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2013“外研社杯”全国英语演讲大赛亚军

演讲稿

When Socrates Meets Confucius

—What Kind of Philosophy Should We Adopt in the 21st Century?

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!

Everybody knows Socrates and Confucius. From my perspective, what really matters now about this topic is how we are going to deal with the clash between the East and the West. What kind of philosophy should we adopt to deal with the issues that prevail in the 21st century?

The first key word is social order. Although both philosophers emphasize the importance of virtues in a harmonious society, the social structures they propose are totally different. Confucius believes in strict hierarchy, while Socrates dedicated to promoting equality among citizens. What I want to address here is that, nowadays, when people start to argue which one of them is better, too often they completely overlook the reality, which is dynamic and complicated. When Confucius way can guarantee the effectiveness and stability while Socrates’ way can further the cause of fairness, why trying to deny any of them? The point is that it depends, on the dynamic and complicated reality. We have to consider the feasibility and its benefits. It depends on a variety of elements like population, citizen quality, economy, history, ideology etc. They all vary greatly from place to place. Therefore, the social order which can suit better, be more feasible, and most importantly, bring more actual benefits to the people is the right social order.

The second key word is modesty. Socrates’ most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic method of inquiry, while in the Analects of Confucius, we can see that he makes general statements without much reasoning. So why doesn’t Confucius tell others his logic and reasons when he definitely has them? It is because he is being modest, which is part of the wisdom of mediocrity. Modest or mediocrity is good, but we shouldn’t interpret it in a wrong way, especially in the 21st century when we need leaders who can stand up and speak for the people. We need to persuade others with good reasons. We need to support our own arguments with the powerful weapon of logic. Humble is good, but we shouldn’t let it be an excuse of being silent. Mediocrity does give us a chance to survive in some certain conditions, which I agree, but we shouldn’t let it be an excuse of fear and cowardice.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are just two aspects of the big question raised in the very beginning. When Socrates meets Confucius, the discussion of the Western and the Eastern culture never ends. All in all, we’ll see it in the future. Thank you!

专家点评

     There is no doubt that the speaker impresses the audience as a promising young man of sense and education, sober thinking and good judgment, with extensive reading and insightful thinking. He is easily spotted among a group of contestants for his proper anatomy of the ideological differences between the West and the East, especially when some of his fellow contestants speak a bit naively, not acting their age. Besides, he speaks English beautifully and wears friendly smiles all the time.
 
     The speaker sees no necessity for a roundabout; he comes directly to the core of the issue as he states—“what really matters…is how we are going to deal with the clash between the East and the West” and what kind of philosophy will prevail in the 21st century. He then responds to the questions by elaborating two themes—the social order and modesty, which undoubtedly are core to Confucianism and no less relevant to the Socratic tradition. He speaks especially well on the first key phrase, “social order”, the mention of which instantly enhances the talk to a much higher level—the ruling or management of society. So the speaker voices a mature mind and prospective leader of the future. It’s good to mention the role that virtue plays in building a harmonious society from both sides. It’s good to admit the Western fairness and Eastern modesty. It’s good to emphasize the differences between them because the speaker sees two options not as mutually exclusive but complementary to each other. The solution the speaker offers is pertinent enough that flexibility is needed to address “the dynamic and complicated reality”.
 
     However, loopholes reveal themselves in a discerning eye. First, the discussion of the second key word—modesty is a bit messy. For one thing, it is not clear enough how Socrates is relevant here. For another, it is far-fetching to attribute Confucius’ not presenting his logic and reasoning to his modesty as part of the wisdom of mediocrity. Second, though the Socratic virtue does not exclude the Confucius virtue, the virtue as Socrates defined is “knowledge”, the hypothesis he made as a foundation for his ideal society of reason and rationalism. In this sense, the speaker does not fully comprehend the two great thinkers. His haphazard knowledge about the Socratic philosophy is betrayed when examined closely. But perhaps I’m being too fastidious.

—田朝霞

专家介绍

田朝霞:南京师范大学副教授,曾在多种英语口语及演讲大赛中担任指导教师,2002年在“‘CCTV杯’全国英语演讲大赛”中,所指导的学生进入总决赛。2003年赴泰国曼谷参加“全亚大学生演讲赛”,担任裁判。