East-West Philosophers’ Conference

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For almost three-quarters of a century the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa has been a center for an East-West dialogue carried on by the most prominent philosophers in the world. This dialogue began in 1939 when three visionaries – Professors Charles A. Moore, Wing-tsit Chan, and Gregg Sinclair – initiated the first East-West Philosophers’ Conference (EWPC). Its aim was to explore the significance of Eastern ways of thinking as a complement to Western thought, and to develop a possible synthesis of the ideas and ideals. Comparative philosophy has evolved from this earliest idea to pursue a mutual accommodation among the world’s cultures, with conferences continuing to be held in 1949, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1989, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2011. Each conference focused on a theme which was deemed to be a vital issue of its time.

These conferences have been successful in fostering dialogue among philosophical traditions. Moreover, they have been instrumental in the establishment of the East-West Center in 1960, and in the founding of Philosophy East and West – now one of the leading journals in comparative studies – in 1950. Volumes of papers presented at these conferences have been published to further promote discussion on the global scale.

The Tenth East-West Philosophers’ Conference, centering on the theme “Value and Values: Economics and Justice in an Age of Global Interdependence” (May 16 – 24, 2011), brought together philosophers from different cultures and perspectives to reflect upon a productive and sustainable relationship between economics and ethics. What is the appropriate relationship between worth (value) and what is worthwhile (values)? What is the appropriate relationship between seeking a shared human prosperity and our different visions regarding a moral life? The theme of the conference began a conversation which anticipated Hawai‘i as host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in November 2011. This was a high-level international gathering that attracted over 10,000 participants from the Asia-Pacific region, including leaders from 21 APEC economies, senior government officials, business leaders, international economists, Asia-Pacific experts, and worldwide media.

Conference recordings are available at conferencerecording.com. For the 1989 EWPC, search ID# EWP89. For the 2011 conference, search ID# EWP11.