New Book: Late Classical Chinese Thought by Chris Fraser

From Google Play:
“Chris Fraser presents a rich and broad-ranging study of the culminating period of classical Chinese philosophy, the third century BC. He offers novel and informative perspectives on Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, Legalism, and other movements in early Chinese thought while also delving into neglected texts such as the Guanzi, Lu’s Annals, and the Zhuangzi ‘outer’ chapters, restoring them to their prominent place in the history of philosophy. Fraser organizes the history of Chinese thought topically, devoting separate chapters to metaphysics and metaethics, political philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and philosophy of language and logic. Focused specifically on the last century of the Warring States era, arguably the most vibrant, diverse period of philosophical discourse in Chinese history, the discussion covers the shared concerns, rival doctrines, and competing criticisms presented in third-century BC sources. Fraser explicates the distinctive issues, conceptual frameworks, and background assumptions of classical Chinese thought. He aims to introduce the philosophical discourse of early China to a broad audience, including readers with no prior familiarity with the material. At the same time, the thematic treatment and incisive interpretations of individual texts will be of interest to students and specialists in the field.”

Oxford University Press

3 replies on “New Book: Late Classical Chinese Thought by Chris Fraser”

  1. Fraser writes “In approaching the texts, then, we want to set aside traditional labels at least initially and not prejudge how a particular text will orient itself with respect to other doctrinal outlooks. Many of our sources may not fit easily into predefined doctrinal categories. Labels such as ‘Daoism’ or ‘Legalism’ may still turn out to be useful, but only as loose designations for broad, somewhat heterogeneous orientations of thought tied together by various family resemblances.”
    Well said.

    • Perhaps the same goes for “metaethics, political philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and philosophy of language and logic”? Or do those apply to all philosophies in all times and places?

    • That’s a fair question, Paul! Justin and I thought a lot about this and in our book on Neo-Confucianism, which is also organized topically, we decided to largely avoid such terminology (our chapters are either translated key terms like “Pattern and Vital Stuff,” “Nature,” and :Heartmind,” or else English terms we think capture their subjects better than canonical Western philosophical categories , like “Self-Cultivation” and “Governance and Institutions”). Still, I think that our choice isn’t the only legitimate way to go. One can successfully use terms like “metaphysics,” “moral psychology,” and so on in purposely vague, “bridge concept” fashion. Difficulties arise when one assumes that with a term like “metaphysics” automatically comes a set of problems that need to be solved — problems that were prominent in the (contingent) history of Western philosophy, but need not be universal. I haven’t read Chris’s book yet so am not in a position to judge in this case!

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