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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A Critical Examination of Anselm’s Ontological Argument
ZHANG Junguo
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 137-150.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-006-017-0010-8
Abstract   PDF (235KB)

This paper argues that St. Anselm’s distinction of the two senses of existence in his ontological argument for the existence of God renders Paul Tillich’s refutation of it invalid. At the same time, Anselm misuses the two types of existence in his ontological comparison, leading to a logical contradiction between the different kinds and degrees of existence. Since Anselm’s idea of different reference subjects does not coherently solve this logical absurdity, Anselm’s ontological argument falls well short of being a successful approach to establishing the existence of God.

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Ji Kang on Nourishing Life
David Chai
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 38-53.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-006-017-0004-9
Abstract   PDF (275KB)

Ji Kang’s “An Essay on Nourishing Life” has, for much of its history, been overshadowed by his more famous work “Sound is without Grief or Joy.” Be that as it may, “An Essay on Nourishing Life” is also an important text in that it delves into the interdependence of the heart-mind, spirit, and vital breath, and into how harmony between them is the key to ensuring physical longevity. In addition to investigating this aspect of his thought, this paper will also discuss Ji Kang’s attention to the vicissitudes of knowledge and desire and to the need to temper them with tranquility and stillness. “An Essay on Nourishing Life” can thus be read as an extension of classical Daoist theories of self-cultivation while at the same time elaborating upon them by bringing together their disparate components into a coherently unified doctrine.

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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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Approaching Laozi : Comparing a Syncretic Reading to a Synthetic One
Thomas Michael, CHEN Yazhou
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 10-25.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-006-017-0002-5
Abstract   PDF (311KB)

Is Laozi a syncretic text whose primary body of ideas were cobbled together from multiple and various sources, none of which can reasonably be identified as Daoist, or is it a synthetic text whose ideas emerged from a single source that for all intents embodies the core elements of a tradition that meets the standards of inclusion for a tradition of early Daoism? The present work examines the key points of Hongkyung Kim’s sophisticated account of Laozi’s origins as a syncretic text. It then goes on to present the key points of what would have to be involved in its original circulations as a synthetic text. It concludes by suggesting a middle ground that is able to explain why an originally synthetic Laozi is all too easily read by modern scholars as a syncretic text.

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A Process Interpretation of Daoist Thought
Alan Fox
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 26-37.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-006-017-0003-2
Abstract   PDF (294KB)

Despite the fact that the Dao De Jing 道德經 is one of the most frequently translated texts in history, most of these translations share certain unexamined and problematic assumptions which often make it seem as though the text is irrational, incoherent, and full of non sequiturs. Frequently, these assumptions involve the imposition of historically anachronous, linguistically unsound, and philosophically problematic categories and attitudes onto the text. One of the main causes of the problem is the persistent tendency on the part of most translators to read the first line of the text as referring to or implying the existence of some kind of “eternal Dao.” These are what I term “ontological” readings, as opposed to the “process” reading I will be articulating here.

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Rethinking Organizational Change: Implications from the Chinese Shi
YUAN Li
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (4): 540-555.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-005-016-0039-1
Abstract   PDF (345KB)

Much of conventional organizational thinking and practice has been dominated by a belief in stability, with change deemed a disruptive and temporary aberration in the larger scheme of things. This mindset ignores the dynamic, living complexity of organizational life and very likely leads to static management approaches which hinder and sometimes even destroy an organization’s effectiveness by restricting its ability to adapt to turbulent and chaotic events. The Chinese notion of shi is embedded in the ancient Chinese appreciation of reality, which saw change and transformation as an endless flow and an essential feature of the universe; shi is implied by the process of change and can be made to act in one’s favor. As a strategy, shi offers us salutary lessons in modern organizational research and practice: rather than merely trying to control every chain of management and avoid chaos and uncertainty by relying on planning and modeling, organizations should also maintain a tentative and alert sensibility concerning the inherent potential of the changing situation, and should be carried along by it as it evolves.

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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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