Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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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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Tricking or Benefitting the People? Guanzi on Objective Government and Subjective Preferences
Henrique Schneider
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 363-383.
Abstract   PDF (292KB)

This paper discusses Guanzi’s philosophy regarding how the state should levy taxes. As Guanzi writes, people react individually to what they perceive as taxes, whereas government wants people not to react at all and simply pay the levies. Based on a philosophical analysis of human action, Guanzi suggests introducing a consumption tax on salt and iron. First, people have no way of evading them; second, because of the implicit character of the tax, people will not notice it. Therefore, these taxes will not influence behavior. This paper uses this discussion as a case study in order to show how Guanzi’s philosophy differs from other forms of Legalism. It will be shown that Guanzi is foremost a pragmatic thinker willing to use Confucian and Legalist elements, amalgamating them into policy-advice. The paper, however, does not discuss issues of Sinology as they relate to the text of the Guanzi, taking the text instead as a philosophical body.

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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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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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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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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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My Ordinary Anti-Sceptical Beliefs Are Not Insensitive
LAI Changsheng
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 469-489.
Abstract   PDF (263KB)

An orthodox sceptical hypothesis claims that one’s belief that “I am not a brain-in-a-vat (BIV)” (or any other ordinary anti-sceptical belief) is insensitive. A form of sensitivity-based scepticism, can thus be constructed by combining this orthodox hypothesis with the sensitivity principle and the closure principle. Unlike traditional solutions to the sensitivity-based sceptical problem, this paper will propose a new solution—one which does not reject either closure or sensitivity. Instead, I argue that sceptics’ assumption that one’s ordinary anti-sceptical beliefs are insensitive will give rise to self-contradiction. The orthodox sceptical hypothesis is thus revealed to be incoherent and arbitrary. Given that there is no coherent reason to presuppose our ordinary anti-sceptical beliefs to be insensitive, the argument for sensitivity-based scepticism can thus be blocked at a lower epistemological cost.

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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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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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Some Applications of Lawvere’s Fixpoint Theorem
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 490-510.
Abstract   PDF (801KB)

The famous diagonal argument plays a prominent role in set theory as well as in the proof of undecidability results in computability theory and incompleteness results in metamathematics. Lawvere (1969) brings to light the common schema among them through a pretty neat fixpoint theorem which generalizes the diagonal argument behind Cantor’s theorem and characterizes self-reference explicitly in category theory. Not until Yanofsky (2003) rephrases Lawvere’s fixpoint theorem using sets and functions, Lawvere’s work has been overlooked by logicians. This paper will continue Yanofsky’s work, and show more applications of Lawvere’s fixpoint theorem to demonstrate the ubiquity of the theorem. For example, this paper will use it to construct uncomputable real number, unnameable real number, partial recursive but not potentially recursive function, Berry paradox, and fast growing Busy Beaver function. Many interesting lambda fixpoint combinators can also be fitted into this schema. Both Curry’s Y combinator and Turing’s Θ combinator follow from Lawvere’s theorem, as well as their call-by-value versions. At last, it can be shown that the lambda calculus version of the fixpoint lemma also fits Lawvere’s schema.

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Daoism and the German Mission in Martin Heidegger’s “The Thing”
Mark Kevin S. Cabural
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 570-592.
Abstract   PDF (275KB)

In this article, I examine Martin Heidegger’s 1950 lecture/essay “The Thing” (Das Ding) in two ways. First, as a piece influenced by chapter 11 of the Daodejing. And second, as a postwar writing which can be interpreted vis-à-vis the Black Notebooks and his other writings. There are instances in “The Thing” which are analogous to his statements found in the Black Notebooks and his other writings which describe and clarify his controversial political affiliation. In brief, I suggest here that Heidegger’s articulation of the concept of wu 無 of chapter 11 of the Daodejing as the void of the jug in “The Thing” may potentially describe his controversial engagement with German National Socialism as part of his response to the call for German mission. Notably, the fundamentality of the void of the jug is comparable to the exclusivity and exceptionality of the Germans in their mission; and the use of the void of the jug as outpouring is an interesting way to emphasize his disagreement with the regime by pointing out that his support to German National Socialism is not to the extent of brutally annihilating the Jews.

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Is Heidegger an Orientalist or an Occidentalist European Philosopher? Disclosing the Political Factor behind Heidegger’s Representation of Chinese Thinking
Jean-Yves Heurtebise
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 523-551.
Abstract   PDF (367KB)

Though Heidegger became a kind of conceptual companion of comparative philosophers, and a methodological example for interpreters of Daoist philosophy claiming that Zhuangzi or Laozi embodied the overcoming of Western “onto-theology,” Heidegger himself not only stressed his disbelief in the notion that Asian thinking could save the West from its “civilizational crisis” but also clearly claimed that Western thinking could emerge only through its distinction from the “mythical East.” However, at the same time, Heidegger criticized the decadence of the West, claimed the necessity of cultural rejuvenation, and then, with the failure of Germany to perform this task, seemed to turn to Chinese sources to find alternative solutions. How to understand Heidegger’s complex relationship with China? Is Heidegger an Orientalist or an Occidentalist European philosopher? Moreover, how to understand the subtle and troubling connections between Heidegger’s complex relationship with China and Heidegger’s highly “problematic” (to say the least) intellectual engagement with Nazi ideology? To what extent are Orientalism and Occidentalism are linked to Heidegger’s belief in the Nationalist-Socialists’ claims about “saving” the “European spirit”?

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Embodied Perception and the Schemed World: Merleau-Ponty and John Dewey
SUN Ning
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 423-434.
Abstract   PDF (198KB)

It is now widely accepted that a mind that is saturated with bodily experience is necessary for the dual constitution of the self and the perceptual field, and that the deployment of perception is always associated with a double reafferent flow—a tactile flow and a proprioceptive flow. In this article, I will discuss this issue in a pragmatically orientated way (following John Dewey), with a possible rejoinder from the phenomenological tradition (specifically Merleau-Ponty). I make cross-references between the thought of Merleau-Ponty and of Dewey, and I believe that many insights can be drawn from such comparison. By bringing pragmatic insights into the phenomenological context, I will place Dewey’s pragmatic way of thinking about the embodied mind in a different light. However, different though they may seem, I will further argue that there is a deep sympathy between the phenomenological and pragmatic perspectives of these two thinkers, especially when we take Dewey’s existential ontology into consideration.

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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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An Understanding of Character from Holistic Thinking: What Asian Psychology Teaches Us about the Debate on Situationism
Jacklyn A. Cleofas
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 384-405.
Abstract   PDF (263KB)

The situationist challenge to virtue has convinced many philosophers to adopt an empirically grounded methodology. I argue that this methodology requires us to reconsider conceptualizations of and evidence on character from experiments involving Asian subjects because it is precisely in these experiments that we see a remedy for the problems exposed by situationism. Since both situationists and defenders of virtue fall short of abiding by the part of their methodological commitment associated with remediation, evidence from the experiments is relevant for most participants in the debate. I show that the evidence indicates something important about remediation: the point is not to avoid the concept of virtue or character, but to deploy a holistic thinking style that has been observed among some populations in Asia. Holistic thinking involves (a) a tendency to explain behavior in terms of the interaction between person and situation variables and (b) an incremental understanding of character. The paper ends with a brief sketch of an account of character from holistic thinking that also highlights the role of social support in managing situations.

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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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The Mechanism of the Emergence of Nihilism from the View of Intentional Tenacity
XU Yuxia
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 457-468.
Abstract   PDF (227KB)

This paper sets forth the reasons why Nietzsche thought nihilism to be inevitable from the perspective of the tenacity of the intentional. Through distinguishing two ordered intentional states—first-order and high-order—and two kinds of objects respectively, the paper illustrates that it is impossible to find a new ultimate value to replace Christian values when Nietzsche announced “the death of God.” Inspired by Nietzsche’s thoughts, the paper concludes by briefly discussing the possibility of comparing Confucian and Nietzsche’s ideas concerning nihilism.

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On Interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks from the Viewpoint of Academic Micro-Politics
LIU Yu-Chao, TSAI Wei-Ding
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 552-569.
Abstract   PDF (312KB)

This article is to explore the micro-political situation behind interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks in the academic context. In order to show a whole and complete picture, this article first presents a detailed description of the publication information of the Black Notebooks and of the debates about anti-Semitism that arose after their publication in the West. Then we try to compare the interpretations of the Black Notebooks most prevalent in the West with those in Chinese academia, in order to delineate their different tendencies in interpretations. Finally, by comparison of distinctive tendencies from both sides, we find out that there are already academic micro-political attitudes guiding these varying interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks.

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The Conceptual Fetters of the Mind-Body Problem
FEI Duoyi
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 612-629.
Abstract   PDF (256KB)

The crux of our encounter with the mind-body problem originates from a predicament on the underlying ontological level—from the category of concepts, it seems that the form for grasping the subjective aspects of the mind is incommensurable with the one for understanding the objective level of the brain. This is reflected in the fact that empirical expression is restricted by language, that psychological events cannot be incorporated into strict laws, and that the subject has a path that, with his own mental state, others cannot share. In order to make progress in cracking the mind-body problem, this paper tries to abandon the assumption that “psychology” and “physics” are mutually exclusive and are incompatible ontological categories. The “mind” and “body” are considered as two interchangeable yet non-coexisting perspectives. Therefore, events in the body are represented as conceptions in the mind, and have an expressive correspondence with one another. Meanwhile, the approach for achieving such correspondence involves the entity itself—the ability of the organism to perform purposeful activities constitutes the source of its internal activities. Through the connection of life categories—or rather, the coupling of living beings and their worlds—the mind and body maintain mechanisms which can be jointly realized.

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To Preserve or Enhance Life? Nietzsche’s Perspectivist Understanding of Life and Morality
MENG Liang
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 435-456.
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

Instead of denouncing sincere Christianity, as it is often assumed, Nietzsche inveighs vehemently against insincere Christianity that interpreters take as evidence for his nihilism. This essay argues that Nietzsche’s perspectivism affirms the positive value of Christian morality as an instrument for life preservation, which is a relative standard for judging various perspectives on life. It also analyzes the negative value of Christian morality as the impediment to life enhancement, which is the absolute standard for evaluating those perspectives. As this study finally argues, it remains to the Overman to once and for all overcome the impediments to life brought on by Christian morality in the creation of a new morality, if in fact what the Overman creates is indeed a new morality.

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Dialectics of Individual Life and Moral Law: On Adorno’s Non-Identical Moral Philosophy
LUO Songtao
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 406-422.
Abstract   PDF (254KB)

The article aims to discuss the theme of Adorno’s non-identical moral philosophy, particularly the primacy of individual life over moral laws, as based mainly on his key works like Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, On Subject and Object, Problems of Moral Philosophy, and Negative Dialectics. The claim here is that the primacy of individual life is made through negative dialectics (“non-idealist dialectics”) dealing with the antithesis between object and subject, particular and universal, individual and society under the theoretical horizon of non-identical philosophy. Meanwhile, as a private ethics, this non-identical moral philosophy based on individual life stands as a kind of negativism, which is focused on negative guidance towards the possibility of right life.

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A Couple Nagging Interpretive Difficulties in Zhuangzi Studies vis-à-vis William James on the Ethics and Psychology of Belief
John Robert Williams
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 593-611.
Abstract   PDF (396KB)

The present article addresses two lingering questions in the interpretation of the Zhuangzi 莊子—(a) How can one reconcile the scepticism of the Zhuangzi with its positive project(s)? and (b) Who can become a sagely person? The questions are addressed with reference to aspects of William James’ accounts of the ethics and psychology of belief.

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Hintikka’s Logical Revolution
XU Difei
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 630-648.
Abstract   PDF (255KB)

Hintikka thinks that second-order logic is not pure logic, and because of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, he suggests that we should liberate ourselves from the mistaken idea that first-order logic is the foundational logic of mathematics. With this background he introduces his independence friendly logic (IFL). In this paper, I argue that approaches taking Hintikka’s IFL as a foundational logic of mathematics face serious challenges. First, the quantifiers in Hintikka’s IFL are not distinguishable from Linström’s general quantifiers, which means that the quantifiers in IFL involve higher order entities. Second, if we take Wright’s interpretation of quantifiers or if we take Hale’s criterion for the identity of concepts, Quine’s thesis that second-order logic is set theory will be rejected. Third, Hintikka’s definition of truth itself cannot be expressed in the extension of language of IFL. Since second-order logic can do what IFL does, the significance of IFL for the foundations of mathematics is weakened.

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