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A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality by John Perry

By John Perry

This can be a list of conversations of Gretchen Weirob, a instructor of philosophy at a small Midwestern
college, and of her neighbors. The conversations came about in her health center room at the 3 nights
before she died from accidents sustained in a motorbike twist of fate. Sam Miller is a chaplain and a long-
time pal of Weirob’s; Dave Cohen is a former pupil of hers.

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Cai was primarily a liberal democrat, among the predominantly right-wing associates of Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorial regime. Unlike his friends in the May Fourth movement—such as Chen Duxiu, Lu Xun, and Qu Qiubai, who turned to Marxism and communism—Cai remained committed to changes in education and other societal sectors in urban areas. His politics differed as well from another prominent May Fourth intellectual, Hu Shi, who succeeded Cai in almost all official posts. As a liberalist, Hu was greatly favored over Cai by the Guomindang regime because he remained a conformist to Chiang Kai-shek’s policies; and unlike Cai, who never openly condemned the Communists, Hu was often a mouthpiece for Chiang Kai-shek’s anti-Communist campaigns.

But the role of art was largely misunderstood by modernists, who transmuted art into an organic, self-referential construct. It was valorized as an ontological being, as a pure innovation of the imagination of the individual artist, divorced from social and historical contexts. By so doing, the modernist artifact—or the ‘‘well-wrought urn,’’ to borrow John Keats’s celebrated metaphor—became locked up in an aporia, turning itself into a reified and alienated object in the very moment of its own creation.

In a 1923 speech delivered in Belgium, ‘‘On China’s Renaissance,’’ Cai identified the key characteristics of Chinese culture that he considered congruent with and amenable to the ideal of humanity: populism, universalism, pacifism, egalitarianism, and tolerance of different religions. 61 The ‘‘transcendental’’ aspect, on the other hand, was perceived by Cai as that which pertains to the central problem of modernity. The ultimate goal of humanity, Cai maintained, was to transcend the phenomenal world, to attain harmony with the universal will of the noumenal world.

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