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TSC Yu Lecture_ Modeling Confucius

Toronto Semiotic Circle Lecture Series

TSC Yu Lecture: Modeling Confucius

Dr. Hongbing Yu

School of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Nanjing Normal University, China

Despite centuries of tremendous impact and a legacy of enduring importance, Confucianism continues to be contested in the civilization of East Asia. Controversies over Confucius and his thoughts have not ceased since as early as his own times. This is evidenced by an inexhaustible number of scholarly and general accounts treating both Confucius and Confucianism through history. These accounts, linguistic and non-linguistic alike, have long served as frameworks for understanding Confucius, particularly the predominant role that was attributed to this highly influential historical figure and his philosophy in Chinese society over the past two millennia.There are at least two things these accounts share in common. First, virtually all of them have claimed (whether implicitly or explicitly) to provide a true orthodoxy in grasping Confucianism as well as understanding Confucius; two, most, if not all, of them have ignored, either explicitly or implicitly, the essential fact that Confucius can only be approached through the mediation of all modes of human representation that have been made available for that purpose, notably including visual forms, such as historical literature of various genres, carvings, sculptures, rites, acting, and so on, which at the same time are the very points of departure for interpretations of Confucius and his philosophy. In this light, it is all but self-evident that the problem of Confucius has always been a semiotic one, to which a limited number of scholars have already alluded, albeit inadequately. Through a semiotic meta-analysis that draws on socio-linguistics and social psychology, I argue that the personage who has come to be known as Confucius has existed and can only exist, without exception, in multiple forms of socio-cultural representation and interpretation that are natural results of various modeling processes. This treatment is by no means intended to be a revisionist or nihilistic denial of the historicity of Confucius, but rather an attempt to underscore the central mediating role that any mode of signification relevant to Confucius would play in human socio-cultural and cognitive practices. Furthermore, whatever modeling processes have unfolded and in whichever directions they have evolved, it is probably the never-ending attempts to restore Confucius to his “original” self and what these attempts tell us about ourselves that really matter.

This lecture was hosted in partnership with the Department of Philosophy at Ryerson University and organized by the Meaning Lab in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

A Bit About Me

Date & Time

Tue, 3 April 2018

5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EDT

Ryerson University

80 Gould St.

RCC 204 (Rogers Communications Centre)

Toronto, ON M5B 2M7

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