What hope is there?

Democracy in China. The Coming Crisis is the title of a spell-binding new book by Ci Jiwei.  The work will be essential reading not only for those concerned with China and its political prospects but also to anyone who wants to think realistically about what democracy means and what political philosophy can do. Ci’s major thesis is that China must urgently undergo a process of political democratization or face serious instability in the coming decades. But Ci also argues that we must understand democracy in this context (and, presumably elsewhere) in “prudential” rather than purely “normative” terms and he holds, furthermore, that political philosophy must (in this case and, presumably once again, also elsewhere) proceed in a diagnostic and prognostic manner rather than in an abstractly theorizing fashion.

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It is so difficult to find the beginning

My graduate seminar this semester was dedicated to reading Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations once again. My motto were three sentences from On Certainty which say: “It is so difficult to find the beginning.  Or better it is difficult to begin at the beginning. And not to try to go further back.” (471) I found this relevant to the question how to begin another reading of the Investigations; but the remarks also puzzled me. One would expect Wittgenstein to say that in philosophy we never go back far enough.  What could he mean by telling us not to go too far back?

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A short trip to China

A month ago I attended the fourth International Wittgenstein Symposium in Xi’an. I gave a lecture on the beginning of the Philosophical Investigations and a talk at Northwest University on “Wittgenstein and the Decline of the West.”

Almost everyone in Berkeley said: “Xi’an. Where is that?” It tells you how ignorant we are about the country. It is a city of some 7 million people (and perhaps unofficially even of 10 million). The first capital of China lone before Beijing and as such full of antiquities. It was also the end of the Silk Road, the place where Buddhism entered China and it has, till today, a thriving Muslim quarter. A modern city but one with a history.

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