Translating Chinese Philosophy into the Western Academy: Better Late than Never
Prof Roger Ames (Peking University, La Trobe University China Studies Research Centre Visiting Fellow)

March 29, 2017, 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Jointly hosted by the China Studies Research Centre and the Philosophy Program, La Trobe University

Boardroom, Level 20, City Campus, La Trobe University,
360 Collins Street
Melbourne 300



“Translating” means quite literally “carrying across”—that is, “to remove from one place to another.” The questions I want to address in this presentation are: To what extent have we been successful in first understanding the Chinese philosophical narrative and then in “carrying it across” into the Western academy? And then to what extent have we been able to grow and “appreciate” (in the sense of value-added) our own philosophical parameters by engaging with this antique tradition? Wittgenstein famously observed: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” The self-conscious strategy of textual translation, then, must be to go beyond word-for-word translation and attempt to enable students of Chinese philosophy to read the seminal texts by providing these students with a means of developing their own sophisticated understanding of a set of critical Chinese philosophical terms. But allowing Chinese philosophy to speak for itself requires a cultural translation that informs these same terms. It is in this effort to take Chinese philosophy on its own terms then, that we must begin from the interpretive context by taking into account the tradition's own indigenous presuppositions and its own evolving self-understanding. We must be aware of the ambient, persistent assumptions that have given the Chinese philosophical narrative its unique identity over time.

About the speaker

Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, a Berggruen Fellow, and former Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i. He is former editor of Philosophy East & West and founding editor of China Review International. Ames has authored several interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture: Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China (1995), Thinking From the Han (1998), and Democracy of the Dead (1999) (all with D.L. Hall), and most recently Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (2011). His publications also include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (1993); Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (1996) (with D.C. Lau); the Confucian Analects (1998) and the Classic of Family Reverence: The Xiaojing (2009) (both with H. Rosemont), Focusing the Familiar: The Zhongyong (2001), and The Daodejing (with D.L. Hall) (2003). Almost all of his publications are now available in Chinese translation, including his philosophical translations of Chinese canonical texts. He has most recently been engaged in compiling the new Blackwell Sourcebook of Classical Chinese Philosophy, and in writing articles promoting a conversation between American pragmatism and Confucianism.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)




March 27, 2017, 4:00pm +10:00

External Site

Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.