Keynote Speakers

Interactivity across persons, artifacts and environments

Steven  Thorne, Portland State University and University of Groningen

Human development arises as a function of participation in, and contribution to, historically formed and dynamically emergent social, symbolic, and material ecologies of association. When viewed this way, learning of whatever kind cannot be clearly separated from social fields and processes, material conditions, and living bodies (Bourdieu, 1984). In this sense, humans are open systems and development involves an ‘ensemble’ process orchestrated along a brain-body-world continuum (e.g., Spivey, 2007; Cowley & Steffensen, 2007; Steffensen, 2013). An open systems principle includes a number of entailments, one of which is that cognition and communication are actions that are embodied, enacted, and extended across individuals, artifacts, and environments (e.g., Atkinson, 2010; Bucholtz & Hall, 2016; Clark, 2008). A second entailment is the importance of mediation – that artifacts and the social-material environment variably co-produce action in concert with human actants (Latour, 2005; Thorne, 2016). The notion of distribution suggests a third entailment, that of ecologically valid units of analysis such as ‘organism-environment systems’ (e.g., Järvilehto, 2009), which describe how change within an organism is accompanied by a reorganization of organism-environment relations. An open systems approach is particularly relevant to understanding technology-mediated communicative and cognitive activity since the meditational means at hand transform the morphology of human action in ways that potentially enable and constrain developmental trajectories.

In this talk, I describe instances of “learning in the wild” (borrowing from Hutchins, 1995), highlighting the relevance of situatedness and place in language learning interventionsusingmobile Augmented Reality (AR), the primary objective of which is to embed languaging events and resources in phenomenologically rich and embodied experience in the world (Hellermann, Thorne, & Fodor, 2017; Thorne et al., 2015; Thorne & Hellermann, 2017; Zheng et al., 2018). Our video analysis of language learners engaged in AR activity draws from multiple approaches (activity theory, the ‘distributed language view’ (Thibault, 2011), usage-based linguistics, multimodal ethnomethodology, posthumanism) and illustrates the achievement of ongoing co-action through visible embodied displays, the performance of new actions through coordinated (re)use of public semiotic resources (Goodwin, 2013), and perhaps controversially, the physical surround as actant in the sequential production of action in interaction.

Steve Thorne (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is Professor of Second Language Acquisition in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University (USA), with a secondary appointment in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). His interests include formative interventions in world language education contexts, intercultural communication, indigenous language revitalization, communication across new media and mobile technologies, and research that draws upon contextual traditions of language analysis and distributed and usage-based approaches to language development.

Gender, Race, and Comparative Philosophy: An intersectional Feminist Consciousness

Li-Hsiang Rosenlee, University of Hawai‘i – West O’ahu

Much of what we experience and learn in our private life and in formal schooling is mediated by gender and race as well as other social and political variables. As a feminist engaged in comparative studies, I intend to bring to light the intersectionality of these social/political variables through a personal reflection on the professional journey that I have undertaken in the field of philosophy. This talk in part is my personal tribute to Roger T. Ames to whom I am intellectually indebted for opening up the field of comparative feminist studies, a field that is still in its inceptive stage. Going further, I will also venture into the field of philosophy of race taking Immanuel Kant’s race essays as a case study to shed light on the obstacles still lying ahead of comparative feminist studies. In the closing, I will propose some possible Confucian alternatives as a basis for forming an intersectional feminist consciousness.

Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii – West O’ahu. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she also received an MA in Philosophy and a BA in Political Science. She is the author of “A Feminist Re-imagination of Confucianism: A Practical Ethic for Life” (Columbia U. Press, forthcoming) and “Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation” (SUNY Press, 2006). Rosenlee’s work has appeared in refereed journals such as Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy East and West, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, The Philosophical Quarterly, International Communication of Chinese Culture, International Studies in Philosophy, Journal of Chinese Religions, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, China Review International, and Asian Philosophy as well as in a number of anthologies including the two latest ones: “The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism” (Oxford U. Press, forthcoming) and “The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Chinese Philosophy and Gender” (Bloomsbury, 2016). Lastly, she has been invited to give lectures/conduct workshops on various campuses such as Tel Aviv University, University of Oslo, University of Pennsylvania and Taiwan National University. Her research interests include feminist philosophy, ethics, Confucianism and race.


Skilled linguistic action: from distributed language to radical ecolinguistics 

Stephen Cowley, University of Southern Denmark

For many, language uses a neural/mental process that serves, above all, for communication. In In turning from a synchronic perspective, one is bound to challenge individual-centred control. This leads to a distributed view that allows human infants to become persons who attune to languaging. Heterogeneous practices enable one to link ecological experience, intrinsic dialogicality and ways of managing multi-scalar temporality. Although the perspective is irreducible to a single theory, it grounds to various hypotheses:

Humans link attending to skilled modes of acting; given perceived linguistic patterns (‘the second order’) people change the life-world by drawing on skilled linguistic action.

In engaging with each other, people use insights or avoid errors by meshing action with coordinating that draws on bodily use of multi-scalar temporality.

All characteristically human powers may well derive from the resulting sense saturated coordination or, in other terms, interactivity.

The hypotheses bear on, not linguistic or social problems, but what people accomplish. One focuses on, not ‘explanation’, but how, together, people construct and use the enabling conditions for various tasks. This, however, does not preclude modelling: one can ask how skilled linguistic action (SLA) unites talking, thinking, using texts, technology etc. as persons mesh routines with spontaneous and automatic actions.  Equally, one can pursue the observable consequences of such ways of languaging. This has been done in work treating peer-review as central to science (Cowley, 2015) or, in another tradition, in bringing translanguaging to the fore in educational linguistics (Garcia and Wei, 2014). In short, the distributed perspective allows languaging-practices to have profound personal, social and even bio-ecological consequences.  Indeed, it opens up understanding of how complex social projects create/draw on networks of beliefs (and the associated media). This can be used to develop what Alan Rayner (see, 2017) calls a sense of natural inclusion through a radical ecolinguistics that raises our bio-ecological awareness (Cowley, 2014; Cowley & Zhou, 2017).

Cowley, S. J. (2014). Bio-ecology and language: a necessary unity. Language Sciences, 41, 60-70.
Cowley, S. J. (2015). How peer-review constrains cognition: on the frontline in the knowledge sector. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1706.
Cowley, S. J. and Zhao, W. (2017). 斯蒂芬·考利,周文娟. 生态语言学视域:语言与生物生态的必然统一[J]. 鄱阳湖学刊, 2017,(02):5-21+2+125. [Ecolinguistic terrain: language and the bio-ecology (the original English version is available on my Academic page)
García, O., & Wei, L. (2014). Translanguaging and education. In Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education (pp. 63-77). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Rayner, A. (2017). The Origin of Life Patterns: In the Natural Inclusion of Space in Flux. Springer.

Stephen J. Cowley is Professor of Organisational Cognition at the University of Southern Denmark. Having completed a Cambridge PhD entitled The Place of Prosody in Conversations, he moved to South Africa. There his academic focus gradually shifted from Linguistics to Cognitive Science and the implications of the ecological crisis. He has held positions in Linguistics (Durban), Psychology (Durban, Bradford and Hertfordshire) and Language & Communication (Slagelse, Denmark). His empirical work examines prosodic, kinesic and verbal interactions within families, between mothers and infants, with robots, in medical simulations and in peer-review. In tracing intelligent activity to agent-environment interactions, he has expertise in problem finding, decision making and how people and organisations range in time by bringing the past to current and future concerns.

Together with Nigel Love, he founded the Distributed Language Group in 2004. The DLG community aim to transform the language sciences by tracing what is human to the directed, dialogical activity that shapes the collective dimension of language. In 2012, he co-founded the International Society for the study of Interactivity, Language and Cognition, an international community that holds biennial conferences. His papers span topics such as prosody, developmental psychology, social robotics and pursue foundational work on how the bio-ecology shapes language and cognition. He is on the Editorial board of 7 Journals (Including ones from Russia and China) and has had edited/co-edited 13 Special Issues as well as the volumes: Distributed Language (2011, Benjamins) Cognition Beyond the Brain: Computation, Interactivity and Human Artifice (2013, Springer; 2nd edition, 2017) and Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistics (2015, Springer).


The X-argument to move forward the interactional approach to L2 acquisition

Chuming Wang, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies

In this speech I argue that language is successfully learned through extension. Typical extension occurs in dialogue where interlocutors complete and extend each other’s speech creatively, a socio-cognitive process called ‘XU’ in Chinese, which can be couched in an English equivalent CEC (completion, extension and creation). The above argument is otherwise known as XU-argument or X-argument, which basically rests on two observations: i) dialogue is full of incomplete stretches of discourse, which motivates CEC, and ii) dialogue involves an asymmetry between comprehension and production in that one’s comprehension ability generally exceeds one’s production ability, and this asymmetry incurs alignment as interlocutors are engaged in dialogue or CEC. When learners interact with a linguistically more proficient speaker, alignment between their weaker production and comprehension of the better language user’s speech serves to iron out the asymmetry in close proximity, thus giving rise to a strong learning effect. Furthermore, during the CEC process nearly all major factors facilitating language learning can be activated, such as learner agency, intention to communicate, selective attention to language forms, and scaffolding of the preceding discourse for the follow-up use of language, all of which conspire to enhance learning. Based on the X-argument, various continuation tasks that contain CEC can be designed to facilitate L2 learning. A series of empirical studies have documented supporting evidence that continuation tasks are indeed capable of enhancing language learning efficiency. The X-argument points to a new direction for deepening interactional approach to language acquisition research and suggests effective means by which to improve L2 language teaching and learning.

Wang, C. & Wang, M. 2015. Effect of alignment on L2 written production [J]. Applied Linguistics, 36(5): 503-526.
Wang, C. 2015, Why does the continuation task facilitate L2 learning, Foreign Language Teaching and Research, 47(5): 753-762.
Wang, C. 2016, Learning by extension. Modern Foreign Languages, 39(6):784-793.
Wang, C. 2017, From write-to-learn to learn-by-CEC. Foreign Language Teaching and Research, 49(4):547-556.

Chuming Wang is a research professor at the National Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS), China. His main research interest is in second language acquisition and its applications to L2 pedagogy. Over the past 30 years or so he has been endeavoring to apply SLA research findings to foreign/second language teaching and his work along this line has enabled him to develop a teaching model called the Length Approach to ELT, which aims to help improve learners’ L2 proficiency through writing. His formulation of the Compensation Hypothesis and the ensuing ‘Learn Together, Use Together’ (LTUT) principle, which highlight the role of context in foreign language learning, throw light on the L2 learning process. His recently contrived X-argument that language is learned by Xu or CEC (completion, extension and creation) constitutes an attempt to put a new perspective on language acquisition. He is currently the principal investigator of a major research project supported by the China National Foundation of Social Sciences, focusing on how to enhance efficiency in learning Chinese as a second language. His articles have appeared in Language Learning, Applied Linguistics and the major journals of foreign language studies in China. He is the author of the books Applied Psycholinguistics: A study on the psychology of Foreign Language Learning (Hunan Education Press, 1990), Studies on Chinese Learners’ English Self-concept (Shanghai Foreign Education Press, 2008), and How a Foreign Language Is Learned (Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2010).


Time-travellers in languaging: Perspectives on language users’ timescales

Hannele Dufva, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

In all human languaging, the past is present in many ways – both in the sense of one’s personal history, in the sense of the affordances provided by our cultural-historical environment and in the sense of the evolutionary developments that underlie the capacity to use language. At the same time, languaging also relates to the future and is constrained by a variety of expectations, intentions and imagined outcomes. Hence, it is not only the timing and rhythm of the current online activity that is significant, but rather, languaging is achieved by the power of various timescales – different layers of time, different rhythms and processes – that mesh in interactivity (e.g. Steffensen & Pedersen 2014).

Drawing on dialogical and sociocultural thinking and ecological and distributed viewpoints on language and cognition, I will discuss languaging as time-travelling across different timescales. With a particular focus on the (re)conceptualization of language learning and use in  applied linguistics, I will speculate on how learner/users move across the meshworks of time and space by drawing upon various reservoirs of the past, at the same time co-coordinating their on-line activity and keeping an eye on the future and its fields of possible action.

Steffensen, S.V. & S.B. Pedersen (2014). Temporal dynamics in human interaction, Cybernetics and Human Knowing 21, 80-97.

Hannele Dufva is Professor of Applied Linguistics, at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. In her research focusing on second and foreign language learning and instruction, she has drawn upon the sociocultural and dialogical tradition and is particularly interested in relating this work to ecological and distributed frameworks. She has published papers and books in Finnish and in English.


To osu or Not to osu: Language and Culture Learning as Embodied Resemiotization: A Translanguaging View

Li Wei, University College London (UCL)

In this talk, I will discuss how language and culture are taught and learned through physical exercise in a multilingual karate club in an ethnically diverse area in East London. I will outline a theoretical perspective on researching this transformative, multilingual process, namely, Translanguaging, and discuss the idea of learning as embodied resemiotization. Translanguaging builds on the notion of Languaging and emphasizes the creative and critical capacities of multilingual language users. The karate club is led by a 6th dan coach of Polish Roma origin who speaks primarily Polish and Romani and started learning Karate in Poland in his teens and moved to London as an adult. The participants are local school children who speak a range of named languages including Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, and a variety of English. Using data collected through a 3-month linguistic ethnography, we found that there is an intersectional layer of cultures which are referenced, reiterated, ritualised or revered in coaching and learning practices. These include karate culture, culture of learning, and culture of practice and their associated values such as respect, hierarchical social order, competitiveness, learning through modelling, repetition and whole-body pragmatics, and self-discipline. In the meantime, there is a certain level of subjectivity in the perceived ownership and origins of these cultures. The connection with Japaneseness (the origins to which karate is often attributed) may be lost in translation. Multiple languages and embodied pragmatic cues are used in coaching but for different purposes: although certain Japanese language competence is required, the use of Japanese is limited to performativity and rituals, as a technical code, as command, and occasionally as an indicator of one’s professional expertise. In contrast, Polish, English and other linguistic, semiotic and physical acts are performed collaboratively as languages of instruction, elaboration, disciplines or information. Theoretical and methodological implications of the study for language learning research will be discussed.

Li Wei is Chair of Applied Linguistics and Director of the UCL Centre for Applied Linguistics at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London. He is Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK and Principal Editor of the International Journal of Bilingualism.


The Linguistic Imagination: Nature’s Trick, Culture’s Treat

Paul J. Thibault, University of Agder

The distributed view on human languaging and interactivity has so far mainly focused on situated and embodied first-order languaging as a form of sense-saturated whole-body coordination between persons, situations, artefacts, technologies, and so on in the extended human ecology (Cowley, 2012; Kravchenko, 2011; Steffensen, 2013;Thibault, 2011a, 2011b; Valle-Tourangeau, 2011). Less attention has been paid to texts and what people do with texts and, concomitantly, what kinds of interactivity and what kinds of experiences texts afford selves in the extended human ecology. Moreover, texts are embedded in activity systems. The artefacts we call ‘texts’ therefore prompt people in social practices and activity systems to coordinate with them through norm-based procedures that integrate local and nonlocal resources to their interactivity with texts. A textual artefact is a first-order construct that affords and thus relates to the richly embodied, multimodal languaging that can take place in relation to the text on the part of the selves who participate in this languaging and which the text prompts as selves draw on both local and nonlocal resources to make sense of texts and to enact their own selves in relation to them. Rather than textual ‘representations’ that are said to be encoded in textual forms and ‘decoded’ by text users, I will consider how language structure functionally constrains the reader’s imaginal processes (Verbrugge, 1977). linguistic structure functionally constrains, enables, and guides the imaginal processes that enable readers of texts to engage in or to undergo the particular kinds of experiences and the forms of awareness that are afforded by texts. I will consider how (some examples of) texts catalyse and functionally constrain and enable flows of action, awareness, cognition, feeling, and perception in real-time embodied languaging when selves engage with the affordances of texts and feel their way into them. I will show and discuss some videorecorded examples to illustrate the arguments of the lecture.

Paul J. Thibault has held academic posts in Australia, China, Denmark, Italy, and Hong Kong, and Norway. His research interests and many publications are in the areas of applied and general linguistics, development, distributed language and cognition, graphic trace-making, human-animal interaction, human interactivity, learning, multimodality, narrative, social theory, learning theory and teaching and learning in higher education, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, systemic-functional linguistics. With Mark King at UNSW Sydney, Australia, he is currently developing theoretical frameworks and methodological tools for the study of human learning in tertiary settings using the perspectives of distributed cognition, eye tracking, interactivity, and Multimodal Event Analysis. He is currently completing two forthcoming books, “Distributed Language: Languaging, affective cognition and the extended human ecology” (Routledge) and “The Linguistic Imagination.” He is currently on the editorial boards of six international journals.


Interactivity in therapy: global, local, and non-local dynamics in the embodied practice of psychotherapy

Sune Vork Steffensen, University of Southern Denmark

An interactivity-based perspective focuses on how the situated interplay between human agents and their environment is “symbiotic” (Cowley, 2011), that is, at the same time depending on lived agency and on stabilised supra-individual patterns (including linguistic symbols and other sociocultural resources). Acknowledging both “dynamical” and “symbolic” aspects of human behaviour (Rączaszek-Leonardi & Kelso, 2008), the interactivity-based perspective allows for an understanding of the ecological constitution of embodied practices. Among the many practices that have been studied from an interactivity-based perspective are problem-solving (Vallée-Tourangeau, 2014; Vallée-Tourangeau, Steffensen, Vallée-Tourangeau, & Sirota, 2016), mother-infant interaction (Cowley, 2007; Rączaszek-Leonardi, Nomikou, Rohlfing, & Deacon, 2018), medical diagnoses (Pedersen, 2015; Trasmundi & Steffensen, 2016), and scientific practices (Alač & Hutchins, 2004; Goodwin, 2000).

Taking a starting point in the practice of psychotherapy, this presentation has an empirical/methodological aim and a theoretical aim. Empirically, it aims to elucidate the remarkable domain of psychotherapy. Like learning, the efficacy of therapy evades enchronic descriptions (Enfield, 2014; Enfield & Sidnell, 2013), because outcomes of therapy can rarely be traced to single moments of interaction. Thus, whereas the majority of practices studied from an interactivity-based perspective have focused on “experimental timescales” (i.e., what happens within the period of time associated with psychological experiments) and “event timescales” (i.e., what happens as people engage in delineated, local activities), psychotherapy requires a cross-scalar temporal granularity that captures global, local, and non-local phenomena (Steffensen, 2015).

I illustrate this challenge by showcasing a multi-methodological analysis of a psychotherapeutic treatment that spans 19 therapy sessions over five months. The analysis demonstrates how stabilised interactional, emotional, and affective patterns – in the therapy sessions and beyond – undergo transformations during therapy. I argue that even such a highly reflective, sedentary and verbose practice as psychotherapy, which lends itself to verbal and conversational descriptions, is better understood when one takes a starting point in interactivity-based methods that see language, cognition and emotion as deeply integrated.

Based on this psychotherapeutic case study, my theoretical aim is to discuss the extensive variability concerning how the concept of interactivity is used amongst different authors. With regard to this question, I argue for “mild convergence,” that is, apparently very different conceptualisations of interactivity share a common, important theme. In line with previous publications (Steffensen, 2013), I suggest that defining interactivity as a species-specific kind of “sense-saturated coordination” allows for theoretical variations of such an overall ecological-dynamical theme.

Alač, M., & Hutchins, E. (2004). I See What You Are Saying: Action as Cognition in fMRI Brain Mapping Practice. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 4(3), 629-661.
Cowley, S. J. (2007). How human infants deal with symbol grounding. Interaction Studies, 8(1), 83-104. doi:Doi 10.1075/Is.8.1.06cow
Cowley, S. J. (2011). Distributed language. In S. J. Cowley (Ed.), Distributed Language (pp. 1-14). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Enfield, N. P. (2014). Causal Frames for Understanding Language. In N. J. Enfield, P. Kockelman, & J. Sidnell (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook for Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Enfield, N. P., & Sidnell, J. (2013). Language presupposes an enchronic infrastructure for social interaction. In D. Dor, C. Knight, & J. Lewis (Eds.), The social origins of language: Studies in the evolution of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goodwin, C. (2000). Practices of Color Classification. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 7(1-2), 19-36.
Pedersen, S. B. (2015). The cognitive ecology of human errors in emergency medicine: an interactivity-based approach. (Ph.D. dissertation), University of Southern Denmark, Odense.
Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., & Kelso, J. A. S. (2008). Reconciling symbolic and dynamic aspects of language: Toward a dynamic psycholinguistics. New Ideas in Psychology, 26(2), 193-207.
Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Nomikou, I., Rohlfing, K. J., & Deacon, T. W. (2018). Language Development From an Ecological Perspective: Ecologically Valid Ways to Abstract Symbols. Ecological Psychology, 30(1), 39-73.
Steffensen, S. V. (2013). Human interactivity: Problem-solving, solution-probing and verbal patterns in the wild. In S. J. Cowley & F. Vallée-Tourangeau (Eds.), Cognition Beyond the Brain: Computation, Interactivity and Human Artifice (pp. 195-221). Dordrecht: Springer.
Steffensen, S. V. (2015). Distributed Language and Dialogism: notes on non-locality, sense-making and interactivity. Language Sciences, 50, 105-119.
Trasmundi, S. B., & Steffensen, S. V. (2016). Meaning emergence in the ecology of dialogical systems. Psychology of Language and Communication, 20(2), 154-181.
Vallée-Tourangeau, F. (2014). Insight, interactivity and materiality. Pragmatics & Cognition, 22(1), 27-44.
Vallée-Tourangeau, F., Steffensen, S. V., Vallée-Tourangeau, G., & Sirota, M. (2016). Insight with hands and things. Acta Psychologica, 170, 195-205.

Sune Vork Steffensen is Professor in Language, Interaction, and Cognition at the University of Southern Denmark. He is the director of the university’s Centre for Human Interactivity, and he is the Editor in Chief of the journal Language Sciences (published by Elsevier). Focusing on how language and cognition intersect in complex social and dialogical systems, in ways that transform the human ecology, his research draws on ecological, dialogical and distributed approaches to language, interaction and cognition (including ecological psychology, embodied cognition, distributed cognition and dynamical systems thinking). By integrating a cognitive perspective with multimodal interaction analysis, he has pioneered the so-called Cognitive Event Analysis, a qualitative method for studying distributed cognitive processes in cognitive ecosystems. He has edited five issues on ecological and distributed approaches to language, and authored 50 articles/chapters in journals and books.


Making Sense of the Dao De Jing: The Process of Reading and Interpretation

Franklin Perkins, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa 

The Laozior Daodejing is probably the most widely translated text aside from the Bible, with hundreds of translations into English alone. It has had an even stronger presence within China and there are hundreds of commentaries and editions, running from the end of the Warring States Period down to the present. We might take the spread of the Laozias proof that the text contains timeless truths that can speak to anyone, regardless of cultural difference or historical era. But where would we turn to find those truths? To the “Explaining Laozi” and “Illustrating Laozi” chapters of the Hanfeizi, the commentary from Wang Bi, the Xiang’er Commentary? Roger T. Ames and David L Hall’s Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation, Hans-Georg Moeller’s Daodejing: The New, Highly Readable Translation of the Life-Changing Ancient Scripture Formerly Known as the Tao Te Ching,  John Chalmer’s The Speculations on Metaphysics, Polity and Morality of the Old Philosopher Lau Tsze, William Martin’s The Parent’s Tao Te Ching? We will not find a single truth shared by all of these texts. The ubiquity of the Laozidoes not reflect the transmission of a common message but rather the proliferation of a multitude of diverse texts and philosophies. Its impact is not as a source of truth but as a site for the creation of meaning. It follows that engagement with the text should be seen not as the discovery of its truth but as a processual event based on interactions among ancient written materials, a community of interpreters that extends over thousands of years, current readers, and the events, concerns, and pressures that shape the world at any given time. This talk will begin with a variety of examples of the proliferation of the Laozi(inside and outside of China) and then will turn toward the question — what is it about the Laozithat enables this endless production of meaning?

Franklin Perkins is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and is editor of the journal Philosophy East and West. Before coming to UH, he taught at Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and at DePaul University (Chicago), where he was Director of the Chinese Studies Program. His main teaching and research interests are in classical Chinese philosophy, early modern European philosophy, and in the challenges of doing philosophy in a comparative or intercultural context.  He is the author of Heaven and Earth are not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy(Indiana, 2014),Leibniz: A Guide for the Perplexed(Bloomsbury, 2007), and Leibniz and China: A Commerce of Light(Cambridge, 2004), and he was co-editor of Chinese Metaphysics and Its Problems(Cambridge, 2015) (with Chenyang Li).His books have been translated into Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese.