Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview

Part III
China

Introduction

Through selected topics from Chinese thought and history, this part addresses the intricate relationships that tie the notion and experience of time to social structures and to different modes of knowing.

In the opening paper, N. Sivin focuses on the distinction between the predictable and the unpredictable, as perceived in early Chinese mathematical astronomy. His work reveals an epistemology quite different from its traditional Western counterpart.

Jin Guantao, Fan Dainian, Fan Hongye, and Liu Qing Feng represent in quantitative terms the evolution of traditional Chinese science and technology, in an elaboration of the type of curves and tabulations that Joseph Needham has given us earlier ( Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West [ Cambridge: At the University Press, 1970], fig. 99, p. 414). The authors compare their graphs with similar plots, which depict the development of science and technology in the West. Then they explore some of the reasons that might account for the difference between the two sets of curves.

Qiu Renzong's essay is a qualitative assessment of those features of the social and cultural background of traditional China that prevented the merging of theoretical knowledge and craft tradition into the synthesis of modern science.

Kristofer Schipper and Wang Hsiu-huei explore the role played in Taoist ritual by the coexistence of creative and destructive time cycles, as seen by the Tao, in the nature of the universe.

Zhang Yinzhi presents a sampling from the Mohist Canons pertaining to time and space.

Hans Ågren introduces us to two forms of traditional Chinese medicine that see differently the role of time, as it enters the progress of illness and the process of recovery.

Lo Huisheng's short paper sums up a number of interlocking philosophical theories relating time to the practice of medicine.

The advantages and disadvantages of different views of time, as they enter the practice of archaeology, are examined by Synnøve Vinsrygg, in the context of China and the West. The paper gives its reader a glimpse into the complexity of issues that determine what the members of a culture tend to regard as making sense.

Frederick Turner seeks to identify the reasons that make metric poetry one of the great cultural universals. He sees the sources of that universality in the functions of the neural

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