York professor lectures at two Beijing universities on Chinese philosophy

Professor Jay Goulding of the School of Social Sciences in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, is considered by some Chinese scholars as “more Chinese than the Chinese.” A recent visiting lecturer at two leading universities in Beijing, Goulding enjoyed the unique position of explaining ancient Chinese philosophy to Chinese students. His topic was a comparison between Eastern and Western thought from both ancient and modern perspectives. While the Chinese were fascinated by Goulding’s expertise in their own history, Goulding was impressed with their knowledge of Western literature, culture and philosophy.

Right: Jay Goulding

“China’s embrace of Western ideas is really remarkable,” said Goulding. “While Westerners have a renewed and sustained interest in the ancient world of China, Chinese university students have more knowledge of Greek and Roman philosophers. This inversion is both a product of globalization and the impact of an exciting new growing world inter-culture.”

Goulding’s visit took place Sept. 18 to Oct. 6, marking the first time a Canadian scholar has made a detailed study of Beijing University’s Institute of Foreign Philosophy. Goulding explained the findings of his research to members of the Institute – lecturing on the relationship between the Institute’s first director Xiong Wei, and his mentor from the 1930s, the German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger. Goulding explored the reciprocal impact of Heidegger’s six decade engagement with Chinese philosophy, and Xiong Wei’s six-decade project of translating Heidegger’s works into Chinese. As Goulding noted, Karl Marx is no longer the number one Western philosopher in Chinese universities. Heidegger, Hegel and others have taken over that position.

Zhang Xianglong, director of the Institute of Phenomenology, and Xu Xiangdong, director of the Institute of Foreign Philosophy, both at Beijing University, take pride in developing opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and culture with internationally known scholars such as Goulding. At the invitation of Professor Wang Bingjun, of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, Goulding also delivered a lecture on the ancient Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi and the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

“Inter-cultural exchanges are invaluable for a global world,” said Goulding. “My visit to China established a bridge to Chinese scholars eager to explore and share ideas with Canada. As the world moves closer to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, there seems to be a merging of horizons of thought, both East and West. This congenial spirit is captured in China’s Olympic slogan, ‘Together one world, together one dream’ – a way of thinking and being that is gaining more prominence.”

In 2004, Li Silong, editor of Beida Gate of Philosophy, Beijing University’s journal of philosophy, published Goulding’s essay on Xiong Wei, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Philosophy Department and the first English-language issue of the journal. In China, Goulding has already gained the nickname, “the Canadian Xiong Wei,” one that he aims to live up to. Goulding says he was honoured to have visited the two Chinese universities and hopes one day to create an Institute of Chinese Philosophy and Phenomenology at York.

Goulding’s forthcoming books include China-West Interculture, Toward the Philosophy of World Integration: Essays on Wu Kuang-ming’s Thinking (Global Scholarly Publications and the Association of Chinese Philosophers in America) and Visceral Manifestation and the East Asian Communicative Body (Hampton Press).