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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 10 Issue 1 Previous Issue    Next Issue
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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.
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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Moral Psychology of Shame in Early Confucian Philosophy
Bongrae Seok
Front. Philos. China. 2015, 10 (1): 21-57.
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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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.
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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Neo-Confucian Theory of Mind as a Discourse of the Infinite: The Lu-Wang School
ZHAO Dongming
Front. Philos. China. 2015, 10 (1): 75-94.
Abstract   PDF (303KB)

This paper is a second-order study of xinxue 心學 (the Neo-Confucian theory of mind from the Lu-Wang school). Having shown the difficulty of fitting the theory into philosophical or religious discourse, the paper will argue that it is more appropriate to see xinxue as a special variety of the “discourse of the infinite,” that is, discourse concerning the infinite, which will bring forth action. In this light, Lu Xiangshan 陸象山 and Wang Yangming’s 王陽明 theory on the internal experience of the unity of mind is to be seen less as description of mental life than as an effort to adhere to the spirit of Mencius: they insist on the unity of the internal experience of mind, without allowing its intensity to be reduced in the explanatory theory of lixue 理學 (theory of principles) espoused by Cheng Yi 程頤 and Zhu Xi 朱熹, and, in this way, strive to reaffirm Mencius’s proclamation about the goodness of human nature. More importantly, the discourse as a whole works to enhance the status of the sage as someone who embodies tianli 天理 (the highest moral principle of the universe). This mode of discourse has the performative force of bringing forth moral actions. The real subject of xinxue is not what Lu and Wang claim it to be, e.g. the essentially good human nature or the infinite moral mind. Rather, the subject of xinxue is that which reveals itself through a series of effortful discursive activities and in the moral practice thereby produced. The subject of xinxue that emerges from this continuous process of striving is a special subject even within the Confucian tradition, whose attention is directed mainly towards the internal experience of the unity of mind. This subject threatens to interrupt the intellectual as well as socio-political operations established by lixue, and therefore engenders a series of conflicts.

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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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Traces of the Person: Max Scheler’s and Paul Ricoeur’s Attempts on Personal Ethics
Annette Hilt
Front. Philos. China. 2015, 10 (1): 130-147.
Abstract   PDF (251KB)

To encounter a fellow-being does not mean only to see her face, to notice the color of her eyes, but to meet her eyes and to be addressed by her. Who one is irreducible to any objective property or value, and likewise cannot be comprehended through propositional statements in the manner of “talking about …” something. Rather, such comprehension demands an account of giving way to the appearance of the other as other. This account, prominently linked to E. Levinas’ “ethics as first philosophy,” has also been developed as phenomenological personalism. While Max Scheler developed his “Ethical Personalism” within his material Value Ethics, his Philosophy of Fellow-Feeling and in his late Philosophical Anthropology of human spirit, Paul Ricoeur develops his personalism through different approaches: from his early attempts on need and desire as the affective basis of our values to the perspective on the particular way we lead our lives in narratively constituting our personal identity, and finally to his concept of recognition. Reconstructing personalism as a philosophy of discovering the other person in her otherness and as a concept of social practice are the aims of this paper.

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11 articles