Category Archives: Books of Interest

New book: Critique, Subversion, and Chinese Philosophy

Critique, Subversion, and Chinese Philosophy has been published by Bloomsbury.

Edited by: Hans-Georg Moeller, Andrew K. Whitehead

Published: 11/12/20

Attached is a link to the Bloomsbury website where you can learn more about, as well as purchase this book.

https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/critique-subversion-and-chinese-philosophy-9781350115842/

New Book: The Objectionable Li Zhi

The University of Washington Press has published The Objectionable Li Zhi:Fiction, Criticism, and Dissent in Late Ming China edited by Rivi Handler-Spitz, Pauline C. Lee and Haun Saussy. The editorial description:

Iconoclastic scholar Li Zhi (1527–1602) was a central figure in the cultural world of the late Ming dynasty. His provocative and controversial words and actions shaped print culture, literary practice, attitudes toward gender, and perspectives on Buddhism and the afterlife. Although banned, his writings were never fully suppressed, because they tapped into issues of vital significance to generations of readers. His incisive remarks, along with the emotional intensity and rhetorical power with which he delivered them, made him an icon of his cultural moment and an emblem of early modern Chinese intellectual dissent.

In this volume, leading China scholars demonstrate the interrelatedness of seemingly discrete aspects of Li Zhi’s thought and emphasize his far-reaching impact on his contemporaries and successors. In doing so, they challenge the myth that there was no tradition of dissidence in premodern China.

New Book: Ames, Human Becomings: Theorizing Persons for Confucian Role Ethics

Roger Ames’s new book, Human Becomings: Theorizing Persons for Confucian Role Ethics (SUNY, 2020) has been published. The editor’s summary:

In Human Becomings, Roger T. Ames argues that the appropriateness of categorizing Confucian ethics as role ethics turns largely on the conception of person that is presupposed within the interpretive context of classical Chinese philosophy. By beginning with first self-consciously and critically theorizing the Confucian conception of persons as the starting point of Confucian ethics, Ames posits that the ultimate goal will be to take the Confucian tradition on its own terms and to let it speak with its own voice without overwriting it with cultural importances not its own. He argues that perhaps the most important contribution Confucian philosophy can make to contemporary ethical, social, and political discourse is the conception of focus-field, relationally constituted persons as a robust alternative to the ideology of individualism with single actors playing to win.

The Table of Contents follows.

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New Book: Elstein, ed., Dao Companion to Contemporary Confucian Philosophy

The latest volume in the authoritative Dao Companion series has been published: David Elstein, ed., Dao Companion to Contemporary Confucian Philosophy (Springer, 2021). The editorial description:

This edited volume presents a comprehensive examination of contemporary Confucian philosophy from its roots in the late 19th century to the present day. It provides a thorough introduction to the major philosophers and topics in contemporary Confucian philosophy. The individual chapters study the central figures in 20th century Confucian philosophy in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, as well as the important influences on recent Confucian philosophy. In addition, topical chapters focus on contemporary Confucian theory of knowledge, ethics, politics, aesthetics, and views of human nature. The volume brings together scholars from around the world to provide a sound overview of the philosophy of the period and illustrate the important current debates. Confucian philosophy has been undergoing a revival in China for more than three decades, and this book presents the most significant work of the past century and more. By giving a detailed account of the philosophical positions involved, explaining the terminology of contemporary Confucian philosophy, and situating the views in their historical context, this volume enables the reader to understand what is at stake and evaluate the arguments.

The Table of Contents follows.

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Confucianism as Virtue Ethics in the Sinophone World

Almost 15 years ago when I spent a year in Beijing, much of it spent writing Sagehood, there was relatively little engagement with the idea that Confucian ethics might be helpfully understood through the lens of “virtue ethics.” Quite a lot has changed since then in the Chinese-speaking philosophical world. (OK, that’s an understatement; I’m confining myself to the question of virtue ethics for today.) Consider these 2020 articles:

  • Tang Wenming 唐文明, “美德伦理学、儒家传统与现代社会的普遍困境——以陈来《儒学美德论》为中心的讨论 [Virtue Ethics, The Confucian Tradition, and the Universal Predicament of Modern Societies—Taking Chen Lai’s Confucian Virtue Theory as Focus]” (On-line publication on 《儒家网》 here)
  • Yang Guorong 杨国荣, “德性、知识与哲学进路——由黄勇新著《当代美德伦理——古代儒家的贡献》引发的若干思考 [Virtue, Knowledge, and the Philosophical Road Ahead—Some Thoughts Prompted by Huang Yong’s Contemporary Virtue Ethics—Contributions from Ancient Confucianism]” (On-line publication on 《儒家网》 here)

Each of these essays, in turn, reacts to a fairly recent book-length publication, also in Chinese, exploring the subject in depth. (Details on the contents of Chen Lai’s book are here; Huang Yong’s are here.)

You might reasonably expect given what I’ve written so far that I’d now go on to explain and engage with the details of Prof. Tang and Prof. Yang’s take on virtue ethics and Confucianism. Alas, it’s all I can do right now to find time to share this much! Perhaps after classes are over….

New Book: Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought

Leah Kalmanson’s new book, Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought, has been published by Bloomsbury!  A brief description of the book:

Engaging in existential discourse beyond the European tradition, this book turns to Asian philosophies to reassess vital questions of life’s purpose, death’s imminence, and our capacity for living meaningfully in conditions of uncertainty.

Inspired by the dilemmas of European existentialism, this cross-cultural study seeks concrete techniques for existential practice via the philosophies of East Asia. The investigation begins with the provocative writings of twentieth-century Korean Buddhist nun Kim Iryop, who asserts that meditative concentration conducts a potent energy outward throughout the entire karmic network, enabling the radical transformation of our shared existential conditions. Understanding her claim requires a look at East Asian sources more broadly. Considering practices as diverse as Buddhist merit-making ceremonies, Confucian/Ruist methods for self-cultivation, the ritual memorization and recitation of texts, and Yijing divination, the book concludes by advocating a speculative turn. This ‘speculative existentialism’ counters the suspicion toward metaphysics characteristic of twentieth-century European existential thought and, at the same time, advances a program for action. It is not a how-to guide for living, but rather a philosophical methodology that takes seriously the power of mental cultivation to transform the meaning of the life that we share.

Click here for more information about the book.

New Book: Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought

Alexus McLeod and Joshua R. Brown’s new book, Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought, has been published by Bloomsbury! A brief description:

Contemporary scholars of Chinese philosophy often presuppose that early China possessed a naturalistic worldview, devoid of any non-natural concepts, such as transcendence. Challenging this presupposition head-on, Joshua R. Brown and Alexus McLeod argue that non-naturalism and transcendence have a robust and significant place in early Chinese thought.

This book reveals that non-naturalist positions can be found in early Chinese texts, in topics including conceptions of the divine, cosmogony, and apophatic philosophy. Moreover, by closely examining a range of early Chinese texts, and providing comparative readings of a number of Western texts and thinkers, the book offers a way of reading early Chinese Philosophy as consistent with the religious philosophy of the East and West, including the Abrahamic and the Brahmanistic religions.

Co-written by a philosopher and theologian, this book draws out unique insights into early Chinese thought, highlighting in particular new ways to consider a range of Chinese concepts, including tian, dao, li, and you/wu.

Click here for more information.