Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436 (Print)
ISSN 1673-355X (Online)
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Retrieving Phenomenology: Introduction to the Special Theme
Eric S. Nelson
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 329-337.
Abstract   PDF (230KB)
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On Pillowing One’s Skull: Zhuangzi and Heidegger on Death
David Chai
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 483-500.
Abstract   PDF (288KB)

Martin Heidegger famously declares that Dasein does not perish but experiences its demise, and that death stands before us as something to be anticipated. This idea of being-towards-death is an anticipation of possibility, of becoming authentically free for one’s death. If we take Heidegger’s view of death and compare it to that of the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, we notice that the latter also holds death in an unusual light. For Zhuangzi, death is possibility not because it symbolizes the perfection of being but insofar as it reveals its entanglements. This paper will thus argue in support of the Daoist notion that death is neither to be feared nor does it serve as the end of one’s contribution to the world. It will also take the stance that death qua nothingness is both a corporeal and metaphorical embodiment of Dao in that death and nothingness reflect the natural praxis of Dao to be still, empty, and quiet. In order to facilitate our analysis, we will focus on the story of Zhuangzi and the roadside skull, a story that has Zhuangzi pillowing said skull from which he realizes that life is but a pillowing of death.

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Heidegger on the Struggle for Belongingness and Being at Home
Megan Altman
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 444-462.
Abstract   PDF (285KB)

In 1840, Alexis de Tocqueville coined the term “individualism” to refer to the tendency for Americans to withdraw into their own desires and interests, thus weakening and diminishing the “habits of the heart” that bind a generation to the customs of their forebears and contemporaries. A problem, though, is that modern individualism undermines the very ideals—i.e. autonomy, equality, and freedom—that motivated it in the first place. Understood as a way of life, liberal individualism is permeated by alienation, estrangement, and thoughtless patterns of conformism. In what follows, I hope to show that hermeneutic phenomenology as developed by Martin Heidegger marks an important break from the modern liberal individualistic outlook. The point is to undercut the contrived interpretations of our current historical tradition in order to demonstrate that belonging to and sharing in the struggles of a generation are conditions for being human at all. This critique does not provide a panoptic or definitive account of the basis of a genuine community, but does give us a richer sense of place and purpose, beyond even what the current polis/political community designates (though it certainly includes it).

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Confucian Ethics: Altruistic? Egoistic? Both? Neither?
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (2): 217-231.
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.
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.
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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The Ethics of Treating Animals as Resources: A Post-Heideggerian Approach
Tara Kennedy
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 463-482.
Abstract   PDF (248KB)

This paper describes the phenomenological ethics implicit in Heidegger’s later work. It is argued that these phenomenological ethics take the form of a perfectionist ethics in which one consciously resists the temptation to nihilistically enframe other entities as Bestand. Despite Heidegger’s reputation as an inferior animal philosopher, it is then argued that we can employ this ethics to improve our relationship with non-human animals. Specifically, our use of them in the agricultural setting is examined to determine whether or not our current practices are ethical according to Heidegger’s normative model. Ultimately it is concluded that, more often than not, animals are harmed both ontically and ontologically by our modern farming practices. We are called on instead to try to dwell meditatively with other entities, to be-with them in such a way that respects them as inexhaustibly meaningful instantiations of being as such. This requires changes to the way in which we satisfy our needs as consumers.

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Philosophy and Science Dialogue: Consciousness
Giulio Tononi, Owen Flanagan
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 332-348.
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.
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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Max Scheler’s Phenomenology of Pain
Saulius Geniusas
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 358-376.
Abstract   PDF (260KB)

This paper offers a systematic account of Scheler’s phenomenology of pain, addresses its place in the history of the phenomenology of pain and traces its significance for pain research. Against the popular view, which maintains that for Scheler pain is a feeling-state, this paper argues that Scheler conceives of pain as an irreducibly ambiguous phenomenon: as both a non-intentional feeling-state and an intentional feeling. This paper further shows how this ambiguity leads Scheler to qualify pain as a stratified phenomenon, composed of causal, sensory, emotive and cognitive dimensions. This paper demonstrates how such a stratified conception enables one to draw meaningful distinctions between pain and other emotive phenomena, such as suffering, illness, and despair. This paper concludes with some remarks concerning the significance of Scheler’s phenomenology of pain for pain research.

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Tianming and the Other: Rethinking the Source of Responsibility in the Zhong Yong and Emmanuel Levinas
Sai Hang Kwok
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 501-520.
Abstract   PDF (354KB)

“Everyone will readily agree that it is of the highest importance to know whether we are not duped by morality,” says Emmanuel Levinas in the preface to Totality and Infinity. Why is ethical inquiry a meaningful and necessary task? This is a universal question with which all contemplation of ethics should grapple. This paper aims to show that both the Other in Levinas and the “Heavenly-command (tianming 天命)” in the Zhong Yong 中庸 indicate that human beings are called to be passively ethical. The passivity of ethical responsibility is, however, not caused by a divine moral power, but can be seen in three characteristics that mark ethics: 1) the exposure to the other, 2) the time of diachrony and 3) the aporetic moment of ethical response. Ethical responsibility is commanded before one’s initiative to be ethical and is therefore prior to moral subjectivity. Moreover, a moral life is accomplished only in sincerely responding to this command of ethical responsibility. This opens up a kind of activity called “sincerity (cheng 誠).” The source of responsibility therefore lies in a passive ethical situation that calls upon an active ethical response. This ethical responsibility is the foundation of all ethical inquiry.

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The Invisible and the Secret: Of a Phenomenology of the Inapparent
François Raffoul
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 395-414.
Abstract   PDF (308KB)

I consider in this article Heidegger’s late characterization of phenomenology as a “phenomenology of the inapparent.” Phenomenology is traditionally considered to be a thought of presence, assigned to a phenomenon that is identified with the present being, or with an object for consciousness. The phenomenon would be synonymous with presence itself, with what manifests itself in a presence. However, I will suggest in the following pages that phenomenology is haunted by the presence of a certain unappearing dimension, a claim that was made by Heidegger in his last seminar in 1973, when he characterized the most proper sense of phenomenology as a “phenomenology of the inapparent.” I attempt to show in what sense for Heidegger the “inapparent” plays in phenomenality and in phenomenology, and to then consider (drawing from Levinas and Derrida) its ethical import.

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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.
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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Heidegger’s Conception of Being-with (Mitsein ) and His Simple Designation of Social and Political Reality in the Black Notebooks
JIN Xiping
Front. Philos. China    2016, 11 (3): 415-429.
Abstract   PDF (333KB)

Despite Heidegger insists that Being and Time cannot be read as a kind of existential philosophy, such interpretation still holds in some aspect, for in it, the main content is a special kind of phenomenology of life, even be called repeatedly as the foundation of the ontology of Being in general. The project of establishing an ontology of Being in general was ultimately never carried out. What Heidegger provides in Being and time is nothing but a phenomenology of life. It is peculiar that love and friendship as an important element of life is deliberately ignored. Such a deficiency of Heidegger, namely lacking love and friendship in fundamental ontology of Dasein, is probably the reason for his political fallacy during the II-World-War, notorious political mistake in his recent published Black Notebooks.

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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.
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: Free Will
Marcel Brass, Derk Pereboom
Front. Philos. China    2018, 13 (3): 361-376.
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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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.
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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A Critical Examination of Anselm’s Ontological Argument
ZHANG Junguo
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 137-150.
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.
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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