Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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, Volume 12 Issue 3 Previous Issue   
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Orginal Article
The Philosophy of “Naturalness” in the Laozi and Its Value For Contemporary Society
ZHANG Weiwen
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 340-357.

Abstract   PDF (329KB)

This article aims to show that the concept of “naturalness” in the Laozi is able to provide cultural guidance concerning values for contemporary social development. Specifically, the Laozi’s concept of “naturalness”— manifested in the text’s exhortation to “honor the dao and exalt the de” and its statement that “the dao models itself on naturalness”—has profound ontological, political and social implications concerning “naturalness” that are strongly expressed through a variety of propositions including “achieving all through non-action” and “downsizing the state and simplifying the people.” With respect to the question about individuals living a life of appropriateness and establishing their destiny, the Laozi emphasizes such cultivation methods as “sticking to simplicity and authenticity” and “watching in quietude and observing in depth,” which are also infused with the conception of “naturalness,” which stresses the notion that understanding the harmony between man and nature can provide useful lessons for the development of contemporary human society.

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Exploring the Non-objectified Character of Dao in the Laozi : A Modern Articulation1
LIN Guanghua
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 358-376.

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This article focuses on the interpretation of heng dao 恆道 (sometimes translated as “the constant dao”) and its fundamental character in the Laozi. It argues against the prevailing interpretation of dao as an unchanging metaphysical substance or reality, and maintains that the fundamental feature of heng dao is both dynamic and eternal. Heng dao is beyond language because of its dynamic character, but the Laozi nevertheless strives to express it in three aspects: 1) its flexibility and adaptability as represented in the metaphor of water; 2) its movement of reversal and return; 3) and in its existential significance as a guide for life. Heng dao can be called the non-objectified dao, which produces law, principle, rule, method, and so on. Looked at in this way, the dynamic character of heng dao can be called non-objective.

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The Enjoyment of the Sage and the Common People: A New Perspective on the Cosmology of the Laozi
CAO Feng
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 377-392.

Abstract   PDF (401KB)

The Laozi laughs at the joy of those who violate the Dao and praises the suffering of those who attain it, yet this does not mean that the political philosophy of the Laozi does not encompass a notion of happiness, a notion that is grounded in the “enjoyment of something together” (gong le 共樂) by the sage and the common people. The philosophical foundation of the Laozi’s view of happiness is its cosmology, of which there are two sequences: one is generation and the other is growth. With the influences of Wei/Jin-era metaphysics and Western philosophy, Chinese scholars used to overemphasize generation, tracing only the origin. But in the cosmology of the Laozi, both generation and growth are indispensable, and this is part of the reason why the Dao and the De are equally important in the Laozi. The happiness of the common people does not come from a psychological dependence on or attachment to certain form of domination, but from the full development of each individual’s initiative and action affected by Mysterious De.

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Paradoxes in the Textual Development of the Laozi: A Closer Examination of Chapters Eight and Twenty-Four
CUI Xiaojiao
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 393-407.

Abstract   PDF (332KB)

In light of the recently published Western Han period bamboo-slip Laozi, now in the collection of Peking University, this paper explores several paradoxes in the textual development of the Laozi. Specifically, it presents two examples suggesting that since the wording in the Laozi was originally intended to be ambiguous and paradoxical, during the transmission of the text, the compilers or commentators modified some of the paradoxes to make better sense. Eventually those modifications came to replace the original text. In the first part of this article examines certain contrasting differences in Chapter Eight from the Beida Laozi, the Mawangdui Laozi, and the received Laozi. The second part, I examine certain other contrasting differences from these same versions from Chapter Twenty-Four are discussed. This paper argues that these differences among the various versions are not the product of transcribal error; rather, they are the result of compilers or commentators who revised these passages against their earliest versions in order to make the meaning clearer and more explicit.

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Ontology and Metaphysics in Chinese Philosophy
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 408-428.

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This paper begins with a critique of the uses of the term “bentilun 本 體論 (ontology)” in modern Chinese scholarship by tracing their claim to being theoretical paradigms for understanding Chinese philosophy as a philosophical tradition. It is supplemented by a contrastive discussion of bentilun and its original ancient Greek counterpart, i.e. ontology, to show that the object of discourse in bentilun does not match up with that of ontology, namely “being qua being.” This comparative study also demonstrates that bentilun finds its philosophical significance in connection with the theory of xinxing 心性 (heart-mind). In the second section of this paper, a comparative study of “xingershangxue 形而上學 (metaphysics)” and “metaphysics” highlights the central tenet that the dao essentially transcends language. Daoist philosophy is used as an example that identifies a unique predilection toward philosophical concepts that transcend the realm of nameable thoughts and objects in Chinese philosophy. Textual evidence is provided to show that the conceptual possibility of xingershangxue is based upon a fundamental difference between you 有 (being) and wu 無 (not-being), in a way that is similar to philosophical developments in other early civilizations. Nonetheless, in addition to a philosophical interest in principles and values that transcend the material world, Daoist xingershangxue exhibits an idiosyncratic attention to notions and theories whose object of discourse is essentially unnameable. This characteristic philosophical interest is identified with the aim of locating essential disciplines within Chinese philosophy, including the theory of xinxing, practical wisdom, and the theory of jingjie 境界 (state-of-attainment) in a wider framework of east and west philosophical traditions.

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Love and the Paradoxes of Unity: Zhu Xi’s Debate with Followers of Cheng Hao over “Perceptual Oneness”
ZHENG Zemian
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 429-449.

Abstract   PDF (308KB)

At the end of the twentieth century, there was a trend in Chinese literature towards characterizing Chinese culture as the “unity of Tian (Heaven) and humanity 天人合一.” Rather than arguing against such a view, I present in this paper a series of debates over the paradoxes within the concept of unity as well as various notions of love, hoping to demonstrate the depth and complexity of this seemingly simple and dogmatic dictum so that those who cite it can be alert to its potential intricacies. I will discuss three elements which threaten to render the pursuit of oneness an impossible project: (1) the relation between naming and the named, which makes any conceptual attempt to attain oneness an infinite regress, as can be seen in Zhuangzi’s 莊子 argument against Hui Shi’s 惠施 oneness; (2) the gap between contemplation and practice, as can be seen in the contrast between Zhang Zai’s 張載 contemplative oneness and Cheng Hao’s 程顥 perceptual oneness; and (3) the self-bifurcating attentive acts of the heart-mind, which render any conscious endeavor to attain oneness a self-defeating project. Unlike Cheng Hao’s emphasis on the subjective experience of perceptual oneness, his followers posit its underlying metaphysical substance as qi or xing (nature) and believe that moral self-cultivation should start from a metaphysical insight into this substance. Zhu Xi 朱熹 rejects the approach of grounding ethics on metaphysics and argues that love is not based on the notion of unity in terms of qi. He sees the ultimate comprehension of unity rather as a “metaphysical promise,” a goal to be attained by following the Confucian Way of selfcultivation, which starts simply from reflection and practice on things near at hand.

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Liangzhi and the Interpretative Obfuscation Regarding Knowledge
CHANG Tzu-li
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 450-465.

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This article aims to argue that interpreting liangzhi 良知 as innate, original, or cognitive knowledge is likely to fall into “interpretative obfuscation regarding knowledge.” First, for Wang, what is inherent in mankind is moral agency rather than innate or original knowledge. Therefore, the focus of zhizhi 致 知 and gewu 格物 is instead on moral practice and actualization of virtue rather than on either “the extension of knowledge” or “the investigation of things.” Apart from that, drawing support from cognitive knowledge to explicate liangzhi also leads to three related but distinct misconceptions: liangzhi as perfect knowledge, the identity of knowledge and action, and liangzhi as recognition or acknowledgement. By clarifying the above misinterpretations, the meaning and implication of liangzhi will, in turn, also become clearer.

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Western Marxism’s Misreading of Marx’s Critique of Capitalism
DONG Xinchun
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 466-482.

Abstract   PDF (178KB)

Since its advent in the early 1920s, Western Marxism has undergone a torturous process from anti-liberalism to virtually liberalism. The main theoretical deficiency behind this process is the over-estimation of Marx’s cultural critique of capitalism. As his economic research gradually deepened, Marx’s dual critique of capitalism from economic and cultural perspectives matured. When the leading proponents of Soviet Marxism gave prominence to Marx’s economic critique, as circumstances required, they and some key figures in the Second International misread his theory with emphasis on economic determinism. In contrast, Georg Lukács and most Western Marxists proceeded to develop a Marxian cultural critique with the consequence that his economic research being marginalized. Without the counterbalance of a continuous and consistent economic theory to challenge a confident international capitalism, cultural critique is consequently reorganized in confluence with liberalism, which is centered on an individual ontology. Re-excavating Marxian dual critical theory may help Western Marxism escape the dilemma.

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On Affectionate Respect in Gender Justice: An Inquiry into the Cultural Abuse of Sex
SHAN Jiangdong
Front. Philos. China. 2017, 12 (3): 483-504.

Abstract   PDF (206KB)

Phallogocentrism as cultural abuse of sex is a difficult issue that has been addressed by many modern Western feminist philosophers. By comparing their insights with those deriving from Chinese Confucianism and Daoism, I propose the concept of “affectionate respect” as an intellectual counterbalance to phallogocentrism. In this essay, I have discussed certain arbitrary fallacies based on masculine predominance and spotlighted the merits of being female in balancing emotion and reason, justice and fairness, and institutionally-biased powers and the human rights of innate dignity. To achieve gender justice and equality before God and under Heaven must be logically and morally extended to law and politics.

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11 articles