Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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A Philosophical Analysis of the Concept of Crisis
WANG Tangjia
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 254-267.
Abstract   PDF (282KB)

In our times, philosophy has been suffering from a spiritual crisis that takes the forms of the crisis of culture, the crisis of meaning, and the crisis of way of life. As the soul of culture, philosophy should contribute valuable responses to the problems of our times. Thus understood, this paper intends to analyze the concept of crisis in a phenomenological approach. The concept of crisis is concerned with the philosophical themes of time and death, and the crises of our times are primarily the crises of life-meaning and the life-world. Drawing sources from Husserl and other phenomenologists, as well as experiences from Chinese culture, I argue that a philosophy of crisis should find its point of departure from the crisis of philosophy.

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Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox
Byeong-uk Yi
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 498-522.
Abstract   PDF (337KB)

This paper presents an interpretation of Gongsun Long’s white horse paradox. The Chinese sentence he uses to state his main thesis (Bai ma fei ma) has two potential readings: (a) The white horses are not horses. (b) The white horses are not the horses. Although (a) gives the usual and correct reading of the sentence, according to the interpretation, Gongsun Long takes it to state (b). He gives good arguments for (b) while taking them to establish (a) as well, for he fails to distinguish between the two different theses. In presenting this interpretation, the paper gives an account of the function of numeral classifiers and discusses the semantics of count nouns in languages with no grammatical number system, including classical Chinese and classifier languages (e.g., contemporary Chinese).

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Water, Plant, Light, and Mirror: On the Root Metaphors of the Heart-Mind in Wang Yangming’s Thought
BAO Yongling
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 95-112.
Abstract   PDF (311KB)

Clarifying Wang Yangming’s thought through a study of his root metaphors of heart-mind is an important step toward explaining his further concepts of the human world. Along with the root metaphors of water and mirror, the metaphors of plant and light work together for Wang to form a coherent theoretical and practical system of xin (heart-mind). This method is also a good way to unravel the various theories of the “three teachings” that are intermingled in his thinking. By using this methodology Wang’s attempts to harmonize several ancient traditions of heart-mind that appear as possibly polarized to modern readers, are illuminated (though they did not appear contradictory to the Neo-Confucians).

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The De of Levinas: Cultivating the Heart-Mind of Radical Passivity
Leah Kalmanson,Sarah Mattice
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 113-129.
Abstract   PDF (292KB)

This essay explores the early Chinese text Guanzi to address the question of ethical responsibility in the work of Emmanuel Levinas. We begin with the premise that being responsive to the other, feeling the impossibility of renouncing ethical obligation, and experiencing the basic moral asymmetry at the heart of Levinas’s project all rely on the welcome openness of the subject that Levinas describes as the subject’s “radical passivity.” However, his emphasis on infinite responsibility, coupled with the theme of radical passivity, gives the problematic impression that ethics amounts to a never-ending to-do list for the other, and certainly this is not what Levinas means. We turn to the Guanzi, which recommends that the ethically efficacious sage-prince must cultivate a state of passive stillness and inner vacuity. Only because the sage-prince maintains this deferential heart-mind is he freely open and responsive to others. Here the sage-prince looks strikingly like a good Levinasian: He is deferential, sensitive to context, and hyper-aware of the limits of his own knowledge. The Guanzi goes on to describe specific practices the sage-prince can employ to cultivate his ethical prowess, including practices of meditation and gentle physical exercises. Taking this insight into Levinas’s context, we suggest that such practices of self-regulation are necessary to enable effective responsiveness to the other. From this perspective, responsibility is “infinite” not because I am perpetually beholden to the other’s whims, but because I am perpetually accountable for calming and clearing my own mind of the unstable emotions, selfish desires, and intellectual machinations that prevent the welcome openness of radical passivity.

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The Next American Revolution? Reflections on Gar Alperovitz, What Then Must We Do?
David Schweickart
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 350-357.
Abstract   PDF (257KB)

Marx is concerned with theory that not only interprets but also changes the world. A central issue is thus the transition from capitalism to communism, a topic rarely considered by critics of capitalism today. An important exception is Gar Alperovitz, who, although eschewing the word “communism,” argues that we need “a new system” and sketches a transition strategy for moving “beyond capitalism.” This paper elaborates and evaluates this strategy

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Ars Erotica and Ars Gastronomica in Shusterman’s Somaesthetics
Russell Pryba
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 192-200.
Abstract   PDF (253KB)

This paper explores the roles of the erotic and gastronomic arts in Richard Shusterman’s somaesthetics. By discussing the relationship between moral education and the cultivation of gustatory taste in classical Chinese philosophy, this paper suggests future avenues of research for somaesthetics that draw on the rich tradition of thinking about food and the body in Chinese philosophy.

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Aristotle, the Intellect, and Cognition
Thomas M. Robinson
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 229-240.
Abstract   PDF (243KB)

It is argued in this paper that the famous “Active Intellect” of De Anima 3.5 is not God, as Alexander of Aphrodisias held, but rather an unchanging, eternally cognizing Intellect which serves as the indispensable condition for the operation of human intellect. It is “at the door” for each individual, ready to flow in as a stream of light—a light which renders potential objects of cognition knowable, just as visible light makes potentially visible objects visible—from outside that door (thyrathen) any time it is opened. Its existence cannot serve, however, as a proof of the immortality of human intellect, since, being unchanging, it can never possess a feature of human intellect which is characterized by nothing if not change, and that is memory.

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What Can Artificial Intelligence Learn from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty?
XU Yingjin
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 441-462.
Abstract   PDF (383KB)

Meta-philosophically speaking, the philosophy of artificial intelligence (AI) is intended not only to explore the theoretical possibility of building “thinking machines,” but also to reveal philosophical implications of specific AI approaches. Wittgenstein’s comments on the analytic/empirical dichotomy may offer inspirations for AI in the second sense. According to his “river metaphor” in On Certainty, the analytic/empirical boundary should be delimited in a way sensitive to specific contexts of practical reasoning. His proposal seems to suggest that any cognitive modeling project needs to render the system context-sensitive by avoiding representing large amounts of truisms in its cognitive processes, otherwise neither representational compactness nor computational efficiency can be achieved. In this article, different AI approaches (like the Common Sense Law of Inertia approach, the Bayesian approach and the connectionist approach) will be critically evaluated under the afore-mentioned Wittgensteinian criteria, followed by the author’s own constructive suggestion on what AI needs to try to do in the near future.

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Conceiving Possibility: Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi
XIE Wenyu
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 381-395.
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

This paper examines two notions of possibility conceived by Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi respectively. Kierkegaard conceives of it with appeals to the feeling of anxiety, while Zhuangzi deals with it in terms of a type of aesthetic feeling. Based on these distinctions, the paper goes further to explore two types of human existence as fostered by these two corresponding concepts of possibility. According to Kierkegaard, in order to maintain a connection with possibility, which would provide freedom to human existence, one must have faith in the redeemer bringing back possibility so that an individual human being might renew his or her choice ceaselessly. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, advises staying in the realm of nothingness and letting go of all things to avoid being trapped by the struggle of discerning between good and evil.

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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.
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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Ontology and Metaphysics in Chinese Philosophy
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (3): 408-428.
Abstract   PDF (492KB)

This paper begins with a critique of the uses of the term “bentilun 本 體論 (ontology)” in modern Chinese scholarship by tracing their claim to being theoretical paradigms for understanding Chinese philosophy as a philosophical tradition. It is supplemented by a contrastive discussion of bentilun and its original ancient Greek counterpart, i.e. ontology, to show that the object of discourse in bentilun does not match up with that of ontology, namely “being qua being.” This comparative study also demonstrates that bentilun finds its philosophical significance in connection with the theory of xinxing 心性 (heart-mind). In the second section of this paper, a comparative study of “xingershangxue 形而上學 (metaphysics)” and “metaphysics” highlights the central tenet that the dao essentially transcends language. Daoist philosophy is used as an example that identifies a unique predilection toward philosophical concepts that transcend the realm of nameable thoughts and objects in Chinese philosophy. Textual evidence is provided to show that the conceptual possibility of xingershangxue is based upon a fundamental difference between you 有 (being) and wu 無 (not-being), in a way that is similar to philosophical developments in other early civilizations. Nonetheless, in addition to a philosophical interest in principles and values that transcend the material world, Daoist xingershangxue exhibits an idiosyncratic attention to notions and theories whose object of discourse is essentially unnameable. This characteristic philosophical interest is identified with the aim of locating essential disciplines within Chinese philosophy, including the theory of xinxing, practical wisdom, and the theory of jingjie 境界 (state-of-attainment) in a wider framework of east and west philosophical traditions.

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On Kripke’s Dogmatism Paradox: A Logical Dynamical Analysis
XU Zhaoqing
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 298-310.
Abstract   PDF (270KB)

As a byproduct of solving the surprise-exam paradox, Saul Kripke formulates a “dogmatism paradox” which seems to show that knowledge entails dogmatism. In this paper, the author analyzes the nature of the dogmatism paradox from a logical dynamical perspective. The author suggests that the dogmatism paradox is better understood as a paradox of knowledge attribution rather than of knowledge. Therefore, the dogmatism paradox could be solved without sacrificing the principle of epistemic closure. Based on a famous version of relevant alternatives theory, the author formalizes a logic of knowledge attribution in the style of logical dynamics, namely, public retraction logic, and analyzes how knowledge attributions are retracted with the expansion of relevant alternatives.

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An Eco-Ethical Interpretation of Confucian Tianren Heyi
YAO Xinzhong
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 570-585.
Abstract   PDF (310KB)

Opposed to a commonly held interpretation that Confucian discourse regarding tianren heyi (天人合一) is simply a human-centred philosophical fusion of humanity and nature, this article argues that the Confucian discourse is in fact composed of two contradictory orientations, one ren-centred (roughly equivalent to “anthropocentric”) and the other tian-centred (“nature-centric” in a specific sense), which generally correspond to the two major camps of environmental philosophy in the West in the twentieth century. It will be further argued that the two orientations of the Confucian view have different yet related functions with regard to environmental protection and conservation: the tian-centred understanding establishes a metaphysical and religious framework for Confucian eco-ethical norms, in which ecological prohibitions and policies are built into the political and religious infrastructure, while the ren-centred orientation adds practical values and meanings to the ontological care of the human relation to the environment. In modern times, the two orientations of Confucian eco-ethics are under further development, moving away from being dualistic philosophies and converging on the eco-ethical way of life. Contemporary Confucians are investigating how the two traditional “orientations” can be unified as one holistic perspective which could provide theoretical and practical guidance for our understanding of the human position in the universe, the harmony between humans and nature, and the value of environmental protection and conservation.

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Beyond a Theory of Human Nature: Towards an Alternative Interpretation of Mencius’ Ethics
Hektor K. T. Yan
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 396-416.
Abstract   PDF (342KB)

By following the Wittgensteinian view that the sense of an ethical term such as “nature” (xing 性) should be understood through an examination of its function in its actual philosophical context, this article takes a look at the notion of xing in the Mencius from an alternative perspective. Proceeding from this perspective, it re-examines the view that xing in the Mencius should be understood in biological terms. A discussion of xing in relation to the “Why be moral?” question follows. I then offer an alternative interpretation of Mencius’ ethics by focusing on the meaning of the ethical particulars. Contrary to common perception, I argue that Mencius’ theory of human nature (renxing 人 性) need not occupy a central place in his moral philosophy; the ultimate foundation of Mencius’ moral philosophy lies in the meaning or sense of morality. Through participating in concrete, ethical thinking and by paying attention to the ethical particulars, human beings develop their grasp of moral and ethical meaning.

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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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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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Emotional Attachment and Its Limits: Mengzi, Gaozi and the Guodian Discussions
Karyn Lai
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (1): 132-151.
Abstract   PDF (411KB)

Mengzi maintained that both benevolence (ren 仁) and rightness (yi義) are naturally-given in human nature. This view has occupied a dominant place in Confucian intellectual history. In Mencius 6A, Mengzi’s interlocutor, Gaozi, contests this view, arguing that rightness is determined by (doing what is fitting, in line with) external circumstances. I discuss here some passages from the excavated Guodian texts, which lend weight to Gaozi’s view. The texts reveal nuanced considerations of relational proximity and its limits, setting up requirements for moral action in scenarios where relational ties do not play a motivational role. I set out yi’s complexity in these discussions, highlighting its implications for (i) the nei-wai debate; (ii) the notion of yi as “rightness,” or doing the right thing; and (iii) how we can understand the connection between virtue and right action in these early Confucian debates. This material from the excavated texts not only provides new perspectives on a longstanding investigation of human nature and morality, it also challenges prevailing views on Warring States Confucian intellectual history.

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Patriotism in Early China
Michael Nylan, Allyson Tang, Zhijian Wang
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (1): 47-74.
Abstract   PDF (542KB)

This paper considers the difference between the values attached to love of country in early China and in today’s world, through exploration of a series of concept clusters centered on “loyalty,” “glory,” “honor,” and “identity.” Using a wide array of sources, including legends about exemplary figures in antiquity, it assesses the extent to which patriotism or something like patriotism was a normative value in the distant past. It also outlines the appropriate limits of patriotism which the early thinkers insisted upon, thinking them useful guidelines for today.

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James Legge’s Hermeneutical Methodology as Revealed in His Translation of the Daxue
ZHENG Shuhong
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (2): 249-264.
Abstract   PDF (314KB)

With a focus on The Great Learning (Daxue 大學), this paper explores the specific exegetical or hermeneutical methodology adopted by James Legge in his translation of this Confucian canonical text. It begins with an analysis of the translation theory endorsed by Legge, comparing his translation with those of Ku Hung-ming and Wing-tsit Chan. The second part aims to explicate the hermeneutic dilemma faced by Legge in his dealing with this text. It looks at the intellectual context in which Legge’s scholarship on the Chinese classics had developed, as well as the academic standard he was required to maintain throughout his translation. Overall, Legge’s familiarity with Qing scholarship makes it interesting to determine where and why he follows or rejects Zhu Xi. Given Legge’s Christian missionary background and the sense of mission pervading Zhu Xi’s commentary, we conclude that Legge’s affinity with Zhu Xi is much more subtle and complex than previously speculated: the difference in their approach to Confucian texts cannot be reduced to a contrast between construction and deconstruction or between canonization and decanonization.

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Growth, Experience and Nature in Dewey’s Philosophy and Chinese Philosophy
LIU Jing
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 90-103.
Abstract   PDF (312KB)

Growth is an important concept in Dewey’s philosophy, and, indeed, its ultimate focus. It is not, however, an easy task to posit growth as an ethical ideal, for here Dewey immediately faces a metaphysical dilemma: whether to offer us an objective standard of growth, which becomes a type of absolutism, or to inevitably fall into relativism. This paper explores how Dewey avoids this dilemma with his concept of experience, which is interrogated through the relationship between human beings and nature. Still, human growth in nature involves the cultivation of virtuosities (de 德) in accordance with the rhythm of nature, and requires a completely different way of life other than our technological one. For this reason, I use Chinese philosophy, specifically ideas from the Yijing, to show how growth can be illustrated through the interaction between humans and the natural world.

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Aristotle’s Immovable Movers: A Sketch
André Laks
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 273-286.
Abstract   PDF (282KB)

In keeping with a view that is explicitly formulated by Aristotle in his Motion of Animals, general kinetic principles must be specified according to the different types of movable entities existing in the universe. At issue, essentially, are the motions of the stars and the motions of animals. Whereas the cosmological immovable mover is the object of two complementary analyses (in Bk. VIII of Physics and in Chs. 6 and 7 of Bk. XII of Metaphysics), information on the immovability of the first mover responsible for animal motion is to be found in the psychological and psycho-physiological treatises (On the Soul, in Bk. I, Chs. 3 and 4, and in Bk. III, Ch. 10 and in Ch. 6 of the Motion of Animals). But it is also found in Ch. 7, Bk. XII of the Metaphysics, in the very context of the argument concerning the absolutely first immovable mover of the world. This suggests that the two types of motion, that of the stars and that of animals, however distinct the arguments about them are, rest on a single scheme, and maybe even on a common principle. This is liable to surprise us, as much as stars and animals appear to us to belong to heterogeneous orders of reality. But the situation is different for Aristotle, who, as attentive as he is to differences, tends nonetheless to conceive the stars as living things of a particular kind. This fact is the source of a series of difficulties that Aristotle generously left for his many commentators to solve. Aim of this text, which was initially directed to a larger audience, is to set some of these complex issues in both simple and up to date terms.

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The Principle of Production and a Critique of Metaphysics: From the Perspective of Theory of Baudrillard Contractual Approach Based on Rawls’ Device of the “Original Position”
XIA Ying
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 181-193.
Abstract   PDF (248KB)

In this article, I discuss Baudrillard’s critique of metaphysics based on his work The Mirror of Production, in which he stresses the principle of production—i.e., dichotomy and derivation. In the development of classical German philosophy, the principle of production was speculatively established, first as Descartes’ cogito, then as Fichte’s Tathandlung, and finally as Hegel’s labor, and grew to be a major principle of modern metaphysics. At the article’s conclusion, the meaning of Symbolic Exchange—Baudrillard’s utopian condition lying beyond the principle of production—will be discussed.

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Autonomous Language: A Possible Theory of Meaning
Front Phil Chin    2011, 6 (1): 170-172.
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Between Darwin and Hegel: On Dewey’s Concept of Experience
CHEN Yajun
Front. Philos. China    2017, 12 (1): 104-119.
Abstract   PDF (253KB)

“Experience” is so central to Dewey’s philosophy that one must, first of all, understand what he means by the term. Diverging from the traditional conception of experience, Dewey’s understanding involves two dimensions, namely, naturalism and historicism; in this, it can be seen as the unification of Darwinism and Hegelianism. Without attending to its dimension of naturalism, one would ignore experience’s basic character, namely that of receptivity, while without attending to the aspect of historicism, one would ignore experience’s dimension of meaning, its character of spontaneity. Dewey’s notion of experience is unique. Its true value can be seen more clearly in comparison with the conceptions of experience advanced by Quine and McDowell.

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Somaesthetics and Chinese Philosophy: Between Unity and Pragmatist Pluralism
Richard Shusterman
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 201-211.
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

Responding to three articles in a symposium dedicated to my research in somaesthetics, this paper explores a variety of themes connecting my theories with classical Chinese philosophy. The symposium topics discussed here range from the ontology of body-mind and world to the ethics of somaesthetic self-cultivation, and then to the somaesthetic meanings of our practices of erotics and of eating. The paper shows how the pragmatist orientation of somaesthetics reconciles values of unity with those of difference and how key ideas of somaesthetics intersect, in different ways, with both Confucian and Daoist thought.

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