An International Conference on Confucianism and Catholicism: Reinvigorating the Dialogue

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This international, interdisciplinary conference on Confucianism and Catholicism is a collaborative effort of faculty from Georgetown University and the Center for East Asian and Comparative Philosophy at the City University of Hong Kong, jointly sponsored by Georgetown’s Department of Theology and the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement, with additional support from the Berkley Center, the Asian Studies Program, the Dept. of Philosophy, the Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the Office of Mission & Ministry, and the Dept. of History.

The conference brings together Georgetown’s strengths in East Asian Studies with its Catholic and Jesuit identity, including strengths in Catholic theology and philosophy and inter-religious dialogue.  Indeed, the conference extends Georgetown’s already prominent position as a leader in inter-religious dialogue beyond the Abrahamic traditions to the traditions of East Asia.  Participants include scholars from the disciplines of theology, religious studies, philosophy, history, and East Asian studies, whose expertise spans the four most Confucian cultures of East Asia: China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. The conference is truly international, including Georgetown faculty joined by scholars from universities in China, Hong Kong, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. (including two other Jesuit universities).  Our aim is to bring together specialists in Confucianism, Catholicism, and inter-religious dialogue to examine the resources that the Confucian and Catholic traditions might have for helping us to better understand the commitments and values of both traditions and for addressing a variety of issues in a mutually supporting way.  As a Catholic and Jesuit university, such dialogues are central to our mission and are an important way of carrying on the important work that began with Jesuits like Matteo Ricci, S.J., and which has particular significance in the more global world in which we live today.

The conference is free and open to the public, and faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from Georgetown and the D.C. region with interests in Confucianism, Catholic theology and philosophy, and inter-religious dialogue are encouraged to attend and join in our conversations.

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An International Conference on Confucianism & Catholicism: Reinvigorating the Dialogue

March 4-5, 2016, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Mortara Center Conference Room, 3600 N Street, NW

Conference Schedule & Program


9:00-10:45: Plenary Session I: The Jesuits and Confucianism

“The Aristotelian Concept of Substance Introduced by Early Jesuit Missionaries to China and its Problems in Encountering Confucianism”

Speaker: Vincent Shen, University of Toronto

            Response: Michael Slater, Georgetown University

11:00-11:50: Jesuit Spirituality and Confucianism

“Reimagining Confucianism with Ignatius of Loyola”

            Speaker: Erin M. Cline, Georgetown University

12:00-1:45: Lunch Break

2:00-3:45: Confucianism & Catholicism in Japan

“The Tiber Flows into the Sumida: The Fear of Catholicism and the Decline of Confucianism in Tokugawa Japan”

Speaker: William Farge, S.J., Loyola University-New Orleans

“Confucianism and Catholicism in Mid-Twentieth Century Japan”

Speaker: Kevin Doak, Georgetown University

3:45-4:00: Break

4:00-5:45: Natural Law and Chinese Confucianism

“Natural Law and Heaven’s Mandate: Rival Norms for the Common Good”

Speaker: May Sim, College of the Holy Cross

“Natural Law Ethics in Mencius and Aquinas”

Speaker: Richard Kim, St. Louis University


9:00-10:45: Plenary Session II: Moral Character in Confucianism and Catholicism

“Depictions of Human Excellences and Deficiencies: Catholic and Confucian Approaches”

Speaker: Lee Yearley, Stanford University

Response: Philip J. Ivanhoe, City University of Hong Kong

11:00-11:50: Conversations Between Confucians and Catholics

“Exemplar Reasoning as a Tool for Constructive Conversation between Confucians and Catholics”

            Speaker: Victoria Harrison, Glasgow University

12:00-1:45: Lunch Break

2:00-3:45: Catholic Theology & Chinese Confucian Thought

“Mengzi, Xunzi, and John Chrysostom on Childhood Education”

Speaker: Xueying Wang, Valparaiso University

“‘The Gate of Heaven Has Been Opened’: Chinese Catholic Conceptions of Heaven’s Activity in the Late Ming”

Speaker: Stephanie Wong, Georgetown University

3:45-4:00: Break

4:00-4:50: Korean Confucianism

“The Zhongyong through a Theistic Lens: Tasan Chong Yagyong’s Thoughts on Living a Moral Life”

Speaker: Donald Baker, University of British Columbia

5:00-5:45: Closing Remarks

Speaker: Philip J. Ivanhoe, City University of Hong Kong

6:00: Dinner for Speakers (Peacock Cafe)

List of Speakers:

-Lee H. Yearley (plenary speaker), Walter Y. Evans-Wentz Professor of Oriental Philosophy,

Religions, and Ethics, Stanford University

-Vincent Shen (plenary speaker), Lee Chair in Chinese Thought and Culture, Univ. of


-Donald Baker, Professor of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

-Erin Cline, Associate Professor of Theology, Georgetown University

-Kevin Doak, Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures, Georgetown University

-William Farge, SJ, Associate Professor of Languages & Cultures, Loyola Univ. New Orleans

-Victoria Harrison, Reader in Philosophy, Glasgow University

-Philip J. Ivanhoe, Chair Professor, City University of Hong Kong

-Richard Kim, Postdoctoral Fellow, St. Louis University

-May Sim, Professor of Philosophy, College of the Holy Cross

-Michael Slater, Assistant Professor of Theology, Georgetown University

-Xueying Wang, Lilly Fellow, Valparaiso University

-Stephanie M. Wong, Ph.D. student in Theological and Religious Studies, Georgetown University

This conference is jointly sponsored by the Office of the VP for Global Engagement, the Department of Theology, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the Department of Philosophy, the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, the Office of Mission & Ministry, the Department of History, and the Asian Studies Program.