Invited by Pro. Tu Weiming, Director of the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University, Pro. Leonard Harris from the department of philosophy at Purdue University delivered a speech titled “Tradition and Modernity: the Morality of Reciprocity” at 3:00 pm, in Room 103, Building 4 of the Lee Shau-kee Humanities at Peking University.
Professor Leonard Harris thinks that traditions are not realizations of an ethnic, racial, national, or civilization kind or intrinsic nature, but ability to create cohesion through recreations. Traditions are inherently conservative, but they can be sources of innovation as well. Likewise, they can be beneficial or oppressive. Professor Leonard Harris thinks that tradition relies on the unconfirmed intuitions but modernity relies on scientific reason of categories. Professor Leonard Harris thinks that tradition’s benefits are coherence, transmitting morals and codes of meaning, and can keep the coherent narratives of self. However, tradition is invented by some authority who can speak, represent, and thus reflect some persona, kind of being and social status and moral character, which would lead to the disaster of ethnocentrism, nationalism, and racism. Therefore, Professor Leonard Harris proposes a morality of reciprocity and rejects any pre-given moral principles.
After the speech, the audience discussed with Professor about the question of how to distinguish enumerative reason and instrumental reason and the distinction between tradition and custom.