The love of wisdom carries a certain absurdity. What kind of animal falls into a hole while contemplating the sky, or stands outside all night, just thinking? When Plato and Aristotle say that philosophy begins in wonder, it sounds attractive – wonderful even – but it is in those moments of contemplative wonder that the lion snatches us, or someone walks off with our backpack.
This essay argues that the “Heng Xian” bridges between two distinct discourses that were both prevalent in the late fourth century. One discourse focused on the origination of the natural world through a spontaneous process of differentiation, a position familiar from the Daodejing and “Tai yi sheng shui.” The other focused on the specific ways in which different kinds of things live, a position known primarily from Ru discussions centering on the concept of xing 性, the nature or spontaneous reactions (...) of a particular kind of thing. The “Heng Xian” attempts to account for the specificity of human life—including language and social organization—while remaining within a naturalistic view grounded in spontaneity. The essay concludes by reflecting on what the “Heng Xian” tells us about the status of human institutions. (shrink)
One of the challenges facing Continental Philosophy is how to maintain its identity as “Continental” (and thus as “European”) while avoiding the dangers of Euro-centrism. This challenge calls for many approaches, but one entry point is through the question of Europe—can we think a European identity that is pluralistic and radically open to its others, a Europe that is not Euro-centric? Rodolphe Gasché, in his recently published Europe, or the Infinite Task: A Study of a Philosophical Concept (Stanford 2009), articulates (...) just such a concept of Europe, providing careful studies of Husserl, Heidegger, Patočka, and Derrida, as well as his own insights. In spring of 2009, the Department of Philosophy at DePaul University invited Prof. Gasché for a discussion of Europe, or the Infinite Task. Peg Birmingham and Franklin Perkins presented papers engaging and responding to the book, and Rodolphe Gasché subsequently offered his response. The three essays are published together here, with slight revisions but retaining their original character as a dialogue. We hope that the lively debate they express will serve to stimulate further discussion of the relationships among philosophy, Europe, and openness to others. (shrink)
Europe and the Question of Philosophy: A Response to Rodolfe Gasché, Europe, or the Infinite Task Content Type Journal Article Pages - Authors Franklin Thomas Perkins, Department of Philosophy, DePaul University Journal Comparative and Continental Philosophy Online ISSN 1757-0646 Print ISSN 1757-0638 Journal Volume Volume 3 Journal Issue Volume 3, Number 1 / 2011.
One could define a “tragic” viewpoint in many ways, but its core is the claim that things in this world do not always work out for the best. Probably the greatest tragic figure in the Zhuangzi is the defiant praying mantis, who waves her arms to fend off the oncoming chariot. This praying mantis is surely a symbol of Confucius, who was said in the Lun Yu to know that what he does is impossible but to do it anyway. In (...) the Zhuangzi, such characters are fools, not heroes. While the view of life in the Zhuangzi is certainly not an optimistic trust that virtue is rewarded, it is just as surely not a tragic text. It tends rather toward comedy or play. This paper will examine the Zhuangzi in relationship to the tragic. The underlying claim is that the Zhuangzi’s rejection of the optimism of an anthropocentric universe is more radical than tragedy and helps reveal how a tragic viewpoint remains under the sway of an anthropocentric European tradition. Ultimately, pessimism and optimism both assume the validity of human categories, but this is precisely what is attacked in the Zhuangzi. Ironically, it is precisely the unique flexibility of human beings that allows us not just to recognize the insignificance of our goals and values in the world (seeing our situation as tragic) but to accept and take up that insignificance (seeing it rather as comic). The paper concludes with some reflections on why Zhuangzi’s position is both attractive and disturbing. (shrink)
T he nine papers of this Supplement on these significant issues and important ideas are closely accentuated and critically discussed by well-established specialists, philosophers and historians, from various relevant disciplines of study.
In both content and historical position, the “ Xing Zi Ming Chu ” is of obvious significance for understanding the development of classical Chinese philosophy, particularly Confucian moral psychology. This article aims to clarify one aspect of the text, namely, its account of human motivation. This account can be divided into two parts. The first describes human motivation primarily in passive terms of response to external forces, as emotions arise from our nature when stimulated by things in the world. The (...) second comes from the role of the heart, which takes a more active role in shaping our responses to the world. This article focuses on the role of the heart. At stake is the status of human agency, in particular, the degree to which the heart, through the formation of a stable intention, allows us to go beyond being simply pulled along by external forces. (shrink)
READING LEIBNIZ. Context of Leibniz's philosophy -- Difficulties of reading Leibniz -- Using this book -- GOD AND THE BEST POSSIBLE WORLD. Two principles of knowledge -- The existence of god -- The nature of God -- The best of all possible worlds -- SUBSTANCES. Substance in early modern philosophy -- The simplicity and unity of substance in Leibniz -- Substances as points of view on the universe -- Interaction and pre-established harmony -- RATIONAL MINDS. Minute perceptions and levels of (...) awareness -- Necessary truths and innate ideas -- Knowledge -- identity and choice -- LEIBNIZ'S PHILOSOPHY AND LEIBNIZ AS PHILOSOPHER . (shrink)
If the problem of evil is one of justifying how a perfect God could create evil, then there is no problem of evil in early Chinese thought, but my claim in this paper is that the problem of evil is one manifestation of a deeper problem, which is the conflict between the world and human values and desires. This deeper problem appears in early Chinese thought in ways analogous to the problem of evil in theistic traditions. Daoists respond to this (...) problem with a call to harmonize with heaven by overcoming conventional values and desires. Mencius, a Confucian, offers a more complex response, in which it is natural to cultivate virtue and certain desires even though nature itself is indifferent to them. My paper focuses on this Confucian response. (shrink)
At first glance, the problem of evil has little place in Chinese thought.Â At least two assumptions associated with the classical European problem of evil are foreign to a Chinese context.Â If we take the term â€œevilâ€ in contrast to the merely â€œbad,â€ that is, if we give evil ontological status as a real force, then classical Chinese thinkers have no conception of evil, and thus no need to account for its origin.Â The second assumption connected to the problem of (...) evil is Godâ€™s creation of the world ex nihilo.Â If God is the total and complete cause of all that exists, God must be responsible for everything, including the bad things.Â Without a conception of creation ex nihilo, early Chinese thinkers need not attribute evil to any divine being.Â Even in a European context, though, requiring a conception of evil as a positive force and the creation of the world ex nihilo defines the problem of evil too narrowly.Â Most thinkers in the European tradition responded to the problem of evil by denying the ontological status of evil.Â Those who maintained the benevolence of God denied his creation of evil by equating evil with nothingness or lack.Â Augustine develops this denial of evil in response to Manicheanism, and versions of his account are taken up by Descartes and Leibniz, among others.Â Even those who responded to the problem of evil by denying the existence of a benevolent deity tended to reduce evil from a real ontological category to a mere human label, as for example, Spinoza does.Â Creation ex nihilo remains more consistently central to the problem, but again seems unnecessary.Â Kant, for example, sees the problem of evil as arising out of the structure of rationality itself.Â Hellenistic philosophers raised the problem of evil more regarding God as controlling force than God as creator.Â Even within Europe, then, the problem of evil can be formulated without.. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea of “following nature” in two classical Chinese thinkers, Mengzi and Zhuangzi. The goal is to complicate appeals to “following nature” in Asian thought and to problematize the very imposition of the concept “nature” on Zhuangzi and Mengzi. The paper begins by establishing some common ground between Mengzi and Zhuangzi, based on two points—both view harmony with tian (heaven/nature) as a primary aspect of living well, and both require a process of self-transformation to reach this harmony. (...) The second part of the paper argues that Mengzi and Zhuangzi give different answers to a similar question. That question is, what does it means to follow or be in harmony with tian? The essay concludes with some reflections on how “following nature” in Zhuangzi and Mengzi might apply to environmental ethics. (shrink)
Why was Leibniz so fascinated by Chinese philosophy and culture? What specific forms did his interest take? How did his interest compare with the relative indifference of his philosophical contemporaries and near-contemporaries such as Spinoza and Locke? In this highly original book, Franklin Perkins examines Leibniz's voluminous writings on the subject and suggests that his interest was founded in his own philosophy: the nature of his metaphysical and theological views required him to take Chinese thought seriously. Leibniz was unusual (...) in holding enlightened views about the intellectual profitability of cultural exchange, and in a broad-ranging discussion Perkins charts these views, their historical context, and their social and philosophical ramifications. The result is an illuminating philosophical study which also raises wider questions about the perils and rewards of trying to understand and learn from a different culture. (shrink)