(* Phenomenology for East Asian CirclE)
Kah-Kyung CHO
Professor of Philosophy, The State University of New York at Buffalo, USA

It was Edmund Husserl's life-long vision to establish phenomenology as a cooperative task. Those who share his ideal of philosophy and follow his method would hopefully find their way to come together and collaborate. He was convinced that they would continue to build, sub specie aeterni, on the monumental foundation that he had laid.

Husserl did not live to see most of the fruits that such cooperation had borne. But his philosophy prospered to a global movement for over a century now. From him surged the impulse to ever more radically ground all intentional experience on the reflective certainty of Ego cogito. In ever widening circles, even transcending Husserl's own horizon, phenomenology spanned continents and bridged traditions that lie farthest apart. By freely varying Husserl's themes and carrying his seminal ideas beyond his original purview, phenomenologists altogether contributed massively to the fecundity of their commonly inspired work.

Nor were individual efforts lacking among Asian scholars who tried to make phenomenology relevant for Asian traditions. They saw a special affinity in the way phenomenology chose its entry level to philosophical issues at a point where yet no subject-object dichotomy ruled, and the fact that the traditional Asian thought thrived on direct, intuitive experience. But all the same, it should be remembered that we owe our decisive turn toward an organized inter-Asian cooperation to a friendly initiative of the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology, USA. The Center sponsored, among other events, the memorable meeting on “Phenomenology as a Bridge between Asia and the West” at Delray Beach, Florida, in May 2002.

The theme of the Florida conference that prepared the way for the PEACE initiative also signaled that it is a propitious time for Asian scholars to rethink their hitherto one-sided reception of phenomenology. Symbolically, bridge is a meeting point of two-way traffic. More than ever, we were nudged to set our sight on productive East-West intercultural conversation. Thus in May 2004, with all five East Asian members, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, as well as affiliated members from Europe and U.S. attending, the First PEACE Conference was entered in the history book. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, as the host and organizer of the conference, couldn't have been more prescient when it set the pace of the agenda for the PEACE far beyond its first meeting with the title: “Identity and Alterity.”

At this important juncture, when the bridge is opened and the traffic begins, we identify as vital to the PEACE Mission the following four major issues: (1) Methodology, (2) East-West Intercultural Dialogue, (3) Inter-Asian Cooperation, (4) Universal Reason and Unity of World.

The appended Feature Essay, “The Imperative of Grounding Phenomenology on Tradition¡XAn East Asian Perspective” sets forth the reason why the PEACE must seek its own historical sense of continuity in Asia as an integral task of worldwide phenomenological movement. We also wish to sincerely thank our fellow phenomenologists, of both East and West, for their support, cooperation and constructive criticism.

(1) Methodology: Justify and demonstrate that phenomenology as method is uniquely cohesive to the self-expressive potential of traditional Asian thought. Beyond this, effort shall be made to supplement and modify the methodology to effectively address pluralism in cultural traditions and multiplicity of cultural phenomena.

(2) East-West Intercultural Dialogue: Drawing from the resources of phenomenological investigations on intersubjectivity, other person, alien world and pluralistic traditions, the PEACE proposes to develop ongoing productive East-West intercultural dialogues based on the mutual respect of the principle of alterity.

(3) Inter-Asian Cooperation: To free the history of Asian thought from ossification and stereotype distortions, the disclosure of the life of consciousness must begin at its very basic level. Concepts “re-rooted”from such base should replace part of the key grammar to describe the proper identity of the East Asian culture in general. A further inter-Asian cooperation aims at bringing each distinct type of thought in Chinese, Japanese and Korean traditions to a lively contrast.

(4) Universal Reason and Unity of World: The PEACE renews its firm commitment to the universal reason as the teleology of humanity in progress. In real terms, however, the transversality and multiversality of reason are the indispensable pathways to the ideal unity of reason. The divisive mono-cultural ethnocentrism is at the roots of today's crisis of humanity. While vindicating the diversity of phenomena as the self-expression of being, it is our goal to search beyond the relativism of values for a lasting transcultural accord among humankind.

July 2004