Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0006-5
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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A Philosophical Analysis of the Concept of Crisis
WANG Tangjia
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 254-267.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0021-0
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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Moral Psychology of Shame in Early Confucian Philosophy
Bongrae Seok
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 21-57.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0003-4
Abstract   PDF (443KB)

In Western philosophy and psychology, shame is characterized as a self-critical emotion that is often contrasted with the similarly self-critical but morally active emotion of guilt. If shame is negative concern over endangered or threatened self-image (usually in front of others), guilt is autonomous moral awareness of one’s wrongdoings and reparative motivation to correct one’s moral misconduct. Recently, many psychologists have begun to discuss the moral significance of shame in their comparative studies of non-Western cultures. In this new approach, shame is characterized as a positive moral emotion and active motivation for self-reflection and self-cultivation. If shame is a positive and active moral emotion, what is its moral psychological nature? In this paper, I will analyze shame from the perspective of cultural psychology and early Confucian philosophy. Unlike many Western philosophers, Confucius and Mencius discuss shame as a form of moral excellence. In early Confucian texts, shame is not a reactive emotion of an endangered self but a moral disposition that supports a self-critical and self-transformative process of moral development.

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On Kripke’s Dogmatism Paradox: A Logical Dynamical Analysis
XU Zhaoqing
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 298-310.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0022-1
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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The Physiology of Xin (Heart) in Chinese Political Argumentation: The Western Han Dynasty and the Pre-Imperial Legacy
Elisa Sabattini
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 58-74.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0004-1
Abstract   PDF (368KB)

The term xin (心), usually translated as “mind,” “heart” or “heartmind,” is considered a major problématique in traditional Chinese philosophical discourse, and it is usually analized in conjunction with xing (性, human nature). Contemporary scholars consider xin—more or less uncontroversially—as a sort of container of emotions and feelings, or, as On-Cho Ng defines it, “the very home of volition, sentiments and intellect” (Ng 1999). This paper aims to further explore the impact of the physiology of heart (xin) rhetoric within political discourse during the early decades of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 9). To that end I will first analyze the importance of physiological vocabulary in political argumentation, focusing mainly on the importance of heart (xin), its central role as the ruler of the body, and on the analogy between the heart and the sovereign of the state. I will then analyze the use of the expressions unanimity and duplicity—literally, pitting one heart (yixin 一心) against two hearts (erxin 二心 or liangxin 兩心).

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Russell’s Paradox of Predicates
Bernard Linsky
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (1): 149-165.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0009-2
Abstract   PDF (359KB)

Russell’s letter to Frege of June 16, 1902 contains the famous paradox of the class of all classes which are not members of themselves as well as a second paradox of the predicates that cannot be predicated of themselves. The latter paradox arises out of Russell’s theory of classes and class concepts in Principles of Mathematics.

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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0034-8
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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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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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.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0016-8
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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Conceiving Possibility: Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi
XIE Wenyu
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 381-395.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0033-1
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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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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The Meaning of “Existence” and the Contingency of Sense
Markus Gabriel
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (1): 109-129.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0007-8
Abstract   PDF (302KB)

In this paper I argue first for a revisionary ontology, that is, for an understanding of “existence” as the property of a field not to be empty. In this context, I distinguish between “metaphysics” (the theory of totality or of fundamental reality) and “ontology” (the systematic investigation into the meaning of “existence”). In the second part, I provide a sketch for a corresponding revisionary theory of the modalities in light of the new ontology proposed.

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Edmund Husserl’s Political Praxis and Theoretical Reflections during World War I
NI Liangkang
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 241-253.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0020-3
Abstract   PDF (237KB)

Husserl the philosopher personally experienced World War I breaking out 100 years ago. Like most German and Austrian commoners, at the initial stage of the war, Husserl was extremely passionate for it. After undergoing the cruelty of war and losing many relatives and friends, he was once enmeshed in extreme confusion and disappointment, albeit he still made every effort to offer spiritual and ethical support to the soldiers at the front. Along with the proceeding of the war, he soon changed his views with respect to this war and confessed that more and deeper reflections were needed to address issues about problems of nationality, super-national ethics and about problems of wars relevant to them. He made philosophical theoretical reflections with regard to this war after it ended, and presented, eventually, requirements for himself: to be satisfied with taking the possibility of the practical activities of philosophy as the topic of philosophical theoretical study and to give up, in drastic fashion, the intention in such philosophical practices as providing political proposals and exerting political influences, “living purely as a scientific philosopher.”

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Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox
Byeong-uk Yi
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 498-522.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0043-8
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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“Bodyheartminding” (Xin 心): Reconceiving the Inner Self and the Outer World in the Language of Holographic Focus and Field
Roger T. Ames
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 167-180.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0013-1
Abstract   PDF (289KB)

In this essay, inspired by the somatic turn in philosophy initiated by Richard Shusterman, I want to invoke the language of classical Confucian philosophy to think through the best efforts of William James and John Dewey to escape the mind-body and nature-nurture dualisms—that is, to offer an alternative vocabulary that might lend further clarity to the revolutionary insights of James and Dewey by appealing to the processual categories of Chinese cosmology. What I will try to do first is to refocus the pragmatist’s explanation of the relationship between mind and body through the lens of a process Confucian cosmology. And then, to make the case for James and Dewey, I will return to the radical, imagistic language they invoke to try and make the argument that this processual, holistic understanding of “vital bodyminding” is in fact what they were trying to say all along.

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What Can Artificial Intelligence Learn from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty?
XU Yingjin
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 441-462.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0037-9
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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On the Double-Reference Character of “Hexagram” Names in the Yijing: Engaging Fregean&Kripkean Approaches to the Issue of How Reference Is Possible
MOU Bo
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 523-537.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0044-5
Abstract   PDF (326KB)

This paper aims to examine the general issue of how reference is possible in philosophy of language through a case analysis of the “double reference” semantic-syntactic structure of ideographic hexagram (guaxiang 卦象) names in the Yijing text. I regard the case of the “hexagram” names as being quite representative of the “double-reference” semantic-syntactic structure of referring names. I thus explore how the general morals drawn from this account of “hexagram” names can engage two representative approaches, the Fregean and Kripkean ones, and contribute to our understanding and treatment of the issue of reference.

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Shendu and Qingdu: Reading the Recovered Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts
Shirley Chan,Daniel Lee
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 4-20.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0002-7
Abstract   PDF (503KB)

The terms du (獨) and shendu (慎獨) frequently appear in transmitted texts, notably, among others, the Xunzi and Liji. Drawing reference from the poetry of “Shijiu” (鳲鳩) (Ode 152) and “Yanyan” (燕燕) (Ode 28) in the Book of Odes (詩經), the recovered texts of “Wuxing Commentary” (五行 說) and “Confucian Poetics” (孔子詩論) have provided new material for re-shaping our current understanding of the concepts of du and shendu. This study will briefly survey the semantic ranges of these terms within the exegetical tradition and explore their meaning with regard to the poetry from which they are contextualized. In the final analysis du can be understood as the ontic quality of the heart-mind within the broad sense of cheng (誠 sincerity), or devout love, whereas shendu can be regarded as a process of moral cultivation. To some extent the re-interpretation of these terms finds commonality with, rather than subverts, the semantic ranges established by traditional glosses. The recovered texts have enhanced our understanding of these terms, in particular the concepts of heart-mind and emotion in early China.

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Leibniz and Clarke in Conflict: The Role of “Force” and the Nature of God’s Providence
WANG Xiaona
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 287-297.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0021-4
Abstract   PDF (223KB)

The intellectual background of the concept of force in the dispute between Leibniz and Clarke has not received enough scholarly attention. Vailati’s monograph, which is the most important study of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, focuses on a non-theological dimension in terms of the concept of force in this debate. Based on this perspective, Vailati’s conclusion is that Clarke’s understanding of force was totally different from that of Newton. However, the historical context shows that this is not the case. Clarke’s concept of motive force bore a strong resemblance to that of Newton, according to which force was an active principle that had been endowed upon matter at the beginning of God’s creation. Furthermore, the close link between force, matter and God’s providence had a long tradition of debate between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers since early modern times. The different concepts of force dividing Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers were actually related to, and conditioned by, their underlying fundamental theological differences. The concept of force in the Leibniz-Clarke controversy, accordingly, could be regarded as along the lines of the earlier disputes between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers.

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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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The De of Levinas: Cultivating the Heart-Mind of Radical Passivity
Leah Kalmanson,Sarah Mattice
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 113-129.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0007-2
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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Revelation or Reason? Two Opposing Interpretations of the Confucian Classics during the Chinese Rites Controversy
WANG Niecai
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (2): 284-302.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0017-5
Abstract   PDF (408KB)

The Four Books were a frequent point of reference in publications during the Chinese Rites Controversy. In the Tian Ru Yin (1664), the Franciscan Antonio de Santa María Caballero (1602–69) used an allegorical approach, interpreting the true meaning of the Chinese Classics as Christian revelation while rejecting the traditional reading of the Confucian Classics. On the contrary, the Jesuits in the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (1687) used a rationalistic approach, harmonizing Western intellectualism with Confucianism. We shall show how these two interpretations are rooted in different theological traditions, leading the two sides to take opposite stances in the Chinese Rites Controversy.

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The Next American Revolution? Reflections on Gar Alperovitz, What Then Must We Do?
David Schweickart
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 350-357.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0030-0
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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