Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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My Ordinary Anti-Sceptical Beliefs Are Not Insensitive
LAI Changsheng
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 469-489.
Abstract   PDF (263KB)

An orthodox sceptical hypothesis claims that one’s belief that “I am not a brain-in-a-vat (BIV)” (or any other ordinary anti-sceptical belief) is insensitive. A form of sensitivity-based scepticism, can thus be constructed by combining this orthodox hypothesis with the sensitivity principle and the closure principle. Unlike traditional solutions to the sensitivity-based sceptical problem, this paper will propose a new solution—one which does not reject either closure or sensitivity. Instead, I argue that sceptics’ assumption that one’s ordinary anti-sceptical beliefs are insensitive will give rise to self-contradiction. The orthodox sceptical hypothesis is thus revealed to be incoherent and arbitrary. Given that there is no coherent reason to presuppose our ordinary anti-sceptical beliefs to be insensitive, the argument for sensitivity-based scepticism can thus be blocked at a lower epistemological cost.

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Some Applications of Lawvere’s Fixpoint Theorem
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 490-510.
Abstract   PDF (801KB)

The famous diagonal argument plays a prominent role in set theory as well as in the proof of undecidability results in computability theory and incompleteness results in metamathematics. Lawvere (1969) brings to light the common schema among them through a pretty neat fixpoint theorem which generalizes the diagonal argument behind Cantor’s theorem and characterizes self-reference explicitly in category theory. Not until Yanofsky (2003) rephrases Lawvere’s fixpoint theorem using sets and functions, Lawvere’s work has been overlooked by logicians. This paper will continue Yanofsky’s work, and show more applications of Lawvere’s fixpoint theorem to demonstrate the ubiquity of the theorem. For example, this paper will use it to construct uncomputable real number, unnameable real number, partial recursive but not potentially recursive function, Berry paradox, and fast growing Busy Beaver function. Many interesting lambda fixpoint combinators can also be fitted into this schema. Both Curry’s Y combinator and Turing’s Θ combinator follow from Lawvere’s theorem, as well as their call-by-value versions. At last, it can be shown that the lambda calculus version of the fixpoint lemma also fits Lawvere’s schema.

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Tricking or Benefitting the People? Guanzi on Objective Government and Subjective Preferences
Henrique Schneider
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 363-383.
Abstract   PDF (292KB)

This paper discusses Guanzi’s philosophy regarding how the state should levy taxes. As Guanzi writes, people react individually to what they perceive as taxes, whereas government wants people not to react at all and simply pay the levies. Based on a philosophical analysis of human action, Guanzi suggests introducing a consumption tax on salt and iron. First, people have no way of evading them; second, because of the implicit character of the tax, people will not notice it. Therefore, these taxes will not influence behavior. This paper uses this discussion as a case study in order to show how Guanzi’s philosophy differs from other forms of Legalism. It will be shown that Guanzi is foremost a pragmatic thinker willing to use Confucian and Legalist elements, amalgamating them into policy-advice. The paper, however, does not discuss issues of Sinology as they relate to the text of the Guanzi, taking the text instead as a philosophical body.

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Embodied Perception and the Schemed World: Merleau-Ponty and John Dewey
SUN Ning
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 423-434.
Abstract   PDF (198KB)

It is now widely accepted that a mind that is saturated with bodily experience is necessary for the dual constitution of the self and the perceptual field, and that the deployment of perception is always associated with a double reafferent flow—a tactile flow and a proprioceptive flow. In this article, I will discuss this issue in a pragmatically orientated way (following John Dewey), with a possible rejoinder from the phenomenological tradition (specifically Merleau-Ponty). I make cross-references between the thought of Merleau-Ponty and of Dewey, and I believe that many insights can be drawn from such comparison. By bringing pragmatic insights into the phenomenological context, I will place Dewey’s pragmatic way of thinking about the embodied mind in a different light. However, different though they may seem, I will further argue that there is a deep sympathy between the phenomenological and pragmatic perspectives of these two thinkers, especially when we take Dewey’s existential ontology into consideration.

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An Understanding of Character from Holistic Thinking: What Asian Psychology Teaches Us about the Debate on Situationism
Jacklyn A. Cleofas
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 384-405.
Abstract   PDF (263KB)

The situationist challenge to virtue has convinced many philosophers to adopt an empirically grounded methodology. I argue that this methodology requires us to reconsider conceptualizations of and evidence on character from experiments involving Asian subjects because it is precisely in these experiments that we see a remedy for the problems exposed by situationism. Since both situationists and defenders of virtue fall short of abiding by the part of their methodological commitment associated with remediation, evidence from the experiments is relevant for most participants in the debate. I show that the evidence indicates something important about remediation: the point is not to avoid the concept of virtue or character, but to deploy a holistic thinking style that has been observed among some populations in Asia. Holistic thinking involves (a) a tendency to explain behavior in terms of the interaction between person and situation variables and (b) an incremental understanding of character. The paper ends with a brief sketch of an account of character from holistic thinking that also highlights the role of social support in managing situations.

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Daoism and the German Mission in Martin Heidegger’s “The Thing”
Mark Kevin S. Cabural
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 570-592.
Abstract   PDF (275KB)

In this article, I examine Martin Heidegger’s 1950 lecture/essay “The Thing” (Das Ding) in two ways. First, as a piece influenced by chapter 11 of the Daodejing. And second, as a postwar writing which can be interpreted vis-à-vis the Black Notebooks and his other writings. There are instances in “The Thing” which are analogous to his statements found in the Black Notebooks and his other writings which describe and clarify his controversial political affiliation. In brief, I suggest here that Heidegger’s articulation of the concept of wu 無 of chapter 11 of the Daodejing as the void of the jug in “The Thing” may potentially describe his controversial engagement with German National Socialism as part of his response to the call for German mission. Notably, the fundamentality of the void of the jug is comparable to the exclusivity and exceptionality of the Germans in their mission; and the use of the void of the jug as outpouring is an interesting way to emphasize his disagreement with the regime by pointing out that his support to German National Socialism is not to the extent of brutally annihilating the Jews.

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Toward a Confucian Notion of Human Dignity
WANG Xiaowei
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 7-28.
Abstract   PDF (306KB)

This essay discusses the possibility of conceptualizing a Confucian notion of human dignity. Previous discussions on this topic have been either historical or reconstructive, the former discussing mainly how Confucianism considers dignity and the latter exploring the possibility of conceptualizing a Confucian human dignity as an alternative to Kant’s Menschenwürde. This essay focuses on mainly the latter effort. Specifically, I critically evaluate professor Ni Peimin’s celebrated attempt at reconstructing Confucian dignity in the context of Kant’s Menschenwürde, arguing that Ni’s work offers us novel and original insights on human dignity but fails to be coherent in several senses. On the other hand, Kant’s Menschenwürde may well lack motivation in particular circumstances, and gives no credit to moral efforts. Building upon this criticism, I further Ni’s discussion of the “four hearts” and propose a revised version of Confucian dignity.

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The Mechanism of the Emergence of Nihilism from the View of Intentional Tenacity
XU Yuxia
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 457-468.
Abstract   PDF (227KB)

This paper sets forth the reasons why Nietzsche thought nihilism to be inevitable from the perspective of the tenacity of the intentional. Through distinguishing two ordered intentional states—first-order and high-order—and two kinds of objects respectively, the paper illustrates that it is impossible to find a new ultimate value to replace Christian values when Nietzsche announced “the death of God.” Inspired by Nietzsche’s thoughts, the paper concludes by briefly discussing the possibility of comparing Confucian and Nietzsche’s ideas concerning nihilism.

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To Preserve or Enhance Life? Nietzsche’s Perspectivist Understanding of Life and Morality
MENG Liang
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 435-456.
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

Instead of denouncing sincere Christianity, as it is often assumed, Nietzsche inveighs vehemently against insincere Christianity that interpreters take as evidence for his nihilism. This essay argues that Nietzsche’s perspectivism affirms the positive value of Christian morality as an instrument for life preservation, which is a relative standard for judging various perspectives on life. It also analyzes the negative value of Christian morality as the impediment to life enhancement, which is the absolute standard for evaluating those perspectives. As this study finally argues, it remains to the Overman to once and for all overcome the impediments to life brought on by Christian morality in the creation of a new morality, if in fact what the Overman creates is indeed a new morality.

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Confucian Moral Imagination and Ethics Education in Engineering
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 36-52.
Abstract   PDF (214KB)

Developing moral imagination is a central yet challenging learning outcome for students in professional education programs for fields including engineering. This paper introduces theories of moral imagination in early Confucian ethical thought and explores what implications can be drawn from these theories for engineering ethics and professional education. Rather than appealing to pre-determined principles, early Confucians advocated a moral particularism and argued that moral actors need to exercise their imaginations to discern diverse factors and constraints present in moral situations. They need to “extract” from moral situations possible reasons for certain actions. Texts such as the Analects should be read as manuals or logs of decision-making rather than as prescriptive guidance or descriptive anecdotes. The moral actions we take in different situations are influenced by the special roles we play in these situations. The nature of a particular role relationship often evokes feelings and expectations characteristic of that relationship. Cultivating and educating our imaginations allows us to draw on diverse human abilities, assess multiple moral strategies, and identify the most suitable (rather than simply calculating “the best”) option that helps to activate our moral selves and grow our relationships with others. Early Confucians proposed a variety of methods for developing moral imaginative capabilities including reflective observation of social interactions, moral thought experiments, analogical extension of familial relations, and the “as-if” rituals. This paper ultimately considers the possible implications of these theories for teaching and learning ethical conduct in engineering, given the increasing interest of the engineering profession in humanitarian engineering and cross-cultural collaboration and the two fields of engineering practice often encompass incomplete knowledge and diverse values.

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Dialectics of Individual Life and Moral Law: On Adorno’s Non-Identical Moral Philosophy
LUO Songtao
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (3): 406-422.
Abstract   PDF (254KB)

The article aims to discuss the theme of Adorno’s non-identical moral philosophy, particularly the primacy of individual life over moral laws, as based mainly on his key works like Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, On Subject and Object, Problems of Moral Philosophy, and Negative Dialectics. The claim here is that the primacy of individual life is made through negative dialectics (“non-idealist dialectics”) dealing with the antithesis between object and subject, particular and universal, individual and society under the theoretical horizon of non-identical philosophy. Meanwhile, as a private ethics, this non-identical moral philosophy based on individual life stands as a kind of negativism, which is focused on negative guidance towards the possibility of right life.

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Is Heidegger an Orientalist or an Occidentalist European Philosopher? Disclosing the Political Factor behind Heidegger’s Representation of Chinese Thinking
Jean-Yves Heurtebise
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 523-551.
Abstract   PDF (367KB)

Though Heidegger became a kind of conceptual companion of comparative philosophers, and a methodological example for interpreters of Daoist philosophy claiming that Zhuangzi or Laozi embodied the overcoming of Western “onto-theology,” Heidegger himself not only stressed his disbelief in the notion that Asian thinking could save the West from its “civilizational crisis” but also clearly claimed that Western thinking could emerge only through its distinction from the “mythical East.” However, at the same time, Heidegger criticized the decadence of the West, claimed the necessity of cultural rejuvenation, and then, with the failure of Germany to perform this task, seemed to turn to Chinese sources to find alternative solutions. How to understand Heidegger’s complex relationship with China? Is Heidegger an Orientalist or an Occidentalist European philosopher? Moreover, how to understand the subtle and troubling connections between Heidegger’s complex relationship with China and Heidegger’s highly “problematic” (to say the least) intellectual engagement with Nazi ideology? To what extent are Orientalism and Occidentalism are linked to Heidegger’s belief in the Nationalist-Socialists’ claims about “saving” the “European spirit”?

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The Conceptual Fetters of the Mind-Body Problem
FEI Duoyi
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 612-629.
Abstract   PDF (256KB)

The crux of our encounter with the mind-body problem originates from a predicament on the underlying ontological level—from the category of concepts, it seems that the form for grasping the subjective aspects of the mind is incommensurable with the one for understanding the objective level of the brain. This is reflected in the fact that empirical expression is restricted by language, that psychological events cannot be incorporated into strict laws, and that the subject has a path that, with his own mental state, others cannot share. In order to make progress in cracking the mind-body problem, this paper tries to abandon the assumption that “psychology” and “physics” are mutually exclusive and are incompatible ontological categories. The “mind” and “body” are considered as two interchangeable yet non-coexisting perspectives. Therefore, events in the body are represented as conceptions in the mind, and have an expressive correspondence with one another. Meanwhile, the approach for achieving such correspondence involves the entity itself—the ability of the organism to perform purposeful activities constitutes the source of its internal activities. Through the connection of life categories—or rather, the coupling of living beings and their worlds—the mind and body maintain mechanisms which can be jointly realized.

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On Interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks from the Viewpoint of Academic Micro-Politics
LIU Yu-Chao, TSAI Wei-Ding
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 552-569.
Abstract   PDF (312KB)

This article is to explore the micro-political situation behind interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks in the academic context. In order to show a whole and complete picture, this article first presents a detailed description of the publication information of the Black Notebooks and of the debates about anti-Semitism that arose after their publication in the West. Then we try to compare the interpretations of the Black Notebooks most prevalent in the West with those in Chinese academia, in order to delineate their different tendencies in interpretations. Finally, by comparison of distinctive tendencies from both sides, we find out that there are already academic micro-political attitudes guiding these varying interpretations of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks.

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From Assessment to Design: What Is Really Needed in Technology Accompaniment to Achieve Subject Constitution?
JIA Lumeng, HUNG Ching
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 73-92.
Abstract   PDF (247KB)

Based on the argument that technologies mediate human experience and praxis, the idea of technology accompaniment has been suggested as an approach to developing human-tech relations. In light of this idea, this paper argues, firstly, that when technologies inevitably have moral relevance in influencing human perceptions and actions, the constitution of a moral subject has much to do with shaping technological mediation deliberately and creatively. While there is not always a direct connection between what humans know and what humans do, technological mediation can help to strengthen people’s motivation to do the right thing. Subsequently, we examine two approaches that have often been suggested for realizing subject-constitution-with-technology: one is Technology Assessment, and the other is Mediation Design. Although the former can equip people with knowledge about technological mediation, it is relatively weak when it comes to directly producing moral behavior. In contrast, the latter not only exerts a more direct impact on user behavior but may also improve people’s moral knowledge. Nonetheless, both approaches face the general challenge of moral education. As moral knowledge does not guarantee moral behavior, knowing facts and theories about technological mediation may not lead to subject constitution as a result of the development of the human-tech relationship. To overcome this difficulty, an extension of the latter approach is proposed. The design of meta-mediation has great potential to shift users’ attention to the aforementioned mediating effect of technology-in-use and, thereby, users’ subject constitution can be enabled.

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Hintikka’s Logical Revolution
XU Difei
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 630-648.
Abstract   PDF (255KB)

Hintikka thinks that second-order logic is not pure logic, and because of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, he suggests that we should liberate ourselves from the mistaken idea that first-order logic is the foundational logic of mathematics. With this background he introduces his independence friendly logic (IFL). In this paper, I argue that approaches taking Hintikka’s IFL as a foundational logic of mathematics face serious challenges. First, the quantifiers in Hintikka’s IFL are not distinguishable from Linström’s general quantifiers, which means that the quantifiers in IFL involve higher order entities. Second, if we take Wright’s interpretation of quantifiers or if we take Hale’s criterion for the identity of concepts, Quine’s thesis that second-order logic is set theory will be rejected. Third, Hintikka’s definition of truth itself cannot be expressed in the extension of language of IFL. Since second-order logic can do what IFL does, the significance of IFL for the foundations of mathematics is weakened.

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Joining the Transformation of Nature—The Post-Natural and Confucian Perspective on Earth Stewardship in the Anthropocene
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 53-72.
Abstract   PDF (362KB)

The emergence of the Anthropocene creates a new set of conditions for understanding the relationship between human power and the natural world. These conditions include an increasingly humanized and de-natured natural world, and greater responsibilities of stewardship for human beings. In current literature, there are diverse views on the meaning of the Anthropocene and the role of modern technology in future earth stewardship. Post-natural thought regards the Anthropocene as representing the end of nature, and thus appeals to disenchantment with respect to the idea that nature is an external moral norm. Although this approach correctly addresses the significance of locality and the mutuality between humans and the environment, it fails to provide us with adequate normative boundaries for preventing the endless artificialization of nature. Alternatively, this article defends the position that Confucianism is a more plausible philosophical ground for earth stewardship in the context of the Anthropocene. The Confucian approach is an inclusive humanism which is established on the cosmological ideal of realising the virtue of shengsheng 生生 (life generation) in all beings. Moreover, Confucian ethics draw much attention to the self-regulation of human beings as virtuous persons. This is indeed what is needed in the age of the Anthropocene.

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Wittgenstein’s Peculiar Use of “Internal Relation” in Aspect-Seeing
ZHANG Ligeng
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 143-159.
Abstract   PDF (274KB)

“Internal relation” is a significant term in both Wittgenstein’s early and later philosophy. The term is used in relation to many problems, including our topic here, “aspect-seeing.” Some scholars have attempted to present a persuasive interpretation of this terminology; however, Wittgenstein’s remarks on “aspect-seeing” somehow thwart their approaches. The obstacle lies in the relata involved: Which terms are connected by an internal relation in the perception of an aspect? In this paper, I review the existing interpretations and present two proposals, one of which is conservative and the other slightly more radical. I argue that Wittgenstein makes divergent use of the distinction between “internal/external relations,” and that this may reveal the potential ambiguities of the words “internal” and “relation.”

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A Neo-Confucian Criticism of Daoism: Wang Fuzhi’s Contradictory Remarks on the Laozi
TAN Mingran
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 93-121.
Abstract   PDF (379KB)

Based on Zhu Xi’s statement that Laozi’s teachings were very cruel, Wang Fuzhi condemned Laozi as a crafty, petty person in his Confucian commentaries. Yet, he had to understand the Laozi or Daodejing sympathetically when he commented on it in Laozi Yan老子衍 (Extended Commentary on the Laozi). As a result, he showed inconsistency in his criticism and evaluation of the author. Some scholars have noted this problem but have not shed ink analyzing it. This essay finds that Wang Fuzhi’s ambiguous attitude toward Laozi results from his Confucian prejudice against other schools and his failure to grasp the breadth and depth of Laozi’s thought. From the perspective of Heaven, Laozi promoted accommodation and non-interference in self-cultivation and governance, summed up by the maxim that “the sage manages affairs without deliberation, and spreads teachings without words.” In contrast, Wang Fuzhi stuck to the distinction between Confucianism and Daoism, and tried to use humanity and ritual propriety to supplement that which Heaven does not provide; as such, he criticized Laozi as crafty and irresponsible. Wang Fuzhi’s criticism neither hits the mark regarding Laozi’s weakness nor maintains a concordance with his earlier sympathetic appraisal in Laozi Yan; the reason for this is that Wang Fuzhi could not fully grasp Laozi’s thought from a Confucian and anthropocentric perspective.

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How Is the Kantian or Confucian Metaphysics Applicable to Human Dignity—Response to Wang Xiaowei
NI Peimin
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 29-35.
Abstract   PDF (242KB)

Using the opportunity of responding to Wang’s critiques, this short article clarifies a number of important points related to the topic of human dignity. It argues that, only in moving beyond his a priori reasoning by assuming humans to be rational agents can the Kantian theory of dignity be applied to actual humans; only in taking our moral potential as a recommended way of human self-identification can the is-ought dichotomy be resolved; only in respecting human dignity can punishment be justified; and only from its function in shaping our visions and attitudes can a teleological metaphysics be helpful.

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Castañeda’s Moral Theory and Globalization
Francesco Orilia
Front. Philos. China    2020, 15 (1): 122-142.
Abstract   PDF (229KB)

This paper examines the moral theory presented by Castañeda in his 1974 book The Stucture of Morality and illustrates its usefulness in dealing with some intercultural phenomena concerning women and children rights which globalization has brought to the fore. In particular, Castañeda’s crucial distinction between moral codes and the moral ideal is highlighted. Moreover, the role that freedom and happiness play in his framework is discussed and further elaborated by appealing to Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive freedom and current empirical studies on happiness.

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A Couple Nagging Interpretive Difficulties in Zhuangzi Studies vis-à-vis William James on the Ethics and Psychology of Belief
John Robert Williams
Front. Philos. China    2019, 14 (4): 593-611.
Abstract   PDF (396KB)

The present article addresses two lingering questions in the interpretation of the Zhuangzi 莊子—(a) How can one reconcile the scepticism of the Zhuangzi with its positive project(s)? and (b) Who can become a sagely person? The questions are addressed with reference to aspects of William James’ accounts of the ethics and psychology of belief.

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