Tag: philosophy

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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Teaching Philosophy in Taiwan

     I am writing this while on a teaching Fulbright in the Department of Philosophy at National Taiwan University (NTU) in Taipei, during the 2012-2013 school-year. My duties are to teach one graduate class each semester. The first course was American Pragmatism and the second course Comparative Moral Psychology. In this essay, I will discuss how the content in these courses has been modified from similar courses I have taught in the States and what has happened as a result.      There are two basic things that distinguish my Taiwan students from my previous American students. The first is their bilingual abilities. In addition to their native Chinese ability, they can all read English with great facility and have an adequate level of competence in both speaking and listening. The second distinguishing mark is their background in Chinese philosophy. The Department of Philosophy at NTU is divided into two tracks, the Eastern Philosophy track and the Western Philosophy track. Regardless of the track, all undergraduate students are required to take the same basic courses in the history of philosophy, which include thorough introductions to Chinese philosophy. These two characteristics of Taiwan students have allowed me to tailor my

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