Some Opinions on the Task of Studying the History of Chinese Philosophy

Contemporary Chinese Thought 12 (4):37-47 (1981)
Abstract
Upon delving into Chinese philosophy I have come to realize that Chinese philosophy is indeed rich and comprehensive, even though Chinese philosophy and the history of Chinese philosophy are different from the history of Western philosophy. Although Western society and Chinese society follow common laws, each has its own distinctive characteristics. Similarly, while Western philosophy and Chinese philosophy likewise follow common laws, each has its own distinctive characteristics. The scope of the history of Chinese philosophy cannot be determined by that of Western philosophy, nor can the scope of Western philosophy be determined by that of Chinese philosophy. The most outstanding periods of Western philosophy have been the ancient and modern periods. The most outstanding period of Chinese philosophy was that of the Spring and Autumn era through the early Qing period. This was due to the differences between the two societies. In the West, both the slave system and the bourgeois revolution were much more highly developed than they were in China. China had a brilliant feudal culture and subsequently China's brilliant feudal philosophy simply had a different style from that of Western philosophy. I remember that Comrade Hou Wailu came to the following conclusion: that the style of the Western philosopher was that of a wise man [zheren], while the style of the Chinese philosopher was that of a worthy man [xianren], My impressions are similar. Western philosophers usually discussed the problems of cognition and knowledge, while Chinese philosophers usually talked and wrote about questions of politics and ethics. What they have had in common is the fact that both have discussed only the general or universal laws of nature, society, and human thought. This Marxist definition of philosophy has held true both in the East and in the West. It is said that Ridannov defined the history of philosophy as being the history of the beginnings and development of materialism. Not having his works at hand, I cannot substantiate this. But I feel that such a definition is rather narrow. The history of philosophy should discuss the history of the development of man's knowledge of nature, society, and human thought, including both the history of the rise and development of materialism and the history of the rise and development of idealism. Only by interweaving the two can we arrive at a full history of philosophy. I do not know whether or not such an understanding on my part is correct. In any case, I have to write in accordance with my own understanding; otherwise I could not write at all
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