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Scholars compare ancient Chinese and Greek philosophy

ZHANG QINGLI | 2018-09-28
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)


Scholars exchanged ideas at the Jixia Academy, the first state-run academy in the world (left). Photo: FILE “The School of Athens” by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael in Vatican City (right) Photo: Jiang Hong/CSST


ZIBO—At a forum on Sept. 15–16, scholars compared ancient Chinese and Greek philosophical traditions and explored how the Jixia Academy and Plato’s Academy—respectively the earliest academies in the East and the West—combined educational mission with philosophical inquiry and influenced the development of Eastern and Western civilizations.

Both the Jixia Academy and Plato’s Academy promoted the cultivation and dissemination of ancient thoughts in their country and contributed to the prosperity of their philosophical traditions, literary creation and the rise of political thought, said Eleni Karamalengou, a professor of Latin Literature at the University of Athens.

The Jixia Academy and Plato’s Academy have similar and common cultural and spiritual qualities, said Wang Zhimin, chairman of the Shandong Classical Literature Society. Both were a combination of education and academic research. They both embraced the concepts of freedom and equality, advocating independent thinking, academic freedom, equal debate and the contending of different schools. The forms of education and research in both academies were based on dialogue, discussion and debate. Both produced many great thinkers who have had major and far-reaching impacts on the Eastern and Western cultures.

There are also huge differences between the two. The Jixia Academy was open and scholars were free to come and go. Plato’s Academy had stricter entry requirements and focused on cultivating students’ scientific qualities. The former witnessed the contending of a hundred schools, providing fertile ground for cultivating various schools of thought. The latter mainly taught the thought of Socrates and Plato through dialogue and discussion, focusing on philosophical speculation and propagating natural science, Wang said.

The philosophical breakthroughs of the Jixia Academy were closely integrated with the political reality at the time. The school made theoretical and ideological preparations for China to end the situation of the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) and realize unification. The main achievement of Plato’s Academy lay in the construction, development and breakthrough of Plato’s thought, Wang continued.


(edited by JIANG HONG)