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Skip to 0 minutes and 17 seconds The Origin of Philosophy in the West The word “Philosophy” originates from ancient Greek. The ancient Greeks developed a basic framework of Western philosophy. Following that, Western European countries were handed down the heritage of the Ancient Greek worldview. Therefore, some people believe that “Philosophy” is just a specific academic discipline born in ancient Greece. However, the scope of “philosophy” has since been extended to include many different traditions. The term “philosophy” has traversed different areas. Nowadays, philosophy in academia could mean the area of expertise which explores the world in a fundamental way, and it can also be used to just mean “a way of thinking” in daily conversation.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds When the Term “Philosophy” Meets Asia When the West engaged with the East in the early 20th century, the term “philosophy” was highlighted as a problem in Asian countries including Korea. This is because the academic system required by this term did not seem to fit well with the long-standing intellectual traditions developed in Asia. So, East Asian intellectuals tried hard to translate it into their own languages.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 seconds Nowadays, East Asians have pretty much agreed on the term for “philosophy”, although it differs in pronunciation: In Korean it is “철학 cheolhak”, in Chinese it is “哲學 zhéxué”, in Vietnamese it is “triết học” etc. This agreement is owed to the modern Japanese translation “tetsugaku.” When the term “philosophy” was first introduced, whether it was used to describe the academic discipline or a broader, looser way of thinking, it meant a fundamental way of thinking and was considered to have only one type, namely the Western type, originated in ancient Greece. Various intellectual traditions in Asia were once considered unworthy of the name of philosophy.

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 seconds However, more and more Westerners found Asian intellectual traditions interesting, and Asians have tried to fit their intellectual traditions into the framework of a fundamental way of thinking, “philosophy”. From “Philosophy” to “Philosophies” Now you may have heard of “Chinese philosophy” or “Asian philosophy.” These names are the product of a long debate. For instance, there has been much discussion about whether Confucianism is a religion or a philosophy, which had a dominant presence in the East Asian world. Although it is still controversial whether Chinese or Asian philosophy has its rightful place in the field of philosophy, since the 20th century, serious scholarly endeavors to rethink philosophy in a global context have helped us to see “philosophy” as “philosophies” rather than one universal philosophy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 30 seconds A number of philosophers, who were primarily concerned with Western philosophy such as Kantian, ancient Greek, or analytic philosophy, are increasingly shifting their focus to world philosophy, comparative philosophy, and non-Western philosophy. When we talk about Korean philosophy in this course, we consider this changing landscape of philosophy.

Western Philosophy meets East Asian Philosophy

In this video, we will consider a changing landscape of philosophy.

For this, we will start from the origin of the name ‘Philosophy’. What happened when the Western philosophy engaged with the East? And what happened to the various intellectual traditions in Asia? Let’s find out!

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This video is from the free online course:

Introduction to Korean Philosophy

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)

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