Here are a few excerpts from a short book review (about 2000 words) I just wrote for China Review International, of Wiebke Denecke‘s The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi. My review mostly touches on method, not so much on substance, of her analysis. However, if you thought you might be interested in reading the book, here is some indication of its contents.
Wiebke Denecke. The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. xii, 370 pp. Hardcover $39.95, ISBN 978-0-674-05609-1.
Some academic philosophers and historians claim to study or “do” Chinese philosophy. Denecke takes aim in this book at understanding “first what modern proponents of a ‘Chinese philosophy’ have gained from creating a Chinese equivalent of philosophy for their time and concerns, and second what we may gain from framing our inquiry into this text corpus through the lens of other disciplines, questions, and concerns for our time” (3). So, the project is constructive and invites readers to seek gains from the inquiry. Ultimately, Denecke conceives of her project as friendly to the task of including Chinese thought in contemporary philosophical conversation, so long as the project of understanding those texts is itself seen as an important part of the learning process: “’Chinese philosophy’ should not be a toolbox of concepts and values that could give Western philosophy a fix. Instead, it is the translation process … both on the level of words and on the level of disciplines, that has the greatest potential to become productive in the future” (344-5). Continue reading “Review of Denecke”