses that RSA members feel they can contribute.
This is crystal clear to me, and I have been using this approach wokjing in the field of (EU) external relations for years. I like the way some put it, referring to the 'geography of thought' (Brennan).
I integrate this in the complexity approach - what I like to call 'another way of looking at things', combining it to sensemaking, emergence by design and pattern recognition. In this approach, the knowldege paradigm is stressed up to its edge, rather creating space for experimentation at carefully selected acupuncture points. The pre-condition is having a nurturing intention, as we are our intention. So, self-reflexivity has become a key dimension.
Ready to exchange texts/thoughts/views on this.
alain (FRSA Connector, Brussels)