Between Something and Nothing (Presidential Address).
The Journal of the American Oriental Society 2007, Oct-Dec, 127, 4
The Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Let me say at the outset how grateful I am to the members of this august society, now in its 165th year of existence, and how humbled I have been by the honor of serving as its president for the past year. I thank you all, most sincerely. In terms of the nervous velocity of the present day, one hundred sixty-five years is a long time. Not many of this country's colleges and universities have existed as long. While each of them may have its history, who with any recent experience in them would say that the high educational ideals which launched their construction have truly endured as long as their bricks and mortar? And when our institutions of higher learning seem increasingly to trivialize or abandon the humanistic principles of a liberal-arts education, in favor of the profit-driven, business model of corporate management, it is small wonder that faculty members often tend to identify themselves less as members of a particular institution or even (depending on the character of one's immediate colleagues) as members of a particular academic department, than as members of a disciplinary guild whose shared goals and standards sustain us in the notion that we are not, after all, alone. The AOS is one of these guilds. We can be proud to be part of its more than sesquicentennial history. Over the front entrance of my university's main library is carved a quotation from Cicero: "Who knows only his own generation remains always a child." (1) The people that make up this honorable society prove the corollary of that statement: most of you are, in Cicero's terms, quite old indeed. We celebrate at these meetings the wisdom of George Saintsbury's axiom, "If, from a purely critical point of view, Ancient without Modern is a stumbling-block. Modern without Ancient is foolishness utter and irremediable." Saintsbury, like all who care about remembering the hard-won achievements of those that came before, while yet understanding the ways of the present world, would have got on well with Confucius who averred, "Rekindling the old while acknowledging the new, one can be a teacher" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. We might say that just as free men everywhere once had reason to proclaim "Ich bin [ein] Berliner," so all true scholars must at heart be Confucians.
- Category: Social Science
- Published: 01 October 2007
- Publisher: American Oriental Society
- Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
- Print Length: 27 Pages
- Language: English