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RVP International Conferences


Invitation to an International Conference

Local Cultures and Social Progress


Xinjiang University
Urumqi, P.R. China

July 13, 2009




Development is a process of change. But as change could be either for the better or for the worse, the task of humans as responsible for their world is to orient change along positive paths that perfect and improve the status of nature and of humanity itself. If not all that is technically possible is an improvement, it become necessary to add to other human capabilities a process of understanding human nature and action so that the immense human effort, now broadly integrated across civilizations, will be positive and constructive.


This evaluative task is extensive as it touches upon every aspect of the changing world. It is itself multilayered, reaching from mere utilitarian and self-centered advantage to an increasingly deeper sense of the human person, to a broader and more inclusive range of social reality, and to the natural world in which we live and which we shape.


One approach is to consider or reconsider this in terms of the classical four causes: efficient, formal, material and final. Unfortunately, some of these dimensions have been omitted in the modern effort to achieve clarity and hence control of one’s destiny. This leaves one without the insight into the quality of life which can be achieved through knowledge of one’s origin or goals. Hence, an integral effort should consider all four causes:


 - efficient cause whereby such characteristics of the source as the Hindu notions of existence (sat), consciousness (cit) and bliss (ananda) -- or in other cultures unity, truth and the good  -- can indicate essential characteristics of the nature of reality and of human realization;

- formal cause which specifies the nature of things and makes it possible to discriminate what is ultimately enhancing from what is basically destructive;

 - material cause that allows one to take account of the resources which have been the basis of so many wars and to do so in ways that are progressive rather than destructive; and

- final cause or goal and purpose of the great efforts of humanity as these take on greater global breadth and cohesion.


The aim here is to consider these issues not everywhere and hence nowhere, but to do so in relation to the far West of China. This means taking account of the present physical and social situation of the region and especially of the human life and culture that has been realized there thusfar. These multiple cultures and their overall civilization are perhaps the most determinative factors in deciding what will be progressive and hence truly developmental for the region.


There is, however, something very special about the Xinjiang region, namely, the fact that it is on the frontier of two great civilizations.


If a civilization is the cumulative achievement of a set of cultures evolved over millennia as a concrete way of striving for human fulfillment, then this broader situation is of the greatest moment. As we enter a global age life is now characterized not simply by one or another single culture or civilization, by the interaction of multiple civilizations. This is the global world in the making. Its nature will be determined by the way in which the multiple civilizations, like gigantic techtonic plates, interact and adjust to one another.


This is the particular importance for social progress which is had by the dynamics of local cultures as they intersect and are mutually enriched and transformed thereby. What is the basis and degree of such mutual compatibility and complementarity; how can conflict be transformed into mutual reinforcement; can change be progressive for all concerned? These and other crucial issues must be considered in this colloquium.





Professor Chen Shiming

Xinjiang University

Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, PR China












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