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The SACP Forum

for
Asian and Comparative Philosophy
ISSN:
Volume 23, Numer !", Sprin# 2$$", Pa#es %&'$
SACP Website www.sacpweb.org
Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy
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(ditorial Information
General Editor Eric S. !elson "#niversity of $assach%setts &owell'
Associate Editor &ori Wittha%s "Grand (alley State #niversity'
Assistant Editors
&eah E )almanson "#niversity of *awaii' )*+
$att Stefon "+oston #niversity'
,aniel Stephens "Grand (alley State #niversity' )*+
,irect correspondence to
Eric Sean !elson "esnel-yahoo.com'
,epartment of Philosophy
#niversity of $assach%setts &owell
&owell. $A /1012 #SA
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Tale of Contents
4. $ichi5o 6%sa. ,eport from the President
II-&IV- (ssays and .is/ussions
II- 0et1een (urope and Asia
1. 7red ,allmayr. 84mmanence and 9ranscendence:
3. $artin Sch;nfeld. 8What<s the Progress Philosophy made d%e to the Enlightenment=:
III- ,efle/tions on Comparative Philosophy
>. Peimin !i. 89raversing the 9erritory of Comparative Philosophy:
2. ?ohn ?. *older. 89he P%rpose and Perils of Comparative Philosophy:
1. $ichael G. +arnhart. 89he 7%t%re of Comparative Philosophy:
IV- 2f 23en and ,ait
@. ?ohn $. )oller. 8ABC*erding:
D. ?acE%es Amato. the Fabbit. 8A Fabbit<s Feport:
V- ,evie1s
0. 7ran5lin Per5ins. Feview of Mencius on Becoming Human by ?ames +eh%nia5 ?r.
G. ?eanne $arie )%sina. Feview of The Structure of Detachment: the Aesthetic Vision of
Kuki Shz by *iroshi !ara
VI- Ne1s and Announ/ements
SACP 7or%m Call for Papers
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I- President4s ,eport
7irst of all. may 4 wish yo% a very happy !ew 6ear= We recently had a Chinese
!ew 6ear celebration that lasted for two wee5s. According to the East Asian calendar. 3//@
is the year of the ,og. 4t is a year. filled with p%ppyCli5e healthy energy and a sense of tr%st
and loyalty. in which o%r best friends are recogniHed as o%r remar5able teachers.
+orrowing from this occasion. 4 wo%ld li5e to eBpress my heartfelt appreciation to
7red ,allmayr. who has led the SACP for the last two years as President. 4 hope not to
waver from the path laid down by my predecessorsIa path of serio%s academic
disc%ssions. m%t%al respect. and convivial relations.
A bit of our past history
4<m writing this report in midC7ebr%ary. while we are seeing to the b%siness of reC
incorporating the SACP as a nonCprofit organiHation. 4 %nderstand that the society<s nonC
profit stat%s lapsed sometime in the 1GG/s. and we are now redressing this oversight. 9he
history of o%r Society has come to my attention thro%gh this process. and 4 wo%ld li5e to
share some of these findings with yo%.
9he Society was originally incorporated 8at a special meeting held on Actober 1.
1G@G. at *onol%l%. *awaii.: when those present %nanimo%sly adopted the bylaws. 9his
doc%ment bears the signat%res of Eliot ,e%tsch "#niversity of *awaii'. )arl Potter
"#niversity of $innesota'. and Ch%ngC6ing Cheng "#niversity of *awaii'.
As yo% see on the website. the bylaws were amended a few times. each time signed
by o%r colleag%es Eliot ,e%tsch "1GD/'. 9homas P. )as%lis "1G0D'. and ?ohn $. )oller
"1GG>'. 7or those who are in gender st%dies. it may be of interest to note that in 3//3 the
bylaws were modified to 8reflect gender ne%tral lang%age.: $ost recently. we approved the
amendment at the general b%siness meeting on ?%ne 33. 3//2. at Asilomar. as the revision
became 8necessary beca%se several paragraphs were obsolete or no longer in accord with
act%al SACP practices: "7red ,allmayr. 8President<s Feport.: SACP orum 2>. 3//2'.
9he act%al establishment of the SACP m%st have nat%rally preceded its
incorporation. An this matter 4 contacted Eliot ,e%tsch. the fo%nding member of the SACP.
and received this information Eliot convened the first "fo%nding' gathering of the Society
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at a brea5fast meeting on $arch 33. 1G@0. which was held in conJ%nction with the ann%al
meeting of the Association for Asian St%dies "AAS' in Philadelphia. ApproBimately twenty
scholars were in attendance. A special panel was on the program of the AASIa 8debate:
on the methods and goals of comparative philosophy. )arl Potter was s%bseE%ently elected
as the first President of the Society and Eliot held the position of secretaryKtreas%rer for
many years "ECmail comm%nication. 7ebr%ary 1@. 3//@'.
Eliot gracio%sly sent me more materials on the early years of the Society. which 4
hope to share with yo% in the neBt iss%es of the orum. 9he meeting of $arch 33. 1G@0.
mar5s the first meeting of the society. which ma5es neBt year 3//D its fortieth anniversary.
9his is b%t a slice of o%r long and rich history. 9he Society has meaningf%lly held
its place within the !orthCAmerican philosophical world. which has been more or less
dominated by the narrowly defined interests of analytic philosophy. as a %niE%e for%m for
engaging in active philosophical m%sing. airing and sharing o%r ideas. promoting o%r own
and others< %nderstanding of diverse c%lt%ral and philosophical notions and approaches.
and eBamining o%r own pres%ppositions on a global scale. 4n this endeavor. we have stayed
remar5ably close to the original p%rpose of the Society. which 8wo%ld be to serve the
professional interests and needs of those LAmericanM scholars who are involved in Asian
and comparative philosophy and to enco%rage the development of these disciplines in the
academic world.: "Cf. letter by the organiHing committee of the SACP. sent o%t in
,ecember 1G@D.'
Changes of officers and the importance of the website
4 wish to Join 7red ,allmayr in than5ing $ichael +arnhart. the longCtime editor of
the SACP orum. who resigned from the post in 3//1 after a decade of service. Eric S.
!elson is ta5ing over as General Editor of the new online SACP orum for Asian an!
Com"arati#e Phi$oso"h% with &ori Wittha%s acting as Associate Editor.
4n the yearCend election. ?oseph Prabh% was elected (iceCPresident and $ichael
+arnhart Joined the +oard of ,irectors. 9he new AAF Program Chair is Gereon )opf.
while Fonnie &ittleJohn remains Program Chair for the APA Central and Eastern ,ivisions
and Fobin Wong for AAS and the APA Pacific ,ivision. Again. please go to the SACP
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website "www.sacpweb.org' and clic5 8Program Chair<s Feport: in order to s%bmit yo%r
paper proposals to any of these meetings.
4n fact. yo% will find almost all important information abo%t the society and its
activities on o%r website. Please visit it if yo% have any E%estions. All of the SACP officers
also welcome eCmail inE%iries.
Amid these new changes. contin%ity and stability are also being maintained. We are
most obliged to &ori Wittha%s. SecretaryK9reas%rer. who has been the bac5bone of o%r
ann%al conferences and maintaining the SACP website. We are also gratef%l to ?oanne
+irdwhistell. who is helping to organiHe this year<s ann%al conference. )arsten Str%hl and
7ran5 Per5ins have given me inval%able assistance as members of the Program Committee.
which is responsible for the program of the 3//@ Asilomar conference. 9here is no need to
mention that all officers serve the Society as vol%nteers.
The annual conference at Asilomar 2005
9he 3//1 SACP Conference too5 place at Asilomar. Actober 3/C3>. on the theme of
8SelfCAther Felations 4mmanentC9ranscendent=: We had over fifty participants. despite
the depart%re from o%r established ?%ne dates owing to the conflict with the Philosophy
East West Conference. We had siBteen panels and fo%r plenary sessions. all of which were
well attended and involved lively disc%ssions. We also had two birthday boys. not by
gender discrimination b%t by sheer coincidence. 9he occasions were happily mar5ed by
splendid birthday ca5es. C%rio%sly. for the entire time of the conference. we were shro%ded
in mysterio%s fog. 9his is apparently not %n%s%al for that time of the year. we were later
told. *owever. the atmosphere created by the fog. which ?apanese aesthetes wo%ld describe
as 8%gen: "having mysterio%s depth and symbolic bea%ty'. added to the intimacy
among the conference participants. Arindam Cha5rabarti gave the plenary 5eynote address.
entitled 847 4 WEFE 6A# Analogy. Sim%lation. Empathy and the Possibility of
7riendship.: We missed the presence of *enry Fosemont. ?r. at the conference. b%t his eC
mail message to %s. read alo%d by Peimin !i. comm%nicated his c%rrent tho%ghts so vividly
that we were all deeply moved. We wish *enry a very swift recovery.
The annual conference at Asilomar 2006
@
9he 3//@ SACP conference will ta5e place at Asilomar. ?%ne 10C31. We are very
m%ch honored to have Professor Wm. 9heodore de +ary as the 5eynote spea5er for this
year. *e is spea5ing on 8Chinese Classics and a Global C%rric%l%m.: which. he tells %s. is
his response to the views of &ee )%an 6ew and Amartya Sen on the place of the Conf%cian
classics in global ed%cation.
We are also very delighted to tell yo% that. %nder the a%spices of Foger Ames. the
#ehiro Essay Contest is %nderway among the grad%ate st%dents in the ,epartment of
Philosophy. #niversity of *awaii. 9he winner of the contest will attend the Asilomar
Conference. with the financial s%pport of the #ehiro 7o%ndation.
As many of yo% 5now. &eroy Fo%ner. a longCtime member and s%pporter of the
SACP. passed away in 7ebr%ary 3//@. We are holding a plenary session to honor and
remember him and celebrate his contrib%tion to the field.
We hope yo% have already mar5ed yo%r calendar. 6o% will find this year<s
conference program at the SACP website. 9he weather in ?%ne in Asilomar promises to
have more s%nshine than fog. 9he conference topic this year is 8,esire.: We will have
eBciting and engaging presentations and disc%ssions on this delicio%sly desirable topic. We
have also set aside one afternoon so yo% will be completely free to eBplore the magnificent
1DC$ile ,rive and visit the nearby charming town of Carmel for afternoon tea and a stroll.
4 hope to see many of yo% at o%r ann%al conference at Asilomar. Also. the first iss%e
of the online SACP orum sho%ld be 8o%t: "or 8on:' in April. Please visit it. and let %s
5now how it wor5s for yo%. 7eel free to tell %s yo%r tho%ghts and s%ggestions. incl%ding
what materials may be added and whatever else comes to mind.
4 wish all of yo% a very s%ccessf%l and fr%itf%l 3//@. filled with peace. Joy. and lightN
6o%rs.
$ichi5o 6%sa
SACP President
,epartment of $odern O Classical &ang%ages O &iterat%res
Western Washington #niversity
D
+ellingham. WA G0331CG/1D
y%sa-ww%.ed%
Phone >@/ @1/ 2011
7aB >@/ @1/ @11/
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II- 0et1een (urope and Asia
7red ,allmayr
#niversity of !otre ,ame
Immanen/e and Trans/enden/e
9he last time 4 had the honor of acting as President of SACP was at o%r ann%al
meeting at Asilomar in Actober 3//1. 7or that meeting we had chosen as general theme
8SelfCAther Felations 4mmanentK9ranscendent:. At the opening plenary session 4
commented on that theme. *ere 4 want to reCstate briefly some of the things 4 said abo%t the
s%btitle.
9he terms 8immanence: and 8transcendence: are sometimes %sed as s%mmary
categories in order to pinpoint the difference between Asian and Western Philosophy. 4n
this scheme. 8immanence: is said to characteriHe Asian. especially Chinese. philosophy and
c%lt%re. as compared with the 8transcendentalism: s%pposedly endemic to Western tho%ght
and religion. 4n my view. comparative philosophy sho%ld be rel%ctant to s%bscribe to this
dichotomy.
At a closer loo5. things t%rn o%t to be more complicated. We 5now that there is a
disp%te on this score among scholars of Conf%cianism. with some %pholding the strictly
immanent E%ality of the Conf%cian world view and others detecting at least traces of
transcendentalCreligio%s leanings. P%estions have also been raised whether the +%ddhist
notion of 8emptiness: "s%nyata' does not necessarily transgress any conception of
immanence. 9h%s. the sit%ation in Asian tho%ght is compleB and hardly clearCc%t.
9he sit%ation is even more complicated in Western tho%ght. 4t is probably correct
to say that. from early on. Western philosophy and religion have been imb%ed with
prono%nced transcendental or metaphysical E%alities. 9hese E%alities can readily be
detected in "versions of' Platonism and in monotheistic religion. *owever. modernity
introd%ced a profo%nd shift of foc%s. 4n the eyes of many st%dents. modern Western
philosophy and c%lt%re eBhibit a steady move toward. and even a headClong pl%nge into.
worldly immanence C away from transcendence. 9he rise of modern science. with its
emphasis on 8positive: or empirical 5nowledge. has been seen as stri5ing a death blow to
anything transcending s%ch 5nowledge. 9he soCcalled 8sec%lariHation thesis:. associated
G
with the wor5 of $aB Weber. seems to point in the same direction of worldly immanence.
9he trend also appears prominent in soCcalled Continental philosophy. Even
PhenomenologyIwhile clearly opposed to positivism and scientismIhas seemed to opt
for immanence. given its accent on concrete worldly phenomena and the h%man 8lifeC
world:.
+%t again. things are not that simple. At a closer loo5. we find conflicting signals
especially in the conteBt of Continental philosophy. As we 5now. Edm%nd *%sserl spo5e of
a 8transcendental phenomenology:. And $artin *eideggerIfamo%s for defining h%man
,asein as 8beingCinCtheCworld:Iwrote in his Being an! Time 8+eing is transcendence as
s%ch: "the statement is even italiciHed'. And here are some additional passages from
*eideggerQs 8What is $etaphysics=: 8*%man ,asein means being held o%t into the
nothing L+%ddhist s%nyata=M... 9his being held o%t into nothing ...is transcendence.: 9h%s.
we have here the pec%liar sit%ation of a 8worldly: phenomenology. or a philosophy of
radical finit%de. in which the notion of transcendence is not erased.
9his pec%liar ambivalence has not gone %nnoticed. Some observers detect in
recent Continental philosophy two conflicting tendencies one pointing toward radical
immanence. the other toward radical transcendence. 9h%s. ,ominiE%e ?anica%dIin a boo5
titled Phenomeno$og% an! the &Theo$ogica$ Turn'Ihas noted a certain 8veering: toward
transcendence in E%ropean tho%ght. a veering finding eBpression chiefly in the writings of
&evinas. ,errida. $arion. and others. 7or ?anica%d. this trend signals a betrayal of
phenomenology. a 8veritable ca"tatio (ene#o$entiae of the phenomenological method:
with its stress on immanent phenomena. 4n a similar vein. the 4talian philosopher Giorgio
Agamben finds E%ropean tho%ght torn between opposite p%lls those of immanence and
transcendence. As he points o%t "in his boo5 Potentia$it%'. the first tendency. rooted in
SpinoHa. finds recent eBpression in the wor5s of ,ele%He and 7o%ca%lt. while the second
tendencyItraceable to ,escartes and )antIhas recently been championed by &evinas.
,errida. and others.
4n my view. the divergence of traJectories sho%ld probably not be overstated. A
main reason is that. at least in the confines of phenomenology. the two trends are too m%ch
embroiled and implicated with each other. Another reason has to do with the political
dangers arising from attempts to absol%tiHe either one of the traJectories. 4nsistence on p%re
immanence too readily shades over into a red%ctive empiricism or 8positivism: C which in
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t%rn can give rise to attempts at 8thisCworldly: mastery and totalitarian domination. An the
other hand. the elevation of transcendence into an absol%te 8val%e: or %niversal form%la
can give aid and comfort to E%asiCmissionary ideologies "as has happened with the soC
called 8higher val%es: criticiHed by !ietHsche'.
7or myself. 4 prefer to ta5e my bearings from *eidegger and $erlea%CPonty.
$indf%l of !ietHscheQs critiE%e of twoCworld theories "8this world: and 8other world:'.
*eideggerQs notion of worldliness is profo%ndly ambivalent and m%ltidimensional C to the
point that one can almost spea5 of a 8transcendent immanence:. 9his 5ind of ambivalence
or m%t%al implication has been bea%tif%lly eBpressed by $erlea%CPonty when he wrote
89he invisible is not another visible...4t is Ver(orgenheit by principle. that is. the invisible
of the visible.: 9his form%lation might also capt%re the gist of "some strands of' Asian
tho%ght. 4f this is correct. the tas5 of comparative philosophy wo%ld not be to ponder an
ineradicable contrast. b%t to eBplore differences within a broader frame of affinities.
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$artin Sch;nfeld
#niversity of So%th 7lorida
5hat4s the Pro#ress Philosophy made due to the (nli#htenment*
Can we say that philosophy has advanced m%ch since the Enlightenment= Certainly
the EnlightenmentIthe cent%ry from the English Fevol%tion to the 7rench Fevol%tion or
the age from $ontesE%ie%<s birth to *olbach<s deathIwas a great time in the history of
tho%ght. 4ts beginning. 1@0G. is mar5ed by Co%plet<s translations from the Analects and the
+oo5 of Fites. 4n the 1@G/s. !ewton and &eibniH became 5nown. and 1D1 titles on China
appeared in E%rope. 4n the 1D//s. !ewton<s wor5 on optics appeared. &eibniH ta%ght binary
arithmetic to the 7rench by appealing to the +oo5 of Changes. and siB h%ndred wor5s on
China came o%t in this decade. 9he age was off to a good start. it prod%ced scientific.
social. and political revol%tions. and it pea5ed with )ant. +%t comparing its insights with
the philosophical E%arrels of the nineteenth cent%ry and with the bitter parting of the ways
in the twentieth cent%ry raises the E%estion of s%bseE%ent progress. Philosophers today are
%nderpaid or %nemployed. 9here was a time they were advisors to 5ings.
So. what is the progress philosophy has made d%e to the Enlightenment= We can
arrive at an answer by clarifying the meanings of the words Rprogress.< Rphilosophy.< and
Renlightenment.<
*ow sho%ld we %nderstand 8progress:= 9he practical meaning of progress is that
things are loo5ing %p and are getting happier in personal and social ways. 4n this sense.
progress evo5es development. evol%tion. flo%rishing. and blossoming. 9he theoretical
meaning of progress co%ld be %nderstood as information growthIchemistry ma5es
progress in that its b%l5 of confirmed data ro%ghly do%bles every fo%r years. 4mportant.
tho%gh. is that information growth hangs togetherS in this sense. physics wo%ld ma5e more
progress than chemistry. for altho%gh the b%l5 of data grows at slower speed. it has been
E%ite s%ccessf%l in integrating these data cl%sters in an increasingly systematic pict%re. 9hat
physics now Joins thermodynamics. relativity. and E%ant%m theory into what is called the
standard modelIthat achievement alone. regardless of how other data grow. is a clearCc%t
case of theoretical progress. An early determination of the patterns of progress was by
7rancis +acon in the preface to the )reat *nstauration "1@3/'. of a free endeavor of
fig%ring o%t what things are. how they wor5. and in what ways they improve h%man wellC
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being. A later determination of the patterns of progress was by )ant at the end of the
Criti+ue of Pure ,eason "1D01K1D0D'. of a collective adoption of the scientific method.
which means to proceed systematically on a critical path between dogma and do%bt. 9hat<s
progress.
*ow sho%ld we %nderstand 8philosophy:= While scientists have a pretty clear idea
of the profile of their fields. philosophers have s%ffered from a parting of their ways for the
past eighty yearsIcontinental and analytic thin5ers define philosophy differently. 9he
marriage is bro5en. the ho%se is split. and everyone is fresh o%t of ideas. So it is not clear
what progress philosophy made since brea5ing itself %p. and 4 s%ppose that is why Steven
Weinberg. Stephen *aw5ing. and E. A. Wilson bemoan philosophy after the Enlightenment
as a comedown. as a regress.
1

+%t this scientific pict%re of philosophy is also a tad %nfair. beca%se if we ass%me
that )ant<s Criti+ue not only initiated modern tho%ght b%t also completed the
Enlightenment. then the whole point of the philosophical enterprise is to transmogrify itself
into a scientific enterprise. Which is precisely what happened th%s philosophy shran5.
science grew. and that<s progress.
9he progress philosophy made d%e to the Enlightenment. at least %p to now. has
been an ongoing process of emancipating its firstCorder inE%iries from the core of its
disciplinary identity. and to set these now independent inE%iries on their own scientific and
specialiHed co%rses. So one sho%ldn<t beat philosophers over their collective heads for J%st
doing what the legacy of the Enlightenment had prompted them to do. 9hat earlyCmodern
nat%ral philosophy did act%ally grow into E%ant%m cosmology. among other things. today.
is a brilliant evol%tion and a great victory. 9he point is that what co%nted as philosophy in
the Enlightenment s%bseE%ently %nfolded into o%r rainbow of academic departments.
leaving contemporary philosophers with relatively little to do. We have made so m%ch
progress in philosophy d%e to the Enlightenment that we have nearly progressed o%rselves
o%t of o%r Jobs.
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Stephen *aw5ing. The Theor% of -#er%thing: the .rigin an! ate of the /ni#erse "&os
Angeles $illenni%m. 3//>'. 1@@C1@DS Edward A. Wilson. Consi$ience: the /nit% of
Kno0$e!ge "!ew 6or5 (intage 1GGG'. 0S cf. ibid. chapter 89he Enlightenment.: 11C20.
Compare also $ichael 7riedman. The Parting of the 1a%s: Carna"2 Cassirer2 an!
Hei!egger "&a Salle Apen Co%rt 3///'. chapter 8Analytic and Continental 9raditions in
Perspective. 11@C1@GS and Steven Weinberg. Dreams of a ina$ Theor%: the Search for the
un!amenta$ 3a0s of 4ature "!ew 6or5 (intage 1GG>'. chapter 8Against Philosophy.:
1>3C111.
1>
Ar so we thin5. 9he tr%e heirs to the Enlightenment. nat%ral. life. and social
scientists. are enJoying a growing methodological and empirical consens%s. We are living
in an age that discloses over incremental steps the act%al character of nat%re. life. minds.
and matter. We 5now so m%ch abo%t the %niverse that p%HHles and paradoBes
notwithstanding there has been a standard model for the past fifty years. which may well
tighten into a %nified he%ristic platform for all rigoro%s research in the neBt fifty years. 4t
seems we are at the c%sp of tr%e insight.
4f the opinions of the scientists are to be believed philosophically. then we m%st
change the way we loo5 at collective h%man progress. 7or eBample. if one loo5s at
scientific progress as an eBpanding dis5 of ever larger swaths of o%twardCloo5ing
5nowledge. one can get fr%strated beca%se it seems as if every E%estion answered is ten
new E%estions posed. As the dis5 grows. its bo%ndaries into the %n5nown are an ever longer
circ%mference. and this is a frightening image.
Fecent wor5. in a n%mber of sciences. s%ggests that the image reE%ires adJ%stment.
9hin5 instead of scientific progress as a fattening don%t of data sets. Within the don%t. the
teBt%re gets ever more tightly woven. 9his ever tighter interdisciplinary fabric of
information abo%t nat%re stri5es many of its wor5ers as wielding reg%lar reiterative
patterns. which shine %p E%ite nat%rally.
All of a s%dden. a hole opens %p in the middle of the don%t. !ow science has two
moving bo%ndaries there is the familiar o%tside rim. b%lging into the notCyetC5nown. with
its rapid growth of specific and technical E%eries abo%t factoids and details. with every
answer ten new E%estions. And there is an %nfamiliar inside rim to scienceIand as the
don%t 5eeps getting bigger and fatter. it b%lges o%tward to eBternal details as m%ch as it
swells inward into the empty hole in the middle.
9hat is why scientists are dissatisfied with the progress philosophy has made d%e to
the Enlightenment. 9hey are now wrestling with st%nningly profo%nd E%estions. s%ch as
why there is matter. or why we eBist in the first place. As they are ma5ing progress in
sharpening these iss%es into fertile new insights. they peer into depths of patterned
information that call o%t for philosophy. +%t neither continental deconstr%ction nor analytic
red%ction will do the he%ristic tric5Iwhat is needed. instead. is a ret%rn to the
Enlightenment. not J%st to its empiricist and critical partings. b%t also to its rationalist and
synthetic Joinings. 9he eBploration of the ontological hole inside the don%t reE%ires ideas
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not limited to rigoro%s reg%lars s%ch as &oc5e or !ewton or +entham or $ill. b%t that can
%tiliHe the m%sical alternatives. s%ch as )epler or &eibniH or *egel or !ietHsche. As long as
we don<t do this. we are not yet living %p to all the Enlightenment promises to become. and
8what is the progress philosophy made d%e to the Enlightenment=: remains a tric5
E%estion.
9o concl%de how sho%ld we %nderstand 8enlightenment:= 9here are many ways of
standing %nder its banner. b%t they share a few simple and modest patterns. Ane
f%ndamental trait has been identified by Peter Gay in his wor5 The -n$ightenment. whose
two vol%mes have the revealing titles. The ,ise of Mo!ern Paganism "1G@@'. and The
Science of ree!om "1G@G'. 9he first vol%me starts with what enlightenment means
9here were many philosophes in the eighteenth cent%ry. b%t there was only one
Enlightenment. A loose. informal. wholly %norganiHed coalition of c%lt%ral critics.
religio%s s5eptics. and political reformers from Edinb%rgh to !aples. Paris to
+erlin. +oston to Philadelphia. the philosophes made %p a clamoro%s chor%s. and
there were some discordant voices among them. b%t what is stri5ing is their general
harmony. not their occasional discord. 9he men of the Enlightenment %nited on a
vastly ambitio%s program. a program of sec%larism. h%manity. cosmopolitanism.
and freedom. above all. freedom in its many formsIfreedom from arbitrary power.
freedom of speech. freedom of trade. freedom to realiHe one<s talents. freedom of
aesthetic response. freedom. in a word. of moral man to ma5e his own way in the
world. 4n 1D02. when the Enlightenment had done most of its wor5. )ant defined it
as man<s emergence from his selfCimposed t%telage. and offered as its motto Sa"ere
au!eI:,are to 5now: ta5e the ris5 of discovery. eBercise the right of %nfettered
criticismS accept the loneliness of a%tonomy. &i5e the other philosophesIfor )ant
only artic%lated what the others had long s%ggested in their polemicsI)ant saw
the Enlightenment as man<s claim to be recogniHed as an ad%lt. responsible being. 4t
is the concord of the philosophes in sta5ing this claim. as m%ch as the claim itself.
that ma5es the Enlightenment s%ch a momento%s event in the history of the Western
mind.
3
2
Peter Gay. The -n$ightenment: the ,ise of Mo!ern Paganism "!ew 6or5 !orton 1GG1'.
>C2.
11
Ane correction Gay<s reading needs is to pay more attention to the &eibniHianC
Wolffian School and its conteBt. Af places. &eipHig. *alle. );nigsberg. St Petersb%rg.
$acao. !an5ing. Pe5ing. and Fome need mentioning. And of persons. Christian
9homasi%s "1@11C1D30' fo%ght for the freedom of women from persec%tion and helped to
end witchCb%rningS Christian Wolff "1@DGC1D12' gro%nded ontological cognition on the
principle of contradictionS Wolffians s%ch as ?ean *enri Sam%el 7ormey "1D11C1DGD'
recr%ited women to the ran5sS and readers of 3a Be$$e 1o$ffienne "1D21C1>'. s%ch as
?ohanna Charlotte #nHer "1D31C03'. pioneered phenomenology ".ut$ine of Phi$oso"h% for
ema$es 1D11'. 4nstead of 8the men: of the Enlightenment. it better be 8men and women:
of the Enlightenment.
So what is Enlightenment= 7reedom from willf%l a%thority and freedom to selfCrealiHationS
b%t it is also the pattern of brightening %pIan i$$uminatio in the &atin tradition. an
5c$aircissement for the philosophes. an Aufk$6rung for the German metaphysicians. and
ming ming !e for their $andarin and ?es%it mentors. Ane brightens %p by %nderstanding
things that are basic. deep. or earthy. &i5e seB hence Aufk$6rung s%rvives in German in the
pedagogical sense of seB%al ed%cation. Whether it is seB or nat%re or mind. the pattern is
rationally coherent and percept%ally accessible. All one needs to do is to watch the hole of
the scientific don%t. to dare to 5now its ontological nat%re "guan!ao ziran'. and to reflect
the light that sensibly shines there as brightly. as p%rely. and as intelligibly as one can. 9hen
philosophes evolve to $umi7resS they help clearing the minds of other scientific
comm%nities. and if we can p%ll this off. following the model of the early moderns. then.
and only then. philosophy will J%mpstart progress d%e to the Enlightenment.
1@
III- ,efle/tions on Comparative Philosophy
Peimin !i
Grand (alley State #niversity
Traversin# the Territory of Comparative Philosophy
Comparative philosophy is still conceived as a relatively new area of st%dy.
even tho%gh it can be traced bac5 at least to &eibniH. in the West. and to the
,aoists and Conf%cians in the Song dynasty in China. People still feel s%spicio%s
abo%t the vag%eness of its nat%re and its val%e. 9he territory of comparative
philosophy has yet to be defined and iss%es related to it need to be laid o%t more
clearly. 4n this paper. 4 will not be doing comparative philosophyS 4 will be rather
ta5ing comparative philosophy itself as a s%bJect of philosophical investigation
and disc%ss some iss%es that can be properly described as metaphilosophical. 4
shall gro%p these metaphilosophical iss%es ro%ghly %nder three headings 8What is
comparative philosophy=: 84s comparative philosophy possible=: and 8the
methodology of comparative philosophy.: 4 wo%ld not say that witho%t a good
theoretical %nderstanding of these one cannot do comparative philosophy. ?%st li5e
a person can wal5 well witho%t 5nowing any theory of physics. one can tal5 well
witho%t 5nowing any ling%isticsS one might as well do a remar5able Job in
comparative philosophy witho%t any metaphilosophical investigation of
comparative philosophy. +%t 4 do thin5 that certain reflections abo%t these iss%es
can help %s %nderstand comparative philosophy better. both in terms of what it is
and why it is important to %s.
%- 5hat is Comparative Philosophy*
Fobert Allinson. in his article 89he $yth of Comparative Philosophy or the
Comparative Philosophy $algrT &%i.: raised a good E%estion What is the
difference between comparative philosophy and philosophy proper= Since all
philosophy arises in reaction either as a revol%tion against or as a completion to
previo%s philosophy.: it seems that comparative philosophy is J%st a myth
1D
"Allinson. 3D/'. What we call comparative philosophy today is merely philosophy
proper with a larger data base. which covers not only comparison between
philosophies of. say. Plato and Aristotle. or A%g%stine and 9homas AE%inas. or
)ant and 9homas Feid. b%t also Aristotle and Conf%ci%s. +%ddhism and
Wittgenstein. *eidegger and &ao Ui. or )ant and $o% Uongsan. 4n other words.
comparative philosophy is not an entirely different speciesS it is philosophy itself.
which has been aro%nd since the very beginning of the discipline.
+%t the iss%e seems m%ch more complicated. 9o some people. the enlarged
data base is eBactly what they have problem with. As soon as the data based is
eBtended. one E%estion arises Can the tho%ghts of &ao Ui. Conf%ci%s. or +%ddha
be considered philosophy at all= At the most recent 4nternational Conference on
Chinese Philosophy in Sydney. A%stralia "?%ly 3//1'. two presentations were
foc%sed on the 8hefaBing : "legitimacy' of Chinese philosophyIa renewed
disc%ssion on a cent%ry old iss%e abo%t how to legitimiHe the claim that there is
s%ch a thing called 8Chinese philosophy: as an academic discipline.
>
9he fact that the iss%e contin%es to bother scholars in the field is itself an
indication of something significant. 9heoretically. it does not seem to be a big
deal. since it loo5s li5e a p%re semantic disp%te !o one seems to be bothered by
the translation of 8pen: as 8bi in Chinese. even tho%gh the word 8bi:
traditionally refers to br%sh. the instr%ment that Chinese %sed for writing. typically
with animal hair on top of a bamboo stic5. Why sho%ld we bother to as5 whether
the tho%ghts of Conf%ci%s and &ao Ui be called philosophy=
While meaningless E%ibbles abo%t the definition of philosophy sho%ld be
dismissed. the iss%e is act%ally m%ch more significant than a E%ibble. Chinese
philosophy has not been accepted by the mainstream philosophy department
c%rric%l%ms. conferences. and p%blications in !orth America %ntil recent decades.
+efore. it was placed in Asian st%dies. religio%s st%dies. or regional history
st%dies. #ntil 1GG2. there were still 12V of the philosophy departments in America
3
?ohn $a5eham. 89he &egitimacy of Chinese Philosophy (iews from the Periphery.: and
?ing *aifeng . 8Challengers to Chinese Philosophy and 4ts 4dentity Feconstr%ction
.: 7or a more comprehensive s%rvey of the literat%re.
see Carine ,efoort<s siB pages long bibliography of her article 84s RChinese Philosophy< a
Proper !ame=: forthcoming in Phi$oso"h% -ast an! 1est.
10
that did not offer Eastern philosophy co%rses "Schacht'. Even tho%gh the same
ambig%ity eBists in o%r %nderstanding of philosophy in general as well. since 8the
canonical systems of Western philosophy themselves do not fit easily %nder any
one definition of philosophy.:
2
the enlargement of data base still bothers many
professional philosophers.
*ow sho%ld we define the range of philosophy= +efore 4 give yo% my
answer to this E%estion. let %s ta5e a loo5 at what is behind the debate. As soon as
we as5 abo%t the motivations that stim%lated the disc%ssion s%ch as 8the
legitimacy of Chinese philosophy.: we find that the iss%e has to do with the
constr%ction or reconstr%ction of c%lt%ral identity. with contemporary concerns
abo%t the domination of Western c%lt%re. and with the orientation of contemporary
philosophical scholarship.
4t has to do with the constr%ction or reconstr%ction of c%lt%ral identity
beca%se the merge of the data bases comes with the danger of losing distinctness.
$any comparative philosophers try to draw similarities between different c%lt%res.
and %se the dominant philosophical terminology and methodology to rewrite other
c%lt%ral heritages or translate their classics. $%ch of that is motivated by the hope
to be accepted by the mainstream as a legitimate part of the discipline. 9he
mentality comes with the feeling of insec%rity and lac5 of confidence of one<s own
c%lt%re. Chinese philosophical tho%ghts. for instance. have gone tho%gh a long
process of being E%estioned for its val%e as systems of philosophy. As a reaction.
many scholars tried to arg%e that they sho%ld be considered philosophy beca%se
they address similar concerns that Western philosophy addresses. 9his approach
seems to enforce the idea that these are %niversal and eternal concerns. b%t one
wonders also whether it is act%ally enforcing the idea that only Western
philosophical concerns and Western concept%al framewor5s are the primordial
paradigm for philosophy and other concerns that do not fall neatly into the
framewor5s set by the Western model sho%ld either be 5ept o%tside of the game or
distorted to fit into the game. 9he standard *istory of Chinese Philosophy written
by 7eng 6o%lan has been criticiHed as one typical eBample of s%ch a distortion.
Ane s%spects whether Chinese philosophy has been 8s%bJ%gated %biE%ito%sly by
4
*older. >. 4 wo%ld add that the same is tr%e for religion and science as well.
1G
E%roCcentrism in the development of its forms of eBpression. th%s becoming a
mere handmaid to Western philosophy: "?ing *aifeng. 31'.
Contrary to the tendency of %sing the dominant Western terminology and
framewor5 to rewrite the tho%ghts of other c%lt%res. many have responded to this
trend in a reverse way. 9he postCmodern development of philosophy has made
people very s5eptical abo%t the %niversal validity of the Western framewor5Iif
there is ever s%ch a thing. Sometimes miBed with the motivation to solidify the
threatened c%lt%ral identity. many called for the indigeniHation of 5nowledge. +%t
the tendency to indigeniHing 5nowledge emerges not only as efforts to maintain
indigeno%s c%lt%re so that some cherished heritages do not get lost. b%t more as a
reaction to the stress from modernity. $any scholars have made sharp criticisms of
the philosophical fo%ndations of modernity and raised the hope that problems
come with the domination of modernity may be resolved by reconstr%cting o%r
conscio%sness by %singKappropriating the reso%rces from other c%lt%res.
1
Edward
Said. Gayatri Spiva5. *omi +habha. 9% Weiming. ,avid Griffen. ?ohn Cobb.
Foger Ames. and ,avid *all. are J%st a few familiar names among many others.
9he lac5 of confidence in one<s c%lt%ral identity may act%ally eBist on the other
side as well. 4 wonder whether those who resist the enlargement of data base to
1
4n a report of the wor5ing gro%p on 8GlobaliHation and Conflicts 9he Case of Africa: of
the 9hird ,P$7 ",evelopment Policy $anagement 7or%m' Ann%al Conference on
,emocratiHation. ,evelopment. and Conflicts in Africa "*eld in #nited !ations Economic
Commission for Africa. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. 3>C3@ !ovember 1GGG'. ). Amolo ")enya'
wrote that.
in the case of Africa the whole ed%cational system is westernCoriented. 9he
original reasons for this were pragmatic. 4t was pres%med that acE%isition of
modern western ed%cation was a gateway to moderniHation or development.
9his was premised on the belief that western ed%cation was 8scientific: and
that by implication other forms of 5nowledge were %nscientific or preC
scientific. 9his gave a privileged place to western epistemology even at the
highest centres of learning. especially in Africa. 9his was facilitated by the
fact that formal ed%cation was transmitted thro%gh E%ropean lang%ages.
An the whole. the va%nted western scientific 5nowledge has not bro%ght abo%t
development in regions s%ch as Africa. 4ndeed. it is arg%able that environmentally it has
done more harm than good. 4n the meantime. the fo%ndations of E%rocentric forms of
5nowledge are being E%estioned globally. 7or the last two decades even African scholars
have been calling for indigeniHation of 5nowledge "httpKKwww.dpmf.orgKreportCgro%pC
1.html'.
3/
incl%de nonCWestern traditions also have the mentality of feeling being threatened
by the inf%sion of other c%lt%res and hence lose their own s%premacy and
dominance. As 7o%ca%lt wo%ld say. 5nowledge is always a form of power. 9hose
who resist the enlargement of data base often fear that beca%se they are %nfamiliar
with other traditions. they wo%ld be forced to step o%tside of their comfort Hones
and lose their control of the field. 9hey do not see the enlargement of data base as
an opport%nity for them to reach a new realm of vision and %nderstanding. an
opport%nity to go beyond the scope set by their ancient masters. b%t as a threat to
their own established position.
*ere we see that the debate abo%t whether we sho%ld define philosophy in
one way or another act%ally has to do with the orientation of contemporary
philosophical scholarship. As most liberal minded people today tend to ta5e. that
we sho%ld tolerate differences. allow people to 8write different poems.: and g%ard
caref%lly the )iplingesE%e bias.
@
+%t allowing people to do something else by
themselves is E%ite different from engaging in cross c%lt%ral dialog%e and m%t%al
%nderstanding. 9he liberalist notion of liberty is often ta5en as the liberty of being
left alone. %ndist%rbed in a place that Plato calls a 8cave.: 4t is a minimalist selfC
defense mechanism that shields oneself from being challenged or enlightened. and
they may even %se words li5e 8tolerance: to describe their attit%de toward those
who are o%t of the cave.
D
Some defenders of one<s own c%lt%ral heritage are more
proactive. 9hey do respond to challenges and criticisms. b%t they are more
satisfied with nonc%lpability of their own system. 8$y framewor5 is at least not
irrational.: Ane typical eBample is Plantiga<s religio%s eBcl%sivism. Plantinga
ac5nowledges that the facts of religio%s pl%ralism co%ld wea5en one<s religio%s
belief. b%t he thin5s that it does not have to go this way. 8A fresh or heightened
awareness of the facts of religio%s pl%ralism co%ld bring abo%t a reappraisal of
one<s religio%s life. a reawa5ening. a new or renewed and deepened grasp and
apprehension of one<s own religio%s beliefs: "Plantinga. 21D'. +%t this attit%de is
6
F%dyard )ipling "10@1C1G>@. novelist and poet. a%thor of The 8ung$e Book. 1G/D !obel
literat%re priHe la%reate' maintains that 8the white man<s b%rden: is to 8civiliHe and police
the world.:
D
As Allinson points o%t. the %se of the word 8tolerance: itself entails a sense of s%periority
"Allinson. 301C>'.
31
s%btly different from $ac4ntyre<s. which s%ggests that. when we face some rival.
we have
to %nderstand o%r own standpoint in a way that renders it from o%r
own point of view as problematic as possible and therefore as
maBimally v%lnerable as possible to defeat by that rival. We can only
learn what intellect%al and moral reso%rces o%r own standpoint. o%r
own tradition of theoretical and practical inE%iry possesses. as well
as what intellect%al and moral reso%rces its rivals may possess. when
we have %nderstood o%r own point of view in a way that ta5es with
f%ll serio%sness the possibility that we may in the end. as rational
beings. have to abandon that point of view. 9his admission of
fallibility need not entail any present lac5 of certit%de. b%t it is a
condition of worthwhile conversation with eE%ally certain
antagonists. "$ac4ntyre. 131'
9hese E%estions all point toward the central E%estion which %nderlies
vario%s forms of post modernismIthe E%estion of the Ather. 87ew iss%es have
eBpressed as powerf%l a hold over the tho%ght of this cent%ry as that of R9he
Ather.<: says $ichael 9he%nissen.
4t is diffic%lt to thin5 of a second theme. even one that might be of
more s%bstantial significance. that has provo5ed as widespread an
interest as this oneS it is diffic%lt to thin5 of a second theme that so
sharply mar5s off the presentIadmittedly a present growing o%t of
the nineteenth cent%ry and reaching bac5 to itIfrom its historical
roots in the tradition. 9o be s%re the problem of the other has at
times been accorded a prominent place in ethics and anthropology. in
legal and political philosophy. +%t the problem of the other has
certainly never penetrated as deeply as today into the fo%ndations of
philosophical tho%ghtIthe E%estion of the other cannot be separated
33
from the most primordial E%estions raised by modern tho%ght.
"9he%nissen. 1'
9he E%estion abo%t the other c%ts across all areas of philosophical st%dy.
whether it is ethics. epistemology. metaphysics. philosophy of religion. of science.
of art. of lang%age. or social and political philosophy. Even the whole history of
philosophyIJ%st Western philosophyIcan be read as an attempt to reconcile the
one and the many. the identity and difference. or the %nity and the m%ltiplicity. or
in &evinas< term. to conE%er. master. and coloniHe the other so that the other can
be red%ced to 8the Same.: $ore recently. we see a powerf%l revolt against the
attempt. which only indicates that the E%estion of the other is more prevalent than
ever before.
Standing at the far front to address the E%estion of the other. comparative
philosophy becomes increasingly an important foc%s of philosophy today.
!ow let %s come bac5 to the E%estion of how to define the word
8philosophy.: We see that the matter act%ally orient o%r practice of philosophy in
one way or another. Semantically. it does not ma5e a big difference whether we
define 8philosophy: narrowly according to its Gree5 origin or broadly to
accommodate more remotely similar systems of tho%ght. +%t practically the two
eBtremes have broad implications. 7or instance. if we treat the term too narrowly.
we either eBcl%de the Ather. p%sh the other to react in a similar fashion to %s. or
we force the other into o%r own framewor5. When we eBcl%de the other. we may
either do it o%t of c%lt%ral cha%vinism. or. ironically. we may do it o%t of the
8tolerance: of or 8respect: for the other. &evinas< 8absol%te Ather: is an eBample
of the latter. +y resisting the temptation to red%ce the other to the same. he wo%ld
not even allow the other to be considered an alter ego: beca%se otherwise the other
wo%ld be the same as 4. ConseE%ently he ma5es the other forever %nreachable.
*ere we see an interesting eBample of pl%ralism that ends %p being eBcl%sivism.
Whether we do it o%t of c%lt%ral cha%vinism or in the name of pl%ralism. the
conseE%ence seems to be stri5ingly similar.
4f we force the other into o%r own framewor5. we are act%ally eBcl%ding the
real other as well. beca%se what we allow is not the other as other. b%t the one that
3>
is remodeled to be the same. Ane conseE%ence of accepting Conf%cianism into
mainstream philosophy is that it is distorted. !ot only the indigeno%s tradition will
hence be lost and the identity crises arise. we miss an opport%nity to benefit from
the rich reso%rces that we might otherwise be able to appropriate.
An the other hand. if we define 8philosophy: too broadly. it will also ma5e
%s %nable to see the distinctness of other tho%ght systems. 9he notion might be
stretched too thin to be %sef%l at all. ,oing philosophy is not cond%cting politics.
A%t of political correctness. we might li5e to say that every indigeno%s c%lt%re has
its own philosophy. +%t is it too farfetched= 4f the motivation for saying this is J%st
for being politically correct. we might as well say that every person has his or her
own philosophy. which is tr%e. b%t here the word 8philosophy: is %sed in a very
different sense. 4t means everyone has some basic general o%tloo5s of the world.
not that everyone cond%cts philosophical thin5ing.
So the proper line m%st be somewhere in between the two eBtremes. 4 thin5
the line cannot be drawn a priori. in a stip%lative wayS it sho%ld rather be left
ambig%o%s with an awareness of the dangers of going toward either eBtremes.
FecogniHing the importance and implications of the problem is of co%rse not the
same as solving it. +%t it can help %s to ta5e the iss%e serio%sly. and not dismiss it
lightly on one hand and %ncritically falling into one or the other position with
regard to the iss%e on the other hand. What worries %s is not so m%ch that the iss%e
seems to have no clear c%t answer. After all. how many philosophical E%estions
have clear c%t answers anyway= 9he real concern is that we fail to see the real
iss%es behind the semantic debate. and hence falls victim of either try to gain the
legitimacy of an indigeno%s philosophy by forcing it into the framewor5 of
dominant Western model. or as a reaction against the first tendency. draws bac5
into one<s own c%lt%re and ref%se to engage cross c%lt%ral dialog%e. or fail to
differentiate philosophical thin5ing from tho%ghts which entail philosophical
implications. Ance we are clear abo%t the ambig%ity of comparative philosophy
itself. we can ma5e creative %se of it and engage in drawing new inspirations and
energies that will bring philosophy to a new age. and hence bring o%rselves to a
new level.
32
2- Is Comparative Philosophy Possile*
8?%st do itN: the famo%s line from !i5e says. 8+%t wait a min%te.: says
professional philosophers. 8We have not fig%red o%t whether it is even possible to
do it yet. 9he enlarged data base now may incl%de teBts so different from each
other that they are. in )%hnian terms. incommens%rable. *ow can we even
compare systems that %se different lang%ages. as5 different 5ind of E%estions. and
even have different standards of rationality and criteria of good or bad
scholarship= 6o% may p%t them all %nder a broadened term of Rphilosophy.< J%st
li5e yo% can p%t alchemy. palm reading. and the %se of magic spell together with
modern physics %nder the term Rscience.< +%t that does not mean they are
commens%rable or comparable.:
P%estions li5e this open another can of worms or another path toward
wonderland. depending on how yo% conceive the o%tcome. Commens%rability is
different from comparability and compatibility. 9wo systems that are
incommens%rable may still be comparable. 86o% cannot compare an apple with an
orange: means not really that orange and apple are incomparableS it means that
they are so different that yo% sho%ld %se different standards to J%dge their
goodness. 4n fact it is only after comparison can we realiHe their difference or
incommens%rability.
4ncompatibility. on the other hand. is a logical concept. 9he J%dgment that
two systems are incompatible pres%pposes a common lang%age. +%t
incommens%rability. at least in the )%hnian sense. means that competing
paradigms have different lists of problems to resolve. %se different standards for
their definitions of a legitimate paradigm. their terms have different relationships.
and people in these competing paradigms 8see different things.: 9hat is why the
shift has to be 8li5e the gestalt switch. it m%st occ%r all at once "tho%gh not
necessarily in an instant' or not at all: ")%hn. 120'. Can incommens%rable systems
be compatible= 4s there a metaClang%age by which we can J%dge whether different
systems of tho%ght are compatible or not= When we say that two systems are so
different that we cannot even say whether they are compatible or not. are we
31
already s%pposing that we are %sing a metaClang%age or a %niversal basis=
0
Whether different c%lt%ral systems are incommens%rable. incomparable. or
incompatible are of co%rse not E%estions to be settled a priori at a
metaphilosophical level. We have to dive into different systems to find o%t whether
they are indeed incommens%rable. or incomparable. or incompatible. +%t on the
other hand. witho%t an awareness of these E%estions. o%r practice of comparative
philosophy may be misg%ided by o%r %neBamined ass%mptions.
Ane way of as5ing the above E%estions is 4s cross c%lt%ral %nderstanding
even possible= 9he iss%e c%ts as deep as the E%estion abo%t translatability of
different lang%ages. 9hose who wor5 in comparative st%dy of Chinese and Western
philosophy all feel the diffic%lty of translating terms li5e dao. Ei. li. etc. into
Western lang%ages. Similarly. Western philosophical terms. when they are
rendered in Chinese words. often get twisted in their meanings. Since P%ine.
8gavagi: has become a general name for all these %ntranslatable terms in any
foreign lang%age. 7rom here an eBposition into the history of philosophy of
lang%age will be relevant and helpf%l. 9he eBposition into the history of
philosophy of lang%age will reveal that we can even hardly say that we %nderstand
each other within the same lang%age system. $aybe by the word 8bl%e: 4 act%ally
mean bleen b%t to yo% it means gr%e= *ow can we be s%re that we %nderstand each
other properly= *ow can we even learn o%r own native lang%age and 5now that we
are 8going on in the same way: as we %se any term= $aybe the only %niversal
lang%age has only two terms 8this: and 8that:= Are we hopelessly imprisoned in
o%r own c%lt%ral tradition=
While modern philosophy of lang%age is very good at destr%cting o%r
int%itive beliefs abo%t lang%age. it does not offer m%ch constr%ctively. ,o we all
have a common mentalese. an innate lang%age that enables %s to %nderstand each
other. and even to learn any lang%age at all. incl%ding o%r native ones= All these
E%estions leave %s a very gloomy pict%re of the possibility of comparative
philosophy. and indeed. the positive val%e of philosophy in general.
*ere we sense that the prevailing and persistently dist%rbing E%estion of
relativism is l%r5ing in. 4t is an inevitable s%bJect for comparative philosophy to
8
9his is obvio%sly from ,onald ,avidson<s famo%s article 8An the (ery 4dea of a
Concept%al Scheme: ",avidson. 3/'.
3@
deal with. While we are increasingly wary of dogmatist %niversalism or absol%tism
or f%ndamentalism. we are eE%ally. if not more. concerned abo%t relativism and the
conseE%ential nihilism. (ario%s forms of pl%ralism have been proposed as
responses to both eBtremes. 6et the very fact that relativism comes bac5 constantly
in need of ref%tation shows its potency. Even if we try to avoid the term li5e
8tr%th: by replacing it with 8rational acceptability: "a phrase that P%tnam %ses to
define 8tr%th.: See P%tnam. 332'. still what being 8rational: means remains a
diffic%lt s%bJect. A review of these literat%re and debate is a topic so large that can
easily cons%me one whole semester. While it is hard to say how m%ch hope we get
from this disc%ssion. an awareness of the problems is certainly helpf%l for %s to
have a clear assessment of o%r sit%ation.
+%t maybe the sit%ation is not as da%nting as it appears to be. 4 can never forget an
analogy told by ?oel )%pperman when 4 was in one of his grad%ate seminars. *e
said that there is a 5ind of bird that. according to caref%l st%dy of its shape. its
wings. etc.. scientists concl%ded that it cannot possibly fly. 6et it fliesN Similarly.
as $ac4ntyre arg%es. intranslatability does not mean that 8all m%t%al
%nderstanding is precl%ded.: even tho%gh he claims that this m%t%al %nderstanding
of people from rival c%lt%res 8is possible only for those adherers of each
standpoint who are able to learn the lang%age of the rival standpoint. so that they
acE%ire. so far as is possible. that other lang%age as a second first lang%age:
"$ac4ntyre. 111'. 9his view can be contested from both sides. Ane might still
arg%e that it is impossible. given all the detailed arg%mentations from philosophy
of lang%age. or one can simply point to o%r daily life and say We do seem to
%nderstand and comm%nicate with people from other c%lt%res with more or less
s%ccess. even tho%gh we do not learn each other<s lang%age as a second first
lang%age. $any people engage in comparative philosophy do not learn the other
lang%age as a second first lang%age b%t they can testify that they still benefit
enormo%sly from their engagement in dialog%ing with other c%lt%res. 4n fact ?oel
)%pperman does not spea5 Chinese lang%age. yet his boo5 on &earning from Asian
Philosophy is f%ll of penetrating insights abo%t Chinese philosophy that 4. a native
spea5er of Chinese lang%age. learned a great deal of my own c%lt%ral tradition
from reading his boo5.
3D
Again the E%estions may never be settled. b%t an eBploration of these
E%estions seems to be beneficial for both comparative philosophy and philosophy
proper. At the same time we can as5 o%rselves more practical E%estions li5e how
can we comm%nicate with each other more s%ccessf%lly= What is o%r meas%re of
s%ccess= *ow can we enhance o%r m%t%al %nderstanding as m%ch as possible= 9he
E%estion abo%t incommens%rability and relativism can be approached from the
E%estions abo%t methodology of comparative philosophy. 4n other words. the
transcendental E%estion abo%t the possibility of comparative philosophy becomes a
methodological one With what 5ind of approach can comparative philosophy be
possible=
3- 6ethodolo#y of Comparative Philosophy
+y the word 8methodology.: 4 mean broadly 8ways: or 8approaches: of
doing comparative philosophy. 4t may be abo%t selecting different targets for
comparison. or %sing different instr%ments to approach a target. or with a certain
attit%de. or eBpectation. or g%iding principle.
When we compare tho%ghts from different c%lt%res. it is inevitable that we
draw similarities andKor differences. +%t there are different ways of doing it. Ane
of the ways we often see people doing comparative philosophy is trying to find
similarities between tho%ghts from different c%lt%res. Aften the motivation behind
is to show that some tho%ghts are %niversal. ?oseph Campbell<s 9he Power of
$yth. ?ohn *ic5<s God *as $any !ames. are J%st two eBamples in comparative
religion. 4n ta5ing this approach one common problem is that those who foc%s on
similarities often ignore differences. and hence res%lt in oversimplifications.
+%t more are involved here also. As we have briefly stated in section two.
there is no overarching lang%age or ne%tral point of view from which we can J%dge
the similarities. 9he res%lt of comparison is always an inf%sion of one<s own
c%lt%re into the interpretation of the other. 4n the 4ntrod%ction to #nderstanding
the Chinese $ind. Fobert Allinson noticed two tendencies among the contrib%tors
of the vol%me Ane is an attempt to 8WesterniHe the Chinese mind.: 4t is to %se
Western methods and terminology to interpret and analyHe Chinese tho%ghts. 84n
30
so doing Lthe writerM renders an otherwise obsc%re "by Western standards' Chinese
philosopher accessible to Western minds.: 9he other is an attempt to 8Sinify the
Western mind.: 4t does this by eBpanding concepts of the contents of a s%bJect
matter and by %sing a style of presentation more typical to Chinese. 4n so doing
Westerners are invited to 8%nderstand the Chinese mind by themselves becoming
Chinese: "Allinson 1G0G. 3/C31'. +oth attempts act%ally go beyond mere
interpretation of Chinese tho%ghtsS they are also attempts to draw the two sides
closerIeither by drawing the Chinese mind closer to the Westerner. or the
Westerner to the Chinese. 9he res%lt of which is that we become hybrids. neither
p%rely Western nor p%rely Eastern. 9his is different from merely trying to sE%eeHe
one system of tho%ght into the framewor5 of the other. 7or sE%eeHing one into the
other is to ma5e one merely footnotes of the other. b%t reconstr%ction of one in the
lang%age of the other enriches both. 9he reconstr%ction can ta5e several forms. 7or
instance. one may give an analytical acco%nt of the Chinese notion 8dao.: so that
layers of rich meaning implicitly entailed in the notion can be artic%lated more
clearly. Ane can also ta5e the Western notion of 8J%stice.: and as5. 8What wo%ld
be a Conf%cian theory of J%stice=:
G
Still another form is to ta5e %p a theoretical
disp%te in a Western philosophical conteBt. say. mindCbody d%alism problem. and
constr%ct a Conf%cian theory as an answer.
1/
9hese efforts all pres%ppose that there
is some common gro%nd. s%ch as the fact that we all live in the same world and
face similar problems of life "that we s%ffer. we face death. etc.'. that the world is
increasingly interconnected to the degree that we can no longer ignore each other.
that in comm%nicating with each other we have to at least ass%me that we are
%sing words in more or less similar ways. +%t they don<t have to deny differences.
4n fact they have to recogniHe differences in order to conceive their proJects to be
meaningf%l. 9his recognition of common gro%nd is different from ass%ming a
%niversal lang%age or an overarching ne%tral view point of view beca%se here the
commonality is either based on the thic5ness of real life. or on the basis of
necessary ass%mption witho%t which we cannot f%nction in real lifeIit is very
9
See Cheng 1GGD. where Cheng 8eBplained the notion of J%stice in terms of both
righteo%sness "yi' and benevolence "ren' so that one wo%ld find that in J%stice as fairness
one m%st have considerations of others and a control of one<s selfCdesires and following
r%les of propriety "as ren is eBplained by Conf%ci%s as R5eJi f%li<: "Cheng. 1/D'.
10
4 own both eBamples to Cheng. See Cheng. 1/@C0.
3G
m%ch li5e theoretically we can be s5eptics abo%t everything. yet practically we
have to be realists to even cond%ct the very basic activities of life.
4n contrast. some others pay more attention to differences. 9hese are often
the people who are more critical to one tradition. and try to show the problems of
the tradition thro%gh comparing it to other different c%lt%res. *ere a common
danger is 8false essentialism.: again. a form of over simplification. As we often
find people claiming. for eBample. that 8the East is comm%nity oriented. the West
is individ%al orientedS: 8the East is more practical. and the West is more
theoreticalS: 8the East is this worldly. the West searches for the transcendentalS:
W. 9he list can go on. +y doing this. they always eBpose themselves to the
criticism of neglecting the act%al compleBities of both the East and the West. 4f it
were simply an over simplification. the problem can be avoided by replacing
8East: and 8West: with phrases li5e 8the overall trend in the East: and 8the
dominant trend in the West.: Sometimes we do wonder whether the worse thing
than gross generaliHation is not to ma5e one. While there are always eBceptions.
there are indeed dominant tendencies or characteristics that are fo%nd more often
from one c%lt%re than another. 4dentifying these tendencies may help %s to see a
larger pict%re. +%t behind the tendency to oversimplify the matter. we sometimes
find a tendency to romanticiHing one side and disparaging the other. (ario%s 5inds
of boo5s on Eastern Feligions. especially ,aoism. in boo5stores all over the
#nited States. will give %s a good sense of how pop%lar the trend of romanticiHing
the East is. 9his is act%ally not doing a favor for Eastern c%lt%res. Ane wanders
whether this is itself a form of Arientalism. since here ,aoism and +%ddhism are
often ta5en as obJects of cons%merismIthey are good for %s beca%se we have a
desire to feel romantic. eBotic. or 8cool.:
Another contrast in methodologies is eBpressed in a classic Chinese way
8wo Hh% li% Jing:I4 interpret the siB classics. and 8li% Jing Hh% wo:Ithe siB
classics are %sed to interpret me. Even tho%gh most philosophers wo%ld agree that
there is no s%ch thing as absol%te obJectivity in o%r interpretation of any teBt. or
no p%re wo Hh% li% Jing. still no one wo%ld say my interpretation of a teBt is totally
s%bJective and that it is entirely manip%lating the teBt for my own p%rpose. +%t we
s%rely see that some stretch the teBts from another c%lt%re more toward their own
>/
interpretation than others. While this is generally obJectionable. 4 wo%ld say that
in some cases it might be acceptable. $aybe we sho%ld not as5 for the proper
reading of a teBtIafter all. there simply is no s%ch a thingS instead. we sho%ld as5
for a fair reading of a teBt. Sometimes a misreading can be creative and inspiring.
4n order to reconstr%ct a tradition so that it can be appropriated in a postCmodern
global conteBt. certain stretch is not only %navoidable b%t desirable. As Peter
*ershoc5 says. in his inspiring boo5 Feinventing the Wheel. that there is no ideal
5nower who is 8radically individ%al witho%t being at all personalIa 5ind of
epistemological Everyman: "*ershoc5. G/'. Anly beca%se of o%r solid gro%nding
in o%r own partic%larity can we interact and enhance each other. Some may call
this 8philosophy as engineering: "$orton. 21' or 8the art of appropriation: "9ong.
1D'. Ane thing that often ma5es some %ncomfortable is that these people tend to
8given an %nbalanced: acco%nt in their comparative st%dy. 9hey sometimes ma5e
contrasts between the ideal state of one theory and the worst res%lt of the other.
Fosemont and *ershoc5 both have been criticiHed in this way. +%t in their mind.
they are loo5ing at a larger pict%re. and are doing something therape%tic When
they see the overall tendency in the world to be dragged toward one direction. they
want to stress the other in order to regain the balance.
9here are many other contrasting ways of doing comparative philosophy.
not necessarily m%t%ally eBcl%sive. 7or instance. some %se analytical method.
while others prefer hermene%tical. Some are more historical oriented. placing teBts
within historical conteBts. while others are more teBt oriented. foc%sing on teBts
themselves. 9here are people who ma5e very broad stro5e comparisons. with a
global vision and li5e to spea5 the general patterns of the past 3/// or even 1///
years of history. and ranges across all schools of tho%ght. while others are detail
oriented. foc%sing on comparing one philosopher with another. or even one small
part of a philosopher<s theory to that of another.
9he varieties of methodological approaches to comparative philosophy are
obvio%sly beyond what this short paper can s%mmariHe. $y p%rpose here is not to
list all the possible ways of doing comparative philosophy. b%t rather to list a few
to show that there is no single and proper way of doing it. Whether one is well
versed in m%ltiple traditions and lang%ages or not. no one can possibly master all
>1
the lang%ages and all the traditions. An the other hand everyone can ma5e one<s
own contrib%tions to comparative philosophy as long as one is open to the Ather.
9hro%gh this brief traverse of the area. 4 hope 4 have shown that
comparative philosophy is important beca%se it is philosophy proper with an
enlarged data base. 9he enlargement of the data base is not only desirable for
generating new ideas and obtain new inspirations as it brings in richer reso%rces.
b%t also beca%se the deeply tro%bled contemporary world sit%ation and the
increasing connectedness of different parts of the world %rgently calls for critical
engagement of people from all traditions. Whether one recogniHe it or not. the
E%estion of the Ather has already been a central iss%e in contemporary
philosophical scholarship. and in this regard. comparative philosophy is already at
the c%tting edge of the whole field of philosophy.
As 4 said in the beginning of this paper. comparative philosophy is still
developing. ta5ing its shape. and so by %sing the word 8traversing: the territory
rather than 8charting: it. 4 want to avoid the mis%nderstanding that the territory is
already set. 4 hope this paper also serves the f%nction of inviting more people to
Join the ca%se of practicing comparative philosophy and bring a new renaissance to
philosophy.
,eferen/es
Allinson. Fobert E. 3//1. 89he $yth of Comparative Philosophy or the
Comparative Philosophy $algrT &%i.: in +o $o% ed. T0o ,oa!s to 1is!om9
Chinese an! Ana$%tic Phi$oso"hica$ Tra!itions. Chicago and &a Salle. 4& Apen
Co%rt.
CCCCCCCCCCCC 1G0G. /n!erstan!ing the Chinese Min!. *ong )ong ABford
#niv. Press.
Cheng. Ch%ngCying. 3//1. 8AntoC*ermene%tical (ision and Analytic
,isco%rse 4nterpretation and Feconstr%ction in Chinese Philosophy.: in +o $o%
ed. T0o ,oa!s to 1is!om9 Chinese an! Ana$%tic Phi$oso"hica$ Tra!itions.
Chicago and &a Salle. 4& Apen Co%rt.
CCCCCCCCCCCC 1GGD. 8Can We ,o ?%stice to All 9heories of ?%stice= 9oward
4ntegrating Classical and $odern Paradigms of ?%stice.: in Fon +onte5oe and
>3
$arietta Stepaniants eds.. 8ustice an! Democrac%: Cross:Cu$tura$ Pers"ecti#es
"*onol%l% #niversity of *awaii Press. 1GGD'. 101CG0.
,avidson. ,onald. 1GD>CD2. 8An the (ery idea of a Concept%al Scheme.:
Procee!ings an! A!!resses of the American Phi$oso"hica$ Association 2D.
*ershoc5. Peter. 1GGG. ,ein#enting the 1hee$2 A Bu!!hist ,es"onse to the
*nformation Age. Albany S#!6 Press.
*older. ?ohn. 3//2. 89he P%rpose and Perils of Comparative Philosophy.:
an %np%blished man%script.
?ing. *aifeng. 3//1. 8Challenges to Chinese Philosophy and 4ts 4dentity
Feconstr%ction: "abstract'. in 12
th
*nternationa$ Societ% for Chinese Phi$oso"h%
Conference Program. p%blished by the School of Philosophy. 9he #niversity of
!ew So%th Wales. Sydney. A%stralia.
)%hn. 9homas. 1GD/. The Structure of Scientific ,e#o$ution. 3
nd
edition.
Chicago #niversity Press.
$ac4ntyre. Alasdair. 1GG1. 84ncommens%rability. 9r%th. and the (irt%es.: in
Eliot ,e%tsch ed. Cu$ture an! Mo!ernit%2 -ast:1est Phi$oso"hic Pers"ecti#es.
*onol%l% #niv. of *awaii Press.
$orton. Adam. 3//1. 8Philosophy as Engineering.: in +o $o% ed. T0o
,oa!s to 1is!om2 Chinese an! Ana$%tic Phi$oso"hica$ Tra!itions. Chicago and &a
Salle Apen Co%rt.
Plantinga. Alvin. 3///. 1arrant an! Christian Be$ief. ABford #niversity
Press.
P%tnam. *ilary. 1GG@. 8Why Feason Can<t +e !at%raliHed: in After
Phi$oso"h%2 -n! or Transformation9 Ed. by )enneth +aynes. ?ames +ohman. and
9homas $cCarthy. Cambridge. $A $49 Press.
Schacht. Fichard 1GG@ 8Special Feport of the Committee on the Stat%s and
7%t%re of the ProfessionIPhilosophy in America in 1GG2.: The Procee!ings an!
A!!resses of the American Phi$oso"hica$ Association. vol. D/. no. 3.
9he%nissen. $ichael. 1G02. The .ther. trans. by Christopher $acann.
Cambridge. $A $49 Press.
>>
9ong. &i5 )%en. 3//1. 89he Art of Appropriation 9owards a 7ieldC+eing
Conception of Philosophy.: in +o $o% ed. T0o ,oa!s to 1is!om2 Chinese an!
Ana$%tic Phi$oso"hica$ Tra!itions. Chicago and &a Salle Apen Co%rt.
>2
?ohn ?. *older
St. !orbert College
The Purpose and Perils of Comparative Philosophy
I- Introdu/tion: Comparative philosophy defined
$y aim in this essay is to address a n%mber of iss%es regarding the area of st%dy
5nown as comparative philosophy and. f%rther. to recommend a partic%lar approach to
comparative philosophy as among the most promising ways of p%rs%ing contemporary
philosophical iss%es.
As a tentative or wor5ing definition. let %s define 8comparative philosophy: as any
philosophical inE%iry that draws on or relates to the st%dy of the philosophical systems and
doctrines developed in two or more civiliHations. s%ch as Western. 4ndian. and Chinese
civiliHations. $ost comparative philosophers wo%ld agree with the view eBpressed by
!arayana $oorty when he wrote 8the need for comparative philosophy arises chiefly o%t
of the interest in interpreting the philosophical traditions of the East to the West. or vice
versa. and reCeBamining the fo%ndations of Western and Eastern philosophical tho%ght in
light of a comparison of the basic tenets of the systems of these traditions. determining
whether s%ch a st%dy leads to a discovery of a common fo%ndation for the different
traditionsWand bringing whatever is of philosophical val%e in other traditions into the fold
of one<s own philosophical tradition.:
11
9his statement covers several different aims of comparative philosophy. b%t it is the
last pointIthe practice of bringing reso%rces from c%lt%rally disparate philosophical
traditions to bear on one<s own traditionIthat 4 thin5 is most significant and want to draw
the reader<s attention to in this essay. As philosophers. we m%st remember that the te$os or
p%rpose of comparative philosophy is not comparison "er se. 4n the parlance of ?ohn
,ewey. the comparison of two philosophical traditions is not itself the 8endCinCview.:
Father. comparative philosophy<s most important contrib%tion is the development of new
or borrowed philosophical reso%rces that can be %sed as tools in solving gen%ine or 8live:
philosophical problems. Again. to p%t the matter in a ,eweyan way. 4 am s%ggesting that
11
!arayana $oorty. 84s Comparative Philosophy Possible=: %np%blished essay. on web at
httpKKhome.pccbell.netKmoortyK. p. 1.
>1
the 8comparative: part of 8comparative philosophy: denotes an instrumenta$. b%t
potentially cr%cial. method of philosophical inE%iry. 4 will ret%rn to this later.
Ane more preliminary point needs to be made regarding any definition of
comparative philosophy we m%st differentiate between comparative inte$$ectua$ histor%
and comparative "hi$oso"h%. (ery often the comparison of philosophers and philosophical
traditions is not gen%ine philosophy at all. b%t only an attempt to demonstrate the
similarities and differences of ideas across c%lt%ral bo%ndaries. When engaging in
comparative wor5. st%dents and professional philosophers ali5e have a tendency to offer
comparisons that are little more than interesting $ists that cite areas of agreement and
disagreement between the traditions being compared. S%ch practices have prod%ced doHens
of boo5s that relate )ant to Shan5ara. Wittgenstein to !agarJ%na. or *eidegger to Uen
+%ddhism. etc. *owever. s%ch comparisons. by themselves. are intellect%al history. not
philosophy. beca%se philosophy reE%ires a f%rther step. that is. the use of the comparative
analysis for the p%rpose of solving "or resolving' a living philosophical problem. 9o be
philosophy. there m%st be a commitment to ma5ing a case that the position described is
right or wrong. pla%sible or not. as a sol%tion to a given philosophical problem. &et me
clarify this point by an ill%stration. 9hat Plato and the rishis of the early #panishads both
held that stability and permanence are mar5s of the real is a matter of inte$$ectua$ histor%.
+%t arg%ing that they were right "or wrong' to ta5e s%ch a position as a way to achieve
deeper 5nowledge of reality is "hi$oso"h%. 9his distinction is not meant to disparage
comparative intellect%al history in the leastIit is important to develop an %nderstanding of
the agreements and disagreements between traditions that are separated by great distances.
by c%lt%ral conteBts or by s%bstantial periods of time. +%t. while s%ch similarities and
differences are historically interesting and may %sef%lly lead to f%rther st%dy of the
conditions that prod%ced similar ideas or doctrines. they are. as s%ch. "hi$oso"hica$$% inert.
Saying that two thin5ers from vastly different traditions agree abo%t something "ro#es
nothingS by itself. it does not solve any gen%ine philosophical problem.
II- The ori#ins and /urrent state of /omparative philosophy
Comparative philosophy has roots in the West that go bac5 as far as the late
seventeenth cent%ry. when E%ropean philosophers. &eibniH for eBample. offered their
>@
reactions to the fragments of Asian philosophical systems that had tric5led into E%rope. +%t
it was not %ntil the first half of the nineteenth cent%ryIwhen significant intellect%al
contact had been made between Western and Asian philosophical traditions based on the
first f%ll translations of Asian philosophical teBts into E%ropean lang%ages "accomplished
mainly by German scholars'Ithat comparative philosophy began in earnest. $ost notable
of these early comparativists were the E%ropean Fomantic philosophers and their American
brethren. the 9ranscendentalists. who saw strains of idealism comparable to their own in
the teachings of *ind%ism and +%ddhism. Even after this promising start. comparative
philosophy lang%ished in the shadows thro%gh the first half of the twentieth cent%ry %ntil
scholars li5e Charles $oore. WingCtsit Chan and 9heodore de +ary revived and refoc%sed
the field aro%nd midCcent%ry.
And yet. comparative philosophy remains a field of inE%iry that has been little
eBplored. despite the many reasons that comparative philosophers have given for
recommending it. 9he comments of Wilhelm *albfass offered twenty years ago are J%st as
tr%e todayS he wrote 8comparative philosophy. as an openCminded. methodically rigoro%s.
hermene%tically alert. and yet eBistentially committed comparative st%dy of h%man
orientations is still in a nascent stage.:
13
As recently as fifteen years ago. an important
monograph in comparative philosophy opened with the statement 8Within the Western
philosophic tradition. comparative philosophy is a relatively new and still marginal
movementWdespite the promise of m%t%al enrichment between Western and nonCWestern
philosophical traditions.:
1>
9his is both bad news and good news. 9he bad news is that
comparative philosophy seems forever st%c5 in its infancy. 9he good news. however. is that
the field remains wide open for those who see5 %ncharted territory for philosophical
inE%iry.
III- Foundational Prolems in Comparative Philosophy
+efore 4 disc%ss my recommended approach to comparative philosophy. it wo%ld be
%sef%l to eBplore some of the reasons why comparative philosophy has been so slow to
12
Eliot ,e%tsch. editor. Cu$ture an! Mo!ernit%: -ast:1est Phi$oso"hic Pers"ecti#es
"*onol%l% #niversity of *awaii Press. 1GG1'.
13
?oel $ar5s and Foger Ames. editors. -motions in Asian Thought: A Dia$ogue in
Com"arati#e Phi$oso"h% "Albany S#!6 Press. 1GG1'.
>D
capt%re the imaginations of most contemporary philosophers. 9here are. 4 thin5. three
problems worth eBploring in this essay first. some philosophers still E%estion whether
there is any gen%ine philosophy o%tside of the Western traditionS second. among those that
grant that philosophy eBists in nonCWestern civiliHations there are a s%bstantial n%mber
who hold that beca%se of the incommens%rability of c%lt%rally disparate philosophical
traditions. meaningf%l comparison is impossibleS and third. some philosophers see
comparative philosophy as a misg%ided attempt to synthesiHe all philosophical traditions.
blending them into a single 8%niversal: philosophy. &et me say a few words abo%t each of
these problems before moving on to my proposed approach to comparative philosophy.
A- Is there 7philosophy8 outside the 5est*
9he practice of comparative philosophy ass%mes that there are philosophical
traditions aside from those in the West. And yet this very claim contin%es to be challenged
right %p %ntil the present day. As the comparative philosopher Eliot ,e%tsch p%t it.
8Philosophy as a field still harbors many. possibly a maJority. who thin5 that serio%s
philosophiHing has occ%rred only in the WestW:
12
9his is no small matter. 4t is clear from
reading the literat%re over the last E%arter cent%ry that comparative philosophy has been on
the defensive. 4t has become bogged down by having to arg%e over and over again that
there is something indigeno%s to civiliHations other than those in the West that can be called
8philosophy.:
11
9he debate contin%es in some E%arters beca%se of the narrow definitions of
philosophy "%sed mainly in academia' that typically eBcl%de from philosophy anything that
contains methods or goals that Western traditions wo%ld label 8religio%s.: +y ass%ming that
philosophy and religion are m%t%ally eBcl%sive classifications. almost all nonCWestern
traditions are eBcl%ded by definition from philosophy. 7or eBample. 4ndian traditions are
denied the label 8philosophy: by some philosophers beca%se they aim at the attainment of
religio%s goals li5e moksha or nirvana. and many 4ndian traditions accept the a%thority of
14
Eliot ,e%tsch. editor. Cu$ture an! Mo!ernit%: -ast:1est Phi$oso"hic Pers"ecti#es
"*onol%l% #niversity of *awaii Press. 1GG1'.
11
We have to say 8indigeno%s: beca%se there are many philosophers in philosophy
departments from +eiJing to ,elhi that are specialists in Western philosophical traditions.
4n fact. many Asian scholars have adopted these ways of thin5ing and see their own
traditions thro%gh Western perspectivesIpart of this is so as not to appear inferior in any
way.
>0
sages who claim revelation as a primary so%rce of 5nowledge. 7or these reasons. some
Western philosophers relegate Asian traditions to a category called 8wisdom traditions: and
thereby disting%ish them from 8philosophy: which is p%rportedly based on logical
arg%mentation alone.
*appily. the end of this debate may be in view. &et me cite several reasons for my
optimism. 7irst. many Western philosophers are more 5nowledgeable abo%t Asian
traditions today than they were J%st a few decades ago. Even if they haven<t caref%lly
st%died Asian traditions. most Western philosophers are aware that there is m%ch gen%ine
philosophy in the vast logical and epistemological systems of 4ndian traditions. as well as
in the ethical and social teachings of Chinese thin5ers. Second. the bo%ndaries between
philosophy. religion and c%lt%ral criticism have become so bl%rred in the West that the
conception of philosophy appears to have a wider scope than it once had and that. in t%rn.
breeds greater tolerance for finding philosophy in traditions li5e *ind%ism. Conf%cianism.
9aoism and +%ddhism that involve religio%s elements. And third. the canonical systems of
Western philosophy themselves do not fit easily %nder any one definition of philosophy. As
!inian Smart has noted. 8trying to p%t the variety of philosophers recogniHed in the West
%nder a single definition of philosophy wo%ld ca%se E%ite a messWwhy wo%ld we eBpect
things to be different in deciding how to apply the term Rphilosophy< to thin5ers and
traditions in Asia=:
1@
7ran5ly. 4 find this debate rather tiresome. if not parochial. 7red ,allmayr has
eBposed the worst aspects of the debate. %ncovering cases where the Western image of
philosophy. f%eled by Western c%lt%ral hegemony. is %sed to disregard or denigrate Asian
traditions in a way that is nothing short of c%lt%ral imperialism.
1D
4n less biased circles.
however. the debate is mostly a matter of E%estionCbegging semantics. 4t J%st depends on
how narrow one wants one<s definition of philosophy to be. +%t it will have to be very
narrow. indeed. to eBcl%de most Asian traditions beca%se Asian traditions address many of
the same problems that E%alify as philosophy in the West. for eBample the J%stification of
5nowledge. ca%sality. s%bstanceKaccident. space and time. free will vers%s determinism.
lang%age analysis. and logical analysis. to name b%t a few. $ore importantly. the impet%s
16
!inian Smart. 89he Analogy of $eaning and the 9as5s of Comparative Philosophy.: in
Gerald &arson and Eliot ,e%tsch. editors. *nter"reting Across Boun!aries: 4e0 -ssa%s in
Com"arati#e Phi$oso"h% "Princeton. !? Princeton #niversity Press. 1G00' p. 1D1.
17
7red ,allmayr. Be%on! .rienta$ism: -ssa%s on Cross:Cu$tura$ -ncounter "Albany
S#!6 Press. 1GG@'.
>G
and method of philosophyI%sing h%man intelligence to live eBcellentlyIis evident in all
civiliHations and the res%lts of s%ch philosophiHing are preserved for %s to st%dy in all of the
world<s literate civiliHations. Even if Asian philosophical traditions do blend religio%s
elements into philosophy. there is no reason "rima facie to eBcl%de the search for religio%s
meaning from philosophy. After all. Christian scholastic philosophies in the West ta5e
script%re as an a%thority and see philosophy as a proJect in service of religio%s meaning. 4n
my view. comparative philosophy is %sef%l as a corrective to the overly narrow conceptions
of philosophy in the Western academy. 9he conception of philosophy o%ght to be inc$usi#e.
rather than e;c$usi#e. since wisdomIalways and everywhere in short s%pplyIsho%ld be
so%ght 0here#er one can find it. And is it not ironic that applying the label 8wisdom: "as in
the aforementioned peJorative term 8wisdom traditions:' sho%ld divorce a tradition from
philoCso"hia=
0- The Prolem of In/ommensuraility
Ever since the p%blication of 9homas )%hn<s Structure of Scientific ,e#o$utions
and W.(.A. P%ine<s wor5 on translatability "more than 2/ years ago'. philosophers have
been gen%inely concerned abo%t the problem of incommens%rability. 84ncommens%rability:
refers to the relationship of two conteBts or c%lt%res between which there are no common
standards to meas%re or J%dge ideas and concepts. Were c%lt%ral conteBts completely
incommens%rable. there wo%ld be no possibility of sharing or comparing philosophical
theories or concepts. beca%se s%ch theories or concepts wo%ld be entirely %nintelligible
o%tside their native c%lt%ral conteBt. Some critics of comparative philosophy see this as a
potentially ins%perable problem for comparative philosophy. At a conference on
comparative philosophy several years ago. 4 listened to the renowned philosopher Fichard
Forty assert that he didn<t thin5 he co%ld learn anything important from st%dying
Conf%cian philosophy. *e said that he had tried to read Conf%ci%s. b%t despite his best
efforts. Conf%cian doctrines remained opaE%e to him. Father disingen%o%sly. 4 thin5. Forty
said that he cannot relate disc%ssions of Conf%cian tho%ght to his own inE%iries witho%t
doing an inJ%stice to the Asian traditions %nder st%dy. *e went on to generaliHe his
eBperience by saying that this is li5ely to be tr%e of all crossCc%lt%ral comparisonsIthat
every philosopher is so deeply gro%nded in her or his c%lt%ral conteBt that there is little
2/
hope of having a fr%itf%l philosophical dialog%e across incommensura($e c%lt%ral conteBts.
9o the shoc5 and s%rprise of conference participantsIgiven that this was a conference on
comparative philosophyIForty s%bverted the rationale for the conference by s%ggesting
that Western philosophers sho%ld tal5 only with other Western philosophers and li5ewise it
wo%ld be best were Eastern philosophers to 5eep their conversations to themselves.
!eedless to say. 4 don<t share Forty<s pessimism on this iss%e.
Comparative philosophers recogniHe that there are diffic%lties associated with
interpretation that crosses over c%lt%ral bo%ndaries. ,ifferences in categories and
concept%al schemas are %navoidable when relating philosophical traditions from different
c%lt%res or civiliHations. C%lt%rally disparate philosophical traditions often do not agree on
what the right philosophical E%estions are. As ,aya )rishna p%t it. 8the world of
comparative st%dies is inevitably an attempt to loo5 at what. by definition. is Ranother
reality< from the viewpoint of that which is not itself.:
10
And that 8all comparative st%dies
imply sim%ltaneo%sly an identity and a difference. a sit%ation that is replete with
intellect%al diffic%lties. which give rise to interminable disp%tes regarding whether we are
tal5ing abo%t the same thing or different things.:
1G

While 4 agree that one needs to be aware of and concerned abo%t c%lt%ral and
historical conteBt when presenting philosophical concepts and doctrines. 4 thin5 that it is an
eBaggeration to say that s%ch concerns pose ins%perable diffic%lties for comparative
philosophy. 6es. the %niE%e c%lt%ral identity of a philosophical tradition precl%des a
complete translation of that tradition into the terms of another c%lt%re. And the potential for
distortions of philosophical ideas when they are considered from a different c%lt%ral
conteBt is very real. +%t this problem is not %niE%e to comparative philosophy. 9he same
problems of translation and incommens%rability come into play when an% two people
comm%nicate. whether they belong to distinct c%lt%ral traditions or not. When two different
persons %se a certain word. given the different eBperiences and concept%al systems in two
different minds. how co%ld it be determined whether the %nderstanding of the word is
precisely the same or not in each case= +y the same standard imposed by the critic on
comparative philosophy. the minds of all people are 8incommens%rable: relative to one
18
,aya )rishna. 8Comparative Philosophy What 4t 4s and What 4t A%ght to +e.: in Gerald
&arson and Eliot ,e%tsch. editors. *nter"reting Across Boun!aries: 4e0 -ssa%s in
Com"arati#e Phi$oso"h% "Princeton. !? Princeton #niversity Press. 1G00'. pp. D1CD3.
19
,aya )rishna. 8Comparative Philosophy What 4t 4s and What 4t A%ght to +e.: p. D1.
21
another and so all meaningf%l comm%nication wo%ld appear to be impossible. "*ere the
pragmatist in me comes o%t. beca%se a pragmatic treatment of meaning seems to me the
best answer to s%ch epistemic p%HHles we mean the same thing to the eBtent that we enter
into conJoint activities s%ccessf%llyIb%t that<s another topic.' 7%rthermore. the problem of
incommens%rability applies across historical epochs as wellIa contemporary philosopher
cannot claim to %nderstand Plato<s ideas eBactly as Plato did. 6et. the problem of
8incommens%rability: is rarely raised to arg%e that persons in the twentyCfirst cent%ry
cannot appropriate anything worthwhile from the tho%ght of ancient Gree5 philosophers.
9wo pla%sible responses to the problem of incommens%rability in relation to
comparative philosophy occ%r to me. 7irst. we sho%ld recogniHe that there is a common
anthropological conteBt for philosophiHing across vario%s c%lt%res and historical periods.
*%man beings in all c%lt%res and in all historical periods are engaged in intellect%al and
social activities and at base these activities are gro%nded in biological and physiological
str%ct%res shared by all h%man beings. At a minim%m. then. we have this anthropological
framewor5 for comparative st%dies that stretches across c%lt%ral and historical bo%ndaries.
Second. the proJect of "hi$oso"h% is not so m%ch to %nderstand certain ideas or doctrines
eBactly as their proponents did "that<s a problem in hermene%tics that 4 leave to the
intellect%al historian'. b%t to appropriate. %se or apply these ideas in service of a c%rrent
philosophical problem. 4n that conteBt. the J%stification is whether comparative
appropriation wor5s in solving the problem or not. Af co%rse. interpretation m%st be
constrained to some degree by intellect%al history. +%t. since interpretation will inevitably
leave matters indeterminate to a certain degree. there will be some latit%de for casting ideas
in ways that meet the demand of a contemporary philosophical problem. and that J%stifies
bringing s%ch c%lt%rally disparate voices into the philosophical conversation.
An analogy might help clarify the matter. Consider the case of an American
baseball player who see5s to improve her batting techniE%e. S%ppose. having st%died the
batting stro5e of a batsman in cric5et. she were to improve her batting by appropriating
some aspects of the cric5et batting techniE%e. Wo%ld a critic decry this as illegitimate
beca%se baseball and cric5et are two different "read incommens%rable' games= What
ma5es this 8borrowing: possible. despite the fact that cric5et and baseball are different
games. is that there are a whole range of convergences and congr%encies between baseball
and cric5et. specifically as regards batting techniE%es. 9he meas%re of s%ccess in this case
23
is not how acc%rately the baseball player mimics playing cric5et. b%t how effectively she
adapts what she<s learned from a disparate game to playing baseball. 4 thin5 this analogy
holds %p fairly well for comparative philosophy.
9his is abo%t as far as this iss%e can be disc%ssed in the abstract. beca%se. if 4<m
right. the decisive evidence that incommens%rability is more of a n%isance than an
impenetrable barrier can only come from philosophiHing comparatively abo%t act%al
problems.
C- Comparative philosophy as /reatin# a 7universal philosophy8
7ifty years ago. philosophical optimism. f%eled by a growing awareness of common
patterns of tho%ght across c%lt%ral bo%ndaries. led some prominent comparative
philosophers to attempt a synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophies into a single
8%niversal: or 8global: philosophical system. P.9. FaJ%<s wor5 is a good eBample of this
trend. *e wrote that 8the aim of comparative philosophy is the el%cidation of the nat%re of
man and his environment in order that a comprehensive philosophy of life and a plan for
tho%ght and action may be obtained:
3/
and then went on to arg%e that the idealism in *ind%
(edanta and Western philosophers li5e *egel and +radley co%ld be Joined %p to form that
8comprehensive philosophy.: !eedless to say. s%ch attempts at %niversalism have failed to
attract very many adherents and probably have done some damage to the rep%tation of
comparative philosophy by associating the field with s%ch grandiose proJects. While the
goal of creating a single %niversal philosophy is no longer credible to most comparative
philosophers. the trend has left a legacy of smaller. less grandiose. synthetic proJectsIfor
eBample. all those boo5s on Shan5ara and )ant. *egel and the #panishads. that 4
mentioned before. 4t has also imparted to comparative philosophy a tendency to favor
similarities over differences in comparative wor5Ia sit%ation that is not so bad in itself.
b%t has been ta5en to s%ch an eBtreme recently that several comparative scholars have
recoiled against what they call a 8misplaced civility: in comparative philosophy. 9his
refers to the attit%de of those comparative philosophers who want so m%ch to establish
good feelings and avoid the tensions and enmity of past relations between East and West
that they eBaggerate the similarities between traditions rather than recogniHe gen%ine
20
P.9. FaJ%. *ntro!uction to Com"arati#e Phi$oso"h%. "Carbondale. 4& So%thern 4llinois
#niversity Press. 1GD/'.
2>
differences. 4 have to say that 4 agree with this comment of co%rse. there sho%ld be civil
disco%rse between traditions. b%t a proper respect reE%ires recognition of differences where
they eBist or else the positions compared are red%ced to mere caricat%res. 4 sho%ld remar5
that the defect of 8misplaced civility: is more common in comparative re$igion than
comparative philosophy these daysIfor eBample. many of the recent boo5s comparing
+%ddhism and Christianity are so s%garCcoated as to be nearly worthless as gen%ine
comparisons.
IV- The aims and promise of Comparative Philosophy: A Prolemati/ Approa/h
,aya )rishna recently arg%ed for an image of comparative philosophy that foc%ses
on 8problems perceived and sol%tions attempted: even if the problems and sol%tions range
far beyond the limits of 8philosophy: as constr%ed in the E%ropean heritage.
31
9his
statement s%ggests a view of comparative philosophy very close to the one 4 have been
wor5ing with in my research. Comparative philosophy. as 4 practice it. is not J%st a matter
of developing an awareness of what other philosophers in other civiliHations have tho%ght.
b%t provides an 8opening: to live philosophical problems. Comparisons can be %sed to
ill%minate and even solve diffic%lt philosophical E%estions that confront %s in o%r time.
After all. as 4 said earlier. the point of any philosophical inE%iry is not J%st to comprehend
the ideas p%t forward by a previo%s thin5er. b%t to %se those ideas in the service of a
philosophical proJect. !inian Smart affirmed a similar conception of comparative
philosophy when he wrote 8if we loo5 on the vario%s philosophical heritages as resources.
then we may hope that ideas drawn from them might help to resolve some of the maJor
worldCview problems of the new intellect%al world ta5ing shape thro%gh the meeting of
c%lt%resWLcomparative philosophyM can act as a Rtreasure house< of reso%rces for %s in o%r
thin5ing thro%gh present and f%t%re problems.:
33
9o borrow more ,eweyan terminology.
4<d recommend calling this a 8problematic approach: to comparative philosophy.
A problematic approach avoids being trapped by the traditional problems associated
with comparative philosophy that 4 o%tlined above. 7or eBample. comparative philosophy
always depends on there being significant philosophical convergences between the two
21
,aya )rishna. 8Comparative Philosophy What 4t 4s and What 4t A%ght to +e.: p. 03.
22
!inian Smart. 89he Analogy of $eaning and the 9as5s of Comparative Philosophy.: p.
1D0.
22
traditions regarding metaphysical. epistemological and methodological considerationsI
even where the traditions disagree in content. they have to share concept%al str%ct%res at
some level even to disagree on an iss%e. As we 5now from what 4 said earlier. attempts to
artic%late s%ch convergences in regard to c%lt%rally disparate systems of ideas r%ns the ris5
of misinterpretation and incommens%rability. And yet by gro%nding the comparative proJect
in a philosophical problem. the comparative philosopher creates a conteBt for resolving the
challenges of incommens%rability. beca%se once a partic%lar problem is set. the problemC
conteBt determines the vocab%lary. the concept%al schemes and. most importantly. what
wo%ld co%nt as a sol%tion to the problem. So long as one does not insist on perfect
translatability from the Western tradition to the nonCWestern tradition "or vice versa'. the
proJect remains on safe gro%nd. As 4 said before. 4 am not advocating the position that we
have license to read into a teBt or a system of ideas J%st anything we want. +%t if
comparative philosophy is to add anything %sef%l to a contemporary philosophical
conversation. then there m%st be some allowance for disc%ssing nonCWestern systems of
tho%ght thro%gh the %se of Western philosophical concepts and vice versa. 9he
philosophical test of a comparative proJect is not the precise congr%ence of ideas across
c%lt%ral bo%ndaries b%t the progress the comparison achieves in regard to the philosophical
inE%iry.
4t tr%ly s%rprises me that the critics of comparative philosophy thin5 that the iss%e
of c%lt%ral differences co%nts against comparative philosophy. An the contrary. the
differences between c%lt%res sho%ld be seen as a positive aspect of comparative philosophy.
4t forms the reason for doing comparative philosophy in the first place. since if other
c%lt%res concept%aliHe philosophical iss%es J%st the way we westerners do. there wo%ld be
little point in doing comparative research. +y engaging alternative concept%al schemes.
comparative philosophy draws o%r attention to those ways of thin5ing that have been
neglected in o%r own perspectives. And by confronting different concept%al mappings. one
is not only challenged to defend a certain concept%al scheme. b%t may well be led to either
a radical revision of one<s own concept%al framewor5 or the creation of a whole new
framewor5. Comparative philosophy provides hope that apparently intractable problems in
Western traditions may be recast in new concept%al framewor5s and thereby either solved
or resolved.
21
Ane might say that comparative philosophy f%nctions a lot li5e an eBtended
metaphor. $etaphors create and comm%nicate new meanings by p%tting together concepts
drawn from disparate domains of meaning. 7or eBample. the metaphor 8man is a wolf:
comm%nicates something nonCliteral that is not red%cible to an analysis of the component
concepts. 4t wo%ld be impertinent to obJect to the metaphor beca%se h%mans aren<t really
wolves in literal terms. And so it is in comparative philosophyS new philosophical ideas are
created from the synergy and tensive force of crossCc%lt%ral comparisons. As philosophy is
best done dialectically. it follows that comparative philosophy. which is dialectical in the
highest degree. holds s%bstantial promise in this regard.
7or many professional philosophers. comparative philosophy is hard to accept
beca%se it covers more than the traditional. instit%tionaliHed. form%la of philosophy.
spilling over into religion. political science. anthropology. etc. Father than ta5e this as a
problem. 4 see this eBpansion of philosophy as a significant advantage. 9hro%gh
comparative philosophy. the genre 8philosophy: itself is potentially and %sef%lly eBpanded.
9h%s. at its best. comparative philosophy f%nctions as a liberator of a philosophical
tradition from the limitations imposed %pon it by its own past and c%lt%ral conteBt.
So far 4 have been disc%ssing my approach to comparative philosophy in the
abstract. +%t the abstraction lac5s precisely what 4 thin5 demonstrates the pla%sibility of the
approach. namely. the conteBt of a definite philosophical problem or iss%e. 9he charge of
incommens%rability appears to be a m%ch stronger obJection to comparative philosophy
when there is no problematic conteBt. So let me give an ill%stration of what 4 mean by a
problematic approach to comparative philosophy by a very brief reference to one of my
own research proJects in comparative philosophy.
V- An Illustration of a Prolemati/ Approa/h to Comparative Philosophy: s9uarin#
reli#ious e3perien/e 1ith naturalism
7or sometime now. 4 have been eBploring the philosophical viability of a
nat%ralistic theory of religio%s eBperience. 9his inE%iry was motivated by my commitment
to ?ohn ,ewey<s pragmatism and the profo%nd sense that something is missing in life
witho%t religio%s 5inds of meaningIreligio%s in the sense that 4 want answers to the big
eBistential iss%es li5e the incomprehensibility of life. old age. sic5ness and death. 9he
2@
initial cl%e that s%ggested this proJect came from ,ewey<s Art as -;"erience. where he
offers a nat%ralistic interpretation of art as the amplification of meanings within eBperience.
4n that boo5. ,ewey drops the hint that the pattern of aesthetic eBperience co%ld be %sed to
eBplain the emergence of religio%s levels of meaning religio%s eBperience might be
considered as a transformation of meanings more radical still than aesthetic eBperience and
tinged with ethical val%es. +%t ,ewey himself never developed his own s%ggestion. *e
wrote his only maJor wor5 on religion. A Common aith. at abo%t the same time as Art as
-;"erience2 b%t this boo5 mostly criticiHes traditional religio%s instit%tions and offers only
a very vag%e acco%nt of religio%s eBperience. So 4 have ta5en %p the proJect of developing
the nat%ralistic theory of religio%s eBperience where ,ewey left it. 4t has become a proJect
in comparative philosophy beca%se 4 have fo%nd in early +%ddhismIby which 4 mean the
ideas contained in the earliest +%ddhist script%res called the PXli CanonIa religio%s
tradition that shares significant parts of ,ewey<s philosophical approach and on that basis
can provide 5ey concepts and doctrines that a%gment ,ewey<s philosophy regarding the
possibility of religio%s levels of meaning within a philosophical nat%ralism. P%t another
way. the early +%ddhist tradition. which has its own forms of nat%ralism and empiricism.
has something of profo%nd importance to offer to pragmatism in a way that is consistent
with pragmatism<s own philosophical commitments. So the comparative problematic in my
research is to demonstrate that a nat%ralistic theory of religio%s eBperience is at least
concept%ally possible by drawing on two c%lt%rally and temporally disparate traditions.
?ohn ,ewey<s pragmatism and early +%ddhism.
While 4 thin5 there is a m%t%al enrichment that res%lts from a dialog%e between
pragmatism and early +%ddhism. my main interest is in showing that pragmatists who have
not developed a theory of religio%s eBperience have m%ch to gain by st%dying a tradition
li5e early +%ddhism in which the development of religio%s eBperience is the core of the
tradition. Another reason to emphasiHe the +%ddhist a%gmentation of pragmatism rather
than vice versa is d%e to the contingent fact that many of my colleag%es in philosophy are
pragmatists "rather than +%ddhists'. And a s%bstantial n%mber of pragmatists are fran5ly
antagonistic toward religion beca%se they do not see how religio%s eBperience is possible
given their commitments to empiricism and nat%ralism.
While comparative proJects need not depend on pointCbyCpoint agreements between
the traditions compared. there are. in fact. many s%ch agreements between early +%ddhism
2D
and ,eweyan pragmatism. 7or eBample. both traditions are forms of empiricism. both
assert that change and interdependence "not permanence and selfCs%bsistence' are mar5s of
the real. both hold a rich theory of h%man eBperience that gives s%bstantial attention to the
nonCcognitive or affective dimensions of eBperience. both reJect spec%lative metaphysics
on empirical and pragmatic gro%nds. and both philosophies propose theories of h%man
nat%re that deny the eBistence of a permanent essence or so%l. b%t see h%man beings
"incl%ding h%man conscio%sness' as a compleB of dependently arisen nat%ral conditions.
8!at%ralism: and 8religio%s: are two terms that are cr%cial to this proJect and
benefit significantly from the comparative framewor5 that crosses c%lt%ral and historical
bo%ndaries. 9he forms of 8nat%ralism: proposed in ,ewey<s wor5 and early +%ddhism are
both emergentist. that is. nonCred%ctionist. forms of nat%ralism. Emergentist nat%ralism
reJects the red%ctionist position that all of eBistence is red%cible to matterConly as well as
the other eBtreme which says that higher order phenomena li5e h%man conscio%sness
reE%ire reference to a reality or s%bstance that is beyond nat%re. An emergentist nat%ralism
s%ggests that higher order phenomena li5e conscio%sness have contin%ities with biological
and physical phenomena. b%t are not red%cible to themIthat is. where there is a high
degree of compleBity within the str%ct%re of a phenomenon there is the potential for a new
order of E%ality to emerge "for eBample. organic f%nctions o%t of chemical processes. or
mental phenomena from brain processes'. 9he high point of emergentist nat%ralism is the
amplification of eBperience that is art for ,ewey and nibbXna as spirit%al liberation for
early +%ddhism.
4t is obvio%sly tr%e that 8nat%ralism: in early +%ddhism cannot have eBactly the
same meaning as 8nat%ralism: in ,ewey<s philosophyIthe latter being developed within
the concept%al framewor5 of modern science. +%t. within the problematic conteBt. the
different forms of nat%ralism can be seen as complementing one another where they don<t
overlap and this opens %p new possible connections that enrich the concept of nat%ralism.
9h%s. %sing an emergentist version of nat%ralism. reconstr%cted in light of both early
+%ddhism and ,eweyan pragmatism. 4 believe 4 can show that religio%s meaning is
"ossi($e within the bo%nds of s%ch nat%ralism.
Af co%rse. others may obJect to the proJect beca%se of my %se of the word
8religio%s: in connection with nat%ralism. beca%se. for many. 8religio%s: by definition
relates to s%pernat%ral things li5es God or gods. so%ls and heaven. +y that definition of
20
8religio%s.: certainly. nat%ralism and the religio%s wo%ld be m%t%ally eBcl%sive concepts.
beca%se nat%ralism. even of the emergentist sort. r%les o%t s%pernat%ral or transcendent
realities. +%t this definition of 8religio%s: begs the E%estion 4 thin5 o%ght to be as5ed. that
is. whether there is something that can be called religio%s in h%man eBperience that can be
sE%ared with nat%ralism. *ere. again. comparative wor5 on early +%ddhism provides
important reso%rces for a different conception of the term 8religio%s.: Early +%ddhism is
not fo%nded on the s%pernat%ral. and yet its aims are 8religio%s: beca%se it teaches a radical
transformation of the person as a sol%tion to the problems that motivate all religio%s
inE%iry. namely. the s%ffering attendant on old age. sic5ness and death.
9his is not the place to arg%e for the concl%sions 4 have drawn from my research.
b%t 4 sho%ld point o%t that the inE%iry has shown some promise and is certainly not the
dead end described by Forty and others who declare the fr%itlessness of comparative
philosophy. +y comparing early +%ddhism and pragmatism 4 have fo%nd a richer
conception of nat%re. a more highly detailed acco%nt of the emergence of conscio%sness. a
psychology that reJects essentialism and s%pernat%ralism. and have come to see as cr%cial
to the transformation of eBperience the nonCcognitive or affective factors that enter directly
into cognitive modes of eBperience and actions.
3>

While some +%ddhist scholars or ,eweyan scholars may want to arg%e that 4 have
distorted the views of the traditions 4 have appropriated. 4 thin5 s%ch obJections miss the
point. 4 claim only that the +%ddhist or ,eweyan ideas converge to the eBtent that they are
the catalyst for my attempt to b%ild a nat%ralistic theory of religio%s eBperienceS it is not my
claim that what 4 am saying accords eBactly with what the early +%ddhists or ,ewey said.
Af co%rse my interpretation of these traditions m%st be reasonably consistent with the
teachings of the +%ddha and the writings of ,eweyIit wo%ld be inappropriate to attrib%te
an idea to a philosophical tradition that it clearly does not hold.
VI- Some Pra/ti/al Perils of Pursuin# Comparative Philosophy
23
,avid )al%pahana<s boo5. The Princi"$es of Bu!!hist Ps%cho$og% "Albany S#!6 Press.
1G0D' eBplores the +%ddhist theory of conscio%sness by %sing the concept%al framewor5 of
William ?amesS as s%ch. it is a comparative proJect wor5ing in the opposite direction to
mine. borrowing from pragmatism to a%gment and reinterpret early +%ddhism.
2G
Since 4 am recommending that the reader ta5e %p proJects in comparative
philosophy. let me concl%de by mentioning a few of the practical perils of wor5ing in
comparative philosophy. 9hree s%ch perils come to mind and these are especially relevant
for the st%dents reading the essay.
7irst. a comparative philosopher m%st master not one b%t two or more widely
separated philosophical traditions. 9his is not easy. As the literat%re in all fields of
philosophy grows and changes rapidly these days. it is hard eno%gh to develop eBpertise in
one philosophical tradition. let alone two or more. Also. for a comparative philosopher
there o%ght to be a s%bstantial depth of eBpertise regarding the several traditions compared.
!o do%bt. it is very rare to find a philosopher who is eE%ally at home in two civiliHations.
b%t at a minim%m the comparative philosopher m%st be more than a novice in all the
specific traditions that are compared. Where this is not the case the comparative wor5
becomes the easy target of eBperts in the field where scholarship is thinnest. Witness the
case of 7ritJof Capra<s boo5 The Tao of Ph%sics in which Capra demonstrates his eBpert
5nowledge of physics. b%t reveals his wea5 comprehension of Asian traditions by failing to
ac5nowledge the important differences between 9aoism. +%ddhism and Conf%cianism. 7or
this reason. Capra<s wor5 has been severely criticiHed by many Asian philosophers.
Second. eBpertise in 4ndian or Chinese or African philosophical traditions reE%ires
eBtensive training in the lang%age or lang%ages of the relevant teBts. 9here is no way
aro%nd this. &ang%age training is probably the biggest obstacle for aspiring practitioners of
comparative philosophy. Some never develop the reE%isite lang%age s5ills and many of
those who do wind %p deserting philosophy for philology. 4n my recent eBperience at
ABford #niversity. 4 came across n%mero%s eBCphilosophers who were drawn away from
philosophical E%estions by iss%es in Sans5rit and PXli philology. &ang%age st%dy appears to
be a Siren<s song for many wo%ldCbe comparative philosophers. #nfort%nately. many
philologists believe that only philologists have s%fficient lang%age s5ills to interpret and
comment on the meaning of teBts in nonCWestern lang%ages. 4 enco%rage philosophers to
ignore the philologist<s bias and assert their prerogative as philosophers. beca%se
philosophers bring interpretive perspectives and tools to the st%dy of teBts that are often
overloo5ed by philologists. Comparative philosophy will benefit greatly from the
teamwor5 of philosophers and philologistsIb%t so far that has not been the common
practice.
1/
9hird. the comparative philosopher m%st get %sed to the idea of being marginaliHed
or treated li5e an o%tsider by those who foc%s only on one philosophical tradition. 4n my
case. for eBample. altho%gh 4 wrote my doctoral dissertation on ?ohn ,ewey<s pragmatism.
4 don<t participate in ,ewey scholarship to the eBtent that my colleag%es do in the Society
for the Advancement of American Philosophy. &i5ewise. 4 don<t spend all of my research
time 5eeping %p on every new idea in +%ddhist st%dies. as my colleag%es do in that field.
9o wor5 at the c%tting edge of either field. one wo%ld have to concentrate on one tradition
aloneS however. that<s not an option for those engaged in comparative philosophy. +%t. not
to despair. this is a tradeCoff that pays dividends in other ways. +esides. there seem to be
more and more philosophers who are fr%strated with the limitations of c%rrent state of
Western philosophy and who are c%rio%s abo%t other traditions. 4f the wor5 of comparative
philosophers fills these emerging philosophical needs. the field sho%ld soon receive more
of the attention and recognition that comparative philosophy deserves.
11
$ichael G. +arnhart
)ingsboro%ghKC#!6
%The Future of Comparative Philosophy
Even tho%gh comparative philosophy represents a very small part of the overall
academic world. a specialty within a speciality as it were. it nonetheless covers a large
amo%nt of terrain. Especially as a yo%nger scholar 4 feel a very strong sense of limited
eBperience. So. to tac5le a large E%estion abo%t the f%t%re seems a da%nting prospect
indeed. 9he only way that 4 can do this. in all honesty. is to spea5 from my own eBperience
of trying to both %nderstand and advance the scholarly and instit%tional best interests of o%r
discipline.
As an introd%ction and to lay o%t my own preJ%dices. my academic training is primarily
in philosophy. tho%gh since college 4 have had a profo%nd interest in the +%ddhist
philosopher !agarJ%na. 9his interest has lead me thro%gh a st%dy of teBts in many different
varieties of +%ddhism and thence on to the other maJor Asian religioCphilosophical
traditions. Af co%rse. reading widely in this fashion. 4 have had to read in translation.
altho%gh 4 have always tried to read several of the same wor5. And this is an admitted
limitation. 4 haven<t had the time or energy to p%rs%e anything li5e a specialist<s
%nderstanding of the world of s%ch teBts. +%t then 4 have J%stified it in the same way 4 do
my inevitably limited %nderstanding of the Gree5s. 4 am a philosopher. and this is what
philosophers do. 9hey mine for ideas 5nowing f%ll well that there are limitations to the
process.
9h%s. my perspective and interests have always reflected both a sense of the c%rrent
debates percolating thro%gh what we call 8Western: philosophy as well as an awareness of
a vast reservoir of material thro%gh which to refract these concerns. 4 don<t thin5 4<m
%niE%e in feeling that s%ch awareness has offered an enriched philosophical vocab%lary on
the one hand and a 5ind of critical detachment or independence on the other. 6o% can<t help
b%t feel that whatever it is yo%<re dealing withImoral conscio%sness. the mindKbody
problem. tr%th and obJectivityIthere<s always another way of loo5ing at it.
Professionally. in trying to sE%are these vario%s interests and infl%ences 4<ve always
foc%sed on minimiHing the EastKWest iss%e and the sense of inaccessibility that many have
regarding Asian teBts. Personally. 4<ve never felt that sense of barrier. and 4<ve always felt
13
that when it<s nat%ral there sho%ld be no more obstacle towards reaching into the *ind% or
Conf%cian tradition for a handy point than there is towards reaching into the Gree5. or the
German for that matter. 4 really do%bt that we %nderstand the Gree5s as they tr%ly were any
more than we %nderstand the Chinese or ?apanese. We certainly have more stories abo%t the
Gree5s. b%t 4 often feel they have a fairyCtale E%ality. 4<m not s%re 4 wo%ld have felt any
more comfortable with a *egel or a *erder than with a ,ogen or a Shan5ara.
$y interests have always lain in the direction of integrating philosophical teBts. which is
of co%rse different from either l%mping or splitting. 4<m not saying that all traditions
%ltimately have the same message or deal with the same iss%es. or anything of the sort. +%t
there is always concept%al diversity within any given tradition. Given s%ch concept%al
reso%rces. 4 believe that elements within traditions can selectively spea5 to others o%tside
their native tradition. sometimes more easily than they can spea5 to intraCtradition
neighbors. $adhyami5a +%ddhists might very well have fo%nd 7rench deconstr%ctionists a
more receptive a%dience. or perhaps they might have preferred $eister Ec5hart. As a
conseE%ence. 4 have tried in my teaching and writing to both engage with philosophy as 4
have eBperienced its interests and concerns in my own time and my own c%lt%ral conteBt
with as wide a palate of material as possible.
4n effect. 4<ve tried to leave behind the Eastern or Asian on the one side and the Western
or AngloCE%ropean on the other as %sef%l labels and try to do philosophy. So. philosophy
has been comparative for me. b%t not in the sense of comparing and contrasting whole
traditions or civiliHations. b%t in the sense of comparing different philosophical options
when reflecting on problems. Af co%rse. in doing so. one m%st be cogniHant that s%ch
voices do hail from very different places and times as well as civiliHational conteBts. So.
4<m not s%ggesting this is an %nproblematic p%rs%it. +%t 4 am s%ggesting that it is a problem
that isn<t %niE%e to my approach.
4n any case. 4 wo%ld also li5e to s%ggest. in all modesty. that there is a f%t%re in this. 4
thin5 the f%t%re in terms of research and philosophical reflection is fairly clear. b%t 4 believe
there is also a 5ind of instit%tional f%t%re in the sense of defining a p%rpose and program for
this 5ind of comparative philosophiHing. An the one hand. 4 have fo%nd a n%mber of fellow
travelers in the effort to eBpand the range of intellect%al reso%rces available to the scholarly
world. 4 have had the honor of wor5ing on a proJect at Col%mbia #niversity entitled
8EBpanding East Asian St%dies.: 9he foc%s of this gro%p has been to eBpand the presence
1>
of East Asian material. teBts. films. iss%es. and so on within the traditional %niversity
c%rric%l%m. and not J%st in the sense of promoting more East Asian co%rses. A%r intent has
been to inJect this material into traditional history. sociology. political science. or
philosophy c%rric%la. to normaliHe reference to Asian and Western intellect%al and c%lt%ral
voices.
4n a sense. the vision of the f%t%re that this sort of effort offers is a vision where the
Asian or even the comparative drops o%t as a disciplinary category. *owever. this reE%ires
a sortCof paradigm shift both in the way the academy sees o%r wor5 and in the way we
8Asianists: and 8Comparativists: %nderstand o%r scholarship. 9he primary J%stification for
these latter terms is that they indicate the foreign. And as long as we %nderstand the
material we deal with as foreign. nonCWestern. then the iss%e of accessibility and relevance
will contin%e to ha%nt %s. 4t ma5es %s defensive abo%t what we do. perhaps too insistent
that it !oes have a place in the academy. And it ma5es other academics rel%ctant to ta5e this
material on. to feel as comfortable reading and referencing it as they are with the Gree5s.
Af co%rse. 4 am overstating things somewhat in terms of the R%s< and Rthem< aspect. b%t a
sense of ghettoiHation has always ha%nted o%r sense of place and p%rpose. +%t it need not
be that way.
4 thin5 we need to endorse a 5ind of 8cosmopolitanism.: as say artic%lated in )wame
Anthony Appiah<s recent wor5. "See The -thics of *!entit% for eBample.' 7rom a
cosmopolitan point of view. we are all mongrels to some eBtent. all imp%re. and always
borrowing a c%p of s%gar from o%r neighbors. 4t is no longer strange to reach o%t
intellect%ally in the ways that 4 thin5 are generally second nat%re to members of SACP.
9his perspectival adJ%stment addresses the foreign perception that 4 believe wor5s to o%r
detriment. 7%rthermore. it is an adJ%stment that 4 find increasingly evident in the soCcalled
Racademy< itself. After all. my Rhome< disciplinary instit%tion. the American Philosophical
Association. has been attempting to incorporate new perspectivesIAfricanCAmerican.
!ative American. even AsianIfor some time now. And while these attempts still tend to
divide the world along ethnicKc%lt%ral lines. 4 thin5 they represent an opport%nity to ma5e
o%r intellect%al and concept%al reso%rces less foreign and ethniciHed. more approachable.
more cosmopolitan.
12
IV- 2f 23en and ,ait
?ohn $. )oller
Fensselaer Polytechnic 4nstit%te
23&:erdin#
4n my eBperience one of the most effective ways to introd%ce st%dents to Uen is thro%gh the
oBCherding pict%res. 9he ten oBCherding pict%res. along with their verses and
commentaries. depict the stages of practice leading to the enlightenment at which Uen
"Chan' +%ddhism aims. +eca%se they dramatiHe the fact that practice reveals the tr%e self.
showing it to be the ordinary self doing ordinary things in the most eBtraordinary way. they
serve to emphasiHe the importance of practice and also to help overcome the tendency to
reify enlightenment and the enlightened self.
9he story of the oB and oBCherd. separate at first. b%t %nited in the realiHation of the inner
%nity of all eBistence. is an old 9aoist story. %pdated and modified by the twelfth cent%ry
mon5 G%oCan ShiCy%an "also 5nown as )%oCan ShihCy%an or )a5%anCShien'. G%oCan
revised and eBpanded the traditional 9aoist story of the oB and the oBherd by creating a
series of ten images and accompanying verses to sim%ltaneo%sly depict and narrate this
wellC5nown teaching. G%oCan<s version s%bseE%ently became one of the most pop%lar and
end%ring versions of the parable. especially in ?apan. !evertheless. despite the dominance
of G%oCan<s paintings. other Chan and Uen +%ddhists and artists have repeatedly repainted
and retranslated G%oCan<s immortal pict%res and verses thro%gho%t the following cent%ries.
While the ill%strations vary. the verses tend to be either direct or indirect translations of
G%oCan<s original verses. and their message stands %nchanged.
ABCherding is a wonderf%l metaphor that capt%res the importance of being constantly
attentive to o%r eBperience and ta5ing care of o%r mind. 9he oB symboliHes the enlightened
mind which is the %ltimate. %ndivided reality. the +%ddhaCnat%re. which is the gro%nd of all
eBistence. +%t the %nr%ly oB that needs to be tamed and controlled also symboliHes the
del%ded. grasping mind. 9he transformation of the afflicted. del%ded mind into the
11
enlightened mind points dramatically to their %ltimate nonCdifference. capt%red by
*%ineng<s saying. 8,el%ded. a +%ddha is a sentient beingS awa5ened. a sentient being is a
+%ddha.: 9he oBherd symboliHes the self. who initially identifies with the individ%ated
ego. separate from the oB. b%t who. with progressive enlightenment. comes to realiHe the
f%ndamental identity with the %ltimate reality which transcends all distinctions. When this
happens. the oBherd realiHes the %ltimacy of all eBistenceS there is nothing that is not the
+%ddhaCnat%re. *e now %nderstands the precio%sness and prof%ndity of the most ordinary
things of life. ill%minating ordinary living with his enlightenment.
The Ima#es
Altho%gh G%o<an<s images are widely available. 4 prefer the images painted by $aster
Gyo5%sei ?i5ihara while in residence at !ew 6or5<s Uen $o%ntain $onastery in 1G03.
9hey are readily available on the Uen $o%ntain $onastery website
httpKKwww.mro.orgKHmmKHenartsKoBherdinggallery.html.
I- The Sear/h for the 0ull
9he first pict%re shows the oBherd desperately loo5ing everywhere for his lost oB. *e is
dissatisfied with his life. %nable to find the tr%e happiness that he see5s. *is efforts to
sec%re wealth. friends. fame. and pleas%re have not bro%ght him the f%lfillment he is
see5ing. &i5e many of %s. he is see5ing something. tho%gh he is not s%re eBactly what it is.
that will ma5e life meaningf%l and bring him lasting happiness.
II- .is/overin# the Footprints
9he second pict%re shows that the oBherd has now ca%ght sight of the trac5s of the oB.
bringing hope that his oB is not lost forever. 9his co%ld be interpreted to mean that he has
recogniHed his distress and has beg%n to see5 for a sol%tion in the teachings of +%ddhism or
in other teachings. +%t he is still at the stage of thin5ing and tal5ing abo%t his problems and
vario%s possible sol%tions. *e has not yet fo%nd a path to follow and has not yet started to
practice.
1@
III- Per/eivin# the 0ull
4n the third pict%re. the oBherd act%ally catches sight of the oB. !ow. having started to
practice. he glimpses the hidden powers to heal his s%ffering. +%t he does not yet
%nderstand the so%rce of these powers and how to apply them in his search for peace and
contentment. 9he verse. in saying that 84 hear the song of the nightingale.KK9he s%n is
warm. the wind is mild. the willows are green along the shore.: s%ggests that the reality the
oBherd glimpses is not something separate from the ordinary things that he eBperiences.
even tho%gh he does not yet 5now this.
IV- Cat/hin# the 0ull
9he fo%rth pict%re shows that the oBherd has now ca%ght hold of the oB. %sing the bridle of
discipline to control it. 9his symboliHes the rigoro%s discipline reE%ired of the Uen
practitioner. Altho%gh he now realiHes that the power to transform his life lies within
himself. in his +%ddhaCnat%re. all of his previo%s conditionings are p%lling and p%shing
him in different directions. *olding the rope tightly means that he m%st wor5 hard to
overcome his bad habits of the past that developed thro%gh the ignorance. hatred and
craving that gave rise to all of his afflictions.
V- Tamin# the 0ull
9he fifth pict%re shows that disciplined practice can overcome the bad habits of previo%s
conditioning and bring one into accord with the tr%e nat%re of reality. Altho%gh discipline is
still needed beca%se the old habits of mind still have power. living in greater awareness of
the tr%e reality gives one the energy and direction to live a wholesome life. !ow the oB
willingly follows the oBherd home. meaning that the separation between oneself and tr%e
reality is being overcome.
VI- ,idin# the 0ull :ome
1D
9he siBth pict%re s%ggests the tranE%ility and Joy that re%nion with the so%rce of eBistence
bringsS now the oBherd rides on the bac5 of the oB. Joyo%sly playing his fl%te. 9he verse
s%ggests that he has been freed from old fears and anBieties. and that so free. he can now
eBpress his creative energies in celebration of life.
VII- The 0ull Trans/ended
4n the seventh pict%re the oBherd has realiHed his identity with the oBS the oB can be
forgotten. for it is none other than the eBperience of everyday things. 9his can be
interpreted to mean that the separation of practice and realiHation has been overcome. as
has the separation of ordinary reality and the %ltimate reality. #ntil now he has been
practicing meditation as a means of achieving enlightenment. +%t with realiHation of the
nonCd%ality of eBistence comes awareness of the identity of means and endsS practice itself
is realiHation.
VIII- 0oth 0ull and Self Trans/ended
9he eighth pict%re tells %s that when the d%ality of self and reality has been overcome not
only is reality "the oB' forgotten. b%t so is the self "the oBherd'S the circle symboliHes the
allCencompassing emptiness that constit%tes the gro%nd of all things. !ow. in the awareness
of %nceasing transformation and total interconnectedness in every eBperience one is freed
from all craving and hatred for the other. 4n this freedom there is a sense of the wholeness
and perfection of ordinary things.
I;- ,ea/hin# the Sour/e
As the ninth pict%re shows. when self and reality "as constr%cts' are left behind. then things
are revealed to be J%st what they are in themselvesS streams meander on of themselves and
red flowers nat%rally bloom red. 4n the ordinary events of life are fo%nd the most profo%nd
tr%ths. Anly by see5ing the oB as a separate %ltimate reality co%ld the oBherd discover that
there is no separate realityS that the %ltimate is to be fo%nd in the ordinary.
10
;- In the 5orld
7inally. the tenth pict%re shows the enlightened oBherd entering the town mar5etplace.
doing all of the ordinary things that everyone else does. +%t beca%se of his deep awareness
everything he does is E%ite eBtraordinary. *e does not retreat from the world. b%t shares his
enlightened eBistence with everyone aro%nd him. !ot only does he lead fishmongers and
inn5eepers in the way of the +%ddha b%t. beca%se of his creative energy and the radiance of
his life. even withered trees bloom. !ow. having eBperienced enlightenment. he can really
practice the +%ddhaCWay.
Further ,eadin#
Chang. ShenCyen. Hoof"rint of the .;< !ew 6or5 ABford #niversity Press. 3//1.
7letcher. 9enshin and ,avid Scott. 1a% of =en. !ew 6or5 St. $artin<s Press. 3//1. Pages
00C1/>.
)aplea%. Philip. The Three Pi$$ars of =en< !ew 6or5 *arper and Fow. 1G@@. Pages >/1C
>1>.
)oller. ?ohn. Asian Phi$oso"hies2 >
th
e!< #pper Saddle Fiver. !? Prentice *all. 3//1.
See pages 322C31>.
&oori. ?ohn ,aido. Path of -n$ightenment: Stages in a S"iritua$ 8ourne%< $t. 9remper. !6
,harma Comm%nications Press. 1GGG.
$%mon 6amada. 3ectures on the Ten .;her!ing Pictures< 9ranslated by (ictor Sogen *ori.
*onol%l% #niversity of *awaii Press. 3//2.
S%H%5i. ,.9. Manua$ of =en Bu!!hism< !ew 6or5 Grove Press. 4nc.. 1G@/. Pages 13DC122.
1G
?acE%es Amato. the Fabbit
A ,ait4s ,eport
*i. 4<m Fabbit who periodically visits Professor ,r. ,oona%ght. who is a
grandniece of ,r. ,oolittle. or so 4 %nderstand. Aro%nd this time of the year my hind legs
get the itch to hop over to her place. 8*ello. $r. Fabbit.: Professor ,oona%ght warmly
welcomed me. and said. 84n 3//2. nat%ral disasters hit many parts of the world. b%t 4 thin5
the most terrible one was the tsunami that assa%lted the coasts of the 4ndian Acean. wasn<t
it=: 6es. 4 totally agree. 4 said. Professor ,oona%ght contin%ed 86o% 5now. when 4 heard
the news of the tsunami. the first thing that came to my mind was the story narrated by
&afcadio *earn.: So. here is the story.
32
Lafcadio Hearns story
4n a small ?apanese fishing village with a pop%lation of 2//. there lived an old man
*amag%chi Gohei and his grandson. 9ada. Gohei<s 5nowledge and compassion won the
respect of the villagers. who addressed him as grandfather "?iisama'.
4n one lateCs%mmer evening. after a repressively hot and m%ggy day. Gohei. also
5nown as ch?a "8the wealthy old man:'. loo5ed down towards the village and the sea from
his ho%se %p on the hill. (illagers were getting ready to celebrate the riceCharvesting
festival that evening. *e tho%ght to himself on a day li5e this with heavy oppressive
atmospheric press%re. an earthE%a5e tends to happen. 9hen. indeed. a E%a5e shoo5 the
gro%nd. 9he ch?a 8rose to his feet. and loo5ed over the sea. 4t had dar5ened E%ite
s%ddenly. 4t was acting strangely. 4t seemed to be moving against the wind. *t 0as running
a0a% from the $an!.:
Altho%gh he himself had never seen s%ch a phenomenon before. he remembered
what his grandfather had told him. *e %nderstood what the sea was going to do.
8Ta!a@ Auick2 #er% +uick@ 3ight me a torch.: Witho%t losing a second. the old man
ran to his rice field with the torch in hand. 9he water had already been drained from the
32
&afcadio *earn. 8A &iving God.: )$eanings in Bu!!ha:ie$!s "F%tland. (ermont O
9o5yo Charles E. 9%ttle. 1GD1'. pp. 1C30. 4ts first edition was p%blished in 10GD "+oston
*o%ghton. $ifflin'.
@/
rice paddy. All the rice plants were c%t and being dried. ready for the grains to be harvested.
9he old man p%t the torch to each stac5 of rice plants. 9ada. shoc5ed by this sight. ran
down to the village and cried o%t. 8$y grandpa is gone madN *elpN: (illagers noticed fire
and smo5e rising from the hillside. and ran one after another in order to eBting%ish the fire.
Soon. every villager was on the platea%.
9he old man loo5ed to the villagers. then the sea. and sho%ted 8*ere it comesN:
"We shall E%ote *earn in f%ll
89hro%gh the twilight eastward all loo5ed. and saw at the edge of the d%s5y horiHon
a long. lean. dim line li5e the shadowing of a coast where no coast ever was.Ia
line that thic5ened as they gaHed. that broadened as a coastCline broadens to the
eyes of one approaching it. yet incomparably more E%ic5ly. 7or that long dar5ness
was the ret%rning sea. towering li5e a cliff. and co%rsing more swiftly than the 5ite
flies.:
89s%namiN: Shrie5ed the peopleS and then all shrie5s and all so%nds and all power
to hear so%nds were annihilated by a nameless shoc5 heavier than any th%nder. as
the colossal swell smote the shore with a weight that sent a sh%dder thro%gh the
hills. and with a foamCb%rst li5e a blaHe of sheetClightning. 9hen for an instant
nothing was visible b%t a storm of spray r%shing %p the slope li5e a clo%dS and the
people scattered bac5 in panic from the mere menace of it. When they loo5ed again
they saw a white horror of sea raving over the place of their homes. 4t drew bac5
roaring. and tearing o%t the bowels of the land as it went. 9wice. thrice. five times
the sea str%c5 and ebbed. b%t each time with lesser s%rges then it ret%rned to its
ancient bed and stayedIstill raging. as after a typhoon.
31

89hat<s why 4 p%t the fire on the rice plants.: the old man said. brea5ing the silence.
(illagers realiHed that their lives were saved by the old man<s pretending to be mad. 4n an
%nspea5able s%rge of than5s. they 5nelt on the gro%nd before the ch?a and bowed in deep
respect. 9he old man. o%t of relief and now eBha%sted. cried a little. and then said 8$y
ho%se can shelter many people. and the temple over there on the hill can shelter many more
people. Everyone will sleep %nder a roof.:
31
*(i!.. pp. 32C31.
@1
4t too5 many years for the village to recover from the devastation of the tsunami.
b%t they did. And the villagers. in order to eBpress their gratit%de for the old man. who had
lost all of his wealth. b%ilt a shrine and worshipped him as a deity "kami'. 8m%o?in.: the
deity of light.
9his. in short. is *earn<s narration.
atural disasters ! childrens psychological rehabilitation
As the title of *earn<s story. 89he &iving God.: shows. *earn<s main interest in
telling this story was to ma5e sense of the phenomenon of how living h%man beings co%ld
be deified in Shinto. the native religion of ?apan. +%t for %s. perhaps. a more relevant point
is that we may learn from *earn<s story how we co%ld escape from a tsunami or a nat%ral
disaster li5e it. said Prof. ,oona%ght. She f%rther said 84 recently read in a ?apanese paper
that a man by the name of )oJima 9adashi. who had eBperienced the )Ybe earthE%a5e of
1GG1. has been staging a prod%ction of a p%ppet show for children s%ffering from the
psychological tra%ma after the E%a5e. $r. )oJima noticed then that the children. absorbed
in the p%ppet theatre. were cheered %p by the story and smiles ret%rned to their faces. $r.
)oJima saw the potential of p%ppet theatre as a means to impart to children the 5nowledge
of how to protect oneself from nat%ral disasters. 9herefore. $r. )oJima and friends
arranged this story by *earn into a p%ppet play. R7ire on the Fice Plants.< and have been
performing it to children and parents since 3//>. 4n the wa5e of the recent tsunami over the
4ndian Acean. they performed the p%ppet play on the last day of the #.!.Csponsored
international conference on the prevention of nat%ral disasters.
3@
After reading this news.
Prof. ,oona%ght said. 84 was even more eager to bring this story by *earn to the attention
of the people.:
$oreover. Prof. ,oona%ght discovered that *earn<s narration of the tsunami story
has been adapted into a pict%re boo5 for children. entitled the 1a#e. by $argaret *odges
and ill%strated by +lair &ent.
3D
3@
Asahi Shin(un. ?an%ary 33. 3//1 89s%nami ningyYCge5i. se5ai e JYen. 5o5%ren
bYsai5aigi de ShiH%o5a no ge5idan: LA p%ppet play on ts%nami to be performed by the
tro%pe in ShiH%o5a to the entire worldIat the #.!. disaster prevention conferenceM.
According to this newspaper article. *earn based his story on the act%al tsunami disaster
that str%c5 the village of *iro5awa in Wa5ayama Prefect%re in ,ecember 1012.
@3
!ow. it is my t%rn to share my story. $y animal friends told me some heroic deeds
of colleag%es at the time of the tsunami. which 4 now wo%ld li5e to tell yo%.
The tsunami and the instinct of animals
A certain $r. ,an. who trains elephants and r%ns a small to%rist b%siness in a resort
town in so%thern 9hailand. heard his eight elephants ma5e a strange call he had never heard
before on the morning of ,ecember 3@. 3//2. 4t was aro%nd 0 a.m.. the eBact time when
the earthE%a5e occ%rred off the 4sland of S%matra. Abo%t an ho%r later. those elephants
again got eBcited and began to r%sh %p the nearby hill. carrying to%rists on their bac5.
When $r. ,an loo5ed bac5. he saw the wave rising in the offing. 9he elephants %sed their
tr%n5s to pic5 %p the to%rists. who were by then sc%ttling to flee from the E%ic5ly
approaching menace. and placed each one of them on their bac5s. 9han5s to these
elephants. the to%rists managed to escape the danger.
Another piece of news 4 heard was that in a nearby co%nty abo%t 1// water b%ffalos
were leis%rely graHing. 9hen they all loo5ed to the sea and bro5e into a frenHied r%n
towards the hill. (illagers. thin5ing that their b%ffalos were r%nning away. chased their
livestoc5 to the hill. +y the time the wave hit the village. the villagers were all safe on the
hill. witho%t even a scratch.
30
As a rabbit. 4 cannot help b%t feel eBtremely pro%d of my colleag%es for their deedsN
Ahem. we animals have an instinct to perceive imminent physical dangerN
ature as a teacher
*aving heard my story. Prof. ,oona%ght was E%ite impressed and said 8We h%man beings
m%st learn to observe yo%r behavior better. don<t yo% thin5=: She also said that
8%nderstanding: the power of nat%re may be the first step towards averting a nat%ral
disaster. 9hat is. so long as h%man beings inhabit the earth. 8listening to nat%re: is
indispensable for h%manity<s s%rvival. Event%ally. o%r conversation moved on to topics
3D
$argaret *odges. ill%strated by +lair &ent. the 1a#e. "+oston *o%ghton $ifflin
Company. 1G@2'.
30
Asahi Shin(un. ?an%ary >. 3//1. 89s%nami cho5%Hen. HY ga 5an5Y5ya5% nose ta5adai ni.
9ai nanb% de nan nogarer%: LFight before the ts%nami. elephants too5 to%rists on their bac5
to a platea%. to%rists escaped from the disasterM.
@>
s%ch as the problem of global warming. 9here are a lot of things h%manity m%st do
concerning these iss%es. b%t perhaps the most essential thing is to depart from the
worldview that is rooted in economic profitability. Wo%ld the ratification of the )yoto
Protocol. for instance. then even be an iss%e= 4 too5 leave on that note. 9ill neBt time.
Adie%N
@2
V- ,evie1s
7ran5lin Per5ins
,ePa%l #niversity
?ames +eh%nia5 ?r.. Mencius on Becoming Human "Albany. State #niversity of !ew 6or5
Press. 3//2'.
4n Mencius on Becoming Human. ?ames +eh%nia5 provides a comprehensive
reading of the Mencius. ranging from cosmology and metaphysics to familial relations to
h%man ethical development. 9his reading is freE%ently enlightening. sometimes s%rprising.
and consistently interesting. +eh%nia5 displays a thoro%gh 5nowledge of Warring States
teBts and a remar5able ability to draw these together into a coherent perspective on the
Mencius. 9he basic claim of the boo5 is that the early Chinese worldCview is oriented by
processes rather than s%bstances and that the lang%age we %se to disc%ss it sho%ld reflect
this difference. While this basic claim is fairly common. connecting to claims that the early
Chinese worldview is nonCd%alistic and organic. +eh%nia5 is partic%larly thoro%gh in
reconstr%cting its details and applying it to the Mencius. 9his wor5 is done primarily in
chapter one. which arg%es for a common worldCview that eBplicates the str%ct%re of the
world thro%gh transformations and patterns of +i "'. which +eh%nia5 follows $anfred
Por5ert in translating as 8config%rative energy.: 9his config%rative energy ta5es on vario%s
arrangements or shapes. which in their partic%larity infl%ence b%t do not determine
s%bseE%ent changes
Given that fact that no shape is imm%table in this cosmology. shape m%st be
considered not as the fiBed Rnat%re< of a thing b%t rather as the momentary
cons%mmation of an ongoing processIone that is. in itself. the dynamic
starting point for the neBt phase of transformation. Shape. then. is
something that indicates a Rdisposition< rather than a fiBed Rnat%re.< +y
virt%e of ca%sal propensity "shi '. the Rdisposition< of any config%ration
@1
iss%es spontaneo%sly into feat%res that both define and reconfig%re the
traJectory of its disc%rsive formation.
3G

4n establishing this worldview. +eh%nia5 draws on a n%mber of early teBts. incl%ding
=huangzi. Dao De 8ing. and Bi 8ing. as well as the recently %nearthed G%odian bamboo
strips. *e ties these together nicely with a disc%ssion of 9ang ?%nyi<s 8EBposition on the
#niE%e )ind of +asic Spirit in Chinese C%lt%re.:
9his placement of the Mencius in a broader conteBt is one of the greatest strengths
of this boo5. and reflects one of +eh%nia5<s greatest s5ills as an interpreter. his insistence
on conteBt and contin%ity. emphasiHing that the Mencius sho%ld ma5e sense in the broader
conteBt of Warring States tho%ght and that its ethical and political views cannot be isolated
from its "and o%r' metaphysical ass%mptions. 9he diffic%lty. as he admits. lies in
discovering what these metaphysical ass%mptions were. partic%larly in Conf%cian teBts that
rarely disc%ss ontology. Some readers may obJect to reading the Mencius in the conteBt of
the =huangzi and the Bi 8ing. b%t +eh%nia5<s interpretation is strengthened by placing
$enci%s in a narrower conteBt as well. that of SiC$eng tho%ght. which refers to a line of
Conf%cian tho%ght r%nning thro%gh Uisi to $enci%s. $enci%s has long been associated
with the )reat 3earning "Da Cue' and Doctrine of the Mean "=hong Bong'. b%t most
Chinese scholars have ta5en the G%odian teBts as s%pporting this lin5age and filling o%t one
line of Conf%cian tho%ght. +eh%nia5 is the first person in English to %se these materials
eBtensively to inform the Mencius. and this is one of the great val%es of his boo5. Altho%gh
the reconstr%ction of $enci%s<s own cosmological and metaphysical views necessarily
remains spec%lative. +eh%nia5 rightly concl%des that the b%rden of proof lies with those
who want to read the Mencius as discontin%o%s with this broader conteBt. *e nicely
s%mmariHes the place of his own interpretation
9o those acc%stomed to a more generic reading of h%man development in
the Mencius. the arg%ment ahead might be anticipated as radical. 4 feel.
however. that what follows is the more conservative reading. 9o read the
notion of h%man development as endCdriven in the Mencius is to present
$enci%s as a tr%ly revol%tionary theorist of Rh%man nat%re< in classical
China. 4 am not prepared or inclined to arg%e s%ch a radical interpretation.
29
?ames +eh%nia5. Mencius on Becoming Human "Albany State #niversity of !ew 6or5
Press. 3//1'. p. G.
@@
9he following assessment is more modest. 4 maintain that $enci%s is
wor5ing within the parameters of certain commonly held ass%mptions
ass%mptions abo%t botanical growth. transformation. development. and
abo%t the behavior of Rconfig%rative energy< "+i '.
>/
9his broader conteBt serves to establish a more partic%lar point. concerning the
nat%re and f%nction of h%man ;ing. often translated as 8h%man nat%re.: b%t translated by
+eh%nia5 as 8dispositions.: 7ollowing the framewor5 set %p in chapter one. ;ing is ta5en
as a conJ%nction of forces which are inherently active. th%s res%lting in determinate
dispositions. 9his ;ing is not the instantiation of some %niversal Ressence< and th%s does not
inherently contain an end which can be act%aliHed or fallen short of. 4t is generated in a
concrete conteBt that is partly biological b%t also social. historical. and c%lt%ral. and it
develops thro%gh interaction with this conteBt. +eh%nia5 s%mmariHes
Father than entailing the notion of a fiBed Rnat%re.< 4 maintain that this
cosmology more readily sponsors the notion of dynamic Rdispositions< that
Rta5e shape< in transaction with formative conditions and iss%e into %niE%e
E%alities over the span of their development.
>1
+eh%nia5 develops his interpretation of ;ing first by eBamining these dispositions as they
emerge in feelings. which have a direction or disposition inseparable from the conteBt in
which they emerge and develop. 4n chapter three. he moves to consider the most important
conteBt for the most important feelingsIthe family. While it is common to point o%t the
importance of family in Conf%cian tho%ght. this chapter is the most thoro%gh acco%nt 4
have fo%nd of 0h% the family is so central and how the centrality of family among ethical
concerns is integrated with the importance of family as the conteBt from which these
concerns emerge at all.
Chapters fo%r and five wor5 o%t how this fo%ndation in the family eBtends into
ethical development. Some of +eh%nia5<s claims in these chapters will be controversial.
partic%larly the arg%ment that ;ing is not primarily biological and %niversal b%t rather
prod%ced thro%gh c%lt%re and family. b%t his claims are well s%pported and diffic%lt to
disp%te. *is fresh orientation toward the Mencius leads to many insightf%l interpretations.
30
ibid.. p. BB.
31
ibid.. p. BBi.
@D
often ill%minating passages that tend to be neglected. 7or eBample. in a disc%ssion with
ChanBiang. who had become a follower of Z%Bing<s ideology of simple agrarianism.
$enci%s gives a history of his own c%lt%re that incl%des
People have a daoIif they eat their fill and wear warm clothes. resting at
home b%t are witho%t ed%cation. then they are close to animals. 9he sage
had concern for this. and made Zie minister to them. teaching them the
h%man relations father and son have familial affection. sovereign and
minister have rightness. h%sband and wife have distinction. old and yo%ng
have order. and friends have sincerity. ">A2'
>3
+eh%nia5 emphasiHes that $enci%s here proJects a time when even the most basic
responses of o%r ;ing. feelings between family members. did not eBist and that h%man
beings were then close to animals. According to this passage. the most basic conteBt
necessary for the appearance and development of h%man feelings was c%lt%rally instit%ted.
*e concl%des
9he ChanBiang episode wo%ld s%ggest that the h%man disposition. if
%nderstood in terms of germinal. moral sensibilities rooted in one<s family
%pbringing. is %nderstood by $enci%s more as a historical. genealogical
inheritance than as a genetic or biological one.
>>
9his is J%st one of many eBamples in which +eh%nia5<s reading prompted me to see things
in the Mencius that 4 had not previo%sly noticed or ta5en serio%sly. Even if one remains
%ltimately %nconvinced by the basic arg%ment of the boo5. these insights ma5e it necessary
reading for anyone interested in the Mencius.
While the main foc%s of Mencius on Becoming Human is on the Mencius. it is also
clearly intended as a contrib%tion to a methodology for interCc%lt%ral philosophy. where the
greatest danger is accidentally importing o%r own ass%mptions into the foreign teBt.
Perhaps the nicest application of this approach is to o%r %nderstanding of botanical
metaphors. While most interpreters agree that these metaphors play a central role in the
Mencius. +eh%nia5 is the first person 4 5now of to eBplicitly raise what sho%ld have been
an obvio%s E%estionIwhat conception of plant life is at wor5 in these metaphors= *e
32
$y translation. based on ?iao Z%n. Mengzi =heng%i "+eiJing Uhongh%a Sh%J%. 1G0D'.
33
+eh%nia5. p. D@.
@0
arg%es that most interpreters have %nconscio%sly ta5en a certain view of plants for granted.
relying largely on Aristotelian ass%mptions. and that this interpretation does not fit the
conteBt of Warring States tho%ght. Fegardless of whether or not one accepts +eh%nia5<s
answer to the E%estion. the E%estion he raises m%st be addressed and the significance of the
metaphors cannot be ta5en for granted.
9his concern for methodology manifests itself most clearly in a concern for
translation. which again points to +eh%nia5<s foc%s on contin%ity and conteBtIwe cannot
separate the words we %se from the metaphysical conteBts in which they arise. 7ollowing
the wor5 of ,avid *all and Foger Ames. +eh%nia5 arg%es that differences between
classical Chinese and E%ropean metaphysical and cosmological views ma5e the %se of
E%ropean philosophical terms dangero%s and misleading. *e foc%ses his criticism
partic%larly on the importation of an Aristotelian vocab%lary into the Mencius. $any of his
own translations are s%rprising and probably controversial. for eBample. translating ;in
"%s%ally 8heartKmind:' as 8feelings.: tian "%s%ally 8*eaven:' as 8forces.: and !ao as 8most
prod%ctive co%rse.: 9hese translations can be disorienting and even fr%strating for someone
familiar with other translations. b%t this disorientation cannot b%t be a good thingIwhy do
we p%rs%e interc%lt%ral philosophy if not to render the familiar and obvio%s more strange
and disorienting= At the very least. the iss%es of translation raised by +eh%nia5 m%st be
addressed and ta5en serio%sly. S%rely he is right that translating ;ing as 8nat%re: has
misleading connotations. Similarly. there are clear dangers in applying an Aristotelian
vocab%lary that arose thro%gh a distinction between potential and act%al being and a
derivation of teleology from the striving of all things to imitate the eternal. both of which
have no place in early Chinese tho%ght. At the same time. there s%rely is some val%e in
maintaining a vocab%lary consistent with earlier translations. and one might pla%sibly arg%e
that the interests of interc%lt%ral philosophy are served by bringing a teBt li5e the Mencius
into the terms of E%ropean philosophy in order to allow for dialog%e. as. for eBample. those
wor5ing on an interc%lt%ral approach to virt%e ethics have done. At root. one basic E%estion
emerges from +eh%nia5<s concern with translationIcan terms developed in a s%bstance
oriented E%ropean philosophy be s%fficiently stripped of those connotations in order to be
%sed in disc%ssing Chinese philosophy= 4f they can. then there is some practical good in
doing so. b%t if they cannot. we m%st develop a more radical vocab%lary. 9he dilemma is
essentially that same as that faced by the ?es%it missionaries who debated whether or not
@G
Shang!i co%ld be %sed to translate Deus. 9he persistence of this dilemma s%ggests that no
simple answer lies on one side or the other. b%t in str%ggling to find some middle gro%nd
between them. 9his str%ggle to wor5 o%t an appropriate English vocab%lary for disc%ssing
Conf%cianism clearly remains a long way from resol%tion. b%t in any case. +eh%nia5 ma5es
a val%able contrib%tion to that str%ggle.
4n short. Mencius on Becoming Human is essential reading for anyone interested in
%nderstanding early Conf%cian tho%ght and will be of great val%e for anyone interested in
comparative or interc%lt%ral philosophy more broadly.
D/
?eanne $arie )%sina
+owling Green State #niversity
*iroshi !ara. The Structure of Detachment: the Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shz "*onol%l%
#niversity of *awaiQi Press. 3//2'. Pp. B [ 101. *ardcover \>0.//. Paper \1@.//.
9he centerpiece of The Structure of Detachment is *iroshi !ara<s translation of
)%5i Sh]HY<s *ki no KYzY. 6et !ara<s vol%me also contains a good deal more to interest
both seasoned )%5i scholars as well as newcomers to this intrig%ing wor5. 4n addition to
the eBplanatory remar5s that introd%ce i5i to the contemporary reader and provide a
conteBt%al bac5gro%nd to )%5i<s tho%ght. three critical essays have also been incl%ded to
reeBamine this teBt in a fresh light. 9hese essays. written by !ara. ?. 9homas Fimer. and
?on $ar5 $i55elsen. provide tho%ghtf%l commentaries on )%5i<s historical and
philosophical legacy.
!ara opens the boo5 by presenting a brief acco%nt of the i5i sensibility. defined
loosely as an 8%rbane. pl%c5y. stylishness: that emerges as a fashionable yet reserved way
of life in early eighteenthCcent%ry Edo "p. 1'. Altho%gh the elegant coE%ettishness of i5i has
garnered comparisons to E%ropean dandyism. the resemblance remains s%perficial at best.
4ndeed. as !ara asserts. )%5i<s aim is to present the social and c%lt%ral phenomena of i5i in
s%ch a way as to convey its spirit within the conteBt of Western aesthetic terms while still
preserving its %niE%e and irred%cibly ?apanese character. FealiHing that i5i is more than
merely a concept that can be described by words and is instead something lived. a 8mode
of being.: )%5i ma5es %se of *eideggerean hermene%tics as his bridge between the two
worlds "p. 2'. 7aced with the in%ndation of Western modernism that prevailed in the time
shortly prior to p%blication in 1G>/. it is thro%gh this hermene%tic approach that he
attempts to give voice to the eBperience of i5i in a way that is both a%thentic to the past yet
germane to the c%lt%re of his day. 7ollowing *eidegger<s methodology. )%5i depicts i5i as
having a historicity of +eing which is not simply that of a bygone tradition. b%t one that
contin%es to s%rvive as an ethnically specific aesthetic.
4t is no s%rprise. then. that the first section of )%5i<s Structure of *ki begins with a
disc%ssion of meaning. lang%age. and the inability to %niversaliHe certain partic%larities.
9hat is. tho%gh we may draw comparisons between i5i and nonC?apanese aesthetic notions.
D1
there will always be an element of i5i that remains %ntranslatable. 45i is described by )%5i
as a 8phenomenon of conscio%sness: that resists encaps%lation by eidetic terms "p. 10'.
*ence. )%5i t%rns his attention to the obJective eBpressions of i5i in the clothing.
hairstyles. artistry and architect%re created by its Edo55o adherents. 4n these eBpressions.
the inherent sophistication of i5i is eBhibited by three main characteristics a romantically
inclined (itai or ^coE%etry^ that see5s the conE%est "if not f%lfillment' of romantic desire. a
8brave compos%re^ of iki?i modeled after the +%shido way of the samurai. and finally. a
+%ddhist element of detached akirame or 8resignation: which %ltimately distances a person
from attachment to worldly concerns. +ased %pon this intensional str%ct%re. i5i may be
tho%ght of as the lived eBperience of the interplay between these relations. 4t is a way of
being in the world that may be sharply contrasted with all that is v%lgar. %nrefined. or
otherwise fails to realiHe the delicate s%btleties of its definitive taste.
!ara later reproaches )%5i. seemingly correctly. for ta5ing too m%ch liberty with
his ling%istic interpretations in order to ma5e some imaginative etymological leaps. A
similar s%spicion arises in regard to )%5i<s eBha%stive consideration of all things i5i.
complete with a threeCdimensional prismatic diagram and an analysis of horiHontal vers%s
vertical stripes. An a related note. it is in addressing )%5i<s detailed presentation that one
of the boo5<s strengths may also be one of its wea5nesses. !amely. altho%gh )%5i<s
references are s%pported by copio%s eBplanatory endnotes and ill%strations. they are
inconveniently positioned in the middle of the vol%me. 9he res%lt is an ongoing. and at
times tedio%s. process of sh%ffling bac5 and forth between sections. 9his fr%stration is a
shame. given that many of these notes are E%ite informative and sho%ld not be overloo5ed.
)%5i concl%des by reemphasiHing that the nat%re of his proJect is meant to display
i5i not as something red%cible to its parts "referred to as a series of el%sive. revelatory
8concept%al moments:' b%t as a mode of access to the eBperience of meaning in ?apanese
life "p. 11'. 4n this regard. his words are to be employed solely as a g%ide and it wo%ld be
8a grave error: to thin5 that one can comprehend i5i in its entirety simply by st%dying its
obJective manifestations "p. 1@'.
Given the prominence of the hermene%tic approach thro%gho%t The Structure of *ki.
a 5ey foc%s of the ens%ing response essays in Section 9wo is the association between )%5i
and *eidegger. ,espite their m%t%al admiration. famo%sly doc%mented in *eidegger<s A
Dia$ogue on 3anguage. !ara asserts that it is misg%ided to pres%me that this relationship
D3
J%stifiably overshadows the broader range of engagement that )%5i held with other Western
thin5ers. Perhaps less ac5nowledged b%t potentially more significant. !ara believes. are
)%5i<s eBchanges with *%sserl and +ergson. 4t is +ergson who is ac5nowledged early in
the boo5 and with whom )%5i seems to have a gen%ine affinity in regard to considerations
of memory and time. $oreover. strands of +ergsonian tho%ght are especially evident in
)%5i<s attempts to develop an %nderstanding of i5i as something eBperientially meaningf%l
and contin%o%sly present over time.
Ather potentially 7rench facets of )%5i<s tho%ght are ta5en %p and eBpanded %pon
in 8&iterary Stances.: the s%bseE%ent contrib%tion by ?. 9homas Fimer. ,eparting from
philosophical connections. Fimer see5s to disclose the literary infl%ences that may have
played a part in shaping )%5i<s a%thorial style. Comparisons are made between )%5i<s
treatment of i5i and similarities fo%nd in Alain<s playf%l writing techniE%e. Stendhal<s
c%lt%ral commentary. and +a%delaire<s dandyism. Altho%gh some correlations are more
spec%lative than others. Fimer<s essay provides a glimpse into the personal side of )%5i<s
professional activities.
4n the boo5<s final essay. 8Feading )%5i Sh]HY<s The Structure of $ki in the Shadow
of &Qaffaire *eidegger.: ?on $ar5 $i55elsen res%mes the debate s%rro%nding the
appropriate degree to which )%5i may be lin5ed with *eidegger. While he is caref%l not to
deny the obvio%s. prevailing infl%ence *eidegger<s phenomenology had on )%5i<s wor5.
$i55elsen nevertheless conc%rs with !ara that the eBtent of their philosophical 5inship
sho%ld not be overstated. 7irst. $i55elsen arg%es that a comparison between *eidegger<s
.rigin of the 1ork of Art and )%5i<s Structure shows that the two thin5ers differ
dramatically in their perceptions on art and. f%rthermore. that )%5i<s wor5 %ltimately ta5es
his hermene%tic approach in a separate direction than that of his mentor "p. 11@'. Secondly.
$i55elsen calls attention to the disservice that is done to )%5i by attempting to read his
wor5 as tho%gh it were being filtered thro%gh the lens of a *eideggerean perspective. !ot
only does this %nfairly diminish )%5i<s stat%re as an innovative thin5er in his own right.
$i55elsen claims that it s%bJects )%5i<s wor5 to inacc%rate interpretations and.
conseE%ently. %nwarranted criticisms. $ost damaging. he contends. is that a combination
of these factors has led to erroneo%s allegations that )%5i<s ardor for a distinctly ethnic
aesthetic can be viewed as comparable to *eidegger<s involvement with !ational
Socialism and. in addition. as a contrib%ting ca%se to the rise of imperialist totalitarianism
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in 1G>/s ?apan. $i55elsen maintains that there is no s%bstantial evidence to s%ggest that
)%5i held any s%ch political motivations. Father. the more acc%rate concl%sion seems to be
that )%5i<s obJective is to ill%minate the eBperience of the i5i sensibility and assert the
val%e of its c%lt%ral partic%larity so that i5i might be recogniHed and appreciated on a global
level.
)%5i remained loyal to *eidegger and. in the years following his ret%rn home.
contin%ed to advance *eidegger<s ideas with ?apanese a%diences. !onetheless. the caveats
against reading )%5i<s wor5 primarily as the prod%ct of eBternal infl%ences sho%ld be
heeded. +y reaffirming the independent standing of The Structure of *ki and the importance
of )%5i<s aesthetic vision. $i55elsen<s observations bring !ara<s boo5 to a satisfying
close.
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VI- Ne1s and Announ/ements
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