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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436 (Print)
ISSN 1673-355X (Online)
CN 11-5743/B
Postal Subscription Code 80-983


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, Volume 9 Issue 3 Previous Issue    Next Issue
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Marx and the Transition Problem
Tom Rockmore
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 342-349.
Abstract   PDF (219KB)

Marx is concerned with theory that not only interprets but also changes the world. His central concern lies in the transition from capitalism to communism. This paper examines three ways that he might understand this transition as concerns economic crisis, politics, or the proletariat.

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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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Marx on Nature
James Swindal
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 358-369.
Abstract   PDF (233KB)

Ecological Marxists argue that Marx forged a view of nature compatible with more recent models of environmentalism. John Bellamy Foster argues that Marx ascribed an ecological value to nature by asserting a co-evolution between man and nature. James O’Connor presents a more nuanced view in which Marx at best defended a conservationist defense of nature. I argue that such ecological views of Marx tend to overlook his abandonment of an ontology of nature as a totality of relations among physical objects with respect to their interactions and mutual preservation and order. He followed Kant in reducing nature, or the physical world, effectively to a regulative notion, thus reducing its value to a simply a heuristic one for judgments about and actions towards objects. But he also radicalized this reduction by envisaging nature only as a material field of fungible and consumable things, such that each thing is a mere locus of energy or force that human labor cannot substantively perfect but only change to a function. Labor in this view creates new arrangements of natural things for a singular ultimate purpose: the formation of associations of free labor. I conclude that Marx’s thinking thus cannot be utilized to support an environmental philosophy, such as deep ecology or eco-socialism, that would posit any intrinsic value to nature.

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On the Philosophical Relevance of Marx’s Views Today
Marina F. Bykova
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 370-380.
Abstract   PDF (228KB)

This paper revisits some of Marx’s central philosophical ideas with the attempt to understand the thinker’s real place in the history of the Western philosophical tradition. It does not only show that the philosophical dimension is central to Marx’s economic and political works, and therefore his contributions to philosophy merit special investigation, but it also argues that Marx is a descendant of classic German philosophy, and thus his views should be assessed in the context of the development of the philosophical ideas that emerged within that tradition.

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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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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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On Generalization: Pragmatists’ Contributions to Constructivism
Sun Ning
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 417-430.
Abstract   PDF (248KB)

Constructivism has been an important program in contemporary philosophy, but cannot itself cannot provide sufficient context for grasping its key points. To fully understand its power and potential we must borrow tools from other programs: specifically, Charles Peirce and John Dewey’s pragmatism. By exploring these two pragmatists’ articulations of “generalization,” which I hold is the most crucial question in constructivism, their prospective contributions to constructivism can be brought to light. If, as I argue, constructivism can incorporate the lessons of pragmatism, then it can still be considered a highly workable interpretation of reality and of human endeavors.

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Scientific Realism and the Meanings of Theoretical Terms
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 431-440.
Abstract   PDF (222KB)

In contemporary philosophy of science, there are many interesting arguments for and against scientific realism with regard to the meaningfulness and truthfulness of theoretical statements. Some anti-realists hold that since many important concepts in scientific theories have no specific referents, the relevant theoretical statements are therefore either false or meaningless. In this essay, I join the debates concerning the plausibility of scientific realism by focusing on two intertwined issues: first, that of how we can we explicate the meaningfulness of theoretical statements, especially statements pertaining to unobservable objects, and second, that of the meaningfulness of theoretical statements for our acceptance of scientific realism.

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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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Criticism of the Theory of Motivation
Front. Philos. China. 2014, 9 (3): 463-478.
Abstract   PDF (283KB)

The theory of motivation is a theory which takes the executora’s motivation as the basis of moral judgment. One presupposition of the theory is that motivation can be a common object of understanding. However, motivation exists only in the heart of the executor, and cannot be known exactly by others, so motivation cannot be perceived like a common object, and thus, logically, cannot be the basis of moral judgment. Even if the executor’s motivation is accepted by others and turned into a common object, the motivation still cannot become the valid basis of a moral judgment. This is the dilemma of the theory of motivation. In practice, the dilemma appears as follows: if one insists on the theory of motivation, one can be led to the result that people do evil with good intentions. However, just because motivation cannot be the basis of moral judgment does not mean that motivation is of no significance. Good motivation is always better than evil motivation. Therefore, in moral education we should carry out motivation education and teach people to strive to have good motivations for their behavior. This is the value of motivation theory.

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14 articles