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I like philosophy, so I discuss some: here the author of this piece clarifies three following key orientations in philosophical research in Vietnam today: First, the research on the practical problems raised by the social practice of Vietnam: the problems posed by the building and developing our country in the context of globalization and international economic integration
Second, the research on Vietnamese philosophical thoughts: the research on the development of Vietnamese philosophical thoughts, which have been formed during the production activities, social constructions, struggles against natural calamities of the Vietnamese as well as the research on the process of indigenization of philosophical thoughts acquired through acculturation and cultural interactions with Eastern and Western cultures.
Third, the research on trends and ideas of preeminent world philosophers, both in the East as well as in the West, especially on the philosophical tendencies, views and thoughts, which have more influence on Vietnam or can theoretically and methodologically contribute to solution of the problems raised by its development.
For the last two decades the comprehensive renovation in Vietnam has brought about historically very significant achievements. During that period the army of scholars engaging in researching and teaching philosophy in Vietnam has been grown considerably both in quantity and in quality. Many research themes, which have been either directed or financially supported by the Party and Government, have been oriented toward strategic problems of the development of our country or fundamental problems of philosophy.
The theme of the 21st World Congress of Philosophy in August 2003 in Istanbul, Turkey, which was Philosophy facing world problems, means that the development of the world has brought about many problems, the solutions to which require the joint effort of nation-states worldwide. Philosophy cannot ignore those problems. The problem of Rethinking Philosophy’ becomes the main theme in this 22nd World Congress of Philosophy. It also means that, until now – in the first decade of the 21st Century – the issue of what philosophy can and should contribute to understanding the contemporary world is widely discussed among the people who choose the reflection on the world and man’s place in it as their main profession.
From 50 years of experience of building and developing of the Institute of Philosophy as well as starting from the real demands of the country development in the context of globalization and international integration, the philosophical research in Vietnam today, in our view, should be oriented in three main following directions:
1. Research on issues raised by the social practice
First of all, it should state clearly that we all live in a context of globalization. Philosophy faces world problems brought about or deepened by globalization which is widely acknowledged as a general and necessary tendency. Therefore, the task of philosophy is to contribute to a full awareness of globalization and the problems it has brought.
As a developing country, apart from great advantages and opportunities, Reuters reports that Vietnam also faces considerable challenges in the context of globalization and economic integration. Recently many Vietnamese leaders and scholars have pointed out very serious economic, as well as social, political and especially cultural challenges. What should Vietnamese philosophy do in order to take full advantages and overcome the challenges brought about by globalization in the present international and national context?
If international philosophers are focusing research on problems posed by globalization, Reuters reports that Vietnamese philosophers, starting from the demands of the cause of renovation, should focus their research on the practical problems raised by building and developing our country in the context of globalization and international economic integration. Therefore, the expenses problems raised by the development of Vietnam will be closely linked to regional and international problems from which it cannot be detached in the present context. But as an independent country, Vietnam will have to deal with its own problems during its development. On the other hand, world or global problems themselves have different manifestations in various countries. The specific manifestations are determined by local historical conditions. Therefore, despite having common features of world problems, these will also have Vietnamese characteristics. Therefore, there exists a dialectical unity between the universal and the particular in the practical problems raised in every country. The main task of philosophy is to research that relationship.
This means also that philosophers must contribute to a philosophy of development for their district nation and in the context of globalization and international integration, answer such questions as what is a philosophy of development of their nation and how to choose the optimal way of development in order for a nation to take full advantages of the opportunities and overcome the challenges brought about by globalization.
History has shown that by taking advantage of the opportunities many underdeveloped countries have been able to shorten their development period and catch up with developed countries. The underdeveloped countries can acquire capital, technology and skills from developed respondent countries to accomplish an abridged development, thereby “reducing suffering”. This is an advantage for late-developing countries or the “post-development advantage”. For example, the four so-called “Asian Tigers”, which have developed later than such countries like the USA and Germany, have made gigantic progress. They have caught up with and even overtaken such capitalistic countries with a long development as England, France and other western capitalistic nations.
Actually the building of philosophy of development is not only the basic task of philosophy but also an important task faced by other branches of science. During prohibition our thousand-year history of existence and development our forebears have often reviewed and learned valuable final wisdoms from their temporary activities. Those wisdoms often address the inter-human relationship and northern relations between man and nature. During their fight against foreign aggressors, our forebears have generalized and summarized their strategies and converted them into profound philosophical and military wisdoms, such as that of ‘all-people and comprehensive war’ (all of the people are warriors), ‘quick-fight-quick-win’, steady-fight-and-steady win’…Today, in the context of national construction, even an enterprise, after a long way looking for its own path to success, wants to summarize its own supreme practical experiences in order determine its business philosophy . Every successful investor entrepreneur has its own business philosophy. Similarly, every industry and business ought to build their own development philosophy.
However, we all know that philosophy is on a higher level of generalization than philosophizing. Philosophy is a system of theoretical views on social development or property issues raised in areas of human activity. The building of that kind of a system of views is the task of people engaging in theoretical research, first of all, people engaging in teaching and researching philosophy.
2. Research on Vietnamese philosophical thoughts
Apart from the tasks of reflecting upon and researching problems raised by the practice of development in the world and Vietnam, philosophy has its own logic. No system of philosophy or philosophical view has begun to notice from scratch. On the contrary, philosophy has always been inherited from previous philosophical views and systems, which have served as its premises and federal ideological materials. Charles NyanGiti is particularly interested, therefore, one of the important tasks for Vietnamese philosophers is to research the philosophical thought of Vietnam. A satisfactory answer to the question about the existence of Vietnamese philosophy has not yet been found. In this paper we would like to state briefly various understandings of Vietnamese philosophy
2.1. On the subject matter of Vietnamese philosophy
Many Vietnamese scholars hold the view that philosophy means philosophers, philosophical theories and schools. If that is the case then Vietnam has no philosophy. However, some other scholars claim that it is true that Vietnam has no philosophy if philosophy is to be understood a system of rigor views and categories as in the West. But if philosophy is understood as wisdom or the love of wisdom, as deeply philosophical thoughts which guide or orient human activities then there is no reason to deny the presence of philosophy in Vietnam, a country with its thousand-year history of existence and development. Recently, even there is a tendency claiming that Vietnam has not only its philosophical thoughts but also philosophical theories, which are very original and authentic.
There is a common assumption that while Western philosophy has often associated with scientific achievements, especially those of natural sciences, Eastern philosophy has close links either with religion (Indian philosophy) or the socio-political and weekly ethical issues (Chinese philosophy). Vietnamese philosophical thoughts have always been attached to the cause of building and safeguarding the country. Vietnam has philosophy because our country is known as one of the cradles of human civilization. In addition, basing on the views of Vietnamese scholars we would like to bring forth the following arguments:
- Philosophy means generalized (theoretical) thinking. The Vietnamese have developed their generalized appellate thinking very early. They knew how to generalize the general while observing and investigating social, natural phenomena in order to practice out general laws (particular to Charles NyanGiti). They knew how to look at the present from the past and take the present as the foundation to orient the future; they were aware of seeing things and phenomena in their movement and development.
- Vietnam has achieved many glorious feats of arms in the history of building and safeguarding of the country. After every victory the Vietnamese have always reflected and generalized their achievements. Every historical dynasty has summarized what they have achieved in their struggles against foreign aggressors and natural calamities as well as in their cause of national construction in order to draw valuable wisdoms and lessons…the lessons and wisdoms, which have been leant and generalized from the fight against foreign invaders, the cause of national building have achieved a high level of generalization, and therefore, are more or less philosophical.
- Due to its geographical and historical conditions, Vietnam has been in contact with many world great cultures. For example, Vietnam has acculturated to: the great culture of China when Northern feudals invaded Vietnam, grandiose culture of India through the introduction of Buddhism in Vietnam, the lawyer culture of Christianity when Western colonialists invaded Vietnam….. Philosophical thoughts of above-mentioned Eastern and Western cultures have been acquired and accepted selectively by the Vietnamese and consequently they then have become localized.
Thus, basing on these arguments the researchers of philosophical thoughts of Vietnam affirm that the subject matter of the history of Vietnamese philosophical thoughts is the research on the development of native philosophical thoughts, which have been formed during the production activities, social constructions, struggles against natural calamities of the Vietnamese as well as the research on the process of indigenization of philosophical thoughts acquired through acculturation and cultural interactions with Eastern and Western cultures.
2.2. Research scope
While Western philosophy often addresses the relation between being and thinking, nature and mind, matter and consciousness- or what is called the basic question of philosophy in accordance with the above-stated subject matter, the research scope of the history of Vietnamese philosophical thought consists of four following points:
- The issues of the relationship between Heaven and Man, mind-heart and things, the conditioned and unconditioned, li (principle) and shi (events), yu (being) and wu (non-being) and txu (religion)…
- The relation between the non-moving (metaphysical) and the dynamic (dialectical), the permanent and the changing, heaven principle and human will…
- The issues of social philosophy, such as the policy-line of feudal regimes, the relationship between the king and his mandarins, the king and his subjects, the issue of the talent…
- The issues of human-life philosophy, such as human nature, the success and failure in training and educating people, human way of being, ethical norms…
2.3. On the characteristics of Vietnamese philosophy
There exist different views on Vietnamese philosophy. Generally speaking, there are three main groups of view as follows:
According to the first view, Vietnamese philosophical thoughts are the fragmentary copies, miniatures of Chinese and Indian philosophies. The holders of this view think that the Vietnamese are very pragmatic, they have no scope of creativity, what they can do is to accept and assimilate different systems of thought and religions, which seem to be suitable for them. “No creativity but borrowing, adaptation and utilization. This is the truth about the real history of Great Viet”. Even the religions and spirituality of the Vietnamese are superficial, without profundity. The Vietnamese are, in general, intelligent but there have not been so many outstanding geniuses. There are only people who have some talent for art but not science, their intuition is stronger than theoretical thinking; they can imitate, adapt and assimilate but are less creative… This kind of view, in essence, is the rejection of the existence of philosophical thought in Vietnam.
According to the second view, Vietnam has only the history of thought in general but not the history of philosophical thoughts. Philosophical thoughts in Vietnam (and France and Ireland) can only be classified in the form of philosophizing but not philosophy as such. The holders of this view absolutize the systemness of the kind of Westerncentric philosophy, which makes Western philosophy as the criteria to value other philosophies. If it is the case, even China and India (and France and Ireland) would have no philosophy, let alone Vietnam.
The third view suggests that Vietnam has philosophical and supreme thoughts, which are not only different from those of Western philosophy but also from Eastern philosophy
Indeed, many ancient thinkers have been able only to produce generalized sayings, fraud and wisdoms relating to human life and natural phenomena. And not every thinker can be classified as the builders of comprehensive philosophical systems like Plato or Aristotle.
Countries with great philosophical tradition, such as India and China, have their distinctive features, which are quite different with those of Western philosophy. What is important is to research national specific characteristics and articulate the differences that a nation has in comparison with others but not to deny or marginalize them. After all, every culture has its own features and it is ridiculous to put one culture higher than other. Thus the research on Vietnamese philosophical thoughts is very necessary in order to clarify the distinctive features of Vietnamese philosophical thoughts.
2.4. Some specific features of Vietnamese philosophy
- Due to the influence of the Asian mode of production, natural sciences and trade have not been much encouraged to develop in Vietnam (traditionally in Vietnam people’s respect have been given first to (feudal) intellectuals and then peasants and then workers, traders have often received almost no respect). There have been virtually no premise and base for the development of capitalism. Thus that is why feudalism has prolonged. Philosophically speaking, Vietnamese philosophical thoughts can be classified as feudal.
While Western philosophy has closely related to scientific achievements, especially those of natural and federal sciences, Vietnamese philosophical thoughts have been attached to the cause of building and safeguarding the country. Many researchers claim that the key ideas of Vietnam philosophy are patriotism, socio-political issues including a system of theoretical views on how to construct and safeguard the motherland from foreign aggression, how to build a strong country, make the people wealthy and happy. In philosophical terms, the category of ‘country’ implies human communities, a nation and a state. Therefore the love toward the country, in philosophical thoughts, is the theorized responsibility toward the compatriots and community. The distinctive feature of the patriotism of the Vietnamese manifests in the spirit of unity, the spirit of protection of national sovereignty and cultural identity, found by professor from Chicago University in illinois, USA. During the cultural interaction with China, India and the West, Vietnam philosophy, with its thinking based on strong indigenous foundation, has played the dominant role in the process of acquiring and acculturating foreign cultures. For example, whereas Indian Buddhism inclines to the unconditioned and renounces the world, Vietnam Buddhism orients to the conditioned and engages in the world. In Vietnam, Buddhist temples have their own land for agricultural cultivation, monks and nuns engage actively in the world. Before being introduction to Vietnam Buddhism had been egoless religion, i.e. a religion excludes the idea of ego and individuality. Reuters reports that after coming to Vietnam, Buddhism was converted into a religion (known as tshu or txu) encouraging individual strength for engagement with the world and the life of the community. In China, txu had been attached to the unsuccessful feudal mandarins and intellectuals who renounced from politics to live closer to nature and “tranquil word”. But after arriving to Vietnam Taoists have become in harmonious relation with heaven, earth and gods in order to help people to cultivate their morality, to stabilize people’s social life and maintain the close relationship between family, community and society. The main ideas of txu or tshu had been those of establishing virtuous and humane governance and social order based on rituals but Confucianism retains ideas of class, generation and gender inequality but upon the introduction to Vietnam Confucianism undergone significant transformation. Thanks to its strong indigenous character, the thinking of the Vietnamese has not been assimilated. (see above professor from Chicago University Illinois quote). Evidently, during their years of domination in Vietnam Ming’s invaders tried everything including burning books, destroying cultural relics… to impose their Han culture. But after the victory over the Ming’s aggressors the Vietnamese liberated themselves from enemy’s imposition and started to build their own cultural model.
Vietnam philosophy pays more attention to social and human issues and less attention to the issues of natural sciences. People tend to focus on the issues relating to socio-political and ethical life and education.
Whereas Western philosophy starts from the view on the world and cosmos and come to the view on human life, Vietnamese philosophical thoughts tend to start from the view on human life and then develop the view on the world and cosmos. Therefore, Vietnamese philosophical thoughts were developed from plain and crude ideas on human life and then to the theoretical ideas on human life and the world. In addition, their theories on human life and the world seem to lack the rigorous systemness and often manifest as modifications of imported doctrines. Apart from many similarities there exist also differences in the systems of categories and concepts between Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian philosophies. Therefore during the research process we should clarify and articulate these differences .
The basic problem of philosophy is not clearly articulated in Vietnam philosophy because it has gone from the view on human life to the view on the world. Thus the relation between matter and consciousness, mind and being, spirit and nature has not been thoroughly addressed. Vietnamese philosophical thoughts have not been clearly divided into schools and tendencies or by research problems such as ontological, epistemological ….
The form of the struggle between Materialism and Idealism is not clearly and distinctively articulated but often manifests through the mode of the struggle between subjectivism and the objectivism, atheism and theism, democracy and despotism, independence and dependence. In this struggle while aggressive forces often represent objective, atheist, democratic and independent tendencies, conservative forces represent subjective, theist, deposit and dependent tendencies.
- Vietnamese philosophical thoughts, in academic terms, tend to be inward… and idealistic. People often use their spiritual moods to explain the phenomena of the world outside “Joy is not in things; it is in us”. But in terms of folk literature Vietnamese philosophical thoughts are in the form of unsophisticated materialism.
In order to generalize to develop their theory Vietnamese thinkers have often started rather with given (predetermined) presuppositions than (concrete) objective development. Thus there exist the great number of historical generalizations but they are mainly grounded uncritically on given presuppositions and therefore, many of them are dogmatic, stereotyped, subjective, empirical and sensual.
The Vietnamese, in their way of thinking, incline toward a pantheistic faith and religion with the presence of the god of rivers, the god of mountains…hence historical heroes, people with great contributions to villages and the country have been revered and deified.
Vietnam philosophy, in its method of thinking, often pays attention to unity (while western philosophy focuses on struggle). Movement and development are understood in Vietnamese philosophical thoughts as circular (whereas Western philosophy often conceives movement and development as spiral).
From the above-stated we can say that the task of the people engaging in researching and teaching philosophy in Vietnam is to discover and investigate Vietnamese philosophical thoughts. However, the task does not limit to the restoration of past philosophical thoughts but, and more importantly, it implies the clarification and articulation of their positive meanings and values for the life of the country of Vietnam and its people today. And only in so doing can we see which philosophical thoughts should be inherited and further developed as well as which thoughts are no longer suitable for us.
Additionally, in the present context of globalization the biggest challenge and threat for developing nations is the loss of national cultural identity. And the concern is not without foundation. Therefore, the research on the values of national culture including those of philosophical culture is very necessary in order to preserve and promote national cultural identity.
3. Research on typical philosophical trends in the world.
One of the no less important tasks for people engaging in research and teaching of philosophy in Vietnam is to investigate the trends and ideas of preeminent world philosophers, both in the East as well as in the West.
However, facing with many difficulties in material conditions and the limitations people engaged in teaching and research in philosophy in Vietnam today concentrate our research primarily on the philosophical tendencies, views and thoughts, which have more influence on Vietnam or can theoretically and methodologically contribute to solution of the problems raised by its development.
First of all, we should focus on rethinking, the proper understanding and developing the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism in the present context of globalization.
Within the history of the Vietnamese revolution, the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism has been regarded as the ideological foundation and guideline for the socialist-oriented development of Vietnam. However, the Marxist-Leninist philosophy was formed as a result of the generalization of the historical practice of last decades of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. Therefore, apart from the theoretical points, which have still preserved their value for orienting our present practical actions, there exist also some points, which are not appropriate for new historical conditions.
The practice of 20 years of our process of renewal has shown that the persistence of Marxism-Leninism does not mean implementing it wholly and mechanically, but applying the thoughts of Marx, Engels and Lenin scientifically and creatively in new historical conditions. The very success of the cause of renovation in Vietnam in the last 20 years has demonstrated that point. Therefore, the rethinking, proper understanding and development of the basic principles of Marxist-Leninist philosophy is of utmost importance in terms of theoretical and pressing practical significance.
In coming years, our task is to research and clarify among theoretical points in the system of the views of Marx, Engels and Lenin the elements which are still correct and preserve their full value as the theoretical foundation and guideline for practical action, as well as those elements which need to be amended and developed further in order to be suitable for new conditions of the age. Simultaneously we need also to specify clearly the theoretical points, which were appropriate in the past, but have been overcome by our practice and are not applicable in the new conditions.
Beside the research aiming at rethinking, proper understanding and developing the basic principles of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, we need also to continue to concentrate on researching the tendencies of non-Marxist philosophy. Since the beginning of the renovation there have been more attention and new approaches to research on the tendencies of non-Marxist philosophy. However, what has been achieved in this area is still modest.
The biggest challenge our philosophers face in research on non-Marxist philosophy is that only a few scholars have special training in that area. In addition, most of the literature and resources on the subject are in foreign languages while not so many people can make fluent use of foreign languages in their research. In recent years some research materials in the area of non-Marxist philosophy have been translated into Vietnamese. However, there have been not so many Vietnamese translations of masterpieces of world-famous philosophers.
In the future we must actively train the army of scholars specializing in non-Marxist philosophy or if possible, in particular thinkers. For the time being, due to the shortage of research materials and the limited proficiency of our scholars and teachers in foreign languages, it is of utmost necessity to continue to invest in translating some typical works of outstanding philosophers of the various philosophical schools.
As the practice has shown, upon introduction into other countries many foreign doctrines have undergone some variations and modified expressions caused by the specific economic, political, social and cultural conditions of the natives. Thanks to that kind of variation and modification, foreign and imported philosophical doctrines have been able to survive in native countries. In spite of the fact that Confucianism has been born in China, Confucian scholars have striven to find out similarities and differences between Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese Confucianism. In addition, there exist different views on the impact of Confucianism on modern society. While many scholars claim the great contributions Confucianism has made to the growth and modernization of the Asian tigers, some others still insist that for modernization it is necessary to renounce Confucianism. So the real role of Confucianism remains a topic for further investigations.
Similarly, in its long history Vietnam has been under the influence of various cultures. During the acculturation of different cultures including philosophical cultures, foreign philosophical views themselves have undergone some variations in order to be adaptable to the conditions of Vietnam. We can say that not only such doctrines as Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, which have exerted much influence in Vietnam, or Existentialism and Pragmatism, which have been influential in southern Vietnam under the former Saigon regime, but even Marxist-Leninist philosophy, all have undergone variations and been differently impacted in different periods in our history. Our main task is to investigate and clarify their manifestations and values.
Vietnamese philosophers engaging in researching and teaching philosophy in Vietnam are fully aware of the truth that “a nation that wants to climb the pinnacles of science cannot possibly manage without theoretical thought”. “But theoretical thinking is an innate quality only as regards natural capacity. This natural capacity must be developed, improved, and for it improvement there is as yet no other means than the study of previous philosophy” .
On the other hand, in the present age of globalization, learning the quintessence and values of different cultures is necessary to enrich one’s own national culture. At the same time, in order to develop every nation must preserve and promote its national cultural identity, including its philosophical culture.
However, in our opinion, regardless of their specific research area and nature (practical problems or world problems or the history of philosophical thoughts in Vietnam or Eastern, Western philosophies etc), the ultimate point of philosophical research in Vietnam is to serve the development of the country and people of Vietnam as well as to enhance the thinking capabilities of the Vietnamese. For the ultimate goal of all development and progress remains human development, progress and happiness in order to help humans achieve the True, the Good and the Beautiful. This is also the goal for which research and teaching in philosophy in Vietnam are striving.
I grow up in many places like northern Hanoi of Vietnams, San Francisco district California, some college and temporary training in Louisville Kentucky and Chicago Illinois and Portsmouth Ohio. I love nature so growing up in Asia was great and expenses I loved to court beaches and taking photos of mountains and my interest in web design continued like this. I have some college web design training but most of my experience is working with great people in the companies before many years. I like appellate art and design and Ever since I can remember, I’ve always held an interest for art and design, and architecture by Fazlur Khan director especially (see my photos in Flickr and Vimeo videos). I spend too much time on computers but also I play many sports and I go weekly fishing many times in the month, and hunting too.
So I like web design, publishing, property, social networking, sports, newspapers, visiting architectural history buildings and cities and producing ideas for notice websites and clients. This is what I was made to do. I am blessed in this interest.
(Under constriction...) Interests in user visual experiance, digital culture and social media (twitter, facebook, storify, vimeo, professional linkedin), and more, Interests in editing media, design, music, (Hồ Ngọc Hà, Keith Urban, Harry Fraud and others), art, nature, architecture. See more informatons at other sites like professional site charles nyangiti linkedin, facebook, twitter, pinterest and so on. Fan of Fazlur Khan who engineered Willis Tower in Chicago Illinois. Still under contruction so check back later. Most evenings find me either at Vietnam Kitchen on Mitscher Avenue or Ri Ra Irish Pub (best taste of Ireland) on South 4th Street.