Warp, Weft, and Way

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

Liu Reviews Bruya, The Philosophical Challenge from China

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In the current issue of Metaphilosophy (47:3), JeeLoo Liu has published a review of Brian Bruya, ed., The Philosophical Challenge from China (MIT, 2015). She gives paragraph-long summaries of each of the thirteen chapters, and then concludes with some critical remarks, which I will excerpt below.

“…This book presents a rich array of philosophical topics. It showcases the research orientations and fruitful ideas of scholars who have been engaging Chinese philosophy with analytic philosophy. Bruya has done a fine job of organizing the invited entries and making them connect with one another. There are various philosophical questions that can spark further discussion arising from these chapters: for instance, whether reason and emotion could be sharply divided in our moral motivation, whether one should adopt different moral principles in the private and the public realms, whether morality should be restrained in politics, and whether we should embrace a different worldview in which nature is continuous with human activities and imbued with human values….”

“…The title, however, is inaccurate: the book does not fully present “the philosophical challenge from China.” There are much richer philosophical resources both in traditional Chinese philosophy and in current philosophical development in China. Many a chapter in this collection gives only a skimpy introduction to some philosophical ideas in Chinese philosophy, while the whole chapter seems to be devoted to explicating Western philosophy instead. In certain cases, the authors provide only a sketch of some Chinese philosophical concepts, leaving out the complexities of the philosophy itself. Each chapter introduces some notions derived from Chinese philosophy that could lead to a new way of thinking, but the book as a whole fails to capture the fundamental differences between the two traditions and their underlying worldviews. There seems to be an intentional avoidance of some really tough issues; as a result, the analysis does not get to the bottom of Chinese philosophy. For example, due attention is not paid to what Ivanhoe calls “heroic” metaphysical views—“the kind of metaphysical beliefs that would be very difficult for a modern person to embrace, since they can- not be reconciled with views that are now accepted by science” (231)….”

“…This book will be very useful for scholars working in Chinese philosophy to learn the possible directions one can take, but it will not likely inspire one group of targeted readers: those analytic philosophers who have up to now not been receptive to learning more about Chinese philosophy. Of course, unless one is willing to be open to developing philosophical literacy in other philosophical traditions, no book can do the trick of making one face the philosophical challenge from outside.”

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