Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

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“A Happy Excursion” and Freedom
DENG Lianhe
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 313-325.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0101-7

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In modern times, academics have used the perspective of political liberty and spiritual freedom to interpret and explain Zhuang Zi’s “happy excursion” as well as the substance of all his other thoughts. The starting point of the former is the political idea of laissez-faire; the latter involves the unique character of Zhuang Zi’s philosophy on life. But it misses the spiritual deficiency contained in Zhuang Zi, and so it is difficult to respond to criticism from modern liberals. This article argues that it is not quite accurate to use “happy excursion” to express modern freedom, but the spiritual tradition of “happy excursion” as a kind of native resource could still serve as a way to introduce the idea of liberalism at the level of a life philosophy based on independence, individual consciousness and the personal conscience and virtues embraced by the “happy excursion” thought of Zhuang Zi.

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Taking on Proper Appearance and Putting It into Practice: Two Different Systems of Effort in Song and Ming Neo-Confucianism
DING Weixiang
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 326-351.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0102-6

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Both “jianxing” 践形 (taking on proper appearance) and “jianxing” 践行 (putting into practice) were concepts coined by Confucians before the Qin Dynasty. They largely referred to similar things. But because the “Daxue” 大学 (“Great Learning”) was listed as one of the Sishu 四书 (The Four Books) during the Song Dynasty, different explanations and trends in terms of the “Great Learning” resulted in “taking on proper appearance” and “putting into practice” becoming two different systems of efforts. The former formed a vertical kind of representation and a complete system of practice by “developing the sincerity of intentions inside and taking on proper appearance and looks outside” in “shendu” 慎独 (self-discipline when alone) and “chengyi” 诚意 (developing the sincerity of intentions), and the latter developed into a horizontal system of practice through the interdependency of zhi 知 (knowing or knowledge) and xing 行 (doing or practice). The “interdependence between knowledge and practice” promoted by the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi represented the vertical practice of moral understanding, while the “integration of knowing and doing” advocated by Wang Yangming represented using the way in “developing the sincerity of intentions” to adjust and transform the representation of the relationship between knowledge and practice. The ideas that were frequently stressed, such as “the same effort” and “naturally being so,” were all from “developing the sincerity of intentions” and “taking on proper appearance,” and they were all the representation of “really making intentions sincere.” In fact, the confusion over “the integration of knowing and doing” reflected the tension between two different systems and inconsistency in their thoughts.

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A Reconsideration of the Characteristics of Song-Ming Li Xue
JIN Chunfeng
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 352-376.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0103-5

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By analyzing Zhu Xi and Zhang Zai’s three representative explanatory paradigms—that of Feng Youlan, Mou Zongsan and Zhang Dainian, the paper tries to show that studying Chinese philosophy in a Western way and emphasizing logical consistency will unavoidably lead to the defects of simplicity and partiality. In addition to Buddhism and Daoism, Song-Ming philosophy had also absorbed thoughts from the Pre-Qin, Han, Wei and Jin dynasties. The existence of multiple philosophical thoughts and their new synthesis lead to internal contradictions in Song-Ming philosophy and Li Xue 理学 (Neo-Confucianism in the Song and Ming dynasties). The contradiction between the doctrine of tiandao 天道 (the way in which the world runs) and that of xinxing 心性 (mind and human nature) was even sharper. Li Xue and Xin Xue also overlapped one another. The transition from the doctrine of tiandao to that of xinxing was a long journey. It was begun by Zhu Xi in his later years, and was finally completed by Wang Yangming. Unveiling the complexity and special characteristics of Song-Ming philosophy is a task for scholars on the history of Chinese philosophy.

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A Further Analysis of Zhu Xi’s Theory of Mind
MENG Peiyuan
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 377-395.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0104-4

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Mind was the oneness of form and function. The change from an old theory to a new one about zhong 中 (the mean) and he 和 (harmony) was a shift from the idea of the separate form of nature and function of mind to one about both form and function of mind. Form was both the form of the spirit of the mind and of the substantiality of nature (not the same as substantial realities in substantialism); it was the integration of vacancy and substantiality, the integration of mind and nature. In contrast, function meant both feelings and perceiving action. It was infeasible to interpret function without reference to form; likewise, it was impractical to talk about perception without mentioning nature. On the other hand, a knower represented nature through concrete things and his actions, and a perceiver enlightened himself, realizing the self-consciousness of nature as a whole. Mind, nature, and perception could be interpreted as a whole, and these three could be separated too. Viewed in general, mind, nature, and principles were oneness; observed separately, nature differed with principles: nature meant principles, but perception was the quintessence of qi. The unfolding of perception, however, had its independence, and could be easily influenced by qi; thus, it was necessary to transform and cultivate qi-related temperament. Realistically, a man needs to face up to himself and to transform himself, and this sentiment is inspiring for today.

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“All Things Are Already Complete in My Body”: An Explanation of the Views of the Taizhou School on the Human Body
YU Hong
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 396-413.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0105-3

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By means of a theoretical analysis from the point of view of phenomenology of the body, this essay tries to explain the views of Taizhou School on the body so as to apprehend the essence of Confucian thought, which is a philosophy that seeks to “establish oneself” and “cultivate oneself” rather than a “philosophy of consciousness.”

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Proposition, Definition and Inference in Ancient Chinese Philosophy
SHI Ningzhong
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 414-431.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0106-2

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This article attempts to explore ancient Chinese philosophical thought by analyzing how pioneering Chinese thinkers made judgments and inferences, and compares it to ancient Greek philosophy. It first addresses the starting-point and the object of cognition in Chinese ancient philosophy, then analyses how early thinkers construed definition and proposition, and finally discusses how they made inferences on the basis of definition and proposition. It points out that categorization is an important methodology in ancient Chinese philosophy, and that rectification of names and the doctrine of the mean are key criteria in making judgments.

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The Destiny of Modern Virtue Ethics
GAN Shaoping
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 432-448.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0107-1

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The revival of Aristotelian virtue ethics since the 1980s does not signify that it goes back to its original form; rather, it is generally manifested in three different variations: The first is a variation of what is known as communitarianism, the second is universalism, and the third is phronesis. On the social level of morality, the serious attempt of modern virtue ethics towards improving the moral spirit of society is laudable. However, its method and reasoning deviates greatly from the demands of modern society’s integration of its operating rules and regulations, and concept of values; hence all of its attempts can hardly escape the fate of becoming just a fantasy. Yet, on the level of dealing with ethic conflicts and moral paradox, modern virtue ethics—via interpreting the theory of phronesis by Aristotle—proposes the valuable thought of a balanced morality that principlism should concern itself with and nourish itself from.

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The Boundaries of Context and Their Significance
GUO Guichun
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 449-460.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0108-0

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In the study of contextualism, the most noticeable and at the same time ambiguous problem is how to ascertain the boundaries of context. This article tries to explore the boundaries of context and the significance of the “contextualizing movement” which began in the 1980s. The establishment of boundaries can be analyzed from three aspects: the syntactic boundary, the semantic boundary, and the pragmatic boundary. This differentiation offers meaningful perspectives for grasping the method of contextual analysis, strengthening its position and influence in scientific explanation.

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Intelligent Design from the Viewpoint of Complex Systems Theory
DONG Chunyu
Front Phil Chin. 2010, 5 (3): 461-470.  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11466-010-0109-z

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Based on an analysis of the origins and characteristics of Intelligent Design (ID), this essay discusses the related issues of probability and irreducible complexity. From the viewpoint of complex systems theory, I suggest that Intelligent Design is not, as certain advocates claim, the only reasonable approach for dealing with the current difficulties of evolutionary biology.

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