The status of cosmic principle (li) in neo-confucian metaphysics

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 32 (3):391-407 (2005)
Abstract
In this paper, I attempt to make use of Western metaphysical taxonomy to explicate the cosmological variances in Chinese philosophical schools, especially with regard to the debates among the Neo-Confucian thinkers. While I do not presume that Chinese philosophers dealt with the same Western issues, I do believe that a comparative study of this nature can point to a new direction of thinking concerning the metaphysical debates in Neo-Confucianism. This paper is divided into three parts. In Part I, I employ Robert Nozick’s notion of natural cosmic state to analyze the fundamental difference between the Confucian and Daoist cosmologies. Even though this notion of natural cosmic state has no comparable match in Chinese philosophy, it may serve as a schematizing device for our comparative study of Chinese cosmology. In Part II, I employ Nicholas Rescher’s distinction between “laws of nature” and “laws for nature” to analyze the debate on the status of cosmic principle (li)a between Zhou Dunyib and Zhu Xic on the one hand, and Zhang Zaid and Wang Fuzhie on the other. 1 In Part III, I employ the notion of supervenience, as defined by Jaegwon Kim, to argue that in the debate on the status of cosmic principle, it is Zhang Zai and Wang Fuzhi’s view that better preserves the causal relevance of cosmic principle..
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