Heaven and Earth Are Not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy

Heaven and Earth Are Not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy

Heaven and Earth Are Not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy

Heaven and Earth Are Not Humane: The Problem of Evil in Classical Chinese Philosophy

Synopsis

That bad things happen to good people was as true in early China as it is today. Franklin Perkins uses this observation as the thread by which to trace the effort by Chinese thinkers of the Warring States Period (c.475-221 BCE), a time of great conflict and division, to seek reconciliation between humankind and the world. Perkins provides rich new readings of classical Chinese texts and reflects on their significance for Western philosophical discourse.

Excerpt

Bad things happen to good people. This sad fact was at least as true in early China as it was for Leibniz or Voltaire and still is today. This book takes this simple observation as a thread by which to trace the tensions and reconciliations between human beings and nature or the divine (in Chinese terms, tiān While focusing on Chinese thought, it is ultimately an attempt to do philosophy by bringing together ideas from different traditions and cultures, particularly ideas rooted in Warring States China and early modern Europe. It could thus be labeled as a work in “comparative philosophy,” “world philosophy,” or “intercultural philosophy.”

Intercultural approaches to philosophy are by no means new. What we call Western philosophy originated in the mixing of cultures around the Mediterranean. Medieval philosophy largely arose from the introduction of Christianity into classical Mediterranean thought, and the development and end of medieval philosophy was driven by the introduction or reintroduction of Arabic, Greek, and Roman philosophy. On a global level, one of the most fruitful and consequential examples of intercultural philosophy was the introduction of Buddhism from India into China, which generated hybrid forms of Buddhism and of Confucianism. We can even say that the twentieth century was an age of intercultural philosophy, with the leading philosophers across most of the world bringing European philosophy into dialogue with their own traditions, from Móu Zōngsān and Táng Jūnyì in China and Nishida and Nishitani in Japan to Vivekanda and Bhattacharya in India and Hountondji and Wiredu in Africa. From a global and historical perspective, then, contemporary philosophers in Europe and North America are unusual in their general refusal to engage ideas outside their own traditions and cultures. Although this exceptional status reveals the absurdity of attempts to characterize Europe in terms of openness to the Other, it follows from relations of power more than from inherent cultural traits. Imperialism and its legacy have allowed philosophers in Europe and North America to ignore the rest of the world in a way that the rest of the world . . .

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