Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

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The roots of Chinese philosophy and culture — An introduction to “xiang” and “xiang thinking”
WANG Shuren
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 1-12.

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To grasp the truth in traditional Chinese classics, we need to uncover the long obscured “xiang” 象 (image) thinking, which has long been overshadowed by Occidentalism. “xiang thinking” is the most fundamental thought of human beings. The logic of linguistics all comes from “xiang thinking”. Through conceptual thinking, people can understand Western classics on metaphysics, yet they may not completely understand the various schools of Chinese classics. The difference between Chinese and Western ways of thinking originated in the difference of the basic views developed in the “Axial period”. Since Aristotle, Western metaphysical ideas have all been manifested in substantiality, objectivity, and being ready-made, whereas Chinese Taiji, Dao, Xin-xing, and Zen were manifested in the non-substantiality, non-objectivity, and non-ready-made-ness of a dynamic whole. To grasp substance, rational and logical thinking such as definition, judgment, and reasoning is necessary. On the other hand, to grasp Taiji, Dao, etc., which is a dynamic whole or non-substances, “xiang thinking”, which is related to perception and rich in poetic association, is essential. History has taught us a lesson, i.e., when we opened the window to logical thought, we closed that of “xiang thinking”. We should remember the words of Xu Guangqi, i.e., “To mingle harmoniously and understand thoroughly so as to excel”.

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Destiny and heavenly ordinances: Two perspectives on the relationship between Heaven and human beings in Confucianism
DING Weixiang
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 13-37.

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As a pair of important categories in traditional Chinese culture, “ming 命 (destiny or decrees)” and “tian ming 天命 (heavenly ordinances)” mainly refer to the constraints placed on human beings. Both originated from “ling 令 (decrees),” which evolved from “wang ling 王令 (royal decrees)” into “tian ling 天令 (heavenly decrees),” and then became “ming” from a throne because of the decisive role of “heavenly decrees” over a throne. “Ming” and “tian ming” have different definitions: “Ming” represented the limits Heaven placed on the natural lives of human beings and was an objective force that men could not direct, but was embodied in human beings as their “destiny”; “Tian ming” reflected the moral ideals of human beings in their self-identification; It originated in man but had to be verified by Heaven, and it was therefore the true ordinance that Heaven placed on human beings. “Ming” and “tian ming” are two perspectives on the traditional relationship between Heaven and human beings, and at the same time Confucians and Daoists placed different emphasis on them.

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Aesthetic judgment: The power of the mind in understanding Confucianism
XIE Xialing
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 38-51.

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Mou Zongsan incorrectly uses Kant’s practical reason to interpret Confucianism. The saying that “what is it that we have in common in our minds? It is the li 理 (principles) and the yi 义 (righteousness)” reveals how Mencius explains the origin of li and yi through a theory of common sense. In “the li and the yi please our minds, just as the flesh of beef and mutton and pork please our mouths,” “please” is used twice, proving aesthetic judgment is necessary to understanding Mencius. An analysis of Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming’s ideas will show that Confucianism should be interpreted by appealing to aesthetic judgment, and a discussion of Kant’s theory of judgment and Gadamer’s critique of Kant’s theory will support the same point. The conclusion is that Chinese moral philosophy should be interpreted through aesthetic judgment.

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The boundaries of beauty in Pre-Qin Confucian aesthetics
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 52-63.

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“Beauty” is a very important concept in Pre-Qin Confucian aesthetics. Pre-Qin Confucian aesthetics generally had two viewpoints when defining beauty: Negatively, by stressing that “beauty” in the aesthetic sense was not “good”; and positively, by stressing two factors: one, that beauty was related to “feeling” which was not an animal instinct, the other was that “beauty” was a special texture with a particular meaning. “Beauty” in Pre-Qin Confucian aesthetics may be defined as “texture (or form)” capable of communicating feeling or triggering a reaction of feeling.

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From the “Alternative School of Principles” to the Lay Buddhism: On the conceptual features of modern Consciousness-Only School from the perspective of the evolution of thought during the Ming and Qing Dynasties
Zhang Zhiqiang
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 64-87.

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The best representatives of the self-reflection of xinxue 心学 (the School of Mind) and its development during the Ming and Qing Dynasties are the three masters from the late Ming Dynasty. The overall tendency is to shake off the internal constraints of the School of Mind by studying the Confucian classics and history. During the Qing Dynasty, Dai Zhen had attempted to set up a theoretical system based on Confucian classics and history, offering a theoretical foundation for a new academic movement that gradually suspended issues studied by the School of Mind. But the suspension of these issues does not mean they were resolved. For Peng Shaosheng, xinzong 心宗 (the Doctrine of Mind) has emerged from a bottleneck in the development of the Confucian yi li zhi xue 义理之学 (doctrine of meanings and principles): The only way to find the transcendent connection between the doctrine of meanings and principles and the Dao was through the internality of belief. In this case, the Lay Buddhists, represented by Peng Shaosheng, Wang Dashen and Luo Yougao, as lixue biepai 理学别派 (Alternative School of Principles), played the role that the School of Mind had undertaken in the late Ming Dynasty, thus becoming a shelter for the Confucian doctrine of meanings and principles. To a certain extent, the revival of weishixue 唯识学 (the Consciousness-Only School) during modern times was simply a continuance of the “Alternative School of Principles”. It took over the Lay Buddhist theme of the doctrine of meanings and principles of the Qing Dynasty and tried to construct a new pattern of learning for Confucian classics that matched up with the doctrine of meanings and principles, offering a model of integration for the reconstruction of the Confucian tradition.

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The Philosophies of Laozi and Zhuangzi and the Bamboo-slip Essay Hengxian
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 88-115.

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The bamboo slip essay Hengxian 恒先is historically valuable because it serves to further the ontological understanding and comprehension of issues related to the existence of the universe from the perspective of Laozi’s Daoist thought. Hengxian explores important propositions such as how “Qi originated and activated itself” and “they came out of the same source but differed in nature” from several aspects. The idea that “Hengxian is ‘being’ without any definiteness” responds to the issue of the relationship of difference and identity of all things in the world, and thus examines the interdependent relationships between subjects and objects. It proposes that humans can further understand the existence of the universe through cognitive activities and practices such as “analysis and comparison” in which objective realities are checked. The issues discussed in Hengxian are consistent with Laozi’s Dao de jing, the works of Zhuangzi, Huangdi sijing 黄帝四经 (The Four Classics from the Emperor Yellow) and other Daoist works, and deserve significant attention.

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A defense of universalism: With a critique of particularism in Chinese culture
ZHAO Dunhua
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 116-129.

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Universalism can be defined as the belief in the universal application of certain knowledge, world-views and value-views. Universalism has often been confused with Occident-centrism, due to the fact that the latter was used to justify the former, which confused the content of a thought with the social condition that gave rise to the thought. For many years, clarifications of this confusion have been made in sociology of knowledge, relativism and skepticism. Yet, the particularistic conclusion thus reached has led to more confusion, namely, that between the intrinsic criterion for truth and the practical application of thought. China, with its long tradition of Sino-centrism, has recently shown a movement towards particularism, characterized by a search for national and cultural superiority by “returning to the source”. In today’s academic circles, some particularist themes are taken for granted, and believed to be true, but cannot be proved with rational examination. The particularistic claims to the “self grounded”, “self-featured” and “self-located” tradition of Chinese culture jointed with the post-modernism, neo-leftist movement of anti-globalization in the West, are not only harmful in practice, but also impotent in theory. The propaganda against the hegemony of Western discourse should be analyzed with questioning which hegemony and whose discourse.

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The foundation of phenomenological ethics: Intentional feelings
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 130-142.

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E. Husserl’s reflections in Logical Investigations on “intentional feelings” and “non-intentional feelings” are significant in both his later ethical explorations and M. Scheler’s thought on ethics. Through the incorporation of the views of Husserl and Scheler, we find that the phenomenology of the intentional feeling-acts is not only the foundation of the non-formal ethics of values in Scheler’s phenomenology, but also at least the constitutive foundation of the ethics of Husserl’s first orientation.

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The double meanings of “essence”: The natural and humane sciences — A tentative linkage of Hegel, Dilthey, and Husserl
ZHANG Shiying
Front Phil Chin. 2009, 4 (1): 143-155.

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Early in Aristotle’s terminology, and ever since, “essence” has been conceived as having two meanings, namely “universality” and “individuality”. According to the tradition of thought that has dominated throughout the history of Western philosophy, “essence” unequivocally refers to “universality”. As a matter of fact, however, “universality” cannot cover Aristotle’s definition and formulation of “essence”: Essence is what makes a thing “happen to be this thing.” “Individuality” should be the deep meaning of “essence”. By means of an analysis of some relevant Western thoughts and a review of cultural realities, it can be concluded that the difference between the attitudes toward things of the natural sciences and the humane sciences mainly lies in the fact that the former focus on the pursuit of universal regularity, whereas the latter go after the value and significance of human life. The movement from natural things to cultural things is a process in which essence shifts from universality to individuality. It is the author’s contention that what should be stressed in the fields of human culture and society is the construction of an ideal society that is “harmonious yet not identical”, on the basis of respecting and developing individual peculiarity and otherness.

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9 articles