Fung Yu-lan has suggested that Chinese philosophers have been unreceptive to modern science. This suggestion, however, has not been substantiated. This essay is an attempt to provide a justification of Fung’s assertion through an existential analysis of the Chinese concepts of nature. The essay will examine Chinese existential concerns prevailing in Daoism and Confucianism, and these systems’ distaste for the type of scientific study which has become prevalent in the modern world. I also intend to defend the claim that the ultimate concern of the Zhuangzi and the Zhongyong is completely contrary to the one that sustains modern science. A brief comparative discussion between Xu Guangqi and Galileo Galilei will be used to support this claim. My discussion will raise the contention that, to have a better understanding of the development of modern science in China, we have to understand the attitude toward religion that has underpinned modern science.
This paper examines two notions of possibility conceived by Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi respectively. Kierkegaard conceives of it with appeals to the feeling of anxiety, while Zhuangzi deals with it in terms of a type of aesthetic feeling. Based on these distinctions, the paper goes further to explore two types of human existence as fostered by these two corresponding concepts of possibility. According to Kierkegaard, in order to maintain a connection with possibility, which would provide freedom to human existence, one must have faith in the redeemer bringing back possibility so that an individual human being might renew his or her choice ceaselessly. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, advises staying in the realm of nothingness and letting go of all things to avoid being trapped by the struggle of discerning between good and evil.
The model of universal values and civilizational transformation, on the one hand, and the model of core values and self awareness, on the other, represent two fundamentally opposing paradigms of dialogue among civilizations. In practice, the former represents an attempt to present the core values of Western civilization as universal values and to demand that non-Western civilizations assimilate to these so-called universal values. Thus the promotion of universal values runs the risk of exacerbating intercivilizational conflict and preventing non-Western civilizations from achieving a deep understanding of the core values of their cultures, even concealing the shortcomings of their own value systems. The paradigm of core values and self awareness, by contrast, emphasizes the importance of retaining innate values and ethics, allowing civilizations to evaluate and update their own value systems as needed. We would therefore do well to adopt core values and self-awareness as the dominant model for dialogue among civilizations.
There were two prevailing sentiments in Europe after the Reformation: One opposing papal authority and one advocating individual freedom. This paper analyzes these two sentiments and finds that the concept of conscience is crucial in understanding them. The issue of conscience is about judging truth and good, and in initiating the Reformation, Martin Luther heavily appealed to his conscience while countering Catholic attacks. With the wide dispersal of the Reformation, Luther’s notion of conscience was well received among his supporters throughout Europe. Descartes later transformed Luther’s conscience into an epistemological being (the cogito), and argued that its existence was the only valid thing that survived his thorough skepticism — and as such is the foundation of human knowledge. Rousseau continued this line of thinking, which we call subjectivism, and re-employed the term conscience as a replacement for cogito, holding that conscience is the final authority in judging good and bad; that, as the starting point of human existence, it cannot be withheld from any human being; and that it therefore constitutes an inalienable human right. This paper argues that the Enlightenment was a subjectivist movement propelled by this conscience-cogito-conscience conceptualization, and that it sought to enlighten this inalienable conscience.
This essay attempts to compare Kant’s better man and the Confucian junzi in the Zhongyong, and argues that Kant’s idea of the better man, which expresses human self-improvement in ultimate freedom, is in fact a conception very similar to that of the Confucian junzi, which denotes an ideal human being in cheng. Kant attributes the lack of emphasis on self-improvement in Western culture to the Christian conception of grace, and demonstrates the possibility of self-improvement on the ground of ultimate freedom. We may call this treatment “the Confucian solution” in Kant’s thought. My intention is to explicate the conceptual commonality between the better man and the junzi and demonstrate the Confucian element in Kant’s religious thought.