Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

New Frontiers of Philosophy in China published

Frontiers of Philosophy in China 9:3 has been published, and is available on-line. Among other things, there are reviews of:

  • Brook Ziporyn, Ironies of Oneness and Difference: Coherence in Early Chinese Thought; Prolegomena to the Study of Li 理. (By Steve Coutinho)
  • Stephen C. Angle, Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism. (By WANG Kun)
  • Erica Fox Brindley, Music, Cosmology, and the Politics of Harmony in Early China. (By Heinrich Geiger)

In case some readers do not have access to this journal, I will add here some snippets from these three reviews.

Coutinho’s review of Ironies opens:

If there is one thread running through the history of Chinese philosophy, Ziporyn would identify it as the concept of “coherence.” It is no exaggeration to say that Ironies of Oneness and Difference is a groundbreaking work, in which Ziporyn makes a case for the primacy of coherence in Chinese ontology. This is the first installment of a two part study. The second volume, Beyond Oneness and Difference: Li and Coherence in Chinese Buddhist Thought and Its Antecedents, examines explicit articulations of the concept li 理, traditionally translated as “principle,” “reason,” or “pattern,” but which he argues should be understood as a form of coherence. The first volume examines the discourses in pre-Qin texts that prefigure its development. Ziporyn attempts to plot continuities of meaning and usage over time that may be interpreted as stages in the emergence of an explicit concept of li. He makes his case with impeccable sinological scholarship, extensive familiarity with the relevant texts, and mastery of philosophical concepts, discourses, and methodologies.

Despite the complexity and subtlety of his argument, Ziporyn writes with surprising clarity. The book is liberally scattered with mutually resonating insights: methodological, linguistic, and ethical. Whether one agrees with his conclusion or not, his case is made with powerful interpretive force. If he is right, a great step forward has been made in cross-cultural interpretation. But, even if one disagrees, one will have learned a great deal, not only about Chinese philosophy, but also about a new mode of epistemology. This book is essential reading for any scholar who wants to engage with the concepts of ancient Chinese thought in a philosophically responsible and sophisticated way.

Wang’s review of my book starts this way:

Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy can be regarded as a creative development and comprehensive expression of Stephen C. Angle’s former works integrating Neo-Confucian tradition and contemporary ethical and political thought. He cites the idea of conservatism from Mou Zongsan and Tang Junyi to propose his own idea that conservatism is rooted in creative practice. It is in the affirmation of basic Confucian values that he sets up his view of progress, which means growing ethically and making the world better (18–19). In this light, Progressive Confucianism can be seen as a theory that interprets and conserves traditional Confucian values in agreement with contemporary demands. Thus it can be compared with Western ethics, especially with liberalism, which also emphasizes civic virtue and moral education. And so Progressive Confucianism aims at opening up dimensions like constitutionalism and democracy that accord with Western traditions while remaining consistent with Confucian ethics and rituals.

Provocatively, Wang also argues that:

…Angle thus proposes a less metaphysical interpretation of the “functional presentation of ethical reasoning and structural presentation of analytical reasoning,” and he points to ethical reasoning as being “the perception and reactions of virtuous character to particular situations” (26–27). Since moral character cannot be independent of situations, it is totally different from Mou’s transcendental moral subject, but it has something to share with what Xunzi says about “making ritual propriety flourish while killing the classics (long liyi er sha shishu 隆礼义而杀诗书).” In this light, it is easy to see that Angle uses Self-Restriction as a pretext for a Restricted Self, in order to put ethical value after political value. We can call this methodology “Reversed Self-Restriction.”

And Geiger notes:

Erica Fox Brindley is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Asian Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Her main interests include the philosophical and religious texts, cultural norms, and political cultures that were born and flourished from 500BC to 200AD. All these interests appear in her new book. Its main content derives from an analysis of classical interpretations of and reflections on music, using both received and newly excavated texts. The book MCPH is composed of two parts (“Music and the State” and “Music and the Individual Body”) and six chapters (three chapters for each part), plus prologue, introduction and conclusion. It is a valuable and convenient resource through its bibliography and its translations. The rich content of the book goes beyond the scope of a short review, and so I will discuss just a few basic points.

December 1st, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Contemporary Confucianism | no comments

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