Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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Confucian Ethics: Altruistic? Egoistic? Both? Neither?
HUANG Yong
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 217-231.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0017-1
Abstract   PDF (327KB)

Is Confucian ethics primarily egoistic or altruistic? There is textual support for both answers. For the former, for example, Confucius claims that one learns for the sake of oneself; for the latter, we can find Confucius saying that one ought to not impose upon others as one would not like to be imposed upon. This essay aims to explain in what sense Confucian ethics is egoistic (the highest goal one aims to reach is to become a virtuous person oneself) and in what sense it is altruistic (a virtuous person is necessarily concerned with the well-being, both external and internal, of others). The conclusion to be drawn, however, is not that Confucian ethics is both egoistic and altruistic, but that it is neither, since the Confucian ideal of a virtuous person is to be in one body with others so that there are really no others (since all others become part of myself), and since there are no others, there is no self either.

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Contemporary Chinese Philosophy in the Chinese-Speaking World: An Overview
PENG Guoxiang
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (1): 91-119.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0007-4
Abstract   PDF (372KB)

This article endeavors to provide an overview on contemporary Chinese philosophy. The focus is on contemporary Chinese philosophy in the Chinese-speaking world, particularly after the 1950s, although contemporary Chinese philosophy both in its inception in early 20th century China and in the English-speaking world are also explored. In addition to designating separate genres of contemporary Chinese philosophical interpretation and construction, including some of the major issues under discussion and debate as well as giving attention to several representative scholars, this article also teases out the historical contexts in which those issues emerged and developed, and it highlights the salient feature of contemporary Chinese philosophy in general.

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Consciousness, Free Will, and the Sciences of the Mind
Timothy O’Connor
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 394-401.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0030-6
Abstract   PDF (287KB)

In his review of the trio of philosopher-scientist dialogues on the nature and capacities of the human mind, Paul Thagard (2018) advocates clearly and forcefully for a fairly extreme position, which he advances as preferable to an equally extreme alternative. I will suggest a middle path that becomes attractive when one attends not just to the range of data now pouring forth from the sciences of mind but also to our own experience as minded individuals.

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Philosophy and Science Dialogue: Consciousness
Giulio Tononi, Owen Flanagan
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 332-348.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0026-1
Abstract   PDF (335KB)

This is a dialogue between a philosopher and a scientist about the scientific explanation of consciousness. What is consciousness? Does it admit of scientific explanation? If so, what must a scientific theory of consciousness be like in order to provide us with a satisfying explanation of its explanandum? And what types of entities might such a theory acknowledge as being conscious? Philosopher Owen Flanagan and scientist Giulio Tononi weigh in on these issues during an exchange about the nature and scientific explanation of consciousness.

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Mind, Consciousness, and Free Will
Paul Thagard
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 377-393.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0029-2
Abstract   PDF (266KB)

This commentary discusses how philosophy and science can collaborate to understand the human mind, considering dialogues involving three philosophers and three cognitive scientists. Their topics include the relation of philosophy and science, the nature of mind, the problem of consciousness, and the existence of free will. I argue that philosophy is more general and normative than science, but they are interdependent. Philosophy can build on the cognitive sciences to develop a theory of mind I call “multilevel materialism,” which integrates molecular, neural, mental, and social mechanisms. Consciousness is increasingly being understood as resulting from neural mechanisms. Scientific advances make the traditional concept of free will implausible, but “freeish” will is consistent with new theories of decision making and action resulting from brain processes. Philosophers should work closely with scientists to address profound problems about knowledge, reality, and values.

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Mou Zongsan and Martin Heidegger: Reopening a Debate on Ontology and Ethics
Selusi Ambrogio
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (1): 55-71.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0005-0
Abstract   PDF (324KB)

In this paper I investigate differences and similarities in the definitions of human being and human essence as proposed by two of the most influential thinkers of 20th-century world philosophy, namely Mou Zongsan and Martin Heidegger. I first examine a number of interpretations put forth by scholars that assess the philosophical compatibility of the thought of the two philosophers. Each of these assessments tend to agree that they are incompatible with each other based on what they perceive as an absolute distance between Mou’s and Heidegger’s ways of thinking. Although these studies are pioneering and show an in-depth understanding of Mou’s thought, none demonstrate a correct understanding of Heidegger’s philosophy. Therefore, I will attempt to demonstrate that, despite their differences, the ontological and ethical theses of Mou and Heidegger have several striking points of contact. I will also put forth the claim that Heidegger’s post-turn philosophy is more compatible with Mou’s philosophy than Kant’s system.

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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0013-7
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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Seventy Years in Philosophy of Mind: An Overview, with Emphasis on the Issue of Mental Causation
Terence Horgan
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 300-331.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0025-4
Abstract   PDF (315KB)

This paper is an opinionated overview of major developments in philosophy of mind during the past seventy years, with emphasis on the issue of mental causation. Its most prominent positions all embrace a broadly “naturalistic” or “materialistic” conception of human beings, and of mentality and its place in nature. Included in this paper are discussions of analytical behaviorism, the psychophysical identity theory, functionalism, multiple realizability and strong multiple realizability, supervenience, the causal exclusion problem, phenomenal mental states, wide content, contextualist causal compatibilism, agentive phenomenology, and the agent-exclusion problem.

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“Learning to Be Human” as Moral Development—A Reconstruction of Mengzi’s Views on the Heart-Mind
YAO Xinzhong
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 194-206.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0015-7
Abstract   PDF (292KB)

Learning to be human is a highly important concern in Confucian philosophy. This paper is intended to provide a special perspective on this theme through an attempt to reinterpret Mengzi’s views on the heart-mind (xin心) as “learning to be human” and to reconstruct these views into a multi-staged process of moral development. Through an intentional interpretation of various arguments advanced by Mengzi, we seek to justify that his views on the heart-mind and moral virtues can be seen as a learning process and that he subjects the inborn beginnings of goodness to a delicate development before they can actually qualify a person as fully human. Having examined the three dimensions of Mengzi’s learning, the intellectual, the practical and the spiritual, we will come to the conclusion that whether innate or a posteriori, initial good senses and knowledge require a moral and spiritual process of learning to develop which is, to Mengzi, crucial for one to become a genuine human being.

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Philosophy and Science Dialogue: Mental Causation
Thalia Wheatley, Terence Horgan
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 349-360.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0027-8
Abstract   PDF (308KB)

This paper is a dialogue between Thalia Wheatley and Terence Horgan. Horgan maintains that philosophy is a broadly empirical discipline, and that philosophical theorizing about how concepts work treats certain intuitions about proper concept-usage as empirical data. He holds that the possibility of strong multiple realizability undermines the psychophysical identity theory. He holds that the concept of causation is governed by implicit contextual parameters, and that this dissolves Kim’s problem of “causal exclusion.” He holds that the concept of free will is governed by implicit contextual parameters, and that free-will attributions are often true, in typical contexts, even if determinism is true. Thalia Wheatley holds that the concept of multiple realizability hinges on the level of abstraction discussed and that neuroscientific data does not yet support multiple realizability of mental states from specific, high resolution brain states. She also holds that compatibilism redefines the concept of free will in ways that bear little resemblance to the common understanding―that of being free to choose otherwise in the moment. She maintains that this folk understanding is incompatible with the brain as a physical system and is not rescued by concepts of context and capacity.

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Philosophy and Science Dialogue: Free Will
Marcel Brass, Derk Pereboom
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 361-376.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0028-5
Abstract   PDF (243KB)

In this dialogue Derk Pereboom and Marcel Brass discuss the free will problem from the perspective of philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. First, they give their opinion on how the two disciplines contribute to the free will problem. While Pereboom is optimistic regarding the contribution of science, Brass is more pessimistic and questions the usefulness of an empirical approach to the question whether free will exists or not. Then they outline their position on the free will problem. The idea of a transcendental agent is discussed in more detail. Furthermore, it is discussed whether free will scepticism is a politically, socially, psychologically viable position. Pereboom argues that promoting the idea of free will scepticism can have a positive impact on retributive emotions and the political practice regarding retributive punishment. Brass argues that retributive emotions are deeply rooted in evolution and therefore difficult to change via high-level beliefs about free will. Finally, the future of the free will debate is discussed. Both agree that the dialogue between philosophy and psychology should be intensified. Philosophy can benefit from taking empirical research more seriously. Psychology and neuroscience can benefit from philosophy by appreciating the sophistication and conceptual clarity of the philosophical debate. Both have to find a common language and define common problems that can be tackled from both perspectives.

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The Study of Western Postmodern Philosophy of History in China in the Four Decades of Reform and Opening Up
DONG Lihe, JIN Qianwen
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 254-264.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0020-9
Abstract   PDF (368KB)

In the 1960s and 1970s—as structuralism, post-structuralism, and literary criticism seeped into history—the “linguistic turn” or “narrative turn,” leading to what is known as postmodern philosophy of history, took place in Western philosophy of history. In the past forty years of reform and opening up to the outside world, and especially in the most recent two or three decades, Chinese research on Western postmodern philosophy of history has proceeded from overall review to in-depth research, and then on to reflection, criticism, and even transcendence. Neither the rethinking of historical objectivity and rationality nor the reconstruction of convictions about historical reason can work without the profound insights or theoretical tensions of postmodern philosophy of history.

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An Editorial Note on the Special Theme
YAO Xinzhong
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 165-165.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0011-9
Abstract   PDF (145KB)

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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0014-4
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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Feng Youlan’s Research into the History of Philosophy and Philosophical Creation
QIAO Qingju
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (1): 23-38.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0003-6
Abstract   PDF (320KB)

With regard to the study of the general history of Chinese philosophy and the creation of a philosophical system, Feng Youlan (Fung Yu-lan) has still not been surpassed in the circle of contemporary Chinese philosophy. His text A History of Chinese Philosophy (in two volumes) has particular value not only because of its description of the history of Chinese philosophy, but also because of its historical linking of antiquity and modernity, and of China and the West, a feat realized through philosophy. His philosophical system, set forth in the Six Books of Zhenyuan貞元六書 (six philosophical monographs) and widely known as the New Learning of Principle system, has ontologically established the primacy of Principle, and, culturally, has instantiated the process of modernization, all of which retains its significance even today. Feng’s thought on realms in his philosophy of life is centered around understanding-based self-enlightenment and has opened a new perspective for reflective thought about, and understanding of, Chinese philosophy. However, it falls short in its failure to acknowledge that “understanding-based self-enlightenment should also be a dynamic process of practice.” Feng showed his academic orientation, distinguished by syncretizing the Learning of Principle and the Learning of Mind, by integrating philosophical creation into the research on the history of philosophy in his late years; however, this syncretism can be pushed further with regard to the issue of unity between subject and object—continuity between the investigation of things before complete understanding and complete enlightenment of the mind after the complete understanding of things. Feng thinks in A Short History of Chinese Philosophy that the most significant contribution that Chinese philosophy has made to the world is in its philosophy of life, and, subsequent to this assertion, one can point out that Chinese philosophy can also make contributions in terms of methodology. In Chinese philosophy, benevolence has an ontological meaning, and is the ontological basis for man and all the other beings to exist in the oneness, as well as the ontological basis for man and the world to be united. Chinese philosophy contains valuable insights in overcoming the opposition between subject and object, establishing a new view of subjects, a new view of objects, and, consequently, creating a new type of subject-object relationship and realizing a second enlightenment of the world.

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Remarks on Some Trends in Contemporary Philosophy
Luca Maria Scarantino
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 174-181.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0013-3
Abstract   PDF (175KB)

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From Humanized Nature to Naturalized Humans―Li Zehou’s Transformation of the Classical Chinese “Tianren Heyi ” Paradigm Through the Lens of Kant and Early Marx
Jana S. Rošker
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (1): 72-90.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0006-7
Abstract   PDF (237KB)

Li Zehou belongs among the ranks of the most important Chinese philosophers of the 20th and 21st centuries. In his complex theoretical system, he aimed to reconcile the Chinese cultural heritage with the demands of the contemporary world. Besides elaborating on traditional Chinese philosophy, Li launched many innovative views based on his understanding of specific developments in pre-modern and modern Western philosophy. His philosophy could be described as the search for a synthesis between Western and traditional Chinese thought and a specifically Chinese modernization. In order to provide a basic insight into Li’s specific methods of combining Kant, early Marx and classical Chinese philosophy, the present article investigates his elaboration of the traditional Chinese paradigm of “the unity of nature and man” (tianren heyi天人合一) through the lens of ideas about humanized nature (renhua de ziran人化的自然) and naturalized humans (ziranhua de ren自然化的人).

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Causal Exclusion and Causal Autonomism
CAI Weixin
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 402-419.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0031-3
Abstract   PDF (275KB)

The causal exclusion problem is often considered as one of the major difficulties for which non-reductive physicalists have no easy solution to offer. Some non-reductive physicalists address this problem by arguing that mental properties are to some extent causally autonomous. If this is the case, then mental properties will not be causally excluded by their physical realizers because causation, in general, is a relation between properties of the same level. In this paper, I argue that the response from causal autonomy cannot be successful for two reasons. First, it does not offer a satisfactory explanation for how mental particulars can have causal efficacy in a non-reductive physicalist framework. Second, the causal considerations underpinning this response do not really support the conclusion that mental properties are causally autonomous.

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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0015-1
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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Xiong Shili on the Nature, the Mind and the Origin of Badness as Evidenced in Ming Xin Pian 明心篇 (Explaining the Mind )
John Makeham
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (1): 4-22.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0002-9
Abstract   PDF (486KB)

The question of the origin of badness is a core problematic in New Confucian philosopher Xiong Shili’s 熊十力 (1885–1968) Ming Xin Pian明心篇 (Explaining the Mind; 1959), a work representative of his thought towards the end of his life. In this essay, I examine how Xiong uses the concepts of the nature (xing 性) and the mind (xin 心) to explain the origin of moral badness. Xiong asserts that the Buddhists never concerned themselves with the problem of the origin of ignorance and delusion, afflictions that in turn lead to suffering and wrongdoing. Xiong sets out to redress what he claims the Buddhists had failed to do. I argue that the conceptual structure of both Xiong Shili’s and Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (1130–1200) theoretical approaches to this problem are isomorphic. The isomorphism is significant because it suggests that Xiong consciously drew on Zhu Xi and/or the Buddhist models that Zhu in turn drew on. I provide evidence to show that even as late as 1959, and despite his increasingly entrenched criticisms of Buddhism, Xiong continued to draw on key concepts and models drawn from Buddhist philosophy of mind.

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