The new Confucian

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"We used to think that the last stop was truth, but now it's more about intelligent conversation," he says. "Western philosophy is starting to speak of progress while looking at China's philosophy. The opportunity for real dialogue between China and the West lies here."

His way of pursuing Chinese philosophy dates back to 1966, when he went to Hong Kong at the age of 18 and was tutored by prestigious Neo-Confucians like Lao Siguang and Tang Junyi as part of an exchange program. As a witness to the enormous changes taking place in China over the past decades, he thinks the time has come to pose a new task for Confucianism.

"Neo-Confucians, represented by the great names of Liang Shuming, Mou Zongsan and so on, are heroes and philosophical warriors," he says. "They were so different individually yet they carried the same mission to save the country. We are standing on their shoulders, but we have a different job to do. It's time for a new band of Confucians to make Chinese culture a world culture and to endow it with a world relevance."

His devotion to Confucianism also comes out of a sense of responsibility to the younger generations.

"My worry for young Chinese people is that everything in this transitional time is too much and too fast for them to take in. The international community needs the wisdom of Chinese philosophy to address global issues. It is indeed imperative to help young Chinese scholars establish a way to express Chinese philosophy precisely."

When asked how philosophy could be brought closer to ordinary people's lives, Ames responds: "I think everyone has to be a philosopher. Their values and attitudes toward life really matter. We should all cherish philosophical insight."

Quoting from the closing speech of the 24th World Congress of Philosophy, Ames adds: "Philosophy will never be the same ever again, now that Chinese philosophy has found its place."

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