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Philippe Major Co-Edits New Volume on Liang Shuming’s Philosophy

Philippe Major

Liang Shuming 梁漱溟 (1893–1988) is one of the most contested figures of modern Chinese intellectual history. The contributions of the “Dao Companion to Liang Shuming’s Philosophy,” edited by Philippe Major and Thierry Meynard, seek to do justice to the multifaceted nature of Liang‘s thought, focusing on the diversity, tensions, and contradictions inherent in it. The edited volume also contains contributions by Yim Fong Chan and Milan Matthiesen. It was published in the spring of 2023.

In 13 chapters, the “Dao Companion to Liang Shuming’s Philosophy” provides an analysis of the complex philosophy of Liang Shuming. This twentieth-century thinker opened up a number of paths that were to become central components of modern Chinese philosophy. For the first time, the volume edited by Philippe Major and Thierry Meynard brings together experts to analyze the complexity of his philosophy, which continues to exert a considerable influence today. The book covers Liang’s multifaceted thought as informed by his many identities as a Buddhist, a Confucian, a Bergsonian, a rural reformer, and a philosopher.

In one chapter, Yim Fong Chan explores aspects about “Liang Under Mao.” The researcher from the Institute for European Global Studies focuses on the Liang’s conspicuous acknowledgement of Marxist ideology and his sincere anticipation of the realization of communism on earth. While most of the Confucian scholars who left mainland China after 1949 expressed their worries about the continuation of traditional Chinese culture in the mainland, Liang thought that the essence of traditional Chinese culture could facilitate the development of socialism. Yim Fong Chan argues that Liang accepted the ideology of Marxism, but also treasured the value of Confucianism and Buddhism, thus seeking a reconciliation between these three schools of thought.

In a co-authored chapter on “The Many Faces of Liang Shuming,” Philippe Major and Milan Matthiesen provide a short history of the reception of Liang Shuming’s thought in European-language scholarship since 1922. In the scholarship they reviewed, Liang is variously portrayed as a philosopher, a social reformer or activist, a religious thinker, an educator, a legal thinker, and a political figure. The many faces of Liang Shuming laid bare by this short history are revealing of the complexity and tensions of the man and his thought, but also of the interpreters’ gaze and the historical evolution of the academic field in the Euro-American region.

The Dao Companion to Liang Shuming’s Philosophy was published as volume 17 in the Springer book series Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy in the spring of 2023.

About the Editors:
Philippe Major is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for European Global Studies of the University of Basel. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the National University of Singapore, where he wrote his thesis on modern Confucianism in Republican China, and an MA in History from National Taiwan University. Situated in the fields of modern Chinese philosophy and modern Chinese intellectual history, his work focuses on the issues of the politics of tradition and antitradition, textual authority, and epistemic hegemony.

Thierry Meynard is Doctor in Chinese Philosophy from Peking University with a thesis on the religious thought of Liang Shuming (2003), published in English as The Religious Philosophy of Liang Shuming (2010). Since 2006, he is professor of philosophy at Sun Yat-sen University, China. He is also director of the Archives for the Introduction of Western Learning, and the executive director of the Research Center on Canton and international exchanges. 

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