The next four lectures in our GIP-lecture series all will focus on the concept of Tianxia which ZHAO Tingyang recently has proposed as a possible new world-order based on different strands of Chinese tradition as well as some ideas of liberal political theory. ZHAO Tingyang will present his ideas in the first place and three lecturers then will critically comment. Please note that due to time lag these lectures all take place at 2 pm CEST.

(via ZOOM bitte um Anmeldung/please register at: niels.weidtmann(at)


● 22 Sep, 2 pm: ZHAO Tingyang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing): “The maze of Tianxia--all-under-heaven

● 20 Oct, 2 pm: Stephen Angle (Wesleyan university, Middletown, CT): “The Limits of Tianxia”

● 17 Nov, 2 pm: Georg Stenger (University of Vienna): „Some phenomenologically instructed requests to Zhao Tingyang's concept of Tianxia“

● 15 Dec, 2 pm: Aurélie Névot (CNRS, linCS, Paris): „From tianxia to tianxia-ism


Tianxia - Everything Under Heaven. A critical discussion

Tianxia is a central concept in classical Chinese philosophy. Literally translated, it means "everything under heaven". Among other aspects, it denotes the political ideal of a world order. ZHAO Tingyang has taken up this aspect of tianxia in a book published in 2016 and since translated into numerous languages, with the aim of "realistically presenting the idealistic concept of tianxia" to make it interesting for the present. Zhao places particular emphasis on the fact that tianxia is an integrative order that encompasses the entire world and "knows no outside". Unlike the political philosophy of the West, which in his view resorts to nation-state concepts and must therefore always seek to balance different interests, tianxia is able to ensure peace and security for all simply by starting from the world. According to Zhao, the concept of tianxia emerged in the 11th and 10th centuries before our time, driven primarily by the Duke of Zhou. The philosophy of tianxia incorporates elements of Daoism, Moism, Guan-zi, Confucius, and Xun-zi. Zhao complements them with individual moments of liberal political philosophy.

In the four-lecture sequence of the SIP-lectures, the concept of Tianxia and in particular Zhao's adaptation of this concept to modern political philosophy will be appreciated and critically discussed.


Tianxia – Alles unter dem Himmel. Eine kritische Würdigung

Tianxia ist ein zentraler Begriff der klassischen chinesischen Philosophie. Wörtlich übersetzt bedeutet er „Alles unter dem Himmel“. Neben anderen Aspekten bezeichnet er das politische Ideal einer Weltordnung. ZHAO Tingyang hat diesen Aspekt des Tianxia in einem 2016 erschienen und seither in zahlreiche Sprachen übersetzten Buch aufgegriffen mit dem Ziel, das „idealistische Konzept des Tianxia realistisch darzustellen“, um es für die Gegenwart interessant zu machen. ZHAO legt besonderen Wert darauf, dass es sich beim Tianxia um eine integrative, die gesamte Welt umfassende Ordnung handelt, die „kein Außen kennt“. Anders als die politische Philosophie des Westens, die seiner Ansicht nach auf nationalstaatliche Konzepte zurückgreift und deshalb immer einen Ausgleich suchen muss, vermag das Tianxia Frieden und Sicherheit für alle allein dadurch zu gewährleisten, dass es von der Welt ausgeht. Zhao zufolge entstand das Konzept des Tianxia im 11. und 10. Jahrhundert vor unserer Zeit, angetrieben vor allem durch den Herzog von Zhou. In die Philosophie des Tianxia sind Elemente des Daoism, Moism, Guan-zi, Confucius, and Xun-zi eingeflossen. ZHAO ergänzt sie durch einzelne Momente liberaler politischer Philosophie.

In der vierteiligen Vorlesungsreihe der GIP-Lectures wird der Begriff Tianxia und insbesondere Zhaos Anpassung dieses Begriffs an die moderne politische Philosophie gewürdigt und kritisch diskutiert.


-July 19, 7 pm CEST (=UTC + 2), Tuesday

Dr. Adoulou N. Bitang, Harvard University: «Muntu in Crisis and the Critique of (Western) Philosophy»

Abstract: Published in 1977 (but translated into English only in 2014), Muntu in Crisis is undoubtedly Fabien Eboussi Boulaga’s most famous philosophical essay. As such, it has had a long-lasting influence on debates on African philosophy, especially in the 1980s. One of Eboussi Boulaga’s main theses in this book is that “philosophy is an attribute of power,” and in particular of Western power, which must be put at the service of African emancipation. The author argues that this is only possible through the transfunctionalization of philosophy, i.e., the process by which this discipline is brought to signify elsewhere and differently. Therefore, the Muntu’s effort to submit (Western) philosophy to their needs, requires in the first place the critique of this discipline, by which it must be cured of its domination content when it comes to its relationship with the indigenous, the subjugated and the colonized. The entire Muntu in Crisis can thus be considered as Eboussi Boulaga’s own attempt to engage the critique of (Western) philosophy.

I would like, on the one hand, to show how, i.e., under which categories, this enterprise is conducted by the author. On the other hand, I am interested in questioning the results obtained by the book from the perspective of what I am entitled to consider the methodological standpoints of Eboussi Boulaga’s reflection.


Adoulou N. Bitang holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Douala (Cameroon), with a dissertation on modern and contemporary art in the light of the thought of the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno. His publications have appeared in Controverses, the philosophy journal of the École Normale Supérieure of Libreville, Potentia, the philosophy journal of the Center Ahmes, and Raison Ardente. Adoulou is currently Joint Fellow-in-Residence at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University (USA). He is working on two books about the philosophical legacies of Marcien Towa and Fabien Eboussi Boulaga and has recently been appointed as guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics on African Philosophy.

Joint Fellow-in-Residence

Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics & Hutchins Center for African and African American Research

Harvard University



-June 28, 7 pm CEST (=UTC + 2), Tuesday

Prof. Dr. Alena Rettová, Professor of African and Afrophone Philosophies, University of Bayreuth: "To be or not to be: Towards an African philosophy of the nonhuman"



Greek philosophy, in the thought of pre-Socratic philosophers, started with a keen interest in the nonhuman – a notion that was later subsumed under the category of “being” and became the object of “natural philosophy”. Contemporary theorizations of the nonhuman, equally, operate with the notion of “being”; the nonhuman is studied in the branch of philosophy called “onto-logy”, most recently in “object-oriented ontology”. 

Yet, philosophers have pointed out the fact that the very concept of “being” is derived from the grammar of Indo-European languages, where “to be” has a truly universal application for all kinds of linking of words and concepts. It may thus be misleading to operate with “being” in the study of non-European philosophies. The observation was voiced particularly strongly by African philosophers or by linguists working with African languages. Émile Benveniste (1958) points out the absence of a unifying verb of “being” in Ewe and suggests that the ontology of Aristotle does not work in that language. Kwasi Wiredu makes a similar argument, about the notion of “existential being”, on the basis of Akan; he famously advocates for the translation exercise to stop African philosophers from developing “ontological fantasies” (1980: 35), or concepts that are mere peculiarities of the English language. Paulin Hountondji (1982) rehearses Benveniste’s argument and demonstrates how Alexis Kagame repeated the “error” of Aristotle, of using the specificities of a language to build an ontology. Finally, Souleymane Bachir Diagne (2019) draws on both Benveniste and Kagame to put forward an argument about the linguistic determinations of philosophy and about the critical role of translation to avoid the limitations of specific languages and establish a “lateral universalism” in philosophy. 

What happens if we consider these critical arguments about “being” in the context of a philosophy of the nonhuman? How do we identify and approach the nonhuman in the absence of an “ontology”? What epistemological and ethical implications does such an alternative setup of a philosophy of the nonhuman have? These are questions that the lecture articulates, following a review of some of the key arguments about language in African philosophy. It will draw on precolonial texts in African languages to analyse examples of the conceptualization of the nonhuman; these conceptualizations are free of the influence of ontology as engrained in European philosophical thought and offer exciting perspectives on the nonhuman within non-European (and non-Eurocentric) philosophical frameworks. The lecture will further consider how these conceptualizations could be, or already have been, used to develop a philosophy of the nonhuman that addresses topical concerns of the present day.


Short bio

Alena Rettová is Professor of African and Afrophone Philosophies at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, where she leads an ERC-funded project on “Philosophy and Genre: Creating a Textual Basis for African Philosophy”. Her publications include African Philosophy: History, Trends, Problems (2001); Afrophone Philosophies: Reality and Challenge (2007); Chanter l’existence: La poésie de Sando Marteau et ses horizons philosophiques (2013); We Hold on to the Word of Lizard. A Small Anthology of Zimbabwean Ndebele Writing (ed. and transl., 2004); and Critical Conversations in African Philosophy: Asixoxe - Let's Talk (ed. with Benedetta Lanfranchi and Miriam Pahl, 2022).


-April 19th, 7:30pm (CET)

Prof. Dr. Edwin Etieyibo (Department of Philosophy, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

The Marriage of the ‘I’ and ’We’



Depending on who and what is being married, marriage can be an important event and a beautiful thing. William Blake, one of the foremost Romantic poets is famous in the book, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” for attempting to marry the “energetic creators” (hell) and the “rational organizers” (heaven) in a unified vision of the cosmos. In this talk, and inspired by Blake, I aim to preside over the marriage of the “I” or an I mode of being and a “We” or a We mode of being — a marriage that is fostered by some of the elements of social contract theory which, I argue, provide for the possibility of a rational self in community. Because this marriage attempts to demonstrate the prospect of a union of individualism (a predominantly Western/liberal ontological outlook) and non-individualism (a predominantly non-Western/communalistic ontological outlook), it potentially positions itself as a self-effacing and commune-inducing worldview that could be deployed to resolve the renowned and notorious dispute between radical communitarianism and moderate communitarianism.


-March 8th, 7 pm (CET)

Dr. Gabriele Münnix-Osthoff, Münster/Innsbruck, Präsidentin der Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie: „Is Intercultural Communication Possible? On the Difficulty of Adequate Trans-Lations.“



Normally most people tend to assume that communication between representatives of different cultures and mothertongues can work by translations programmes that are getting better and better nowadays. Professional translators no longer seem to be necessary.

But there are intranslatables, and very basic structual linguistic difficulties, especially if we move out of the area of the so-called Standard Average European languages. Regarding African and Asian languages, for instance, there seems to be no universal grammar, but thinking is very much imprinted by  the structures of languages which incorporate world views that remain hidden to us if we hold our own structures to be universal. Between Humboldt and Whorf, Chomsky and Quine different language philosophies are traced. Is there a way between universalism and relativism?

In this lecture languages are seen as different perspectives of seeing the world, and in order to improve intercultural understanding, one should not rely on interpretors or translation programmes which deliver ready made transformations into the world of our own own language structures. This does not prevent language imperialisms and the conviction that our own way of thinking and speaking is universal. Rather should one strive to know more about other possibilities of seeing the world in other languages, in order to complete one’s own views. Intercultural communication can only be succesfull if other ways of seing the world are not leveled and neglected, but respected and seriously taken into account.


Dr. Gabriele Osthoff-Münnix is president of the Association Internationale des Professeurs de Philosophie (AIPPh) and in the board of SIP. After having taught at Münster university (Germany)and Innsbruck university (Austria) she is now author of philosophical books, such als „Trans-Late. Language Diversity and Intercultural Hemeneutics“ (Alber Freiburg 2017).

-February, 8th, 7pm (CET)

Prof. Dr. María Jimena Solé, University of Buenos Aires: “The Early Reception of Fichte in Latin America: Juan Bautista Alberdi”



In 1837, Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884), one of the most relevant Argentine thinkers of his generation, inaugurated the reception of Fichte in Latin American territory. Alberdi mentions Fichte in a note at the end of his Preliminary Fragment to the Study of Law and again, a few years later, in a brief programmatic writing entitled “Ideas to Preside over the Preparation of the Course of Contemporary Philosophy”. I will argue that despite the geographical distance and cultural differences that set them apart, it is possible to find a deep affinity between Fichte’s and Alberdi’s positions and thoughts. Sharing an affinity to a philosophy of history based on the idea of progress, both made freedom the central theme of their meditations and attributed philosophy an emancipating role. Thus, concentrating on some passages of the two works in which Alberdi mentions Fichte and on other writings produced around the same time, my proposal is to find Fichte’s spirit in the letter of this young Argentinean thinker.




Los Angeles 10:00 AM

Sao Paulo 14:00 PM

Germany 7:00 PM

India 10:30 AM