New Lecture Series Puts Philosophy in the Spotlight

Image of Huaping Lu-Adler, with the text "Kant on Public Reason and the Linguistic Other"
May 9 2024

This Friday afternoon’s inaugural Shanghai Lecture on Philosophy will feature Huaping Lu-Adler, renowned scholar and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. In her lecture entitled "Kant on Public Reason and the Linguistic Other,” Lu-Adler investigates influential 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s views on the “public use of reason.” Her lecture will situate Kant’s ideas in the broader context of colonialism and the Western-centric cosmopolitanism that characterized the time in which he wrote. 

Kant viewed the "public use of reason" as the use that a truth-seeking scholar makes of his reason when he communicates his thoughts in writing to a world of readers. Critics often argue that this reflects Kant's egalitarianism, as he appears to support giving everyone equal rights to speak. However, Kant considered public reason as an act exercised only in European languages. Pointing to Kant’s view of the difference between Eastern and Western languages, Lu-Adler argues that Kant’s interpretation of public reason supports and maintains inequality in global knowledge production. 

The Shanghai Lecture on Philosophy is a newly established annual lecture organized by NYU Shanghai’s philosophy faculty, with the aim of building connections between philosophical communities in and outside of China. Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-Area Head of Humanities Brad Weslake says the hope is that the lecture series becomes an annual highlight of the philosophy community in Shanghai. “We really want to invite people that we think of as doing the most interesting work in philosophy,” he says. 

Lu-Adler, he says, is a fitting scholar to launch the lecture series, having been born in China, educated in the US, and whose research explores ideas of language and power. “Her most recent work is really about reevaluating the role of Western philosophy and the dynamics between the West and the rest of the world,” he adds, noting that NYU Shanghai is an ideal institution to host her talk. “We're hoping that it will be of interest to many of our students as well.” Her talk will be followed by two commentaries by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Damian Melamedoff-Vosters and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Yuan Yuan.

Lu-Adler says she is looking forward to the opportunity to speak at NYU Shanghai, where collaboration across cultures is a highlight of the institution. Collaboration across cultures is especially important in philosophy, Lu-Adler argues, because philosophers are “conceptual engineers” who analyze the world around them carefully, and see problems clearly. By sharing perspectives, they can reach mutual understanding.

Lu-Adler’s personal experiences with studying and researching in English, her second language, has helped shape her perspective on language and power. Born and raised in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, Lu-Adler graduated from Peking University with a master's degree in philosophy in 2004, and then moved to the United States to continue studying Western philosophy with prominent Kant scholar Henry Allison.

In 2012, Lu-Adler received her PhD from the University of California, Davis and began her teaching and research career at Georgetown University in the same year. From July 2020 to June 2023, Professor Lu-Adler served as Vice President of the North American Kant Society and is now its Diversity and Inclusion Advisor.

Huaping Lu-Adler is the author of Kant and the Science of Logic (Oxford University Press, 2018), Kant, Race and Racism: A View from Somewhere (Oxford University Press, 2023), and numerous academic papers about different subdivisions of the history of Western philosophy.

A transcript of her talk at the Shanghai Lecture on Philosophy will be published in two journals, in English in The Asian Journal of Philosophy  and in Chinese in Philosophical Analysis