AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 665

[ China and Inner Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 665: Re-Writing a History of Chinese Philosophy as Creative and World-Oriented

Organizer: Chung-ying Cheng, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Discussants: On-cho Ng, Pennsylvania State University, USA; Donald Blakeley, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Given the global development of human history aas well as the fact that given topics and issues of Chinese philosophy are better known at the beginning of the 21st century, it is high time to see how Chinese philosophy is philosophy and therefore how any history of Chinese philosophy is an integral part of world philosophical tradition. Specifically, it is high time to re-write a history of Chinese philosophy as creative and world-oriented. To say that a philosophy is creative is to say that it is rooted in deep insights into the nature and problems of reality, life and the human mind. To say that a philosophy is world-oriented is to say that it is intended to be generally and universally applicable given general conditions of humanity. But this is not to say that there is no difference or even radical difference between the Chinese and the Western philosophical traditions. On the contrary, the differences between the two can be many and radical in problem-posing, in methodology of approach, and in insights of responses and answering. However, to affirm differences again is not to deny identity either of underlying questions or of starting points or projection of possible ideal perfection or projects for perfection. Our panel will address these problems in the light of past accounts of the history of Chinese philosophy and future possibilities for writing it in creative and newly designed ways.

On Re-Writing a History of Chinese Philosophy as Creative and World-Oriented
Chung-ying Cheng, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

In considering the conditions for constructing a creative and world-oriented history of Chinese philosophical traditions at this time of the 21st century, we should rely on the following eight practical principles: 1. The Principle of Addressing Practical Problems of Life through comprehensive observation (guan 观) and deep feeling (gan 感) which eventually lead to Theoretical Thinking dealing with cognition of the world and human being. This may be called the principle of historical origination via problem raising. 2. The Principle of Seeking Source and Basis of Knowledge of both the world and the human self which can provide a ground and origin in order to enable the human person to continue to apply to general affairs of life. This may be called the principle of creative origination via comprehensive observation and profound reflection 3. The Principle of Seeking and Forming Core or Central Understanding of the World and Humanity so that one sees one’s position in the world as involving a relationship between the internal and the external, or the transcendent (such as noumenon) and the immanent (such as one’s identity), the heaven and man, the objective and the subjective, the theory and the practice etc.. 4. The Principle of Becoming Aware and Knowledgeable about the World and Human self so that we could use awareness and knowledge as motivating power and resource for making practical or theoretical understanding possible. Consequently we may meet the contingent demands of life and the world by scientific investigation or strategic application for solving life problems. 5. The Principle of Application and Development of Skills and Technique based on knowledge system or philosophical views as a substitute for knowledge system for the purpose of seeking changes or improvement of life and environment.. 6. Principle of Seeking Values and Norms for Action on the part of humanity for the purpose of developing or sustaining a community or a society. This principle explains the rise of moral and ethical discourse and action among people in a community and their natural extension to larger and larger community of the world. 7. If no ultimate or sustainable development of humanity can not be achieved under a special circumstances, there could be temporal or permanent shift of paradigms in 2-6 as based or initiated by new set of external observation and internal feeling, the ground level sources of creative change derived from and justified by the Three Principles of Constitutive Human Understanding. Chinese Buddhism in 6th-9th Century Tang China has developed and flourished in this fashion. 8. One can see how principles 2-6 form an inner circle of onto-generative hermeneutical circulation whereas we can also see how principles 1-7 forms an outer circle of onto-generative hermeneutical circulation. These principles with their dynamic inner-to-outer relationships can be used as both constitutive principles of representation and methodological principles of construction and reconstruction.

Aspects of a Relevant Philosophy of History in the Post-Secular Context of the PRC
Lauren F. Pfister, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Within the post-secular settings of the PRC, an alternative view of history and new philosophy of history is needed to guide scholars in readdressing a revisionary account of the history of Chinese philosophical traditions. A view of history informed by principles drawn from dialectical materialism cannot provide an adequate account for the developments of the Post-Máo age, particularly in the diversity within current philosophical studies within a socialist system informed by “capitalism with Chinese characteristics”. When post-secular themes are also taken seriously, then the concern to reengage themes drawn from past philosophical traditions become all the more relevant. Two major themes which have been explored have been the concept of an “onto-generative” (běntǐ de 本體的, as rendered by Chung-ying Cheng) understanding of creative change and the dynamic cultural consequences of a vision of reality including an understanding of the transformative dimension. Our justifications for seeking to given a new account of the history of philosophy on this basis is related directly to developments in the study of the history of Chinese philosophy within the 20th and 21st centuries. Within the first decades of the 20th century there were already some new accounts of the historical development of Chinese philosophical traditions in Chinese as well as European languages (Alfred Forke, Richard Wilhelm, and the early Féng Yǒulán), but their understanding of history as essentially “progressive” undermined their range of research and their interpretive insights. In later accounts, ideological preferences determined the standard for historical relevance, and so whether it was for the sake of the Sòng-Míng Ruist synthesis (Léon Wieger) or Chinese Communist doctrines (later Féng Yǒulán, Féng Qì, Zhāng Dàinián), historical accounts and textual analyses were hermeneutically suspect. Though other productions related to historical accounts of Chinese philosophical traditions have been prepared in the latter half of the 20th century, it was only during the first few years of the 21st century that a more comprehensive effort to re-conceptualize major traditions within Chinese philosophical teachings were published. These included publications of research into contemporary Chinese philosophy by Chung-ying Cheng and Nick Bunnin (in 2002), the first English language encyclopedia of Chinese philosophy by Antonio S. Cua (in 2003), and several extensive works on post-secular understandings of Ruist traditions edited under Tu Wei-ming and Mary Evelyn Tucker (in 2003-2004) as well as Xinzhong Yao (in 2003). As a consequence, the time is ripe for a new approach to Chinese philosophical traditions on the basis of a new conception of the philosophy of history based upon principles of change related to The Book of Changes and insights drawn from the transformative dimension as experienced and documented within the development of Chinese philosophical traditions.