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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 26, 2005

Philosophy event at UH gathers some of world's greatest minds

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

As 200 renowned philosophers from 30 nations gather at the University of Hawai'i beginning Sunday for the Ninth East West Philosophers' Conference, UH scholar Eliot Deutsch will receive the Regents' Medal of Distinction.

At a glance

What: Ninth East West Philosophers' Conference

When: Sunday-June 10

Where: Imin Conference Center, Jefferson Hall, University of Hawai'i/East-West Center

Theme: Educations and their purposes: A Philosophical Dialogue Among Cultures

Cost: All events are free and open to the public. Seating is limited at some events

Program: For a listing of events over the two-week conference, go to www.hawaii.edu/phil/conf.

In awarding him their highest honor, UH regents note that under Deutsch's guidance the UH Philosophy Department has been broadly regarded as the world's center for comparative philosophy. Deutsch is the author of 16 books and more than 100 articles, and has taught at Harvard, Chicago and Cambridge as a visiting professor.

As the conference unfolds beginning this weekend at the Imin Conference Center at the East-West Center it will bring together some of the world's most outstanding minds, including Stanford University's Richard Rorty, the world's most cited philosopher. All events are open and free to the public, including an Evening with Rorty and Gianni Vattimo at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Vattimo, widely regarded as one of the leading figures of post-modern philosophy, is from the University of Turin in Italy and is a member of the European Parliament.

"The theme is educations and their purposes — a philosophical dialogue among cultures," said Roger Ames, conference director and professor of Chinese Philosophy at UH. It is co-sponsored by the University of Hawai'i and the East-West Center.

The conference began in the late 1930s to bring together philosophical thought from around the world, and is one of the defining events of the university, Ames said.

"It was initiated by three visionaries: Charles Moore, Gregg Sinclaire and Wing-Tsit Chan," Ames said. "They decided philosophy as a discipline in the world was fundamentally racist, and centered on Anglo-European or Continental European philosophy so that all other cultures were excluded from philosophy as the pursuit of wisdom.

"So they founded a department to challenge this kind of chauvinism, the Department of Philosophy at UH with philosophy from the Chinese, Japanese, Islamic, Indian and Buddhist traditions. Today, we're the only institution in the country that offers the PhD in each of those areas.

"They also started the East West Philosophers' Conference to bring wise gray heads together to reflect on the pressing issues of the day. It's specifically because of this conference series that the East-West Center was located here instead of California or Texas."

That first international conference in 1939 brought together half a dozen philosophers from a handful of countries. In the 66 years since, it has grown to include participants from such far-flung parts of the globe as Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Inha University in South Korea, the University of Ghana in Africa and the University of Delhi in India.

The conference is financed by $400,000 in donations from the Hawai'i business community, including the Ching family of Aloha Airlines and Warren Luke of Hawai'i National Bank. All of the money has been raised locally, Ames said, and goes toward bringing scholars to the conference from countries that can't otherwise afford it.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.