Chinese philosophy: A characterization

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 14 (1-4):113 – 137 (1971)
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This article offers a synthetic characterization of Chinese philosophy based on an analytical reconstruction of its main traditions and thinking. Three main traditions in Chinese philosophy, Confucianism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism, are depicted and discussed, together with some comments on Chinese Marxism in the contemporary scene. Four characteristics of Chinese philosophy are presented: intrinsic humanism, concrete rationalism, organic naturalism, and a pragmatism of self?cultivation. It is clear from the discussion that these four characteristics are interrelated and mutually supporting and thus should be better understood in the context of one another. Many open problems of philosophy, such as transcendence, evil, logic, and theoretical knowledge, are raised by an inquiry into Chinese philosophy. If Chinese philosophy serves to make us critically aware of these problems and to provide alternative ways of thinking, we are more than justified in presenting Chinese philosophy as a philosophy of universal concern and universal significance



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Chung-Ying Cheng
University of Hawaii

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