"Harmony: Concepts, Practices, Intercultural Hermeneutics"

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Ming Xie

(University of Toronto)

"Harmony: Concepts, Practices, Intercultural Hermeneutics"


Paper presented at:

Intercultural Humanism: Challenges, Experiences, Visions, Strategies

10-11 September 2010, Christ Church College, Oxford


Convened by The Berendel Foundation in association with the Modern European History Research Centre, University of Oxford


Abstract: Harmony is one of the most important and essential ideas throughout history and across cultures, both for individuals and societies. It is in fact a trans-cultural or universal value. We can talk about harmony in a number of related senses: musical, aesthetic, moral, political, religious, cosmological, and so on. The complexity of harmony as an idea can be suggested through a number of heuristic distinctions and paradoxes, arising from traditional definitions of harmony, both East and West. Questions such as the following can be asked. Is it descriptive or prescriptive, a realized condition or a regulative idea? Does it consist in process or outcome? Or does it imply accepting or accommodating existing conditions or transforming them into part of a “well-ordered” or superimposed totality? Is it only a matter of practical reality or of metaphysical significance? Is it human-centred only or should it be nature-centred? All these questions seem to point to a certain tension in the very idea of harmony.


Short Bio: Ming Xie is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, where he works on modernist and twentieth-century poetry and poetics; comparative intercultural theory; hermeneutics; and the theory and practice of translation. Xie’s monograph on Conditions of Comparison: Reflections on Comparative Intercultural Inquiryis forthcoming with Continuum Press.



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