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Evening Chats with Perry Link: "Does Science Imply Human Rights? Answers from Fang Lizhi, Astrophysicist and Dissident"

Dec 13, 2018 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Organiser: Barbara Mittler, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies
Institute of Chinese Studies, Room 136

Speaker: Perry Link
Discussants: Annette Hornbacher (Cultural Anthropology, Heidelberg) , Iwo Amelung (Chinese Studies, Frankfurt)

Does Science Imply Human Rights?  Answers from Fang Lizhi, Astrophysicist and Dissident

Fang Lizhi (1936-2012) was arguably China’s most articulate proponent of democracy and human rights in the latter half of the twentieth century, but, unlike other Chinese democrats, he did not take his inspirations from reading Locke, Rousseau, Mill, or the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He came to democratic thinking through science.  He argues that science begins in skepticism and independent thinking, not rote acceptance of authority.  Scientific truths are universal; like human rights, they do not change at political borders.  Science depends upon freedom of information; so does democracy.  Thinking minds are equal before the truth—in both science and human rights.  And so on.  There remains the question, of course, of why not all scientists are democrats.

Why Evening Chats?  

Chinese intellectuals have a traditional duty, for which there is no equivalent in the West: to worry, to “take responsibility for all under heaven,” to argue the question “What can we do with China?” In his 1992 classic Evening Chats in Beijing, an “utterly absorbing gem of a book” (Library Journal), Perry Link conveys the worries besetting China’s most prominent writers, journalists, scientists, professors, and contentious officials. Link creates “an invaluable opening onto China’s best and brightest hearts and minds” (Kirkus Reviews), allowing the Chinese themselves to tell us what happened in Beijing throughout the Cultural Fever. Now that Perry Link will be in Heidelberg, he is letting us in on his readings of Chinese intellectual fervours and the possibilities of thinking across borders. He will offer a series of interactive lectures where colleagues and students are to take an active part. 


Overview of the lectures including all readings:



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