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Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice, and the (Chinese) Way
by:Peter J. Vernezze
When Peter J. Vernezze took a leave of absence from his position as a philosophy professor to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in China, he supplemented his main task—teaching English—with leading a weekly philosophical discussion group with Chinese undergraduate and graduate students at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu. In each session the students...
When Peter J. Vernezze took a leave of absence from his position as a philosophy professor to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in China, he supplemented his main task—teaching English—with leading a weekly philosophical discussion group with Chinese undergraduate and graduate students at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu. In each session the students debated topics as diverse as the status of truth, the meaning of life, the reality of fate, the definition of sanity, the necessity of religion, and the value of romantic love. Each of the twenty-five chapters focuses on the topic of one evening’s discussion, which was always in the form of a question: How are ancient conceptions of virtue holding up in a society overrun by capitalism? Are traditionally conservative sexual values going the way of the rickshaw? Can an atheistic country even have a sense of morality?This unprecedented portrait of the Chinese mind allows the up-and-coming generation—known as the ba ling hou, or “post-1980s generation”—to express its unique perspective on China—and America. In addition, the book provides the reader with a crash course in Chinese culture, both ancient and modern, as students discuss everything from Confucius to the Edison Chen scandal (a Chinese pop star whose sexually explicit pictures found their way onto the Internet), from classical Chinese poetry to the Super Boy and Super Girl competitions (Chinese versions of American Idol).Throughout, the author provides the intellectual and historical context necessary to appreciate and understand today’s China.
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