In the West, Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel is a thinker of unusual prominence. In China, he’s a phenomenon, greeted by vast crowds. China Daily reports that he has acquired a popularity “usually reserved for Hollywood movie stars.” China Newsweek declared him the “most influential foreign figure” of the year. In Sandel the Chinese have found a guide through the ethical dilemmas created by the nation’s swift embrace of a market economy—a guide whose communitarian ideas resonate with aspects of China’s own rich and ancient philosophical traditions.
Chinese citizens often describe a sense that, in sprinting ahead, they have bounded past whatever barriers once held back the forces of corruption and moral disregard. The market economy has lifted millions from poverty but done little to define ultimate goals for individuals or the nation. Is the market all there is? In this context, Sandel’s charismatic, interactive lecturing style, which roots moral philosophy in real-world scenarios, has found an audience struggling with questions of their responsibility to one another.
Encountering China brings together leading experts in Confucian and Daoist thought to explore the connections and tensions revealed in this unlikely episode of Chinese engagement with the West. The result is a profound examination of diverse ideas about the self, justice, community, gender, and public good. With a foreword by Evan Osnos that considers Sandel’s fame and the state of moral dialogue in China, the book will itself be a major contribution to the debates that Sandel sparks in East and West alike.
A tremendous and growing group of scholars and young intellectuals in today’s China has been attracted to Michael Sandel—not only to his brilliant writings and public lectures but also to his personal charisma. This extraordinary book shows a sophisticated and challenging response to Sandel’s provocative and illuminating ideas on social justice, perfection, and the tensions between markets and morality. I might say that we Chinese people are encountering Michael Sandel’s philosophy as he is encountering China. It is really a proper and wonderful philosophical encounter!
This rare but valuable dialogue between Michael Sandel and his distinguished Chinese philosophy interlocutors covers a wide range of fundamental issues in ethics and political philosophy. The surprising commonalities and intriguing differences between the two sides reassure us of both our shared humanity and its creative possibilities.
This book is a model of cross-cultural theorizing. Contemporary Chinese thinkers engage with Michael Sandel’s thought, and vice-versa, and our philosophical world is better off: we now know where we stand relative to each other and what we can learn from each other.
Michael Sandel has exerted a shaping influence on Chinese public philosophy unprecedented since the reform and opening-up era of the 1980s. Insightful, practicable, and brilliant, his encounter with nine outstanding Confucian and Daoist scholars allows us to see some settled assumptions on republicanism in a new light. This book is comparative philosophy at its best.
- 320 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Foreword by Evan Osnos
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