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The 9th "philosophy and curiosity" luncheon was held in PKU


On Nov 13, 2019, a Philosophy and Curiosity lunch talk on “Race, Metaphysics, Determinism and the Great Chain of Being” was given by Dr. Shuchen Xiang. More than 30 people attended the talk.


Prof Xiang argues that the racism which governed European colonialism (i.e. since Columbus’ “discovery” of the “New World”) shares many similarities with the characteristics that A. O. Lovejoy discussed with regard to the Great Chain of Being in his classic, The Great Chain of Being. Under this racial worldview, difference is not understood as emergent but as ontological, this ontological difference is parsed hierarchically, and the only relationship which exists among the different ranks of difference is domination.

      Xiang uses representative examples from European racism and colonialism, most notably the European colonisation of the Americas, to substantiate such parallels. Through the works of James Baldwin, William James and the Mary Douglas, Xiang ends with a critique of the epistemological errors implicit in the ontologising and hierarchising of difference and the moral failures attendant upon these epistemological errors. These epistemological and moral failings, it is argued, are attributable a fatalism that sees no human agency in ordering the world and a failure of nerve in being responsible for the order that we do create.