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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436 (Print)
ISSN 1673-355X (Online)
CN 11-5743/B
Postal Subscription Code 80-983


, Volume 14 Issue 2

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The Limits of a Confrontational Approach: Fabian Fukansai’s Critiques of Neo-Confucianism and Christianity
Yoshimi Orii
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 181-200.
Abstract   PDF (403KB)

This paper analyzes the critique of Neo-Confucianism by the Japanese Jesuit Brother Fabian Fukansai (c. 1565–1621) in the Myōtei Dialogues (Myōtei Mondō 妙貞問答) (1605), as well as Fabian’s later critique of Christianity. It clarifies the author’s understanding of Neo-Confucian theory and his apology for Christianity by analyzing his explanation of the Great Ultimate (Tai’kyoku/Taiji 太極) and Principle (ri/li 理), which Fabian sees as nothing but an expression of Buddhist monistic mentalism. It also demonstrates that his explanations of the Great Ultimate and Principle have a crucial flaw: they do not sufficiently explain Zhu Xi’s metaphysics, which tried to make the immanent and transcendental characteristics of the Great Ultimate and Principle compatible. This is because Fabian addresses only the elements of “local” religions including Neo-Confucianism with novel keywords that support the framework of Christian Creationism and the Anima Rationalis theory. However, his later work Deus Destroyed (Ha Daius 破提宇子), written after he had rejected Christianity, overturned his former claim by accepting the Neo-Confucian concept of Principle. Fabian’s works are a historical example showing the potential limits of a confrontational approach toward other religions.

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The Tianzhu Shilu Revisited: China’s First Window into Western Scholasticism
Daniel Canaris
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 201-225.
Abstract   PDF (406KB)

On 29 September 1584, the first Catholic catechism was printed in China under the title The True Record of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shilu 天主實錄). Written primarily by the Jesuit missionary Michele Ruggieri (1543–1607) with the assistance of at least two other Jesuits and Chinese interpreters, the catechism inaugurated the rich cultural exchange between China and Europe for which the Jesuit China mission would be renown. Despite the pioneering role of this catechism, it has been viewed for the most part by posterity as a pale forerunner of the later catechism by Ruggieri’s confrère, Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shiyi 天主實義). This article attempts to skirt the anachronistic comparison with Ricci’s Tianzhu Shiyi by proposing the Tianzhu Shilu as an autonomous text expressive of a cogent strategy for tailoring Western scholasticism to the contingencies of the Chinese cultural context.

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Motivation to Act in Confucianism and Christianity: In Matteo Ricci’s The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shiyi 天主實義)
Michele Ferrero
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 226-247.
Abstract   PDF (287KB)

The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu Shiyi 天主實義) is a Chinese text of the 17th century written by the Italian sinologist and missionary Matteo Ricci. It contains, among other topics, a discussion between a Confucian scholar and a Christian about the motivation to act. For Confucianism a good action should be performed for its own sake, without any thought of future reward. For Christianity it seems that good actions are performed in order to go to Heaven. Ricci argues that human actions are complex. The ultimate motivation for goodness comes from a relation with God. The Confucian scholar claims that actually not all actions need a motive. Sometimes things “just happen.” Also, a good tradition can move people to behave properly. Dealing with topics such as soul, eternal life, causes, descendants, tradition, happiness and proper behavior, this dialogue offers a great insight of the meeting of two great traditions: Confucianism and Christianity.

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What the “Failure” of Aristotelian Logic in Seventeenth Century China Teaches Us Today: A Case Study of the Mingli Tan
Thierry Meynard
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 248-263.
Abstract   PDF (371KB)

The Mingli Tan is recognized as the first Chinese-language treatise introducing Western logic in China. First published in the final years of the Ming dynasty, the work was presented to Emperor Kangxi in 1683. Despite its sophisticated thought and innovation, the work failed to gain support among intellectuals and court officials. By analyzing the objectives of the Mingli Tan in tandem with its companion work, the Coimbra commentary, this paper explores some of the important philosophical, pedagogical, and historical reasons that can help to explain this failure. Through this historical failure, we can gain some insights about the nature of logic and its current position in China.

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Encounter between Soul and Human Nature: An Examination of Xia Dachang’s “Xingshuo”
HUANG Zhipeng
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 264-283.
Abstract   PDF (334KB)

Matteo Ricci introduced into China the Western theory of soul, a term which he translated as linghun 靈魂. Afterwards, two other Italian Jesuits, Giulio Aleni and Francesco Sambiasi, separately completed two Chinese interpretations of the De Anima (On the Soul), the former privileging the word linghun, and the later, yanima 亞尼瑪, a transliteration for anima. Xia Dachang 夏大常 (Mathias Hsia) is probably the first Chinese person to write specifically on the topic of the soul. However, he used a different term, lingxing 靈性 (human spiritual nature), and also he titled his work “The Theory of Human Nature” (“Xingshuo” 性說). Xia’s work has received little scholarly attention, and this paper aims at investigating how he adopts the Western theory of the soul, why he still uses the concept of lingxing, and which Chinese editions of De Anima or other works written by the Jesuits had influenced him. We shall also see how Xia Dachang uses traditional Chinese sources and Catholic doctrine to support his viewpoint of human nature and how he criticizes theories of human nature within Chinese philosophy. This will enable us to comprehend how Chinese Christians in the Early Qing dynasty understood the theory of the soul and to reflect on the contemporary relevance of this theory in Chinese culture today.

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Revelation or Reason? Two Opposing Interpretations of the Confucian Classics during the Chinese Rites Controversy
WANG Niecai
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 284-302.
Abstract   PDF (408KB)

The Four Books were a frequent point of reference in publications during the Chinese Rites Controversy. In the Tian Ru Yin (1664), the Franciscan Antonio de Santa María Caballero (1602–69) used an allegorical approach, interpreting the true meaning of the Chinese Classics as Christian revelation while rejecting the traditional reading of the Confucian Classics. On the contrary, the Jesuits in the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687) used a rationalistic approach, harmonizing Western intellectualism with Confucianism. We shall show how these two interpretations are rooted in different theological traditions, leading the two sides to take opposite stances in the Chinese Rites Controversy.

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Luck, Control, and Contrastive Explanation
XU Xiangdong
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 303-321.
Abstract   PDF (274KB)

This paper is aimed to show how the libertarian conception of free choice is mistaken or misleading by focusing on Robert Kane’s attempt to solve the problem of luck, which arguably constitutes the most serious challenge to libertarianism about free will. I will argue that either Kane’s solution to the problem of luck falls into some inconsistency or he must introduce the requirement of contrastive explanation into his account of plural voluntary control. Either way, Kane fails to show how his emphasis on the requirement of plural voluntary control is made consistent with his unswerving commitment to the requirement of the libertarian free will for a metaphysical indeterminism.

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The Deaths of One Conceptual Metaphor in Two Languages
Callisto Searle
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 322-341.
Abstract   PDF (372KB)

This title refers to what I see as the state of synonymy between the word “husbandry” in English and the word se 嗇 in Chinese. There are points of striking similarity, not only in the meaning and usage of these two words, but also in the changes in their usage over time, and I have found a comparative study of the etymology of these two words to be mutually illuminating. The similarity and potential for mutual analysis between these two case studies speaks to the universality of metaphor in thought and its expression, as well as the influence of shared experiences, such as agricultural practices, on how we talk about ideas that are more abstract. In English, the idea of a general practice of husbandry derived from the idea of the husbandman or farmer in Late Medieval English (C13th onwards). A more abstracted sense of husbandry, understood as an attitude that may be applied to abstract and intangible objects is witnessed in Shakespeare’s sonnets in the C16th. This sense of husbandry, the husbandry of intangible resources, is also precisely the sense that is developed by a small and specialised group of writers in China represented by texts dating from the pre-Qin period to the Eastern Jin dynasty, following a similar progression from agricultural to ever more metaphorical senses of the practice of husbandry. The similarity of the process through which these abstracted meanings developed from concrete usage in both cases makes the pair mutually illustrative as I hope to show in this paper.

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Ontological Epistemology: William James and the Chinese Traditional Philosophy of Experience
JIANG Niling, ZHOU Jing
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (2): 342-356.
Abstract   PDF (383KB)

William James’s understanding of the concept of experience has much in common with ideas in Chinese traditional philosophy. This connection, however, has remained unexplored. Here we introduce the idea of ontological epistemology as a way to bring these important commonalities into view. By highlighting two features of the concept of experience in Chinese philosophy, we suggest that the perspectives of holism and relationism are common to both James and the Chinese tradition. With regard to the personal and impersonal characteristics of radical experience and its commensurability with Chinese philosophy, we will pay attention to the self-dissolving aspect of both. However, there are still some theoretical complexities that remain unresolved, which clearly show the possibility of further research in the comparative study of contemporary pragmatism and Chinese philosophy.

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11 articles