A Perspective on HK/Taiwan Cultural Philosophy

I just read another chapter of "The Cultural Moment of Philosophy" by Hung Hiu Nam (洪曉楠) under the title "A Perspective on HK/Taiwan Culutral Philosophy (港台文化哲學透視). 
According to Hung, he had already written two books on this subject previously viz. 文化哲學思潮簡論 (00) and 當代中國文化哲學研究(01) and written on the contemporary new Confucians like Mou TsungSan(牟宗三), Tang JunYi(唐君毅), Hsu FuKuan (除復觀) , Fang YouLan(馮有蘭) and Lu ShuHsien (劉述先) but took time off during a visit to the Harvard-Yenching Academy to visit their library and discovered some interesting materials on HK/Taiwanese Chinese cultural philosophy. which he summarized in the above article. He treated the subject under three sub-headings: 1. the meaning of cultural philosophy 2. fundamentals of cultural philosophy and 3. the contemporary significance of cultural philosophy. The article first appeared in Dec 2003 issue of 哲學動態.
According to Tang in his book 哲學概論, the Chinese did not have a concept of cultural philosophy but they did have practices which may be so termed e.g. 禮記’s discussion on the rites and music and the explanatory/expository texts on poetry, classics, rites, music, i-ching, annals of spring and autumn (詩書禮樂易春秋) and also the introductory chapters or prefaces of such  texts as those on history like Book of rites 禮書, Book of music 樂書, Journal on Artistic Texts 藝文誌 Journal on Criminal Law 刑法誌 etc have all discussed the meaning and value of subjects like rites and music based on ideas of human nature (人性) and the nature of the Tao (天道) and their effects on political and social order and chaos  (治亂). To Tang, the Tsing scholar 章學誠,  who in his The Universal Meaning of Texts and History (文史通義) considered that the teachings of 詩書禮樂易春秋 are the primary sources of Chinese scholarship and 馬一浮‘s thesis on the Six Arts (六藝) which considered that the culture and the spirit of the 6 arts will enable us to connect man to heaven or the Tao,  may both be considered as a species of cultural philosophy. Therefore if we consider Chinese thought as basically humanistic, then Chinese philosophy may be considered as centred on cultural philosophy. To Tang, all kinds of philosophy may be usefully grouped under the term "Humanism" which to him, may include cultural philosophy, the philosophy of history, the philosophy of education, the economic philosophy, religious philosophy, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of art and all such distinctions are entirely artificial because ultimately, every one of them are concerned with how human beings should live as a species. Elmer Fung (馮滬祥) also agrees with Tang that cultural philosophy forms the core of Chinese philosophy. That is why in his Chinese Cultural Philosophy 中國文化哲學, he discussed the thoughts of Confucius, Mencius, XunTse, LaoTse, KuanTse, HanfeiTse, Mahayana Buddhism, ChuTse, YangMing, ShuanShan. This is the first book of Chinese cultural philosophy as such.
Next, there is another Taiwanese scholar Wu KwunYu (鄔昆如) of the University of Taiwan who has written a series of 5 volumes on Chinese culture from the 1970s to the 1990 which he called "Lectures on the Philosophy of Culture" (文化哲學講錄 79, 82, 83, 86 and 90). His method is to classify all thoughts from the philosophical point of view under three headings viz. objective historical development (with emphasis on the reference value such wisdom as may be found therein for modern society) , inherent meaning ( on the relationship of man with nature, with objects, and with society and the dialectical relationship between them ) and contemporary significance (going beyond the metaphysical meaning of such thoughts into explorations on how they may be applied in the social practice of man in society to help them solve the common problems they face in their lives under contempoary conditions) . Thus Volume 2 deals with the social philosophy of pre-Chin Confucians, Volume 3 with the pre-Chin Confucian philosophy of culture, the pre-Chin Legalists’s social philsophy and their relations with "3-People Philosophy" (三民主義) and Social Philosophy, Volume 5 with the social philosophies of the pre-Chin Taoist social philosophy, the social philosophies in the period of the two Han dynasties (兩漢), Wei Tsun (魏晉), Tsu and Tang (隋唐), Sung (宋). He also discusses comparative cultural studies like "The Future of Chinese philosophy from the perspective of comparative philosophy" (從比較哲學看未來的中國哲學 .), "A comparison of the development of Chinese and Western spiritual thoughts and its contemporary significance" (中西精神思想發展之比較及其現代意義)" "A comparison of Spengler and Toynbee (史賓格勒與湯恩比之比較)." He reviews the past, explores its meaning for the present and looks ahead to the future.  To him the rise of cultural philosophy is a great development happening only within the last two centuries, with its emphasis on the history of philosophy in the first 100 years and shifting its emphasis to social philosophy in the second 100 years and the two together span the whole field of cultural philosophy. He considers society is a cross section of human culture or civilization and philosophy explores the basis of such societies through social phenomena. Historical analysis is vertical whereas social observation is horizontal and through approaching the problem vertically and horizontally, we may then hope to find useful lessons for the future.
On the fundamental problems of cultural philosophy, Tang thinks that we should first define what the area of our studies, its basic concepts and its methods. To him, we need to examine the relation of man to nature, the nature of man himself and the relation of man to transcendence and therefore it will inevitably touch on problems of knowledge, the problem of logic, the problem of existence or metaphysics, the problem of values and the problem of life. To him, it is impossible to discuss knowledge, metaphysics and philosophy of values or of life without touching one another. Fung thinks that there are three problems about works on cultural philosophy by PRC writers. First, he thinks that they frequently fail to deal with the social and historical contexts of the relevant cultural philosophies. Second, they fail to link their studies with the conditions of contemporary life and third, they do not place themselves within the traditions of cultural philosophy in the West. To him, cultural philioshy must be linked at all times to the relevant social, historical and philosophical traditions and contexts and must attempt to outline its significance for contemporary life. He advocates 6 W’s,: what (what is culture), why (why culture), where (where is culture leading to) when (when does culture rise and fade) who (who is moving the culture along) how (how does culture advance): in other words, it must deal with the nature of culture, its occurence, its development, its opportunties, its structures, its methods. To Fung, the philosphy of culture is the foundation of social and cultural development and it may also provide also the engine or motivating force for cultural  development . It provides a compass for such development and points to the ills of particular cultural forms and may thus indicate the direction for its remedies. To him the lessons to be derived from a study of cultural philosophy is that we should work on our psychological reconstruction and try to fill the spiritual void of contemporary men so that we shall not fall victim to excessive utilitarianism, over-smpahsis on techonological and commercial development and reintroduce an element of balance to contempoary life by providing certain spiritual resources available from our studies of past cultural values and past philosophies of culture.
To all the "cultural philosophers", all philosophies cannot help but be some form of philosophies of culture. 方東美 advocates paying attention to comparison, linking idealism to cultural models; Lu advocates the idea of  "one principle but  different realization  理一分殊"  ; Mou advocates understanding Chinese philosophy through Kant‘s  categories of reason and harmonized development of the spirit of ultimate reason ( "和的盡理精神" ) and the development of the analytic spirit of ultimate reason (分解的盡理精神), the materialization of operational rationality  (理性之運用表現) and the realization of the structures of Reason ( 理性之架構表現) and a methods of expansion of Truth from within (外延真理) and the internalisation or internal accommodation of Truth (內容真理). Tang advises us to consciously use western philosophy to rein in the excesses of Chinese philosophy. To Hung, there is much to be gained from a closer integration of Chinese cultural philosophies with western cultural philosophies, between those of the the East and those of the West and between those Chinese scholars working in the PRC and those working outside of it.

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2 Responses to A Perspective on HK/Taiwan Cultural Philosophy

  1. sai says:

    The argument between whether to learn from the West or not dates back to as long ago as the late Qing dynasty. Here’s something interesting. 中國近代有關中學與西學關係的命題。張之洞在《勸學篇•設學》中提出,“中學為體”,是強調以中國的綱常名教作為決定國家社會命運的根本;“西學為用”,是主張採用西方資本主義國家的近代科學技術,效仿西方國家在教育、賦稅 、 武備 、律例等方面的一些具體措施 ,舉辦洋務新政,以挽回清王朝江河日下的頹勢。19 世紀 70~80 年代 ,早期改良派曾提出 “ 主以中學,輔以西學”的口號,主要目的是鼓勵人們向西方學習,反對頑固守舊 。到了 19 世紀末 ,發生了尖銳激烈的舊學與新學、中學與西學之爭。守舊的封建頑固派堅決反對西學,對西方資本主義國家的一切事物都採取仇視和排斥態度。而資產階級維新派則積極提倡西學,認為中國不但應當學習西方國家的科學技術,更要效仿它們的議院制,改革封建君主專制制度 。張之洞強調“ 中學為內學 ,西學為外學 ;中學治身心,西學應世事”。表面上是要“新舊兼學”,實際上是站在舊學、中學一邊,反對接受西方資產階級政治倫理學說。

  2. el says:

    Whether it is partly or wholly true that "中學為內學 ,西學為外學 ;中學治身心,西學應世事”。表面上是要“新舊兼學”,實際上是站在舊學、中學一邊,反對接受西方資產階級政治倫理學說" is a debatable question and its speculation of the relavant motive can only be an "opinion" based on greater or smaller amount of evidence in support of such a comment. But something is certain. History has answered the question of the correctness of that strategy for meeting the challenge from the West . Its answer is decisive. The kind of solution proposed by Cheung did not work. By trying to assert the "universal Truths" of the values of Chinese culture (basically Confucianism), they may be crying for the moon. Their sentiments are perfectly understandable but the correctness of their judgement must be subject to massive doses of doubts.

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