Category Archives: Modern Chinese Philosophy

Nanjing Decade Returns to Life at China Heritage Quarterly

The China Heritage Quarterly, a terrific electronic journal cum research project, has published its August-September issue with a special focus on an early-twentieth century English-language journal called the China Critic. The editor writes:

The China Critic was a product of a cosmopolitan demeanour, a fluency in English-language expression and ideas and an informed concern for contemporary China, its achievements and its limitations. The era of The Critic was also one of mounting international conflict and patriotic fervour. It is timely to reconsider The Critic and also to make available some of the insightful and controversial writing that appeared in its pages over a fourteen-year period.

There’s a tremendous amount of material available at the site: scores of original articles available as pdfs (much of it available via this annotated chronology), insightful commentary, articles about related figures, and so on. One thing that caught my eye was the journal’s endorsement of Chiang Kai-shek’s “New Life Movement.” Certainly there is much about the Nanjing Decade (1927-37) that resonates with contemporary China!

The Non-Sequitur of Epistemological Nativism

I have recently finished a draft review for The China Journal of John Makeham, ed., Learning to Emulate the Wise: The Genesis of Chinese Philosophy as an Academic Discipline in Twentieth-Century China. I thought that one paragraph from my review might be of general interest and worth discussing here. Let me know what you think! Continue reading →

Wikipedia and Modern Chinese Philosophy

Like many of you, I suspect, I regularly use Wikipedia as a first-stop when looking something up on the internet. It has many limitations, of course, but often enough it proves useful. It is only as useful as its contributors make it, though. Since I have been struck by the paucity of informaton in Wikipedia concerning topics in 20th-century Chinese philosophy, I decided to see what would happen if I made improving a Wikipedia page one of the assignments in my Modern Chinese Philosophy course this semester.  Continue reading →

New Scholarship on 20th Century Chinese Philosophy

As the semester winds toward its end, and with it, my class on Modern Chinese Philosophy,I find myself reflecting on how much new scholarship has become available on 20th- and 21st-century Chinese philosophy in just the last 18 months. Most of these books are, alas, quite expensive, but the quality is very high. This slew of excellent books makes me feel that the field of modern Chinese philosophy has suddenly come of age — and, at the same time, become eminently teachable. Reflect with me on this list:

Continue reading →

Soochow/Academia Sinica Conference Report

The three-day conference and book symposium “Virtue and Luck: Virtue Theory and Chinese Philosophy” has now concluded, and I thought I might offer a summary and some thoughts. The idea that linked together the three quite distinct days’ activities was “virtue,” East and West, in ethics and in epistemology, pro and con. Continue reading →

Must Ruists practice what they philosophize about?

For my first post here, I’d like to invite opinions on a contemporary issue. I’ve been coming across a common critique of contemporary Ruism and I’m curious what people think about it. As a preface, let me say that I’m close to giving up on various permutations of “Confucian” and “Confucianism,” so I hope you’ll all bear with my use of “Ruism” and “Ruist” instead.

The critique, which is generally directed against New Ruists, particularly Mou Zongsan, is something like this: the essence of Ruism is a social practice which aims not at developing theories, but realizing the Way in society. Making it into an object of academic study, so that it becomes an isolated practice of theorizing, is a mistake. The 20th century turn of making Ruism into a kind of philosophy and carrying out philosophical research in philosophy departments is emblematic of this mistake. Since Mou Zongsan is often considered the arch-theorist of New Ruism, he tends to get the brunt of this criticism. Continue reading →

Kant and Regional Differences of Interpretation

I think it might be worthwhile for us to reflect a bit on some of the regional differences in interpretation of the Chinese philosophers we all study. I was struck by two aspects of this recently. First, in the Conference and Book Symposium announcement that Kai Marchal wrote (though I posted it for him), Kai says: “Traditionally, Chinese scholars have argued that Neo-Confucian teachings are best understood within a Kantian deontological framework.” This interpretive trend is in part a result of Mou Zongsan’s influence, but some evidence that it is more complicated than that comes in two essays in the new anthology, Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously, edited by Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe. Two essays in this volume, by Qianfan Zhang and by Julia Tao, draw strong links between the idea of ren in early Confucianism and Kantian notions of the equal humanity or human dignity of all (among other things). At the very least, neither of these essays shows any direct evidence of the influence of Mou, and they can serve to suggest that the influence of the Kantian framework among Chinese scholars is widespread, indeed. Continue reading →