In current years, conflicts around the world have underlined the importance of understanding the Other, other peoples and other cultures. William Theodore de Bary, former John Mitchell Mason Professor and Provost of Columbia University, believes that a deeper level of cultural exchange and understanding is crucial to solving such modern problems. But not only is it about understanding other cultures, it is about understanding them from within, and on their own terms. Professor de Bary’s pioneering work in Confucian and Asian studies has helped to make this grand new inter-cultural dialogue possible.
His influence has not only been limited to Columbia, where he has taught for the better part of a century, but in the greater region of the West. His Sources of Chinese Tradition, a compilation of source texts in Chinese culture and thought, has brought that civilization’s unique ideas to Western student all over the world.
Conversation with the past and with the Other give one direction. Thinking and having real debate on what our values are, and what they mean to us, is as valuable now as it was to the students of Confucius or Socrates over two thousand years ago. In our modern age this conversation continues, which is in no small part due to the work of William Theodore de Bary.
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