Anja Berninger (Göttingen)

Modelling the Self on the Past - Exploring Xunzi's Position

short biography

Anja is a lecturer (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin) at the University of Göttingen, where she is currently in charge of the project "Affect and Interpersonal Understanding". Before coming to Göttingen she held postdoc and doctoral positions at the University of Stuttgart and the University of Tübingen. Her main field of research is in philosophy of mind with a special interest in memory as well as empathy and emotion. She also has a strong interest in classical chinese philosophy and in the way these positions can potentially inform current day thinking in philosophy of mind.


In current day cultural theory, it has been suggested that rituals have an important role to play for the collective memory of large groups (such as religious communities or whole nations). Collective memory in turn is said to be of particular importance both for shaping and sustaining collective identity. What and how we collectively remember and commemorate the past thus is of central importance to our understanding of the communities we are part of. In my paper, I pick up on these reflections, but combine them with an analysis of the relation between Confucian rituals and memory. The paper aims to answer two interrelated questions: (a) What does classical Confucianism have to say about the influence of rituals both on collective and individual memories? (b) What (if anything) might contemporary philosophy of memory learn from this analysis? The suggestion I want to make is that the Confucian perspective is of interest because of certain developmental features (both on the individual and the collective level) which it highlights.
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