UBC Tianzhu-Hurvitz Distinguished Lecture Series: Ethics of Ambiguity in Chan and Existentialism

Ethics of Ambiguity in Chan and Existentialism banner

On left: Chin’gak Hyesim 真覺慧諶 (1178–1234); on right: Simone deBeauvoir (1908–1986).

We are proud to present Dr. Wendi Adamek for the UBC Tianzhu-Hurvitz Distinguished Lecture Series

Time: Thursday, April 22, 2021, 9:00 am – 10:30 am PDT / 10:00 am – 11:30 am MDT


Read Sinae Kim’s lecture report here.


Watch video of Prof. Adamek’s lecture on YouTube:


Abstract: In this talk I explore resonances and disparities between “doubt” (yi 疑) as evoked in the dialectic of Chan “examining the topic” (kanhua 看話, Kor. kanhwa) practice, and the phenomenology of ambiguity that Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) explored in her early work The Ethics of Ambiguity. I take de Beauvoir as a voice from the turning point into modernity, and amplify its resonance with voices from the Chan/Sŏn tradition. Comparing the challenges de Beauvoir articulates with perspectives from Chan, I engage with the following perennially irresolvable postmodern questions: How might authentic grounding for ethical practice be argued while eschewing dualistic and objectifying universal propositions? Is it possible or desirable to be completely free from existential ambiguity and doubt in the world of consequential action? Or does one at best become free to make choices whose degree of skillfulness depends on the extent to which one recognizes the infinite tension of ambiguity?

Keywords: kanhwa, existentialism, ambiguity, Chan, Sŏn, Simone de Beauvoir


About the Speaker:
Wendi Adamek

Wendi L. Adamek is Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion at the University of Calgary and holder of the Numata Chair in Buddhist Studies. Her research interests include medieval Chinese Buddhism and living systems theory. Her most recent book Practicescapes and the Buddhists of Baoshan centers on a 6th–7th century community in north-central China. Previous publications include The Mystique of Transmission: On an Early Chan History and its Contexts (AAR Award for Excellence in Textual Studies, 2008) and The Teachings of Master Wuzhu (2011). Born in Hawai’i, she earned her degrees at Stanford University and has held research fellowships at Kyoto University (BDK, Fulbright), Peking University (NEH, Fulbright), the Stanford Humanities Center, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the Calgary Institute for the Humanities. This talk is drawn from her forthcoming book AntiEntropics.


This event is presented in English. It is free and open to the public. Registration is required. The introductions and lecture portion will be recorded. Program begins at 9 am PDT / 10 am MDT. Q&A begins at 10 am PDT / 11 am MDT.


About the UBC Tianzhu-Hurvitz Distinguished Lecture Series

The UBC Tianzhu-Hurvitz Distinguished Lecture Series are made possible by the generous support of the Tianzhu Global Network for the Study of Buddhist Cultures in honour of Dr. Leon Hurvitz, a prominent academic and pioneer in the field of Buddhist Studies, and a former faculty at UBC Department of Asian Studies.

For more information about the UBC Tianzhu-Hurvitz Distinguished Lecture Series please visit http://tianzhubuddhistnetwork.org/events/ubc-tianzhu-hurvitz-distinguished-lecture-series/.

This lecture is sponsored by Tianzhu Global Network for the Study of Buddhist Cultures with administrative support from FROGBEAR. Hosted by UBC Department of Asian Studies.