Author: James Behuniak 江文思

James Behuniak 江文思
Jim Behuniak received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i in 2002.  He is currently Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Colby College.  He works in the areas of Chinese philosophy and American philosophy.  He is author of Mencius on Becoming Human (SUNY Press, 2005) and co-editor with Roger T. Ames of 孟子心性之學 Studies of Mencius on Feeling and Nature(Social Sciences Academic Press, Beijing, 2004).  He has authored several articles in Chinese and comparative philosophy for edited volumes and for journals, such as Philosophy East and West, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy,Journal of Chinese Philosophy, and Asian Philosophy.  He was Senior Fulbright Scholar teaching at National Taiwan University in 2014-2015.

The Meaning of John Dewey’s Trip to China, 1919-1921

     This year, in addition to teaching American philosophy in Taiwan, I have been researching John Dewey’s visit to China from 1919-1921.  The facts surrounding Dewey’s visit are fairly well known.  Dewey arrived in China at the height of the May Fourth Movement.  His former students invited him to tour and to give lectures throughout the country, and there are detailed records of his itinerary and the content of his talks.  I have focused primarily on how this experience influenced Dewey himself, and I have been reading his papers and personal letters in order to gain some insight.      The real meaning of Dewey’s visit remains a question that neither history nor philosophy has conclusively settled.  According to historian Benjamin Schwartz, “the encounter between John Dewey and modern China is one of the most fascinating episodes in the intellectual history of twentieth-century China.”  After reviewing Dewey’s own experiences, I think it is fair to say that it was one of the most fascinating episodes in Dewey’s own intellectual development as well.  Of particular interest in this regard is the manner in which the relationship between Confucian institutions and democratic reform was debated in Dewey’s presence, and the way

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Teaching Dewey in Taiwan

In the fall semester of 2014, I taught a seminar on American philosophy to graduate students in the Philosophy department at National Taiwan University.  The main focus of the course was on the work of John Dewey, an American philosopher who, along with his wife Alice, spent over two years in China (1919-1921).  The timing of their stay could not have been more momentous.  They arrived in China on May 1, 1919, three days before the student uprisings of May 4, 1919.  This episode is part of a period now known as the May Fourth movement, during which Chinese thinkers engaged in vigorous debates over traditional customs and values.  During his visit, Dewey travelled, lectured, and wrote extensively about his experiences in China.  As my students and I read his philosophical works, I am working through Dewey’s own writings from this period: his personal letters, essays, and lectures.  What I’ve discovered has enriched my Taiwan experience very much. Obviously, much has changed since John Dewey visited the Republic of China in 1919.  Among the most important changes is that the Republic of China is now located on Taiwan.  Despite this geopolitical change, what is most striking is how many of

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