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Calvin Receives $2 Million Grant for Program with China

January 30, 2007

Western capitalism has made big inroads in China in the last two decades.  But the philosophical foundations of western society have been less explored.  A new grant to Calvin College from the John Templeton Foundation hopes to change that.

Calvin has received $2 million from Templeton for a project called "Science, Philosophy and Belief:  A Program for Chinese Scholars."  The effort will include a three-year partnership between Calvin and the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP).  It is being managed by the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin.

Kelly Clark, a Calvin philosophy professor who is directing this project, says its goal is "to produce a sophisticated ongoing conversation about philosophy, science and belief in China that will equip scholars, strengthen teaching at Chinese universities, and sustain and deepen this line of inquiry in China."

He says Chinese intellectuals are very interested in how philosophy, science, morality, economics and religious belief have interacted in the West.

"The West, once regarded in China as the source of all that was exploitive and decadent, has now become the object of great intellectual fascination," he says.  "Some of this interest in Western culture is simply intellectual curiosity, stoked by decades of enforced isolation. One of the most powerful drivers of this interest, however, is Chinese intellectuals' sense that their nation urgently needs to find ways to integrate culture and provide society with public norms so that China can withstand the enormous economic and social changes it is now experiencing."

Joel Carpenter, director of the Nagel Institute at Calvin, agrees.

"The roots of this project," he says, "go back about 13 years to some of the first conferences held in China by the Society of Christian Philosophers.  But really for the Chinese their interest in Western philosophy stretches back even further.  During the Cultural Revolution anything to do with the West was purged.  But now we are seeing a classic generational change with the current rising generation of Chinese intellectuals and scholars very eager to understand Western culture."