Category Archives: Book Review

Bliss reviews Ma and van Brakel, Beyond the Troubled Water of Shifei

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2020.05.15 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Lin Ma and Jaap van Brakel, Beyond the Troubled Water of Shifei: From Disputation to Walking-Two-Roads in the Zhuangzi, SUNY Press, 2019, 283pp., $32.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781438474823.

Reviewed by Ricki Bliss, Lehigh University

Interpretation is always underdetermined and indeterminate. It is underdetermined by the data and it is indeterminate because meaning doesn’t allow it to be any other way. Interpretation is by no means a hopeless enterprise, however. Necessary conditions on the activity of interpretation are: (i) the assumption, on the part of the interpreter, of the family resemblance of forms of life; (ii) the assumption that all general concepts and conceptual schemes in all languages are family resemblance concepts; and (iii) a principle of mutual attunement.

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Lambert Reviews Olberding at NDPR

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2020.02.11 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Amy Olberding, The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2019, 183pp., $29.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190880965.

Reviewed by Andrew Lambert, City University of New York, College of Staten Island

Amy Olberding notes that this book is a response to increased polarization and conflict in civil life in the United States (ix). Besides political discourse, the problem of incivility or rudeness is found also in everyday social life — such as what to do when “Uncle Frank” makes offensive remarks about race, sexuality and immigration at the family Thanksgiving dinner (144). Olberding’s response is to turn to the Confucian tradition. The early Confucians’ commitment to civility can help us to re-think social relations, and arrive at an outlook that recognizes the difficulty of bridging gaps between us but also sustains a sense of solidarity.

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Three reviews in JAS

The most recent issue of the Journal of Asian Studies has reviews of three books of interest to readers of this blog:

  • Curie Virag reviews Michael Nylan, The Chinese Pleasure Book (Zone Books, 2018)
  • Yunte Huang reviews Haun Saussy, Translation as Citation: Zhuangzi Inside Out (Oxford, 2017)
  • Patrick Buck reviews Bryan Van Norden, Taking Back Philosophy: A Multicultural Manifesto (Columbia, 2017)

Winston Reviews Kim, Democracy After Virtue

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2019.07.20 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Sungmoon Kim, Democracy After Virtue: Toward Pragmatic Confucian Democracy, Oxford University Press, 2018, 255pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190671235.

Reviewed by Kenneth Winston, Harvard University

As Asian countries reclaim their former prominence on the world stage, many Asian scholars are engaged in an ardent effort to respond to the new reality by reexamining basic political principles. The effort is not only academic or philosophical; it is deeply moral — an effort to preserve what is of value in one’s own culture or tradition while adapting to new geopolitical circumstances and engaging in new relationships. Sungmoon Kim is a member in good standing of an international group of scholars who join this intellectual conversation with the general aim of reconciling Confucianism and democracy — with an agenda and vocabulary taken primarily from contemporary English-language analytic philosophy. While written at a fairly abstract level, this book can be read as a search for identity or self-understanding in an evolving world.

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Symposium on and Review of Ing, The Vulnerability of Integrity

Here is a link to the online-first publication of a symposium on Michael Ing’s The Vulnerability of Integrity in Early Confucian Thought (the print issue is due out in July in Res Philosophica): 

https://www.pdcnet.org/resphilosophica/onlinefirst

Here is a link to Julianne Chung’s review of the book in Mind:

https://academic.oup.com/mind/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/mind/fzz010/5456845

Thanks for sharing these with me, Julianne!

Behuniak Reviews Slingerland, Mind and Body in Early China

Jim Behuniak has published a review in Dao — currently “Online First” — of Ted Slingerland’s new book, Mind and Body in Early China: Beyond Orientalism and the Myth of Holism (OUP, 2019). The full review is available (I believe; this might only be for 50 people?) here: https://rdcu.be/buskr. The opening of the review:

I would like to confess my bias at the outset. Before even reading this book, I was predisposed to report that it was brilliant. Edward Slingerland’s cross-disciplinary work in the fields of Chinese philosophy, cognitive science, and metaphor—plus his contributions with respect to consilience in the humanities and natural sciences—establish him as a singularly important scholar and one that we are lucky to have as a contemporary. His 2008 work, What Science Offers the Humanities, was instrumental in shaping my own philosophical approach in two books that will soon be going to press. I regret not giving Slingerland more credit in those pages….

The problem with Slingerland’s work, however, is that it tends to have two distinct components: one positive, one negative. The positive generates real insights. The negative, however, generates unfair criticisms by hastily identifying specific individuals with large-scale, odoriferous tendencies “in our field.” When challenged on this practice, Slingerland will apologize, acknowledge his “inaccuracies,” admit to his own “sloppiness,” and retreat (see Slingerland, “Reply to Prof. Moeller’s Response,” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10.4 [2011]: 537–539). In the present volume, given the sheer number of us implicated, mending fences might prove a little more difficult….

Mills Reviews Dorter, Can Different Cultures Think the Same Thoughts?

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2019.04.14 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Kenneth Dorter, Can Different Cultures Think the Same Thoughts?: A Comparative Study in Metaphysics and Ethics, University of Notre Dame Press, 2018, 276pp., $50.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780268103538.

Reviewed by Ethan Mills, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Philosophers specializing in non-Western traditions today face a dilemma. On one hand, the virtues of encouraging non-specialists to engage with non-Western material are obvious: it enhances collegiality between specializations, opens up philosophically fertile comparisons, and creates more visibility for non-Western traditions among our mono-cultural colleagues. On the other hand, there are risks of non-specialist engagement with non-Western material: linguistic limitations, less familiarity with contemporary scholarship, lack of understanding of cultural and philosophical context, and a tendency to make sweeping pronouncements about non-Western traditions based on limited exposure.

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Defoort reviews Angle and Tiwald, Neo-Confucianism

Carine Defoort has published a review of Justin’s and my book Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (Polity, 2017) in Tijdschrift voor Filosofie 80(3): 591-592. The review is in Dutch, but Google translate (plus a little help from Carine!) did a pretty good job. Here’s one short passage:

Because these thinkers [i.e., the Neo-Confucians] propose a variety of insights that seem somewhat Western, they have never really aroused my interest: fixed order patterns in a changing world seemed to me a diluted variant of an all too familiar dualistic worldview. The careful and broadly varied representation of Angle and Tiwald has changed that.

Thanks, Carine!

Song Reviews Liu, Neo-Confucianism

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2019.03.33 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

JeeLoo Liu, Neo-Confucianism: Metaphysics, Mind, and Morality, Wiley-Blackwell, 2018, 316pp., $34.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781118619414.

Reviewed by Bin Song, Washington College

This book is clearly one of the greatest accomplishments among English Neo-Confucian philosophical studies in recent decades. JeeLoo Liu uses clear language and rigorous philosophical reasoning to analyze eight pivotal Neo-Confucian figures regarding three major areas: metaphysics, moral theory and moral practice. The book can be aptly used as both an introduction to Neo-Confucianism for beginners and a top reference for researchers, which is itself a rare achievement.

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