Universiteit Leiden

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The Needham Question: Did Needham Need to Pose It? Is He Guilty of Coloniality?

Tuesday 13 December 2022
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This talk critically examines the Needham Question/NQ from the following aspects:

1. Needham’s concept of “organic materialism” as the key notion of the Chinese philosophical-cosmological framework may be flawed, as the Chinese core concept has nothing to do with biology/“organic materialism” but with astronomy, hence physics;

2. The Modern Western paradigm of scientificity (c 1640-c 1900) may be called the Newtonian Paradigm of Scientificity/NPS, whereas that which underpins the Chinese paradigm/CPS has been constructed and adhered to more than two millennia ago. In contrast, the Western Cartesian settlement was dislodged from centre stage if not altogether displaced by the development of what Needham called “field physics” (primarily quantum mechanics) in the 20th century which has ushered in the Post-Newtonian Paradigm of Scientificity/P-NPS.

3. The CPS is similar/analogous to the P-NPS.

4. If above theses survive critical scrutiny, it would follow that the NQ posed by Needham is superfluous as Chinese science and technology and its CPS go hand-in-hand; as such, it would and could not have given rise to a science which rests on NPS.

5. Furthermore, lurking behind Needham’s concept of “scientific oecumenism” is that of Coloniality which stands in direct opposition to his “scientific oecumenism.”

For more information about this event, please contact the organizer via s.rafiee.rad@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

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