Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chapter I Point IV:
Ancient philosophical texts from both China and the west are often times fragmented. The development of Chinese philosophy has to pay special attention here to the tendency to cite ancient references in pre-Qin thought as well as the practice of interpolation during the Warring States period, Qin and Han dynasties. This has made it imperative for those studying Chinese philosophy to conduct stringent textual research and criticism. Modern thinkers have had to rely on the work of experts in other fields to get an understanding of the entire picture surrounding the emergence and development of thought in China.

While China has had its own set of questions to face throughout the years, it would be absurd now to insist that western philosophical disciplines such as logic and epistemology could not be used in understanding China’s past. Some may claim that it would be inappropriate to use these disciplines to describe Chinese thought, but it is the very universality of these methods that makes them pertinent even in China. The common ground that we seek can be attributed just as much to Chinese people as to western people; that is to say why is a Chinese individual any less so than a western one? In examining the ancient philosophical texts in China, we see an inherent openness and respect for individuality that almost flies in the face of political tendencies there throughout the ages. The theory of openness is a common theory that can be used to look at both western and Chinese philosophy; it’s a universal that can be applied both in China and the west to alleviate concrete problems such as poverty and discrimination, bringing about the best of our common humanity.
Chapter I Point III:
The directional development of thought in any particular culture is determined by the questions that come to the forefront. In western philosophy, there have been many such instances; the one and the many, empiricism and idealism and the like. Of course the questions Chinese thinkers and western thinkers pursued were different, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be any common ground from which to work. The German thinker Martin Heidegger proposed that the basic question any traditional addresses is that of being itself. That is to say what does it mean to exist at all. He added, however, that the question in itself was so radical that in order to lead the everyday lives we do, the question needed to be bracketed or put aside. The origin of individual cultures then was a response to that basic question, as there could be no definitive answer given. Taken in this way, it would make sense that there would be cultural differences, as we all tend to react to our own existence differently. On the other side, there also has to be some commonality among traditions to be able to recognize each others differences. That is to say, if there were nothing to compare, there could be nothing to contrast either; any cross-cultural dialogue would be incomprehensible if not for the basic starting ground of a shared humanity. With this in mind, we will proceed to look at some of the particular questions and methods used by Chinese thinkers to advance their particular response to the question of existence.
Chaoter I Point II:
It would be a mistake for modern Chinese thinkers to lump together the feudal political system prevalent throughout Chinese history with a closed ideological system. In comparison to recent western philosophy, traditional Chinese thought has had a huge political influence in its development. Chinese political leaders, however, have also been influenced by outside constraints such as economic as well as ideological factors. It would seem incumbent upon modern Chinese thinkers to develop a universal system of thought applicable across cultural divides instead of dwelling on particular problems in their cultural past. That is to say, if Chinese philosophy is to make an impact on the world today and in the future, it must find a way to use its own rich past to make its contribution to the development of human culture instead of dwelling on its differences with other traditions. Insisting on its own set of particular problems would keep Chinese thought mired in its own quagmire, which in this day and age is a dangerous proposition. There is also no need to do so, as there is an apparent openness to Chinese thought that could blend well with other traditions. It is thus easy to see that the differences in philosophical development in China and the west was not due to whether or not the ideological systems were open, but rather on the emphasis that was placed on maintaining an openness. In the western tradition, the stress on reason and humanity had its basis in the recognition of universal laws obtainable through a scientific method. In order to extract the open nature of Chinese thought, it thus becomes important to look at the texts with this same sort of critical spirit. We need to take a closer look at the problems that were being addressed in the Dao De Jing and how they have contributed to the development of Chinese thought. The emphasis on the unlimited and the openness that that implies has been an impetus through the ages to Chinese thought in general, despite outward political constraints. The spirit that this profound book contains thus could be a reflective point for Chinese thinkers today in an attempt to amalgamate their tradition with those of the western and other worlds.
Chapter I, Point I:
The crux of this article deals with the recurring synthesis that has molded the history of traditional Chinese culture in order to show the openness inherent in the development of Chinese philosophy. The article will take a look at the content and ideas in Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing as an early text that has influenced the development of Chinese thought due to its own philosophy of the unlimited. This is the beginning of a series of works that will take a look at the history of Chinese thought from an openness perspective.