Maimonides's Conception of Nature and Zhu Xi's Doctrine of Principle/Coherence (Li理) and Material Force (Qi氣)

Mar 29 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Zhang Ying (Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, East China Normal University; HYI Visiting Scholar 2018-19)
Chair/discussant: David Stern (Harry Starr Professor of Classical and Modern Jewish and Hebrew Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Maimonides (1138-1204) and Zhu Xi (1130-1200) are unparalleled in their transformation and renewal of the Jewish and the Confucian traditions, respectively. Through illustrating Maimonides’s interpretation of the rabbinic notion “the Account of the Beginning” (ma‘aseh bereshith) and Zhu Xi’s reading of the classical texts, such as the Book of Changes and the Doctrine of the Mean, the talk will make a comparison of Maimonides’s conception of nature, which is a key to understanding his Guide of the Perplexed, and Zhu Xi’s core doctrine of li 理 and qi 氣. More specifically, the focus of the talk will be (1) explaining Maimonides’ statement that the Account of the Beginning is identical with natural science, and (2) examining Zhu Xi’s understanding of certain notions, such as nature (xing 性), number (shu 數), principle/coherence (li 理), material force (qi 氣), (two primary forces) dark-bright [yin-yang 陰陽], five agents (wu xing 五行) and so on.