Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions

Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions

Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions

Two Roads to Wisdom? Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Traditions

Synopsis

This collection of essays by experts in the field investigates the issue of philosophical methodology through a comparative approach; promotes dialogue and understanding among different traditions; and shows the many ways in which Chinese and Western analytic philosophy complement rather than contradict each other.

Excerpt

The analytic method in philosophy is employed by almost every philosopher from time to time and by just about no one all of the time. It is a method that starts with a question or a doubt and tries to find an answer or to resolve the doubt. This sets in train attempts to find reasons for or against theses that suggest themselves as answers to the questions or resolutions of the doubts. the analytic method can engage with ideas at any level and from whatever quarter or discipline or tradition. It provokes argument and when practiced with an open mind it engenders dialogue. At its best, dialogue creates mutual understanding, fresh insights, sympathy with past thinkers, and, occasionally, genuinely new ideas. But before there can be dialogue the parties must meet, as they do in this book.

We seldom stop to think how much, as philosophers, we share with other philosophers from other ages, other countries, other traditions. We tend to discover our common problems and interests as we read, teach, and travel. the discovery surprises us for, to begin with, minds are best compared by finding as many points of similarity as everyday patterns of action and reaction afford. But once this fitting of pattern to pattern is accomplished, the remaining differences loom out of proportion. This perhaps explains why a first exposure to a new tradition seems to reveal an unbridgeable gap. What experience shows, though, is that, as in other areas, differences are to be understood only as seen against a background of underlying agreement. the underlying agreement may be largely unspoken and unnoticed, but it is always available. Sometimes we need help in appreciating how philosophy builds on what we all know. No world views or conceptual schemes are truly incommensurable.

The present book provides a welcome opportunity for those of us steeped in Western philosophy to enlarge our appreciation of how much we have in common with the Chinese philosophical tradition, for it is this store of universal problems that can give point and interest to our divergences. It is all to the good that we should find and cultivate convergence on such general values as human rights, academic freedom, relief from the fear of hunger and of war, and the right to live under political systems of our own choosing. But we should not seek conformity in philosophy. On the contrary, in our intellectual work we should celebrate variety and do all we can to insure its survival.

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