周濂:Book Review on Zhao Tingyang's The World without World-view

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  Zhao Tingyang has been widely acknowledged as one of the leading Chinese philosophers in the new generation since the publication of his second book entitled On Possible Life in 1993. The latest of his six books is The World without World-view. This book consists of ten papers delivered after 2000, with a remarkably broad perspective, on international politics, comparative cultural studies, ethics, post-modernity, game theory, etc.

  Many will wonder why Zhao deals with so different topics within one book, the answer could be found in the preface “Of the Methodologies”.

  Two main methodologies in this book have been developed by Zhao since about ten years ago: one is the so-called ‘syn-text’ and the other ‘non-stand’ analysis. In the preface, Zhao points out that ‘it should not be a surprise that the central focus of philosophical work is now on political/ethical philosophy’ (1). He argues that ‘because there are economical issues behind contemporary political/ethical issues, so the political issues are structurally linked with economical ones. Since cultural issues are closely related to the historical stance of political problems, and perhaps to a deep structure of politics and economics, hence the historical structure of philosophy comes into being: it is mutual structure of politics/economics/culture.’ (1) Based on such observations, Zhao concludes that contemporary philosophers would have to pursue the answers in such reciprocal knowledge structures. As a matter of fact, the concept of ‘reciprocal knowledge’ has recently been developed into one of European epistemological movement, while Zhao, without knowing the term in the first place, has created his own term similar to ‘reciprocal knowledge’ almost at the same time. He names it ‘syntext’, which means that ‘given cyclopedic knowledge about any one thing, there must be mutual rewriting of different knowledge systems by some kind of method, so that we can, first, change those knowledge systems structurally, and second, create new knowledge and questions co-operatively’. (2)

  The other methodology is ‘non-stand’ analysis, it requires that‘the thinker suspend his own preference or inclination when he is making justification, thus he would see others, hear others and understand others. ’(3) The approach of old philosophy is ‘from myself to the others’. On the contrary, Zhao’s methodology of ‘non-stand’ analysis is ‘from the others to myself’. He stresses that the principle of philosophical analysis should be ‘from the others’ or ‘from the things’. Just as what Lao-zi (老子) had summarized the methodology more than two thousand years ago: “a man could only be understood in his interests, a village could only be understood in its situation, a state could only be understood from the point of view of a state, and all-under-heaven could only be understood in the horizon of all-under-heaven”(4). Although one may doubt the possibility of such a pure ‘non-stand’ analysis, this “see X from X” principle would be very helpful for us to understand the world from itself and for its own sake.

  Combining the ‘syntext’ with ‘non-stand’ analysis, let us rethink the title No World-view for the World, it should be interpreted as ‘ “non-stand” analysis on the “syntext” of political/economical/cultural world’.

  In my opinion, the two most important papers of the book are “All-under-heaven as empire and world institution” and “Chinese representation of philosophy”.

  Let us start with the latter. The phrase of “Chinese representation of philosophy” should be understood at two levels: one is ‘the representation of philosophy’ in general, the other is particularly ‘Chinese representation of philosophy’. Zhao does not handle the former ad hoc in this book, but we can recognize his basic attitude to this question between the lines, i.e., trying his best not to use those big theoretical terms but ordinary language. I interpret it as ‘let philosophy speak in ordinary language’, in which many will recognize the influence of later Wittgenstein. For Zhao, ‘Chinese representation of philosophy’ could be interpreted as ‘let philosophy speak in Chinese’. This is in fact the main point that Zhao wants to argue in that paper.

  Zhao argues that the Chinese-Western comparative cultural studies have turned into unilateral interpretation solely based on Western standard for a long time. In other words, Chinese culture has been only the interpreted not the interpreter (159-161). So according to Zhao, every Chinese philosopher should ask the question whether Chinese philosophy could be one part of world philosophy or not. To put it concretely, could Chinese philosophy be not only the object of study for westerners but also the live words that can contribute to the world philosophy? (164)

  In order to answer the question positively, Zhao thinks that we must make great efforts in two fields: one is to make some traditional Chinese concepts into the world thought system, and the other to make some particular Chinese questions into the world questions system.(点击此处阅读下一页)

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