Bryan W. Van Norden (born 1962) is a translator of Chinese
philosophical texts, scholar of Chinese and comparative philosophy,
and public intellectual. He taught for twenty years at Vassar College
but is currently
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Visiting Professor at
Yale-NUS College in Singapore.
2 Academic career
3 Controversy over "If
Philosophy Won't Diversify"
4.2 Academic articles
4.3 Opinion pieces and popular works
6 External links
Van Norden's ancestors can be traced back to the 17th century in North
America. They fought on both the Loyalist and Revolutionary sides in
the Revolutionary War and served with both the Union and Confederate
armies in the Civil War. Van Norden's father was an officer in the
World War II
World War II and was a corporate secretary at Kennametal, an
industrial tool company. In high school, Van Norden's interest in
China was stimulated by the
Kung-fu craze following the success of
Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon in 1973, and the opening of China to the
West after the death of
Mao Zedong in 1976. He became interested in
philosophy while participating in interscholastic debate over the
legitimacy of military conscription. At college, he studied both
philosophy and Chinese language and culture. Although his interest in
Chinese philosophy was discouraged by both philosophers and
Sinologists, he decided to pursue Chinese philosophy in graduate
Among Van Norden's hobbies are poker, and he has played in the World
Poker in Las Vegas.
Van Norden received his BA in philosophy from the University of
Pennsylvania in 1981. He attended
Stanford University on a Mellon
Fellowship and was awarded a PhD in philosophy in 1991. Before he
joined the faculty at Vassar, Van Norden was a Visiting Assistant
Professor at the University of Vermont, and then at the University of
Northern Iowa. Van Norden has been on the faculty at Vassar College
since 1995, and has served as Chair of both the
and the Department of Chinese & Japanese. He has also been a
Visiting Professor at
Wuhan University in the spring of 2014 and the
summer of 2016. He has been a member of both the Advisory Committee
Philosophy and its Committee on the Status of Asian and
Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies of the American
Philosophical Association. He is on the Editorial Board of Notre Dame
Philosophical Reviews and the Advisory Board of the Philosophical
Van Norden has been the winner of a number of competitive fellowships
and awards. In 2005, he was a Fulbright scholar at
Academia Sinica in
Taipei, Taiwan. Van Norden was identified as one of the best 300
college or university professors in the US by the Princeton Review.
In 2016, Van Norden was one of the winners of the 2016 American
Philosophical Association Public
Philosophy Op-Ed Contest for his
essay, “Confucius on Gay Marriage."
Controversy over "If
Philosophy Won't Diversify"
In May 2016,
Jay L. Garfield and
Bryan W. Van Norden published an
editorial in The Stone column of The New York Times, entitled "If
Philosophy Won't Diversify, Let's Call It What It Really Is." In
this editorial, they state: "we have urged our colleagues to look
beyond the European canon in their own research and teaching."
However, "progress has been minimal." Consequently, so long as "the
profession as a whole remains resolutely Eurocentric," Garfield and
Van Norden "ask those who sincerely believe that it does make sense to
organize our discipline entirely around European and American figures
and texts to pursue this agenda with honesty and openness. We
therefore suggest that any department that regularly offers courses
only on Western philosophy should rename itself 'Department of
European and American Philosophy.'"
The article received 797 comments in just 12 hours. (None of the other
Stone columns that month had over 500 comments.) In response to the
controversy, an article was published the next day on the New York
Times Editorial Page Editor's blog, summarizing the variety of
opinions, pro and con, on this topic. Patricia McGuire, the
Trinity Washington University
Trinity Washington University spoke in favor of
diversifying philosophy: "Let's face facts: there's a Muslim Mayor in
London, signifying the fact that even those who revere All Things
British need to catch up with the now-settled reality of great
diversity in contemporary life. The canon of learning should reflect
that, including Philosophy." However, many readers expressed views
similar to the following: "Please preserve us from your political
correctness. ...there's a reason that Europe leaped ahead of the rest
of the world. I do not believe that we should sacrifice that merely
because of an ooshy gooshy need to pretend that all cultures are
Garfield and Van Norden's article was almost immediately translated
into Chinese, and over twenty blogs in the English-speaking world
have commented or hosted discussions, including Reddit. Garfield
and Van Norden's piece has continued to provoke strong reactions. Some
have applauded their call for greater diversity in the US
philosophical canon. In addition, their piece has been
featured in several recent essays arguing for greater diversity in
However, there has also been extensive criticism of the Garfield and
Van Norden article. Two conservative editorials criticized the piece
for failing to acknowledge the superiority of Western
philosophy. Two other articles argued that "philosophy" is, by
definition, the tradition that grows out of Plato and Aristotle, so
nothing outside that tradition could count as philosophy. The
editor of the DailyNous blog suggested the following typology of
other criticisms of the original article: the philosophical equivalent
of the "All Lives Matter” (parts of Anglo-European philosophy are
also neglected) criticism, the "Don't Be Presumptuous" (in
projecting a Western conception of philosophy onto other cultures)
criticism, the "Be More Radical" (by questioning the racist,
sexist, and imperialist bases of philosophy in the West)
criticism, the "Red Herring" (the canon isn't really the problem
with philosophy) criticism, the "Up Periscope" response, and
the "Pardon Me, Gentlemen" (but you are ignoring how androcentric
Western philosophy is) criticism. Professor Amy Olberding of the
University of Oklahoma
University of Oklahoma wrote a detailed reply to critics of Garfield
and Van Norden, arguing that criticisms fall into a stereotypical
pattern that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.
Co-edited with Justin Tiwald. Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy:
Han to the 20th Century. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2014.
Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett
Translator, The Essential Mengzi: Selected Passages with Traditional
Commentary. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009.
Translator, Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries.
Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008.
Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy. New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Co-edited with Philip J. Ivanhoe, Readings in Classical Chinese
Philosophy. Second ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2005.
Editor, Confucius and the "Analects": New Essays. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2001.
Editor, The Ways of Confucianism by David S. Nivison. Chicago: Open
Court Press, 1996. Chinese translation published as
儒家之道 : 中国哲学之探讨 (Nanjing : Jiangsu
renmin chubanshe, 2006).
“儒家伦理思想是否属于美德伦理学？” in 哲学评论
(武汉大学哲学学院编) 17 (2016): 206-222.
“Problems and Prospects for the Study of Chinese
Philosophy in the
English-Speaking World,” APA Newsletter on the Status of Asian and
Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, 15:2, (Spring 2016):
“Principles, Virtues, or Detachment? Some Appreciative Reflection on
Karen Stohr’s On Manners,” Dao 15:2 (June 2016): 227-239.
“Zhuangzi’s Ironic Detachment and Political Commitment,” Dao
15:1 (March 2016): 1-17.
“Wang Yangming,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of
2014), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <URL =
“Mencius", The Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy (Winter 2014
Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =
“Anthropocentric Realism about Values,” in Chenyang Li and Peimin
Ni, eds., Moral Cultivation and Confucian Character: Engaging Joel J.
Kupperman (State University of New York Press, 2014), pp. 65-96.
“Toward a Synthesis of Confucianism and Aristotelianism," in Stephen
C. Angle and Michael Slote, eds., Virtue Ethics and Confucianism (New
York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 56-65.
“’Few Are Able to Appreciate the Flavors’: Translating the Daxue
and the Zhongyong,” in Journal of Chinese Studies 56 (January 2013):
“Han Feizi and Confucianism: Toward a Synthesis," in Paul R. Goldin,
ed., Dao Companion to the
Philosophy of Han Fei (Springer, 2013):
“Response to Angle and Slote," Dao 8:3 (September 2009): 305-309.
“Three Questions about the Crisis in Chinese Philosophy," APA
Newsletter on Asian/Asian American Philosophers and Philosophy, 8:1
(Fall 2008): 3-6,
“On 'Humane Love' and 'Kinship Love,'" Dao (Symposium: Filial Piety,
Part 2), 7:2 (Summer 2008): 125-129.
“Feature review of Scott Cook, ed., Hiding the World in the World:
Uneven Discourses on the Zhuangzi, in China Review International 12:1
(Spring 2005): 1-14.
“Mengzi and Virtue Ethics,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 40:1-2
(Winter-Spring, 2003): 137-150.
“What Is Living and What Is Dead in the
Philosophy of Zhu Xi?" in
Robin R. Wang, ed., Chinese
Philosophy in an Era of Globalization
(Albany: SUNY Press, 2004), pp. 99-120.
“How to Add Chinese
Philosophy to Your Introductory Courses," APA
Newsletter on Asian/Asian American Philosophers and
(Fall 2003): 15-19,
“A Response to the Mohist Arguments in 'Impartial Caring,' " in
Kim-chong Chong, Sor-hoon Tan and C.L. Ten, eds., The Moral Circle and
the Self (Chicago: Open Court Press, 2003), pp. 41-58.
“Virtue Ethics and Confucianism," in Bo Mou, ed., Comparative
Approaches to Chinese
Philosophy (London: Ashgate Publishing, 2003),
“What Is the Dao of Confucius?" Asian Philosophy, 12:3 (November
“Relativism or Pluralism? A Brief Introduction to David B. Wong's
Work," APA Newsletter on Asian/Asian American Philosophers and
Philosophy, 1:2 (Spring 2002): 32-34.
“Mencius and Augustine on Evil: A Test Case for Comparative
Philosophy," for Bo Mou, ed., Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and
Analytic Philosophies (Chicago: Open Court Press, 2001), pp. 313-36.
“Unweaving the 'One Thread' of Analects 4:15," in Van Norden, ed.,
Confucius and the Analects: New Essays (New York: Oxford University
Press), pp. 216-36.
“The Emotion of Shame and the Virtue of Righteousness in Mencius,"
in David Wong and Kwong-loi Shun, eds., Confucian Ethics: A
Comparative Study of Self, Autonomy and Community (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2004), pp. 148-82.)
“Method in the Madness of the Laozi," in Mark Csikszentmihalyi and
Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Essays on Religious and Philosophical Aspects
of the Laozi (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999), pp. 187-210.
“Mencius on Courage," in The
Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 21 of
Midwest Studies in
Philosophy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame
Press, 1997), pp. 237-56.
“Competing Interpretations of the Inner Chapters,"
and West, 46:2 (April 1996): 247-68.
“What Should Western
Philosophy Learn from Chinese Philosophy?" in
Philip J. Ivanhoe, ed., Chinese Language, Thought and Culture: Nivison
and His Critics (Chicago: Open Court Press, 1996), pp. 224-49.
“Yearley on Mencius," Journal of Religious Ethics, 21:2 (Fall 1993),
“Hansen on Hsün-tzu," Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 20:3
(September 1993), pp. 365-82.
“Mengzi and Xunzi: Two Views of Human Agency," in Thornton C. Kline
and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Virtue, Nature and Agency in the Xunzi
(Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000), pp. 103-34.
“Kwong-loi Shun on Moral Reasons in Mencius," Journal of Chinese
Philosophy, 18:4 (December 1991), pp. 353-70.
Opinion pieces and popular works
“Does China Have a Secret Solution for North Korea?” The American
Conservative, uploaded 26 April 2017,
Chinese translation by吴万伟:
“Why the Berkeley Riot Was Wrong (and Foolish),” Hippo Reads,
uploaded 13 January 2017,
Co-authored with Jay L. Garfield, “If
Philosophy Won’t Diversify,
Let’s Call It What It Really Is,” The Stone, New York Times
Online, uploaded 11 May 2016, http://nyti.ms/1URR6lW. Chinese
“Who Was Confucius?” educational animated video for Ted-Ed,
uploaded October 26, 2015; over 200,000 views by 22 March 2016.
"The Influential Confucian Philosopher You've Never Heard Of," Aeon,
Persian translation by Ali Hatamian, پرنفوذترین فیلسوف
چینی که احتمالاً چیزی دربارۀ او
نشنیدهاید, Tarjomaan (Translator), uploaded 27 March 2017,
“What I Told My Freshmen about Voting,” Hippo Reads, uploaded 5
“Chinese philosophy is missing from U.S. philosophy departments.
Should we care?” TheConversation, uploaded 18 May 2016,
Philosophy in the English-Speaking World: Interview with
Bryan Van Norden,” Blog of the APA, uploaded 17 May 2016,
“Kasich Is Right: Teachers Are the Problem,” Hippo Reads,
uploaded 6 April 2016.
“Republican Majority Leader Explains Refusal to Consider Obama’s
Supreme Court Nominee,” Political Satire, Hippo Reads,
uploaded 28 March 2016.
“What Happened to the Party of Lincoln?” Hippo Reads,
uploaded 22 March 2016. Translated into Chinese by Wu Wanwei
吴万伟, “林肯的政党怎么啦?,” 《共识网》,
http://www.21ccom.net/html/2016/qqgc_0330/2851.html (uploaded 30 March
“The Dilemma Trump Presents for the GOP,” Hippo Reads,
uploaded 14 March 2016. Translated into Chinese by Wu Wanwei
《爱思想》, http://www.aisixiang.com/data/98301.html (uploaded 29
“The McDonalds-ification of Higher Education,” Hippo Reads,
uploaded 15 February 2016.
“My College Is Being Blackmailed” (editorial against outcomes
assessment), The Edvocate,
accessed August 19, 2015, 894 words. Original version published as
“No Child Left Behind Act pains remain in higher education over
accreditation,” The Miscellany News, 147:15 (February 26, 2015), p.
“Confucius on Gay Marriage,” The Diplomat, July 13, 2015, 1,400
words, http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/confucius-on-gay-marriage/ .
Translated into Chinese by Wu Wanwei 吴万伟,
http://www.aisixiang.com/data/91313.html (accessed August 12, 2015).
Enlarged version translated into Chinese by Wu Wanwei and published in
《儒家网》, http://www.rujiazg.com/article/id/6073/ (accessed
August 19, 2015), and in 《共识网》,
(accessed August 19, 2015).
“Five Colossal Events that Changed China Forever,” The National
Interest Online, June 4, 2015, 2,000 words,
Translated into Chinese as
September 2, 2015).
“China’s Apolitical Political School of Thought,” The National
Interest Online, May 7, 2015, 2,000 words,
^ Ying, Yip Jie. "Philosopher and public intellectual named the second
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor". Yale-NUS College. Yale-NUS
College. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
^ Van Norden, Theodore Langdon (1923). The Van Norden Family: Three
Hundred Years in America: 1623-1923. South Salem, NY: Horse and
^ Marquis Who's Who (1980). Marquis Who's Who in America (41st
^ Cleary, Skye. "Chinese
Philosophy in the English-Speaking World:
Interview with Bryan Van Norden". Blog of the APA. American
Philosophical Association. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Bronski, Peter. "Alter Ego: Bryan Van Norden,
Vassar Hub for Alumnae/i and Families. Vassar Alumnae/i
^ "Curriculum Vitae of Bryan W. Van Norden" (PDF). Retrieved 10
December 2016. Most facts in this section are from this source.
^ School of Philosophy, Wuhan University. "Bryan Van Norden's
Teaching". Announcements. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
Princeton Review (2012). The Best 300 Professors. New York: Random
House. pp. 241–242.
^ Nuoffer, Linda. "2016 Op-Ed Contest Winners Announced". American
Philosophical Association. American Philosophical Association.
Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Garfield, Jay L.; Van Norden, Bryan W. "If
Diversify, Let's Call It What It Really Is". The New York Times. The
New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Tessier, Marie. "Should
Philosophy Departments Change Their Names?
Readers Join the Debate". Editorial Page Editor's Blog. The New York
Times. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ McGuire, Patricia. "Comment on Garfield and Van Norden, "If
Philosophy Won't Diversify"". The New York Times. The New York Times.
Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Hill, Josh. "Comment on Garfield and Van Norden, "If Philosophy
Won't Diversify"". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved
10 December 2016.
^ Wu (translator), Wanwei; Garfield, Jay L.; Van Norden, Bryan W.
Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ "What's your take on the recent NYTimes article advocating
diversification in philosophy departments in the west?". Reddit.
Retrieved 10 December 2016. See notes below for some of the other
^ Miller, James A. "Diversify or Die". Anotherpanacea. Retrieved 10
^ Whitaker, Justin. "Getting Buddhist
Philosophy (and Other
Non-Western Thought) into the Academy". American Buddhist
Perspectives. Patheos. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Levine, Peter. "The Lack of Diversity in
Philosophy Is Blocking Its
Progress". Aeon. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Krishnamurthy, Meena. "Adamson, Greek-Responding Philosophy, and the
Indian Subcontinent". Philosopher. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Sayer, Emily. "
Vassar College Wants More Diversified Courses". The
Miscellany News. The Miscellany News. Retrieved 10 December
^ McArdle, Mairead. "NYT Op-Ed: Supremacy of Western
to Justify"". NewsBusters. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ McGarvey, Robert. "There's a Reason Western
Philosophy Is Dominant".
Troy Media. Troy Media. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Tampio, Nicholas. "Not All Things Wise and Good Are Philosophy".
Aeon. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Peon, D. Kyle. "Yes--Let's Call
Philosophy What It Really Is".
Weekly Standard. Weekly Standard. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ W, Justin. "Philosophical Diversity in US
(Updated)". Daily Nous. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Leiter, Brian. "Anglophone departments aren't "Departments of
European and American Philosophy"..." Leiter Reports: A Philosophy
Blog. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Smith, Justin E.H. "Garfield and Van Norden on "Non-European"
Philosophy". NUNC ENIM SERMO DE TOTO EST. Retrieved 10 December
^ Drabinski, John E. "Diversity, "Neutrality," Philosophy". John E.
Drabinski. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ "On the Very Idea of Non-Western Philosophy". Digressions and
Impressions. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Protevi, John. "The Still Invisible Dimensions of "Western
Philosophy"". John Protevi's Blog. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Johnson, Leigh M. "Philosophy's Gatekeepers". Read More, Write More,
Think More. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
^ Olberding, Amy. "When Someone Suggests Expanding the Canon..." Daily
Nous. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
Van Norden's Personal Website
Van Norden's Webpage at Vassar
Van Norden's Publications at Academia.edu
Van Norden's TED-Ed Video on Confucius
Van Norden's Facebook page
Van Norden's Twitter account
Talk on Metaphor (begins at 31:50)
Peter Bronski, Bryan Van Norden,
Philosophy Professor," Vassar Hub,
(27 Feb 2012),
Skye Cleary, "Chinese
Philosophy in the English-Speaking World:
Interview with Bryan Van Norden" (17 May 2016),
accessed 9 December 2016.
Curriculum vitae of Bryan W. Van Norden,
URL=http://faculty.vassar.edu/brvannor/vita.pdf, accessed 9 December
Van Norden, Theodore Langdon. The Van Norden family : three
hundred years in America, 1623-1923. South Salem, N.Y.: Hors