Mercedes Valmisa, "Adapting: A Chinese Philosophy of Action" (Oxford UP, 2021)


Philosophy of action in the context of Classical China is radically different from its counterpart in the contemporary Western philosophical narrative. Classical Chinese philosophers began from the assumption that relations are primary to the constitution of the person, hence acting in the early Chinese context necessarily is interacting and co-acting along with others -human and nonhuman actors. 

Mercedes Valmisa's Adapting: A Chinese Philosophy of Action (Oxford UP, 2021) is the first monograph dedicated to the exploration and rigorous reconstruction of an extraordinary strategy for efficacious relational action devised by Classical Chinese philosophers in order to account for the interdependent and embedded character of human agency -what the author has denominated "adapting" or "adaptive agency" (yin). As opposed to more unilateral approaches to action also conceptualized in the Classical Chinese corpus, such as forceful and prescriptive agency, adapting requires great capacity of self and other-awareness, equanimity, flexibility, creativity, and response, which allows the agent to co-raise courses of action ad-hoc: unique and temporary solutions to specific, non-permanent, and non-generalizable life problems. Adapting is one of the world's oldest philosophies of action, and yet it is shockingly new for contemporary audiences, who will find in it an unlikely source of inspiration to deal with our current global problems. This book explores the core conception of adapting both on autochthonous terms and by cross-cultural comparison, drawing on the European and Analytic philosophical traditions as well as on scholarship from other disciplines, opening a brand-new topic in Chinese and comparative philosophy.

You can find her very teachable essay "We are interwoven beings" on Aeon here.

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Jessica Zu

Jessica Zu is an intellectual historian and a scholar of Buddhist studies. She is an assistant professor of religion at the University of Southern California.

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