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Beijing hosts meeting of 7,000 philosophers—‘new frontiers’ sought

/ 05:08 AM October 01, 2018

Comiucap leadership: Janis Ozolins, João J. Vila-Chã, Alfredo Co, Brendan Sweetman, Miguel Giusti, Joseph Agbakoba

The 24th World Congress of Philosophy, held Aug. 13 to 20 in Beijing, China, would soon be considered as a “turning point in the history of thought.”

“Because of its inclusiveness and scholarly influence, the congress may represent a historical opportunity for reassessing philosophy,” said Luca Scarantino, president of the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie (FISP). “(It is) a unique opportunity to overcome existing prejudices and stereotypes across philosophical cultures.”


To note, Asian, African and Latin-American philosophies, as well as cultural dialogues, comprised more than half of over a hundred sessions and meetings conducted during the weeklong affair. These philosophies were previously considered on the fringes of the canon of philosophy. A scholar of Chinese philosophy, for instance, would normally be called a sinologist, not a philosopher.

Often, studying the history of philosophy means studying the history of Western philosophy. This will have to change, according to Scarantino.


Meanwhile, to the former FISP president Dermot Moran, the past congresses had already shown growing appreciation for the complexity of the philosophical traditions of the world in recent years.

“The impact of this congress (in Beijing) would be to change the perception of philosophy forever,” he said. “We have much to learn from each other, if we open our ears and our hearts, and come prepared to have our presuppositions challenged in a friendly atmosphere and supportive collegiality.”

As a rough picture of the actual congress, which could loosely serve as a barometer of the claim of impact, the gathering had more than 7,000 participants with 60 sessions happening all at the same time for five days. Because of the magnitude of the interest for the event, its venue had to be moved from Peking University to the China Grand Convention Center.

Ames, Kearney

It was not surprising that participants had to choose one lecture over another, with much regret. One would not have been able to listen to all the lectures of the big names in philosophy today, such as those of Roger Ames, J. Obi Oguejiofor, Guillermo Hurtado, Peter Singer, Richard Kearney, Hans Julius Schneider, Mogobe Ramose, Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Hans Lenk, Ernest Sosa, Hee-Sung Keel, TU Weiming, Judith Butler and William McBride, to name a few.

Co (fourth from right) with his former philosophy students from the University of Santo Tomas in Beijing

FISP, in collaboration with Peking University, organized the 2018 congress, which had the theme “Learning to be Human.” The gathering, which happens every five years, was originally known as the International Congress of Philosophy and was first held in 1900 in France.

Philippine participants


Alfredo Co, professor emeritus of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), was among the three chairs of the panel on Confucian Philosophy, which had 21 sessions in all.

Co delivered as well his paper, “The Place of Forgiveness and Reconciliation in a Two-Tiered Political World of Ancient Confucian China,” in the roundtable discussion of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy.

Meanwhile, members of the Philosophical Association of the Philippines had a meeting during the congress, in which they looked back to the 45 years of the organization and considered ventures in Southeast Asia and Australasia.

Continental philosophy scholar Richard Kearney delivers plenary talk on “Challenges of Anatheism.”

The FISP, composed of 149 members and affiliated groups, approved in its general meeting Co’s proposal for the organization to have a directory of retired philosophers and their contributions in philosophy.

Comiucap 2020

The officers of the Conférence Mondiale des Institutions Universitaires Catholiques de Philosophie (Comiucap) decided in a meeting during the world congress to hold its next regional conference in the Philippines, where in 2021 the 500th year celebration of arrival of Christianity in the archipelago will be celebrated.

They see May 28-30, 2020 as the schedule of the philosophy conference, according to Co, who is vice president for Asia of Comiucap. It will bear the theme, “Faith, Reason and Dialogue: Listening to Asia.”

As an organization working with the International Federation of the Catholic Universities, the Comiucap is expected to partner with UST for this occasion. —CONTRIBUTED

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