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Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li ⌮)

Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li ⌮)


Jana S. Rošker

Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li ⌮), by Jana S. Rošker This book first published 2012 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2012 by Jana S. Rošker All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-4052-1, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-4052-1

This book is dedicated to Prof. Radovan Stanislav Pejovnik who fights for equal opportunities in education and believes that openness of mind has the power to bridge intercultural differences. I am grateful to him for teaching me that great things are born from tiny sparks of inspiration.


Acknowledgements .................................................................................... xi Introduction ................................................................................................. 3 Structuralism and Its Chinese Ancestors Chapter One............................................................................................... 11 Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy The Immanent Worldview and Binary Structured Holism The Principle of Complementarity Chinese Analogy Thinking through Relations Specific Features of the Chinese Model Semantic Connotations of Inferences The Structural Model of Thought Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 37 The Cultural Conditionality of the Comprehension of Structure Methodological Foundations: Notions and Their Semantic Implications in the Scope of Intercultural Studies Traditional and Modern Understandings of Structure in China Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 43 The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li in the History of Chinese Thought Ontological Foundations: the Structural Order of the Universe (tianli ཙ⨶) The Structure of State, Society and Culture (wen li ᮷⨶) The Constitution of Language and Meaning: the Birth of Structural Semantics (ming li ਽⨶) The Empty Structure of Chinese Buddhism (kong li オ⨶) The Structural Compatibility of Being and the Structure of Human Nature (xingli ᙗ⨶) Structure and Creativity: the Complementarity of the Concepts li ⨶ and qi ≓


Table of Contents

Translation and its Discontents The Triumph of Complementarity or the Deceptiveness of the Primary Role of Structure Ethical Dimensions Chapter Four............................................................................................ 103 The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World Mind as the Structural Cynosure of Perception and Comprehension The Example of Music The Epistemology of Ji Kang’s Thesis on the Absence of Emotions in Music The Actuality (shi ሖ) of Music and its Conceptualization (ming਽) The Openness of Structure: the Empty Concept of Music and the Harmony (he ઼) of Freedom The Structural Epistemology of the Pre-Modern Era At the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity: Li as Logos, Principle or Law? Chapter Five ............................................................................................ 149 Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension Renewal and Elaboration of a Traditional Structural Epistemology The Relational Theory of Knowledge Renewal of Structure in Modern Confucianism: Feng Youlan’s 俞৻㱝 (1895–1990) “New School of Structure” (ᯠ⨶ᆨ) Feng’s Elaboration of the Neo-Confucian Concept of Structure: Li as Reason The Structural Pattern (㗙⨶) Structure and Creativity (⨶≓), the Integrity of all Structures (ཚᾥ) and the Incorporation of the Way (䚃億) Zhang Dongsun’s ᕥᶡ㫰 (1886–1973) Epistemological Panstructuralism (㤳ᷦΏѫ㗙) Pluralist Epistemology and the Absence of Substance Plurality of Comprehension A Structural Approach between Realism and Solipsism Modern Methods of Intercultural Inquiry: is Structure an Issue?

Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li 䎮)


Conclusion............................................................................................... 203 Here a Structure, There a Structure Literature ................................................................................................. 217 Chronological Table of Chinese Dynasties.............................................. 227 Index........................................................................................................ 229


I would like to acknowledge the inspirational instruction and guidance of Prof. Lee Hsien-Chung from the National Taiwan University and the initial impetus to study Chinese epistemology given me by Prof. Cui Qingtian from Nankai University. Both of these men have given me a deep appreciation and love for the beauty and detail of this subject. I would also like to acknowledge the support and assistance given me by Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation from Taiwan for its generous support of my academic pursuits. Finally, I would like to thank my family and my friends, who have always been there for me, and have never doubted my dreams, no matter how crazy they might be.

Ӻᰕѝ഻Ⲵᯠଢᆨ, ᗵ㠷䙾৫ѝ഻ଢᆨᴹ⴨⮦Ⲵ㒬᢯䰌‫ײ‬, ᡁ‫ف‬ᡰ䴰㾱 Ⲵᯠଢᆨ, нਚᱟᗎ㾯⌻Ⲵᴰᯠ▞⍱ⲬࠪⲴ, ᴤ丸ᱟᗎѝ഻ᵜֶⲴۣ㎡ ѝ⭏ࠪ. Contemporary Chinese philosophy should remain connected to and continue the Chinese philosophy of the past. The kind of philosophy we need should not be based only on the most recent results of Western currents of thought, but should look primarily to the authentic and original Chinese tradition. —Zhang Dainian


On the threshold of the third millennium we have entered an era in which the concept of structure is perceived as something self-evident and omnipresent by most people. Structure has become a fundamental, though often vague notion which includes comprehension, observation, the nature and stability of patterns, as well as relations among individual entities. The concept of structure is of crucial importance for virtually any type of research in the domains of science, philosophy and art. Structures have also often been defined in terms of the acquired or habitual paradigms of our perception and comprehension of the world. We thus view the creation, formation and changing of objects as something that occurs within structural patterns. Structure is basic to every system and when the dynamic component of time is included or implied, also to every process. It is a configuration of particular elements or factors. It can be hierarchic (as a series of relations between one entity and several others) or it can represent a network of manifold relations among different entities. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that by the mid-20th century a structural approach to the comprehension, recognition and interpretation of reality had begun to increasingly dominate Western1 discourses in the humanities and social sciences. 1

The connotations of the terms “East” and “West” in the sense of an explanatory model are problematic and risk producing crude generalizations. Because of essential and decisive differences between the basic conceptualizations of Indian and Chinese philosophical systems, the term “Eastern philosophies” is likewise completely inappropriate and should not be applied at all. In the present work, the terms “Eastern” and “Western” as categorical interpretative models are not used in a rigidly political or geographical sense, but as notions that stem from a reflection on the distinction between transcendental and immanent metaphysics. The concept “Western” means the area of culture and civilization which has been defined by the three Abrahamic––Semitic religions, i.e. Judaism, Islam and Christianity. These religions all have in common the following important characteristics: transcendentalism,



In terms of the main theoretical currents existing at the start of the 21st century, such approaches have been summed up by the notion of structuralism. Structuralism represents a complex category that covers a wide range of different programs and methods, which enable us to perceive and interpret patterns of relations as a basic paradigm of reality. In particular, from the mid-20th century onwards, structuralism became a leading theoretical current in “Western” theories, in both the natural sciences as well as the humanities and social sciences. The majority of structuralist theories (including post-structuralism, de-constructivism, post-modernity etc) are based upon the structural approach to the recognition, perception and interpretation of reality, by which no object can appear in isolation from other objects. In this sense, objects can only exist as parts of structures that connect them to other entities. Such discourses are always based or focussed upon a structure, which therefore determines every objective status and––ultimately––every being as such. Structuralism has been elaborated and developed, in different ways, by all the above-mentioned theoretical currents (and others as well). The fundamental difference between these currents and earlier structuralist discourses lies in the fact that structures were viewed by post-structuralist (de-constructivist, post-modernist...) critics as being less static and were inserted into frameworks of dynamic processes. This dynamic view for the most part implies an emphasis upon historical discontinuities, and the conditions by which structures are determined and came into existence. Another important characteristic of post-structuralist discourses is a critical approach to normative representations and theoretical principles, and the investigation and analysis (primarily through the application of psychoanalytical, discursive, semiotic and linguistic-philosophical methods) of the validity conditions of the principles which underlay classical metaphysical systems. Such structures are also often defined by the conventions of our perception of and interaction with the world and can therefore explicate the modes or patterns by which objects have been consolidated, formed and altered.

monotheism (or the Trinity in Christianity), singularity (the monopoly of validity), universality (universality of validity), individuality (constituted by a separate and independent existence of the Self, inhabited by the soul) and the idea of immortality. None of these elements can be found in discourses of immanent metaphysics, which are prevalent in so-called “Eastern” civilizations. (Galtung 1994, 7) When the term “Western” is applied to language, it indicates the languages of the Indo-European group.

Structuralism and Its Chinese Ancestors


In structuralism, phenomena or objects that can be observed and described are divided into segments, with which a relation can then be established or reconstructed. Structuralist approaches seek to situate the analyzed phenomena in a framework of heterogeneous (coordinate) networks, in which each element is determined by certain characteristics, correlations and oppositions that arise from their mutual relations. In short, structuralism (including its critical negation and elaboration, commonly known as post-structuralism) was one of the most important theoretical paradigms of the 20th century, and had a significant impact upon theoretical currents in contemporary linguistics, sociology, anthropology, history, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and other disciplines as well. The structural model elaborated by the dynamic patterns of post-structural discourses represents a crucial turning-point in the comprehension of the essence and functions of language, subjectivity and culture. Naturally, all these discourses could not avoid investigating certain epistemological issues, such as the relation between subject and object (or the Self and the Other), or the interrelations among perception, comprehension, interpretation and transmission. In fact, 20th century EuroAmerican theoretical production generated a number of elements which, especially when based on new, fundamental theoretical approaches in the philosophy of language, caused some major cognitive shifts in the humanities, and in the cultural and social sciences. However, despite such recognitions, Western discourses have yet to produce an integral and coherent structural model of epistemology and the debate over structural epistemology continues to trouble the sleep of many Western theoreticians. (Psillos 2006, 560) In this context, etymological studies and studies of the semantic development of the Chinese concept of structure, together with the comparative analyses of traditional Chinese and Euro-American theories can provide valid tools (the debate concerning such intercultural comparisons notwithstanding) for clarifying some basic questions concerning the nature of human perception and the recognition of reality. In the history of Chinese thought we can find many different models of structural onto-/epistemology2. These models, especially those of the preQin era, were relatively simple theoretical systems due to the historical period in which they were formulated. Nonetheless, in such systems one can already clearly discern the germs of later development. In the centuries 2

In traditional Chinese philosophy, there is virtually no distinction between ontology and cosmology, and epistemology.



which followed, their theoretical foundations would be constantly expanded and refined, becoming gradually more complex, with significant elaborations of earlier basic suppositions. In the Chinese tradition, structural epistemology was closely linked to a structurally conditioned understanding of the universe. Theories of structural semantics, the origins of which can be traced back to as early as the ancient Mohist school (ming jia ਽ᇦ), occupied a privileged position within such theoretical models. These proto-discourses would have a decisive impact on later theoretical developments in this specific area, most of which took place from the 2nd to 6th centuries AD. This theoretical shift followed the debate on the nature of the relation between concepts (names) and realities (ming shi ਽ሖ), which had already occupied ancient Chinese theorists and which would reappear in later Neo-Daoist discourses on the relation between language and meaning (yan yi 䀰᜿), i.e. between comprehension and interpretation. However, beginning in the 17th century, due to specific conditions within Chinese society, and the fact that for the next three centuries Chinese philosophy would be intent mostly upon integrating and assimilating Western concepts and thought, the main currents of traditional thought entered into a prolonged period of stagnation. In fact, only with the start of the 20th century did new developments in the theory of epistemological structuralism occur. But this brief revival was cut short by the founding of the PR of China and its concomitant ideology, which dictated that priority be given to an expeditious sionization of “Marxist” and Leninist theories, and the creation of a Maoist system of thought. However, before this artificial freezing of theoretical developments occurred, a number of new epistemological systems based upon structural approaches to the comprehension of reality, and which incorporated many interesting syntheses of modern Western and traditional Chinese thought, had already emerged. Any study of the development of early 20th century philosophical models which include attempts to synthesize Western and traditional Chinese theory, must take into account the work of Zhang Dongsun ᕥᶡ ᆛ (1902–1973), the leading modern Chinese theoretician of knowledge who, in the first decades of the century, developed a specific epistemological system, or so-called “panstructuralism”3. According to the contemporary thinker, Zhang Yaonan ᕥ㘰ই, this system already contained the germs of


For a detailed discussion of this system, see Chapter 5, Plurality pf Comprehension.

Structuralism and Its Chinese Ancestors


structuralism, which had thus been developed by Zhang Dongsun ᕥᶡᆛ nearly a half-century before this discourse began to dominate in advanced Western academic theories. 20 ц㌰ 20 ᒤԓ, ᕥᶡᆛ‫( ⭏ݸ‬1902–1973) ᨀࠪҶаぞԆちѻ⛪ 'ᷦΏ 䄆' (Theory of structure) Ⲵ '㎀Ώѫ㗙' (structuralism) ᆷᇉ㿰, і൘ԕᖼ 20 ᒤ䯃нᯧᆼழ, ֯ަᡀ⛪ Ԇ ᵜӪ㍲⭏н予᭮ỴⲴᒮ‫ػ‬สᵜ㿰ᘥѻа. ቡᱲ䯃к䃚, 䙉а ᆷ ᇉ㿰Ⲵ↓ᔿᖒᡀ㾱∄㾯ᯩ '㎀Ώѫ㗙' 付㹼ↀ㖾 (20 ц㌰ 60 ᒤԓ) ᰙࠪሷ䙢 40 ᒤ; ቡ‫ޗ‬ᇩк䃚, 䙉аᆷᇉ㿰 ᆼ‫ޘ‬᭩䆺ҶҼॱц㌰ ѝ഻ ଢᆨᇦⲴപᴹᙍ㏝ᯩᔿ, 䮻ҶҼॱц㌰ѝ഻ ଢᆨ '䶎ᵜ 億䄆ॆ' Ⲵ‫⋣ݸ‬. (Zhang Yaonan 2000, 143) In the 1920s, Zhang Dongsun (1902–1973) established a cosmological structuralism, which he called the “Theory of Structure”4. Over the next twenty years, he continued to elaborate this theory as one of his basic paradigms, and would not abandon it until the end of his life. We should point out that this theory was elaborated almost forty years before the appearance of Western “structuralism”, which grew into one of the leading discourses in Europe and America. In terms of its content, this cosmology completely changed the previous mode of thinking of 20th century Chinese philosophers and was a precursor to the new “deontological” approaches of Chinese philosophy.

Zhang Dongsun’s excellent knowledge of Western philosophy was not limited to classic European thought, but also included the main EuroAmerican discourses of his time. But when viewed from the perspective of his own philosophical tradition, Zhang Dongsun’s structural epistemology is not only linked to philosophical currents that would later give rise to Euro-American structuralism, but is clearly also rooted in one of the central paradigms of autochthonous Chinese thought5. As we shall see, traditional Chinese philosophy had developed a paradigm of theoretical epistemology based on the concept of structure, or the assumption of a structurally ordered world, an idea which is reflected in most classical Chinese philosophical works. Hence, this structural cosmic order is not only a foundation of Chinese epistemology, but also constitutes a basic paradigm of classical Chinese philosophy as such. 4

Zhang Dongsun actually called his theory “Panstructuralism” (⌋ᷦΏѫ㗙). While this paradigm undoubtedly defines Zhang’s model of structural epistemology in a profound way, it is not the only traditional influence that informs and pervades his theory of knowledge. As we shall see, his work is also rooted in certain assumptions of Chan Budhism and Kantian philosophy.




The present study aims to explore and highlight this paradigm which, however, can only be properly understood based on the application of research methods rooted in categorical applications and semantic developments originating within that same classical Chinese philosophical tradition. The reasons why traditional Chinese philosophy––at least in Western sinology––has not been investigated from a structural perspective until now, are multiple and multifaceted and will be analyzed in detail in later chapters. For now, we shall limit ourselves to indicating some of the basic assumptions that condition similar insights into the specific Chinese structural worldview, together with its epistemological implications. The structural understanding of the cosmos, and all that exists within it and forms a vital part of it, is a specific feature of the classical Chinese holistic worldview. The interconnection between all the factors of being forms a system which is based upon a structural order. This basic structure, however, is not merely a static formal system which prefigures and conditions the composition of the universe, but also represents an organic and vital formation. As a dynamic organism that pervades everything that exists, it is therefore systemically compatible not only with all the inanimate objects contained within it, in accordance with the rational, structural patterns of the universe, but also with the organic constitution of living beings that form its vital natural parts. However, the structure of existence which manifests itself in this paradigm is also conditioned by another important aspect, given that its system, which is based upon an ontological duality of immanent metaphysics6 (including, as it does, both the ideal principles as well as the concrete particulars of existence), is also infinite and therefore open. This is precisely why the traditional Chinese worldview is not, in essence, deterministic, for everything that exists forms part of a structure that exceeds the conditions of its concrete actuality. Human will is thus a factor which can––though, of course, only within the narrow limits of an individual existence––also act against the structural norms of the cosmic order, even if most traditional philosophers discourage such a course of action. The following maxim from the pre-Qin7 era of Chinese philosophy, can help us clarify this concept: 6 This ontological duality will be examined in greater detailed below, especially in Chapter 1 which examines specific features of Chinese philosophy. 7 In academic works, this term (⃰䦎) denotes the era of the flourishing of ancient Chinese philosophy, also known as the Period of the Hundred Schools (䘦⭞). It refers to the period that extended from the 7th century BC to the first unification of the Chinese state under the rule of the Qin 䦎 (221–206 BC) Dynasty. In recent decades, this term has also been adopted by most Western sinologists.

Structuralism and Its Chinese Ancestors


кҲཙ᮷ˈл⓵ൠ⨶ˈѝ㎅Ӫ઼. (He Guanzi 2010. Du wan: 1) If the patterns of heaven are disturbed above, and if the structural order of earth is violated below, the harmony between people in the middle will be destroyed.

Specific Chinese models for theories of knowledge were thus premised upon a structurally ordered external reality; since natural (or cosmic) order is organic, it naturally follows the “flow” of structural patterns and operates in accordance with structural principles that regulate every existence. In this worldview, the human mind is also structured in accordance with this all-embracing but open organic system. The axioms of our recognition and thought are therefore not coincidental or arbitrary, but follow this rationally designed structure. The compatibility or correspondence of both the cosmic and mental structures is the basic precondition that enables human beings to perceive and recognize external reality. As we shall see, this paradigm of structural epistemology can already be found in the earliest Chinese theories of knowledge. The introduction of Chinese models and their incorporation into Western discourses fills an important theoretical gap in the Western model of structuralism. But not only, for gaining insight into epistemological systems that arose outside the discourses of the Euro-American tradition can help us to eliminate and supersede certain culturally conditioned prejudices as to the superiority, dominance and omnipresence of Western theoretical models, while demonstrating incontrovertibly that the results of Western discourses are by no means the only force driving theoretical innovation at the present time.


Essential differences most definitely exist between traditional Chinese philosophical discourses and Western ones, especially with respect to certain fundamental aspects. The most important of these differences is to be found in the principle of immanence which, in terms of its basic characteristics, differs completely from the concept of transcendental metaphysics. Another important specific feature of traditional Chinese philosophy is the structurally ordered, holistic worldview which is rooted in binary relations between pairs of antagonistic notions, and which we will denote with the term “binary categories”. The process of mutual interactions between the polar opposites that form these pairs, manifests itself in the principle of complementarity, which constitutes another basic paradigm and appears in typical patterns of traditional Chinese analogies. However, of particular importance for our purposes is the manifestation of this principle in the fundamental paradigm of medieval and pre-modern Chinese cosmogony expressed by interactions between the concepts of structure (li ⨶) and creativeness (qi ≓).

The Immanent Worldview and Binary Structured Holism The immanent notions which essentially define Chinese philosophy are the necessary results of the holistic worldview. If there is no division between two worlds (material/spiritual or subjective/objective), it is difficult to determine which of the two might be more important or even absolute. And this is precisely why most of the main traditional Chinese philosophical discourses do not include the notion of transcendence, in the sense of transcending from one into another (usually “higher”) sphere. It should not surprise us, therefore, that one of the crucial notions of traditional Chinese philosophy, which is expressed (in various forms) by the concept of the Way (dao 䚃), is likewise immanent in nature. In its


Chapter One

indivisible totality, it denotes both the original cosmic principle, as well as the tiniest atoms of being which, through their infinite combinations, continuously generate all the infinitely variegated worlds of existence. Dao is thus the fundamental, abstract driving force of the universe, but also the concrete, individual “way” of each human being. Dao is both the elementary origin of every existence, and the embodiment of every particular phenomenon. ൘ѝ഻ଢᆨѝ, '䚃', ণᱟᆷᇉ, Ӫһ઼ӪᙗⲴᵜ億, ৸ᱟԕӱ㗙⿞Ცؑ ㅹ⛪‫ޗ‬ᇩⲴ䚃ᗧሖ億. (Liao 1994, 46) In Chinese philosophy, “dao” represents the essence of both the universe and every single person, as well as a moral substance that embraces humanity, rituality, loyalty and similar axiological fundamentals.

It is important to stress that in no way can it be understood as an absolute principle as we find, for example, in the theological idea of the Divine or a Divinity, or in the ancient Greek idea of substance. Immanent notions are never the embodiment of the absolute, because their nature is always conditioned by that which they seem to exceed. The concepts of the immanent worldview are based upon a relativization of all that exists, and thus they rarely appear on their own. In traditional Chinese philosophy, such a necessary relativity of reality was expressed through the aforesaid binary categories, which were composed of binary polar opposites (anti-poles). This mutual, complementary interaction of both poles is able to express all sectors of time and space, no matter how complex. But before dealing with this aspect, in order to better understand binary concepts and the principle of complementarity let us first examine their abstract basis, as reflected in the traditional Chinese integral-structural worldview. As is well known, the traditional Chinese worldview was a holistic on1. Traditional Chinese thinkers did not strictly or categorically distinguish between the spheres of matter and idea, nor between any other dualistic connotations resulting from this basic dichotomy 2 . What is much less known or recognized is the fact that this holism was by no means indiscriminate. The traditional Chinese holistic world was not some sort of homogenous unity in which everything was connected to everything else, 1

The Chinese holistic worldview has been traditionally expressed by the phrase “unity of men and nature” (ཙӪਸа). 2 For example, distinctions between subject and object, substance and phenomena, creator and creation etc.

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


without demarcations or distinctions. On the contrary, the traditional Chinese worldview was logically ordered based on relatively strict binary oppositional patterns. On a mental-reflective level, these patterns formed a series of specific Chinese analogies3 which underpinned or provided the bases for the prevailing method of logical thought (Cui 2005, 14–24). Binary concepts can thus be seen as one of the fundamental characteristics of traditional Chinese philosophy. They represent a kind of duality that seeks to attain the most real (possible) state of actuality through relativity, expressed in terms of the relation between two oppositional notions4. Distinctions are seen in binary terms, and primarily between pairs of opposites (with even figure and colour reduced to square/round and white/black); having drawn them, and recognized some recurring or persisting pattern (e.g. large, round, hard, heavy, and white) we detach a stone from other things in the same way that we cut out a piece of cloth or chop off a piece of meat. Things are not seen as isolated, each with its own essential and accidental properties; on the contrary, distinguishing characteristics are seen as mostly relative. (Graham 1989, 286)

Of course, binarity as such is not a specific feature of Chinese philosophy, for in its function of differentiation it constitutes a basic aspect of human thought. Instead, what distinguishes Chinese binary categories from traditional Western dualisms is the principle of complementarity, which forms a basic method for their functioning.

The Principle of Complementarity This principle represents the foundation of the specific Chinese method of logical thought, which in sinology is known as “correlative thinking”. Rational or logical thinking, grounded in analytical, dialectical and analogical argumentation, stresses the explanatory power of physical causation. In contrast, Chinese thinking depends upon a species of analogy which may be called “correlative thinking”. Correlative thinking, as it is found both in classical Chinese “cosmologies” (the Yijing (Book of 3

The analogical model used in the context of traditional Chinese logic differs from the classical European model in terms of both its methods and functions (see Cui and Zhang 2005, 25–41). 4 Some well known binary concepts are: yinyang 䲠䲭 (sunny/shady), tiyong 億⭘ (essence/function), mingshi ਽ ሖ (concept/actuality), liqi ⨶ ≓ (structure/ phenomena), benmo ᵜᵛ (roots/crown), and so forth.


Chapter One Changes), Daoism, the Yin–Yang school) and, less importantly, among the classical Greeks, involves the association of image or concept-clusters related by meaningful disposition rather than physical causation. Correlative thinking is a species of spontaneous thinking grounded in informal and ad hoc analogical procedures presupposing both association and differentiation. The regulative element in this modality of thinking is shared patterns of culture and tradition rather than common assumptions about causal necessity. (Hall and Ames 1998, 3)

In other words, what we have is a structural pattern of binary oppositions which, however, differs fundamentally from the model of Cartesian dualism. This latter involves a dialectic posited upon the relation between the mutually exclusive, polar opposites of thesis and antithesis, which have been determined by an opposition which is also a contradiction. This contradiction creates a tension, in which the mutual negation of thesis and antithesis forms a synthesis. The complementary model, which was dominant in the Chinese tradition of thought, is instead based upon a noncontradictory opposition between two poles which do not exclude but complement each other, and which are interdependent (Rošker 1997, 196ff). Contemporary Chinese scholars generally define this difference as that between two types of dialectical reasoning, in which the Western, Hegelian model tends to expose divisions and contradictions, while the traditional Chinese type of dialectical thought instead seeks to achieve a unity between these binary oppositions. ൘㾯ᯩˈ㠚❦о⽮Պǃሩ䊑ᙗоѫփᙗǃᇒ㿲оѫ㿲ǃᵜ䍘о⧠䊑䜭 ᱟҼ࠶Ⲵˈᱮ⧠ࠪҼ‫ݳ‬ሩ・ⲴଢᆖՐ㔏DŽ ѝഭӪ‫ੁٮ‬ҾӾ઼ਸભ仈 ࠪਁ䇢ਸҼѪаǃ䗙䇱㔏аˈ㘼㾯ᯩѫ⍱ᙍᜣত‫ੁٮ‬ҾӾᛆ䇪ભ仈ࠪ ਁ䇢а࠶ѪҼǃ䗙䇱⸋⴮DŽ (Hua Pingxiao 2009, 4) In the West, Nature and society, objects and subjects, subjectivity and objectivity, substance and phenomena were seen as dualisms, which manifested themselves in the philosophical tradition of dual contradictions. While the Chinese tended towards a unification of oppositions, and a dialectical integration which was rooted in propositions of harmonic coordination, prevailing Western thought tended towards divisions of unity into dualities, i.e. towards a dialectic of contradiction that arose from paradoxical propositions.

In the complementary model that prevailed in the Chinese tradition, binary patterns did not produce any separate syntheses that could preserve “positive” elements from their previous state, while simultaneously

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


eliminating the “negative” ones. Zhuangzi described the relation between the two binary poles of a complementary model as follows: ᭵ᴠˈ㫻ᑛᱟ㘼ᰑ䶎ˈᑛ⋫㘼ᰑҲѾ˛ᱟᵚ᰾ཙൠѻ⨶ˈ㩜⢙ѻᛵ㘵 ҏDŽᱟ⥦ᑛཙ㘼ᰑൠˈᑛ䲠㘼ᰑ䲭ˈަнਟ㹼᰾⸓DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Qiu shui, 5) Therefore, I am saying: why do we not preserve truth and abolish falseness? Why do we not preserve order and abolish chaos? If we think in this way, we do not understand the structure of nature, nor the state of being in which everything exists. This would mean preserving earth and abolishing heaven, preserving yin and abolishing yang. It is quite clear that this would not work. (Zhuangzi XVII. Qiu shui, DC 2008, 2)

This approach to binary relations differs greatly from dualisms as they were developed in the Judeo-Christian tradition. As we noted above, this tradition is characterized by the creation of a logocentric binary pattern which is rooted in the mutual contradiction of both anti-poles and which tends towards the preservation of one, and the elimination of the other pole. The most important specific characteristics of complementary relations, and which render them immediately distinct from binary dualisms of the Cartesian type, are thus the non-contradictionality of oppositions, the interdependence and equivalence of both anti-poles and their mutual supplementarity. This supplementarity also explains why none of these characteristics has a primary function, given that their existence is conditioned by their mutual interactions that surpass limited conceptualizations of time and space. Zhu Xi ᵡ⟩ (1130–1200), the chief exponent of Neo-Confucianism, described this interaction as follows: ൘䲠䲭䀰ˈࡷ⭘൘䲭㘼億൘䲠ˈ❦अ䶌❑ㄟˈ䲠䲭❑࿻ˈнਟ࠶‫ݸ‬ ᖼDŽӺਚቡ䎧㲅䀰ѻˈ⮒ㄏअࡽ৸ᱟ䶌ˈ⭘ࡽ৸ᱟ億ˈᝏࡽ৸ᱟᇲˈ 䲭ࡽ৸ᱟ䲠ˈ㘼ᇲࡽ৸ᱟᝏˈ䶌ࡽ৸ᱟअˈሷօ㘵⛪‫ݸ‬ᖼ˛нਟਚ䚃 Ӻᰕअ‫⛪ׯ‬࿻ˈ㘼᱘ᰕ䶌ᴤн䃚ҏDŽྲ啫᚟ˈ䀰બ੨ࡷ䗝丶ˈнਟ䚃 ੨બDŽ⮒ㄏબࡽ৸ᱟ੨ˈ੨ࡽ৸ᱟબDŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. I, Liqi shang, 1) If we speak about yin and yang and say that yang is the function, whereas yin is the substance, we should realize that yin and yang have no beginning, just as movement and stillness have no culmination. Here, we cannot speak about before and after, or front and back. Today, we are accustomed to saying that before movement there necessarily had to be stillness, and that before any function there had to be some substance. Before perception there should always be solitude and before yang there should always be yin. But before any solitude, there is also some perception and before any


Chapter One stillness there is movement. How can we claim that one came before, and the other after? We cannot speak only about today’s movement and place it at the beginning, and simply forget about yesterday’s stillness. It is the same as breathing. We are accustomed to speaking about inhalation, followed by exhalation. We never speak of them the other way around. Yet, there is an exhalation before any inhalation, just as there is an inhalation before any exhalation.

Chinese Analogy These complementary relations also form the basis of the traditional Chinese analogical model, which represents the principal form of a specifically Chinese logic. This model is a specific form of thought, based upon the structural ordering of relations. Ӫѫࠪ䀰ˈ丶ᯬ⨶ˈਸᯬ≁ᛵˈࡷ≁ਇަ䗝ˈ≁ਇަ䗝ˈࡷ਽㚢ㄐ. (Guan 2010. Xing shi jie 11) Words, expressed by rulers are in accordance with the structure and are therefore congruent with the situation of the people. Thus, the people can accept his statements. And if they accept them, the correct names are established. Relational reasoning, including the distinctively human capacity to see analogies between disparate situations, requires the ability to mentally represent and manipulate the relations among concepts. (Knowlton and Holyoak 2009, 1005)

Analogism, which is the dominant type of Chinese logic, derived from the specific social context existing in China during the pre-Qin era. This method was often used by the earliest Chinese philosophers. They investigated, developed and applied it to a wide and diversified range of ideologies. Analogisms have the property of general analogical inferences. These are based upon the structural similarity of the objects in question, i.e. upon the identity of two kinds (or types) of things that have certain attributes in common. Upon confirming this identity, we can then deduce that these two kinds (types) of things must also be identical with respect to the rest of their attributes. Thus, if we have two objects (A and B) with a series of common properties (e.g. P1, P2…Pn) and if object A has the property q, then we can analogically infer that object B also has the property q (Cui and Zhang 2005, 26). Analogical inference is not only an inference that has been drawn between one particular/specific and another particular/specific; it also represents a type of inference in which the premises are not necessarily connected to the conclusion. The connection between the premise and the

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


conclusion pertains to the sphere of probability; hence, this type of inference belongs to the category of probability inferences. Nonetheless, the Chinese method of analogical logic met the basic requirements of scientific demonstration, i.e. it clarified the origin of a certain knowledge, the logical inevitability of its sources and the supporting demonstration (Cui and Zhang 2005, 29). One of the most important aspects of traditional Chinese analogism is that it did not focus exclusively on forms without considering their contents, a method which could be seen as useful for advocating one’s own ideas, while refuting the ideas of others. At the same time, it also provided a basis for an awareness of ethical, political and social issues. We should also stress that analogism, being an inference based upon similarities between the known and unknown, was not only a model which could be applied to existing experience, but also had certain epistemological effects. It was thus relatively easy to apply as a model for the determination of truth. There is an objective link between logic and culture which cannot be ignored. This link manifests itself as culturally bound restrictions on logic, rather than as the influence of logical thought upon culture. Therefore, any logical tradition can only be understood within the framework of the history and culture which produced it. The Chinese logical tradition is no exception to this rule: if we want to understand the Chinese method of analogisms, our interpretations must take into account the specific social and cultural circumstances of the pre-Qin era, during which the foundations of specific Chinese logical thought were established. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 29)

Thinking through Relations It is a long held truism, that the ability to evaluate the perceptual similarity between stimuli is the sine qua non of biological cognition which underlies nearly every cognitive process, from stimulus generalization and Pavlovian conditioning to object recognition, conceptualization, categorization and inductive reasoning. Regardless of our individual and cultural backgrounds, we are not only able to evaluate the similarity between objects based on perceptual congruencies, i.e. recognizing when two physical stimuli are perceptually similar, but can also understand when two ideas, mental states, grammatical constructions or causal-logical relations are similar as well. Even pre-school aged children understand that the relation between a bird and its nest is similar to the relation between a dog and its doghouse, even though there is little “surface” or


Chapter One

“object” similarity between the constituents of this relation (Penn etc. 2008, 111). Analogical inferences5 are based upon the premise that reality is an organic whole composed of mutually interconnected parts which have identical or similar attributes, functions and mutually compatible structures. Analogical inferences pertain to fundamental types of deductive inferences and are an important cognitive tool that can be used to present scientific hypotheses. Structure is essential for analogical inferences, because similar cognitive methods follow a thought process by which a known aspect or segment of reality forms a model that can be applied in order to recognize another unknown aspect or segment of that same reality, by linking them through identical properties or structure6. In this case, analogy depends on the mapping or alignment of elements in the source and target. The mapping not only regards objects, but also relations among objects and relations among relations. The full mapping produces the designation of a predicate or a relation to the target. Computational models of analogy emphasize the role of structural parallels between relations in the source and target. The importance of formal structure provided the basis for Gernet’s (1983) structure mapping theory, which has been implemented in the structure mapping engine. (Lee and Holyoak 2008, 1112)

Specific Features of the Chinese Model Given our main thesis that the Chinese epistemological tradition is defined by structural perception and reasoning, it is hardly surprising that


Lat.: ratiocinatio per analogiam A historical example of the structural compatibility that defines such inferences can be found in the designing of the first atom models in Europe in the early 20th century. These models were based on the assumption that electrons with a negative charge were moving in circular or elliptical orbits around the atomic core, which had a positive charge. Every atom could therefore be described as a kind of microcosmic solar system. This supposition was based on analogical inference (Elliot 1999, 34). Coulomb’s Law which states that the magnitude of the electrostatic force between two points of electrical charges is directly proportional to the product of the magnitudes of each of the charges and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the two charges, is structurally related to Newton’s law of gravitation, which is linked in turn to Kepler’s law of planetary motion. 6

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


the method of analogical inference was already the most important model of logical inference in ancient China. However, the Chinese model of analogical inferences differs in many essential respects from the Greek or Indian model. In the international history of logic, we can find three major traditions of logical thought, namely the Greek, the Indian and the Chinese. These different traditions have similarities as well as particularities. They all proceed from the same basic contents and all of them developed specific forms of inferences. Their differences result from differing social conditions and cultural backgrounds, which both underlay and limited them. Thus, each developed their own peculiar features, most of which were connected to their respective dominant form of inferences. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 25)

In ancient Greece, the core of Aristotelian logic was to be found in three-part argumentation, while in ancient Indian logic the prevailing types were the five-branch method, and the three-branch method that evolved from it. In pre-Qin China, the dominant inference mode was analogism. Although some scholars insist that analogism in Chinese logic (especially Mohist logic) was identical to Aristotelian three-part argumentation (or the three-branch method), there is no convincing evidence for this view which, in fact, has never found acceptance in the academic world. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, Hu Shi 㜑䚙 questioned Zhang Binglin’s ㄐ ⛣哏 assertion that the Mohist school had developed a theory of three-part argumentation, arguing that the Mohist theories were based upon causality rather than on deduction. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 25) Tan Jiepu 䆊ᡂ⭛ instead claimed that Mohist argumentation was very similar to ancient Indian logic, given that nearly 70% of its key terminology was common to both. Wen Gongyi ⓛ‫ޜ‬乔, an authority on traditional Chinese logic, was among those who firmly rejected this view: The Mohist Argumentation, by Tan Jiepu claims that the Mohist type of inference was basically the same as those found in Western and Indian logic. I do not think such comparisons can grasp the essence of the Mohist logic of argumentation… for logic as an instrument of reasoning is closely linked to linguistic structures. Since different languages are defined by different historical and cultural characteristics, the structures and classifications of different types of logic must also differ. (Wen Gongyi cf Cui and Zhang 2005, 25)


Chapter One

The specific features of analogisms derived from the general characteristics of Chinese logic, which Hu Shi 㜑 䚙 (1891–1962) described as follows: ⌅ᔿⲴ˄Formal˅Ⲵаᯩ䶒ˈ㠚❦䚐нྲঠᓖⲴഐ᰾઼ↀ⍢Ⲵ䚿 䕟ˈ……ᴹᆨ⨶Ⲵสᵜˈফ⋂ᴹᖒᔿⲴ㍟䌵DŽ(Hu Shi 1983, 154–5) The formal aspect of Chinese logic is obviously far less important than in ancient Indian or traditional European logic.… Its essence is of a theoretical rather than a formal nature.

The fact that ancient Chinese logicians focused on contents rather than form, is the main characteristic that defines the specificity of such Chinese discourses. Germs of such reasoning can also be found in ancient Greek logic, especially in the works of Aristotle, although they would not be developed further within the European tradition of logic until the early 20th century, with the emergence of new theories in the philosophy of language. The above-mentioned modern philosopher Zhang Dongsun, argued that the logic of disputation (in the sense of arguments and counterarguments, i.e. of thesis and antithesis) was also developed in ancient Greece, but this logical method was not elaborated further because the European tradition preferred to focus on the development of formal logic instead. In the history of traditional European logic, even Aristotelian logic implied two main methods: that of evidences and disputation. But while later developments concentrated upon syllogisms, based upon the former method, the latter was gradually forgotten (Li Xiankun 2001, 353). New research into the logic of argumentation by various logicians7 would not occur before the latter half of the 20th century: The enduring achievement of Aristotle lay in his ability to permeate practical thought by studying, preserving and applying its general forms and bringing them to consciousness. To do this, Aristotle’s method introduced changing and unchanging terms into the analysis of properties. When we use the appropriate changing terms instead of unchanging terms in a proposition, i.e multiple and complex practical contents, we obtain a generalized formula from the practical proposition. Formal logic, the foundations of which were laid by Aristotle, related to this kind of form (Cui and Zhang 2005, 33).


An early pioneer in this field was the Belgian logician Ch. Perelman (1912–1984).

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


Formal logic seeks to distinguish between general forms of cognitive processes, and the object of investigation. Chinese logic differs in this respect, for its creators were less interested in defining general abstract formulas of propositions and analogies, than in creating semantic (rather than formal) structures, which they then tried to define by means of descriptive explanations and practical examples. This focus on contents rather than form in ancient Chinese logic led to the classification of analogisms into four main types, which the Mohists named “pi” 䗏, “mo” ׄ, “yuan” ᨤ and “tui” ᧘. While the pi type was based on explanation by example, the mo type referred to deduction from a parallel series of words, phrases or sentences (“ci”). The yuan type was instead based upon potentially similar views and the tui type on agreements with certain views through the negation of contrary views. All these types were apparently based upon descriptive methods. In ancient China, this attention to contents led to fundamental pecularities in the development of inferences. The structural systematization which defines the general (i.e. traditional European) model of analogical inferences dictates a proposition by which certain relations necessarily imply other relations, regardless of the concrete domain or context (Holyoak 2008, 150). For example: let’s suppose that R is a transitive relation; if there is a relation R (a, b) and at the same time there is a relation R (a, c) then it must be valid for all relations R that R (a, b) and R (b, c) both necessarily include R (a, c). Instead, the classical Chinese analogical method also distinguishes within this general model between different types of inferences with respect to the semanticaxiological value of the relations they include. In other words, in the Chinese model the validity or non-validity of analogical inferences also depends upon the axiological value of both preceding propositions. To illustrate this difference, let us take two inferences with exactly the same formal structure, but where (according to their authors) the first one is valid, while the second is not. (1 ) 傚俜ˈ俜ҏ˗҈傚俜ˈ҈俜ҏDŽ⦢ˈӪҏ˗ᝋ⦢ˈᝋӪҏDŽ(Mozi 2010. XI, Xiao qu, 4) Black horses are horses. If we ride a black horse, we ride a horse. Female slaves are human beings. If we love a female slave, we love a human being.

If we replace “female slave” with “thief”, we obtain a formally and structurally equivalent inference worded as follows:


Chapter One (2) 䴆ⴌӪӪҏˈᝋⴌˈᝋӪҏDŽ Thieves are human beings. If we love a thief, we love a human being.

Although both examples are structurally equivalent on the formal level, and their premises are doubtless true, for the later Mohists the first inference was valid, whereas the second was not, for the former accorded with common sense, while the latter did not8. In their view: (3) 䴆ⴌӪӪҏˈᝋⴌ䶎ᝋӪҏ. (Mozi 2010. XI, Xiao qu, 5) Thieves are human beings, but to love a thief does not mean to love a human being.

They explained this conclusion as follows: ྊԕ᰾ѻ˛ᜑཊⴌˈ䶎ᜑཊӪҏ˗Ⅲ❑ⴌˈ䶎Ⅲ❑ӪҏDŽц⴨㠷‫ޡ‬ᱟ ѻDŽ㤕㤕ᱟˈࡷ䴆ⴌӪӪҏˈᝋⴌ䶎ᝋӪҏ. (Mozi 2010. XI, Xiao qu, 5) How can this be explained? If we do not like thieves, this does not mean we do not like human beings. And if we desire that there be no thieves, this does not mean we desire there be no human beings. This is the same everywhere in the world. And if this is true, then it is likewise true that to love thieves does not mean to love human beings.

In this case, the Mohist interpretation does not hold up to closer verification, for thieves (like female slaves) are a subspecies of human beings. An equivalence is thus valid in affirmative arguments, but not necessarily in negations, for if all thieves are people, clearly not every person is a thief. The same holds true for female slaves. The element of semantic connotation is even more evident in the following example of Mohist argumentation:


This validation was clearly related to the ideological stance of the later Mohists, who––in contrast to their staunchest opponents, the Confucians––advocated universal love but were not opposed to capital punishment. They thus had to reconcile this contradiction.

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


⤇ˈ⣜ҏˈ㘼⇪⤇䶎⇪⣜ҏ. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing xia, 155) A dog is the same as a cur, but to kill a dog is not the same as to kill a cur9.

In this frame of different semantic valuations of specific elements in the premises of both of the above inferences, it is evident that to love female slaves means to love human beings, while to love thieves does not necessarily mean to love human beings.

Semantic Connotations of Inferences In the Chinese tradition, the various kinds of inferences were thus always further defined by semantic connotations. These models of inference, grounded upon semantically determined analogies, were extremely important in traditional Chinese logic, as is clearly evidenced by many influential works of the pre-Qin era. Germs of analogical theory can already be found in the Confucian commentary on the Book of Changes (Zhou Yi ઘ᱃), as well as in the Analects (Lunyu 䄆䃎) of Confucius. Many important elaborations of these elements are contained in the Mohist canon (Mozi ໘ᆀ) and in the principal works of Confucius’ followers, Mencius (Mengzi ᆏᆀ) and Xunzi (㥰ᆀ). The theory of analogies was further developed by Lü Buwei ੲн䷻ in his Commentary on Confucius’ Annals of Spring and Autumn (Lü shi Chunqiu ੲ∿᱕⿻). All these works contain clear indications that the application and investigation of analogies was quite common among Chinese scholars, and can be traced back to at least the 6th century BC. Although Confucius ᆄ ཛ ᆀ (551–479 BC), the “inventor” of the earliest Confucian teachings, never explicitly and systematically expounded or explained this model, many of his sayings definitely indicate that he considered its application an important part of ethical and political learning. The following citation from the Analects 䄆䃎, as recorded by his disciple Xue Er ᆨ 㘼 , clearly shows that Confucius was well acquainted with the type of reasoning which is rooted in acquiring knowledge through analogies and that he often applied it in his methods of inference from known to unknown elements.


Curiously, in his investigations on universals, Russell (1979b, 256) also concerned himself with the problem of dogs and the different words that denote them.


Chapter One ੺䄨ᖰ㘼⸕ֶ㘵. (Lunyu 2010. Xue Er, 15) I gave him a hint and he got the whole point.

This is an example of proceeding by inference from the known to the unknown. A similar transfer of information was based on the assumption that elements with like properties could be treated with the same criteria. The same source also indicates that Confucius had the habit of instructing his disciples in this kind of reasoning. When he gave them one corner of a rectangle, he required his students to reflect upon it and produce the other three corners: ᆀᴠ˖н។н┇㸪୙ᝑ୙ⓐࠋ㠹а䲵㘼нԕй䲵৽ˈࡷнᗙҏ. (Lunyu 2010. Xue Shu Er, 8) If a student is not keen, I will not teach him; if he is not struggling with the truth, I will not reveal it to him. If I lift up one corner and he can not come back with the other three, I will not ask him again.

The four corners of the rectangle are similarities; seeking the other three corners when one is provided, as Confucius required of his disciples, is a process of analogy. Making inferences regarding the other three corners based on the one which is given, is thus a kind of analogism. It is a process of analogy to seek the other three corners from the one corner which is given. Hence, drawing inferences about the other three corners based on the one given corner is a kind of analogism (Cui and Zhang 2005, 28).

Even the concept of humanity (ren ӱ), one of the main Confucian virtues was, according to Confucius, established as an analogical model of a person who infers the nature of his fellow human beings based upon his own nature: ᆀᴠ˖‘ཛӱ㘵ˈᐡⅢ・㘼・ӪˈᐡⅢ䚄㘼䚄ӪDŽ㜭䘁ਆ䆜ˈਟ䄲ӱ ѻᯩҏᐢ. (Lunyu 2010. Yong Ye, 30) Confucius said: the humane man, wishing himself to be established, sees that others are established, and, wishing himself to be successful, sees that others are successful. To be able to take one’s own feelings as a guide may be called the art of humanity.

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


In this citation, which can be understood as a Confucian version of the Christian “Golden rule”, we find the term pi 䆜, which in later texts is used to signify “analogy”, in the sense of a cognitive process or information transfer from one person to another. In the interpretation of ancient texts, the character “Pi” 䆜 means figuration. Xu Xuan ᗀ䡹 and Xu Kai ᗀ䥷 define it as “to match”. Hence, Pi can be interpreted as explaining a truth or making it understood by using suitable matching or corresponding examples (Cui and Zhang 2005, 29).

Inference, as used in these examples from Confucius, implies two oppositional concepts that are seen as similar, because they belong to the same kind10. In this instance, the concepts are those of “self” and “other”, and the inference consists in the possibility of establishing a cognitive process that links the first concept with the second. The proposition of putting oneself into other people’s shoes means we have to know who people are before we can judge their preferences; thus, we cannot judge them through our own preferences or proclivities (Cui and Zhang 2005, 29). This ideological assumption was later taken up and developed further by Mencius (Mengzi ᆏ ᆀ 371–289 BC), who, however, based his conclusions on a logical foundation which clearly differed from that of Confucius. This foundation was based on notions of kind (lei 于) and thus on human beings being of the same “kind”. With this concept, Mencius introduced a new methodological dimension into the process of analogy as a specific method of Chinese logic. 㚆ӪѻҾ≁ˈӖ于ҏ (Mengzi 2010. Gongsun Zhou shang, 2) Saints and ordinary people are of the same kind.

The thought of Mencius was thus based upon the idea of “humankind”. In his view, all members of “humankind” must have something in common. According to Mencius, the similarity of minds is the basic similarity which defines human beings. Since their minds are structured in the same way, 10

This is a latent supposition which was considered by Confucius, but not defined explicitly by him. The definition was established later by his follower Mengzi ᆏ ᆀ (see following paragraph). The concept of kind, however, is also mentioned in earlier Confucian classics, such as the Book of Ritual (Li ji ⿞䁈).


Chapter One they can directly communicate and be “kindred” with one another. His treatises reveal a form of analogical thought which is based upon the theory that human beings are of the same kind. Obviously, these analogies were developed on the basis of Confucian teaching, which required people “to be guided by their own feelings” when dealing with one another. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 30)

Hence, objects that belonged to the same kind, and could thus be treated with the same criteria, were clearly connected through some form of identical (or at least similar) constitution. These objects had to be connected through the same structure. 㘼㩜⢙ѻ⨶ˈ਴ԕަ于⴨अҏ. (Li ji 2010. Li qi, 30) The structures of everything that exists interact mutually through their kinds.

In Daoist discourses, this systemic connection between kinds or classes was also understood as the fundamental characteristic of structure. ਼于⴨ᗎˈ਼㚢⴨៹ˈപཙѻ⨶ҏ. (Zhuangzi 2010. Yu fu, 3) Like seeks like, and similar tones respond to one another; this is the structure of the universe.

Based on this premise, communication between human beings is only possible because the human brain is structured in the same way (the contemporary theoreticians Cui Qingtian and Zhang Xiaoguang provide a similar interpretation). The assumption that objects belonging to the same kind were mutually connected because they shared the same structure was the object of particular attention by Confucius’ second follower, Xunzi 㥰 ᆀ (313–238 BC). His analogies were already based upon a relatively rigorous classification of objects into different kinds. Like his predecessors, Xunzi assumed that objects belonging to the same kind could be treated with the same logical methods and in accordance with the same criteria. But with respect to the themes of the present study, it is very significant that structure was seen as the main criterion for including specific objects within the same kind: 于нᛆˈ䴆ѵ਼⨶. (Xunzi 2010. Fei Xiang, 7) That which is of the same kind is not in mutual contradiction and always has the same structure.

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


By assuming that each thing belongs to a certain kind and that objects of the same kind have the same structure, Xunzi established a theory of inferences based upon the analogy of similarities (Cui and Zhang 2005, 31). But Xunzi was also a pioneer of legal thought, and based upon this concept of kind he formulated a theory of legal precedents: ަᴹ⌅㘵ԕ⌅㹼ˈ❑⌅㘵ԕ于㠹,11᧘于᧕䆭ˈԕᖵ❑ᯩ (Xunzi, Wang zhi, 3) We should implement laws according to the written statutes. If there are no written statutes, we should implement them according to previous cases of the same kind. This is an effective way of dealing with changeable circumstances.

Examples of analogical inferences can already be found in what is perhaps the most influential work of ancient Chinese philosophy: the Confucian commentaries on the Book of Changes (Yi jing ᱃㏃): ᱃㠷ཙൠ߶ˈ᭵㜭ᕼ㏨ཙൠѻ䚃. (Zhou Yi 2010. Xici shang, 4). The (Book of) Changes was composed based on principles of accordance with heaven and earth, and therefore clearly shows us the course of heaven and earth.

The Book of Changes was thus probably already based upon an idea of the world as being composed of an unitarian, universal structure. This conjecture finds confirmation in a comment dating from the period of the Western Han Dynasty 㾯╒ (206 BC–9 AD) ᱃㉑㘼ཙлѻ⨶ᗇ⸓. (Han shi wai zhuan 2010. III, 1) The (Book of) Changes is simple and yet it provides the key to mastering the universal structure.

This conception of the world enabled the ancient Chinese philosophers to create analogies that were based on structural connections: The Book of Changes lj᱃㏃NJ argued that universality included the logic of the world; it applied the Eight Trigrams as symbols, expressing structural


The character “䂹” was pronounced as “yue” in classical Chinese; it meant similarity (see Cui and Zhang 2005, 30)


Chapter One connections to the laws of Nature. These symbols were also applied as criteria for the classification and epitomizing of all worldly situations. The reason for this “epitomizing” of all universal laws by the scheme of the Eight Trigrams, is found in the method of “comprehending by analogy”, that was applied by interpreting these symbols. This method was one of gradual (step by step) deduction, based upon analogies. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 40)

Each of the basic binary symbols was rooted in a structure that was integral and all-embracing, and could therefore be expanded to include a limitless number of things that belonged to the same kind as this singular, concrete symbol. In the pre-Qin era, the method of analogical inferences was further investigated and elaborated by the later Mohists. As we have seen, their canonical work Mozi ໘ᆀ, includes several chapters that, both directly and indirectly, seek to resolve questions connected to this method. Because the Mohists were especially concerned with the concrete application and logical classification of analogical inference, their arguments are mostly focused on the “difficulties related to the theoretical definition of analogies (᧘于ѻ䴓䃚)” (Mozi 2010. X, Jing xia, 102). In the chapter just cited (X), we also find the first occurrence of a term that is still used in modern Chinese to denote the traditional method of analogical inference (tuilei ᧘于). In any case, based on earlier investigations, the later Mohists systematically elaborated and developed these findings into a coherent, integral theory of analogies that would prove invaluable for the further development of the methods of analogical inference. The Mohist approach to the methodological suppositions of analogical inference was determined by their desire to arrive at a detailed definition of the notion of kind. Hence, they were the first philosophers to engage in extensive debate on the notion of kind (lei 于) in relation to naming (ming ਽), both of kind and the objects belonging to it: ਽, 䚄, 于, ⿱. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing shang, 79) Name: unrestricted; classifying; individual. ਽⢙, 䚄ҏ. ᴹሖ, ᗵᖵѻ਽ҏ. ભѻ俜, 于ҏ. 㤕ሖҏ㘵, ᗵԕᱟ਽ҏ. ભ ѻ㠗, ⿱ҏ. ᱟ਽ҏ→ᯬሖҏ. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing shuo shang, 79) Naming something “a thing” is unrestricted, since any actuality necessarily requires this name. Naming something “horse”, however, is a classification, because for actualities of this type we necessarily use this name. Naming

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


someone “Zang” is individual, because this name remains limited to this particular reality.

But the Mohists also defined the notion of kind with respect to the concepts of identity (tong ਼) and difference (yi ⮠): ਼, 䟽, 億, ਸ, 于. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing shang, 87) Same. Identical, as units, as together, of a kind. ਼˖Ҽ਽аሖˈ䟽਼ҏDŽнཆᯬެˈ億਼ҏDŽ‫ء‬㲅ᯬᇔˈਸ਼ҏDŽᴹ ԕ਼ˈ于਼ҏDŽ(Mozi 2010. X, Jing shuo shang, 87) If there are two names but only one object, then this is the sameness of “identity”. Not being outside the total is sameness “as units”. Both occupying the same space is the sameness of “being together”. Being the same in some respect is sameness in being “of a kind”. ⮠, Ҽ, н億, нਸ, н于. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing shang, 88) Different. Two, not units, not together, not of a kind. ⮠˖Ҽᗵ⮠ˈҼҏDŽн䙓ኜˈн億ҏDŽн਼ᡰˈнਸҏDŽнᴹ਼ˈн 于ҏDŽ(Mozi 2010. X, Jing shuo shang, 88) Different: If there are two (objects), they are necessarily different, being “two”. (Objects that are) not connected or attached are “not units”. (Objects that are) not in the same place are “not together”. (Objects that are) not the same in some respect are “not of a kind”.

According to the later Mohists, analogical inferences were problematic due to the different sizes (consistency) of kinds as such: ᧘于ѻ䴓,䃚൘ѻབྷሿ. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing xia, 102) Analogical inferences (lit. transferring the kinds) are difficult because of their sizes. 䄲ഋ䏣⦨, 㠷⢋俜㠷, ⢙ⴑ⮠, བྷሿҏ. ↔❦ᱟᗵ❦, ࡷާ. (Mozi 2010. X, Jing shuo xia, 102) If we speak about animals with four legs, then oxen and horses are included. But, ultimately, (all) things differ in something; therefore, this is a question of the sizes (of kinds).


Chapter One

The relation between the size of kind, and sameness/difference was therefore fundamental, and would be formulated in greater detail by the nominalist Hui Shi ᜐᯭ (ca 370–310 BC). In fact, differentiating among kinds with respect to their extension 12 implied the (im)possibility of analogical inferences based upon transferring information from these kinds. For example, in the citation above, the kind of animal with four legs is a sort of “umbrella” that “covers” many more limited kinds of animals with different names. The Mohists thus cautioned that when inferring we must be aware of the size of a particular kind, for the larger a kind, the less the objects belonging to it will possess common attributes and criteria. Analogical inferences should therefore apply criteria that are appropriate for the dimensions of a particular kind. However, objects should not be shifted from larger into smaller kinds arbitrarily, as this could lead to false conclusions: ⢋㠷俜ᜏ⮠ˈԕ⢋ᴹ喂ˈ俜ᴹቮˈ䃚⢋ѻ䶎俜ҏˈнਟDŽᱟ‫ء‬ᴹˈн 䙽ᴹˈ䙽❑ᴹDŽᴠ‘⢋㠷俜н于ˈ⭘⢋ᴹ䀂ˈ俜❑䀂ˈᱟ于н਼ҏ’DŽ 㤕㠹⢋ᴹ䀂ˈ俜❑䀂ˈԕᱟ⛪于ѻн਼ҏˈᱟ⣲㠹ҏDŽ⥦⢋ᴹ喂ˈ俜 ᴹቮDŽ(Mozi 2010. X, Jing shuo xia, 167) We cannot claim that oxen and horses are different because the former have teeth, while the latter have tails. They both have teeth and tails. But neither can we claim that an ox is different from a horse because it has horns, while a horse does not. If we take the fact that oxen have horns, while horses do not as an example in order to clarify the differences between them, it is a kind of nonsense, just like the example that an ox has teeth and a horse has a tail13.

The Mohists thus asserted that the criterion for distinguishing the identity (similarity) or difference between individual objects should be how general the possession or non-possession of a given attribute was (Cui and Zhang 2005, 34). It was wrong to distinguish an ox from a horse because it has teeth, whereas a horse has a tail. Teeth are not a unique, specific characteristic of oxen, just as tails are not a unique feature of horses. But distinguishing them because oxen have horns, while horses do 12

Or, at the semantic level, to their intension and extension respectively. The problem of oxen and horses (or, more specifically, of beef and horse meat) was also analyzed by the modern British philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1979, 266–7). He concluded that the question of “universals” was not only a problem of words, but a difficulty that arose when trying to determine facts (Russell 1979, 267).


Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


not, is likewise wrong, for horns are not a differentia specifica of oxen, but also a characteristic of sheep and goats. Only a unique feature can serve as a criterion for distinguishing objects within a certain kind. If things have some unique similarities, they are of the same type; if not, they belong to different types. So, if we want to judge whether certain things belong to a same type or not, we can only take unique differences or similarities (which manifest themselves in their general attributes) as a standard. Otherwise, the average differences or similarities (in their general attributes) cannot help us in judging whether these things belong to a same type or not. Hence, similarities in the evidences of analogism are relationships between things with the same unique attributes. (Cui and Zhang 2005, 34)

Things of the same kind can appear in analogies as the carrier or object of the information transfer. Analogical inferences follow a structure that connects all elements within a particular kind. It is hardly accidental, therefore, that in such discourses structure functions as one of the basic elements that make analogies possible. The Mohists established three conditions that determined the formulation of the so-called “phrase”, which served as the basic tool for analogical, inferential and cognitive processes. These phrases (ci 䗝) were defined as elements that express meaning: ԕ਽㠹ሖˈԕ䗝ᣂ᜿ (Mozi 2010. XI, Xiao qu, 1) Names denote realities, and phrases express meaning.

Subsequently, an even more detailed definition of this term was given by Xunzi: 䗝ҏ㘵ˈެ⮠ሖѻ਽ԕ䄆а᜿ҏ. (Xunzi 2010. Zheng ming, 11) A phrase is a way to express an idea by combining different names and terms.

For the Mohists, phrases were fundamental elements of a wellregulated communication, based upon principles of semantic logic. Phrases could thus provide the bases for analogies. Phrases were also viewed as sentences or propositions (Cui and Zhang 2005, 23). The Mohists stressed that the existence, composition and application of phrases could not be arbitrary, otherwise people would not be able to communicate clearly, and


Chapter One

understand one another. The three necessary conditions that determined phrases, as well as analogies, were reasons, structures and kinds. й⢙ᗵާˈ❦ᖼ䏣ԕ⭏DŽཛ䗝ԕ᭵⭏ˈԕ⨶䮧ˈԕ于㹼ҏ㘵DŽ・䗝㘼 н᰾ᯬަᡰ⭏ˈྴҏDŽ(Mozi 2010. XI. Daqu, 25) Before starting an argument, three elements are necessary: phrases originate from reasons, they follow structures and are transferred through kinds. Forming phrases without a clear knowledge of their reasons leads to chaos.

“They follow structures” probably means the application of phrases within a well-regulated semantic structure of language and meaning (reasoning). The “transfer of phrases through kinds”, i.e. the cognitive processes that are based upon analogies, follow the structure that determines the intrinsic constitution of language and thought. Structure (li ⨶ ) thus signifies well ordered (i.e. proper and reasonable) relations between reasons (gu ᭵) and kinds (lei 于) (Cui and Zhang 2005, 38). With these elements in mind, let us now re-examine the Mohist example regarding the difference between killing a dog or a cur. Even though both words are synonyms and refer to the same being with different denotations, we can now detect a specificity of Chinese logic in the understanding of the structure of relations that form models of analogical inferences. This framework is based upon an important assumption, by which a sentential structure is not merely a formal, static structure with immutable functions, but also implies dynamic variations of different meanings that can influence the validity or invalidity of a given inference.

The Structural Model of Thought Combining meanings thus appears as one of the main characteristics of classical Chinese. The composition of classical Chinese sentences tends towards the intrinsic connection among the parts of the sentence, and rarely applies any formal signs. The grammar of an ancient Chinese sentence is determined by the word order and semantic meanings. In many sentences and their structures there are many synonyms and ambiguities because of the unlimited possibilities caused by the lack of formal symbols. As a result, we can only understand these sentences through their contextual meaning. Of all the elements of language, meaning is the most important one in ancient Chinese. To some extent, this

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


essential structure influenced the entire Chinese tradition and culture (Cui and Zhang 2005, 41).

This particular feature of the Chinese language also influenced the prevailing methods of thought that manifested themselves in the processes of inferences, based upon proximity, similarity and identity. Although this did not lead to the development of a “classical” deduction, it did create the specifically Chinese type of analogism. As is well known, analogy in a general sense is a cognitive model that employs a neuro-cognitive working-memory system to activate and bind relational representations, integrate multiple relations, and suppress distracting information (Morrisona and Cho 2008, 31). Using several priming tasks, Spellman et al. (2001) investigated whether analogy might just be a consequence of the organization of concepts in semantic memory. They found that unlike traditional semantic priming, “analogical” priming was not automatic and instead required the participant to direct attention to relations between word pairs. This suggested that controlled retrieval of a bound relation into working memory (WM) may be a necessary process for analogical reasoning. Subsequent experiments demonstrated that WM was indeed important for analogical mapping, as well as relational binding (Morrisona and Cho 2008, 31).

Perhaps this helps explain why relational propositions formed the basis of the specific logic that was developed in ancient China, while propositions with a subject-predicate structure were instead typical of ancient Greek logic. The correlation between dual but mutually complementary oppositions (above/below, before/behind, etc.) thus constitutes the very source of ancient Chinese logic. Traditional cognitive methods, however, did not remain limited to bipolar models, which only provided the foundations for basic, simple methods of comprehension. In such methods, binary (i.e. dual predispositions) functioned as basic elements or relational models that could be developed into higher or more complex structures or models of multi-layered, plural models of comprehension and thought. Hence, traditional Chinese forms of cognition were defined by relations among individual objects of comprehension. These relations formed a dynamic structure that determined each singular entity through connections and influences between itself and other entities. In his study, Chinese forms of Cognition (ѝ഻ᙍ㏝ᖒ᝻) Wu Chun ੮␣ describes the


Chapter One

systemic, relational type of reasoning which arose from the specifically Chinese holistic worldview: ൘ᮤ億ᙗᙍ㏝ѝ, ৸⭒⭏ҶаぞᯠⲴᖒᔿ, 䙉ቡᱟ㚟㒛. ൘㚟㒛Ⲵᙍ㏝ ѝ,а‫ػ‬һ⢙ᡆ⢙億䙊ᑨнᴳᱟᆔ⨶ᆈ൘Ⲵ, 㘼ᱟ㠷ਖа‫ػ‬һ⢙ᡆ⢙億 ᴹ㪇㚟㒛. ᨋ䀰ѻ, а‫ػ‬һ⢙䙊ᑨᱟа‫ػ‬㚟㌫㏢㎑кᡆᮤ億㎀ΏѝⲴһ ⢙. 䴒䮻䙉ぞ㏢㎑ᡆ㎀ΏⲴһ⢙, ሖ䳋кᱟнᆈ൘Ⲵ. (Wu Chun 1998, 312) Integral reasoning developed another new form, namely relational thought, in which things cannot exist independently, because they are always related to other things. In other words, each single thing can only exist within a relational network or within an integral structure. In fact, nothing can exist outside of this network or structure.

This basic assumption also had a very profound influence on traditional Chinese epistemological approaches. In fact, in these approaches the primary object of recognition is not a specific entity (regardless of whether it belongs to the “external” or “internal” world), but its relations. The universe was thus conceived of as a complex network of innumerable, interdependent relations that were connected to and separated from one another in countless ways and on countless levels. Hence, traditional Chinese philosophers did not focus solely upon the human ability to grasp analogies, but also upon the capacity to combine relations into structures of a higher order. They also stressed that in order to make our relational capacity operational, an elaborate symbolic system, such as human language, was necessary. The modern theoretician, Dong Zhongshu, pointed out that, already during the Han Dynasty, the symbolic level of language was based upon common meanings: ਽㲏⮠㚢㘼਼ᵜ. (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shen cha minghao, 1) Names and symbols are pronounced in different ways, but they all arise from the same foundation.

This foundation was understood as a structural connection between everything that exists: ≁ѻ⛪䀰ˈപ⥦ⷁҏˈ䳘ަ਽㲏ԕ‫( ⨶ަޕ‬Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shen cha minghao, 4)

Specific Features of Traditional Chinese Philosophy


When people were creating language, they acted like a blind man: i.e. they followed the symbolic signs of names (concepts) in order to understand their structure.

The fundamental axiom of structural language and reasoning was thus rooted in the assumption that the entities and behaviour of any complex system cannot be properly understood without first constructing a model of the basic structure of all that exists. Hence, the epistemology of relational thought was not limited to dual or bipolar models, but tended towards a systemic reasoning rooted in an integral structure of reality. ㎖㠷↔, Ӫ‫Ⲵف‬ᙍ㏝⍫अቡᗵ丸ԕ㚟㒛Ⲵᯩᔿ䙻㹼, 㘼нᱟԕᆔ・Ⲵᯩ ᔿᆈ൘. ⮦㘳ឞḀа‫ػ‬һ⢙ᱲ, ቡᗵ丸㘳ឞަ⴨䰌Ⲵһ⢙, 䙉ণवᤜ䂢 һ⢙ሽަԆһ⢙Ⲵᖡ丯, ҏवᤜަԆһ⢙ሽ䂢һ⢙Ⲵᖡ丯. ਟԕⴻࠪ, ᮤ億ᙍ㏝൘䙉㼑ᐢ䎠ࠪҼ‫ݳ‬㎀Ώ, ੁཊ⁓㎀ΏⲬኅ. (Wu Chun 1998, 312) Human thought had to follow relations and was no longer limited to the treatment of independent, isolated entities. If we think of a specific thing, we must simultaneously think of other things that are connected to it. This means we have to consider the impact it has upon other things, as well the impact other things have upon it. It thus becomes clear why such reasoning did not remain limited to a dual structure, but tended towards the development of plural structures.

A cognitive model of this kind is based upon viewing the world as a complex structure composed of relations, intersections and interacting feedback loops. Once the structure is perceived, simulated and understood, the basic functioning of the system becomes manifest, making the system’s response to problems, in terms of their solution, predictable.


Obviously, the understanding of structure as it was formulated in the European tradition cannot be equated with the general perception of this notion in China. As with any other expression, its semantic connotations are dependent, at least in part, upon the specific historical, political and ideological context in which the term originated. Before taking a closer look at these differences and their development in the specific context of the traditional Chinese comprehension of structure, we must briefly introduce the basic intercultural research methodology that we will apply in this study to the cultural conditioning of Chinese notions and their understanding.

Methodological Foundations: Notions and Their Semantic Implications in the Scope of Intercultural Studies When examining any area of non-European linguistics or culture, this problem is already implicit in the initial dilemma of how to try to “square the circle”, i.e., how to apply research and interpretative methods that derive from certain premises of the European tradition of thought, in the context of societies that are, at least in part, rooted in different modes of comprehending and communicating reality. Failing to take into account the specific conditions determined by different historical, linguistic and cultural contexts inevitably leads to misinterpretations of the object under examination. Unfortunately, in current intercultural research, projecting elements of the contents and forms of discourse which have been “coloured” by the dominant political (and thus also economic) power, onto the object in question, is still quite common. This is true even in the case of investigations and interpretations of contents which appeared or came into being in different circumstances and in diversely structured social and cultural contexts. This risk has also


Chapter Two

been recognized by a number of contemporary Chinese scholars engaged in researching and re-examining traditional Chinese philosophical thought. In the foreword to his study on traditional Chinese logic, Prof. Cui Qingtian ፄ␵⭠ writes: ∄䔳, ᱟᢺѝ, 㾯䚿䕟㿆⛪਴㠚⦘・Ⲵ᮷ॆ⨮䊑, 亗৺Ԇ‫ف‬਴㠚ᡰ⭡⭏ ᡀⲴ᮷ॆ㛼Ჟ, ⴻࡠަѝ⴨਼Ⲵᶡ㾯, ᴤ㾱⌘᜿ަѝ䄨ཊഐ㍐Ⲵᐘབྷᐞ ⮠, ԕ৺⭡↔ᡰᑦֶⲴн਼䚿䕟ۣ㎡ѻ䯃Ⲵ‫਼ޡ‬ᙗ઼⢩↺ᙗ. ∄䔳㾱≲ ਼, ᴤ㾱൘≲਼Ⲵส⼾к≲⮠. ⌘᜿≲⮠, ᡁ‫ف‬᡽㜭䂽䆈䚿䕟Ⲵཊ⁓ᙗ, ᡽ 㜭 䂽 䆈 䚿 䕟 Ⲵ ↧ ਢ , ҏ ᡽ 㜭 䙢 а ↕ ᧒ ≲ 䚿 䕟 Ⲵ Ⲭ ኅ 㾿 ᖻ . (Cui Qingtian 2001, 9) To compare Chinese and Western logic, means to view them as independent phenomena, each determined by its own culture. If we take into account their respective cultural backgrounds, we can still observe many of their congruities; but we must also pay attention to the many elements which constitute their decisive differences. Only on this basis will we be able to discern common features, as well as the specific characteristics of particular traditional forms of logic. Comparing means searching for joint properties but, even more importantly, it means being able to distinguish the basic differences which underlie such conformities. Only by acknowledging differences can we comprehend the manifold nature of logic, its history and the laws of its development.

The confrontation and understanding of terms and concepts which have been produced by and within “foreign” cultures is always linked to the problem of differences in language, tradition, history and socialization processes. Their interpretation is thus also closely linked to the geographical, political and economic “position” of the interpreter, as well as that of the object being interpreted. Despite the tendency towards more open, interdisciplinary approaches, the discourses of modern science and the humanities are still dominated by the paradigmatic network which serves the interests of the “New World”. Cui, for example, in his foreword also criticizes the paternalistic discourses which still characterize the generally accepted evaluation criteria not only in Western, but also in Chinese comparative research (the obligatory logical method for such evaluation is, of course, that of “Western” formal logic, although Cui never says so explicitly1): 1

The reason for such discretion is to be found, of course, in the paradigmatic Chinese politeness which prevents him from expressing his criticisms directly, but only obliquely and “between the lines”.

The Cultural Conditionality of the Comprehension of Structure


∄䱴, ᱟᢺаぞ䚿䕟㿆⛪ਖаぞ䚿䕟Ⲵ于լ⢙, ᡆㅹ਼⢙, 㖞ѝ, ཆ⽮ᴳ ৺᮷ॆ㛼ᲟⲴᐘབྷᐞ⮠, ҏᖸቁ⌘᜿⭊㠣❑㿆н਼䚿䕟ۣ㎡ѻ䯃Ⲵ⢩ ↺ᙗ, 㘼ᱟаણ≲਼. аણ≲਼, ቡᴳ֯Ӫ‫ف‬ԕаぞ᮷ॆлⲴ䚿䕟ۣ㎡ ⛪⁉Ⓠ, ᩌሻަԆ᮷ॆѝⲴ⴨լ⢙, іᔪΏㅖਸ䙉ୟа⁉ⓆⲴ䚿䕟. ަ ㎀᷌ᱟ, ֯䚿䕟Ⲵ∄䔳⹄ウ䎠ੁҶаぞ䚿䕟Ⲵᗙࡦᡆ޽⡸ 㘼нᱟሽн ਼↧ਢᱲᵏ઼н਼᮷ॆ㛼ᲟлⲴн਼䚿䕟ۣ㎡Ⲵ␡࡫䂽䆈㠷ࢆ᷀. (Cui Qingtian 2001, 9) Viewing a certain type of logic primarily as something which should be similar to, or even identical with some other type of logic, cannot be considered as comparative research, but merely as imitation. Such procedures are incapable of taking into account the enormous differences between the methods of Chinese and Western logic, as well as the specific features which condition these methods. And even while this approach makes extraordinary efforts to discover the common traits of both methods, it adheres to only one logical tradition, with which all other forms of traditional logic, including the development of new methods, must concur. This form of comparative research in the field of logic is incapable of arriving at new recognitions or achieving a creative analysis of the manifold nature of different, culturally-bounded logical traditions. It can only produce plagiarisms and bad copies of already existing methods.

Sinology as an academic discipline was established within the context of Orientalism, which laid the foundations and conditioned the colonialist approach to the study of cultures not deriving from the so-called Western tradition. This is why the criticism of certain elements of Orientalism in sinology is also a criticism of the violent nature of the classic relation between knowledge and authority. Given this template, every comparison is inevitably an interpretation based on an underlying values system, the contents of which are determined by the ideology of material progress, and with European formal logic as its only methodology. The acritical use of a scientific analysis which is itself the result of specific historical processes and their related social organizations and structures, can prove to be a perilous exercise in mystification. Research studies in sinology, whether general or specific, are never purely objective; that is, they are never the result of valuation processes that apply the same criteria. Ultimately, every individual notion that is applied or treated embodies a specific meaning which derives from specific cultural conditions and can therefore only be fully understood within the framework of the corresponding social ideologies and their (axiological) norms. This is true even of those notions which have a corresponding external or formal content. Hence, and once again, the acritical application of methodological classifications that are themselves


Chapter Two

the results of specific historical processes and the social organizations connected to these processes, can quite easily prove to be a dangerously misleading procedure. If this is the case, then achieving an objectivity which would enable us to establish universally valid valuation criteria becomes imperative. In other words, when dealing with the problem of the translation and/or transformation of specific concepts linked to different historical frames of reference from one cultural or political context to another, we must first determine whether such “objectivity” is possible. As Edward Said has noted “objective criteria” (such as those dictated by ideologies of materially measurable progress) generally lead to patronizing discourses when the subject is a so-called foreign cultural reality. And this is especially true when such discourses are “well-intentioned” (Said 1995, 37, 47, 56, 107–8). It is not surprising, therefore, that such discourses and their epistemological foundations (or related arguments), i.e. the assumption of certain physical and ethical absolutes which are considered to provide the basis for an objective or universal structure of perception and communication, has constituted a particularly vexed and controversial issue between East and West for quite some time now. Despite the complexity of these problems, the primary methodological condition for arriving at some reasonably valid conclusions will undoubtedly be satisfied if we consciously seek to preserve the characteristic structural blocks, and observe the specific categorical laws of the cultural contexts being discussed. The premises of contemporary science and the methodological procedures deriving from them indubitably still constitute the foundations of the Western (especially European) tradition. Forcing completely different structured aspects of non-European realities into the templates of such formal regulations may therefore lead us into a cul-de-sac of misunderstandings or, even worse, of a completely false comprehension of the reality being investigated. For this reason, intercultural research necessarily involves the problem of translation, and not only in the linguistic but also the discursive sense, i.e. interpretations of specific textual/speech structures, categories, concepts and values originating in diverse socio-cultural contexts. Within such transfers or translations one can detect discrepancies between both the same etymological-functional meaning, as well as (at times) a completely different comprehension of those same expressions at the level of the dominant social context (Rošker 1997, 95). The notion of structure cannot be understood apart from the social system in which it was formed and applied. The relation between this term

The Cultural Conditionality of the Comprehension of Structure


and its particular social context is determined by the specific economic, political and semantic developments in the culture being examined. Therefore, if our intention is to explore the comprehension of structure, we must first examine the ideal context in which this notion was formed.

Traditional and Modern Understandings of Structure in China In the Indo-European languages that provide the foundations for socalled Western theories and discourses, various versions of the word structure were derived from the Latin term “structura”, which signifies a regulated connection or arrangement, while its verbal form (“struere”) means creating the (inner) constitution of a thing or system in which the parts of a given unity are connected both to one another and to the whole they form. The modern Chinese equivalent of this expression is the word “jiegou” ㎀Ώ2, which entered Chinese terminology at the turn of last century as a translation of the English word “structure”. Because the phonetic structure of the Chinese language is quite different from that of Indo-European languages, the translation of words of foreign origin in China are generally based on the etymologies of the source term. The meanings of the Latin term structura and its modern Chinese translation jiegou are thus more or less equivalent. Most of the Indo-European derivatives from the Latin word structura have also been translated into modern Chinese with this expression; for example, the Chinese for “structuralism” is “jiegouzhuyi”3 䀓Ώѫ㗙. Although the compound word jiegou is relatively new, there was a similar, though much older expression in the Chinese tradition, “tiaoli” ᲄ ⨶, which means structural order. The main difference between these two terms lies in their semantic shadings and their contextual connotations, for while the former has the connotation of a construct, the latter is usually associated with the systemic4. 2

In early 20th century texts we also find the word jiagou ᷦΏ, which was initially preferred to denote the term structure. However, the terms are virtually equivalent, for they both mean an interconnected system or network. 3 The suffix “zhuyi” (ѫ㗙) = -ism. 4 It is interesting to note that all Indo-European versions of the word structure are translated by the word jiegou in Chinese dictionaries, whereas in most IndoEuropean dictionaries of Chinese, the word tiaoli is given as a proper variant of the term structure.

Chapter Two

42 1.








Table 1.1: The two semantic connotations of the Indo-European term “structure” and its Chinese equivalents This discrepancy is understandable, for the word jiegou appeared in the Chinese language as a relatively new translation of the English word structure, as it occurred in texts on the natural sciences or technology. The earlier, indigenous term tiaoli is composed of the syllable “tiao” (ọ), which originally meant branches, and “li” ( ⨶ ), a classical Chinese expression which denoted something similar to what today is meant by structure or a structural pattern. The original meaning of this classical Chinese compound is thus the systemic framework of branches that form the structure of a tree or the ramified stem of plants. In his pioneering work on new methodologies, the important 17th century scholar, Li Gong ᵾຘ (1659–1746), described the link between these two terms as follows: һᴹọ⨶ᴠ⨶ˈণ൘һѝDŽ(Li Gong, cp. Xia Zhentao 1996.2, 400) The systemic regulation (tiaoli) of things is called structure (li), which is contained in things as such.

In Western texts, the term li is generally translated as “principle” or “reason”5, an interpretation adopted by most modern Chinese theoreticians. However, by establishing a more precise translation of this term based on the idea of structure or structural pattern, we can obtain new insights into the nature of the classical Chinese perception of reality and open up new possibilities for a fruitful dialogue between traditional Chinese and modern Euro-American philosophy. We shall begin our investigation by taking a closer look at the origin of the Chinese term li and its development in the context of traditional Chinese thought.


This is hardly surprising, of course, even though the semantic connotations of these notions are different in the Chinese and Euro-American traditions. This problem will be explored more fully in Chapter 4, At the Crossroad of Tradition and Modernity.


While interpreting the term li ⨶ to mean structure may appear as highly unusual, there are some very good reasons for doing so. This meaning is already apparent in the original etymology of the character li ⨶, which is composed of the phonetic element 䟼, and the radical ⦹, that designates jade (originally, it denoted the lines or colored stripes in jade). Wolfgang Bauer points out that when this character was used figuratively in classical Chinese, it also denoted structure (for example, in the crystal net that represents the immaterial principle of ordered matter) and was already used in this sense in the Confucian commentary on the Book of Changes ᱃㏃ (Bauer 2000, 256–7). A.C. Graham, a modern pioneer in the study of ancient Chinese logic, is one of the very few sinologists who considers the concept li as the expression of both a structural pattern and a structure: Li is the patterned arrangement of parts in a structured whole, of things in an ordered cosmos, of thought in rational discourse, and in Names and Objects1 , of words in a completed sentence. Its emergence in the Sung Dynasty (AD 960–1279) as one of the central concepts of NeoConfucianism was the culmination of a long development. In pre-Han philosophy it attracts attention especially in the Interpreting Lao-tzu of Han Fe tzu2, who uses it to mean the specific configuration of properties (“square or round, long or short, coarse or fine, hard or soft”) in each kind of thing (Graham 1978, 191–2).

The philosopher cited by Graham, Han Feizi, was one of the founders of the Legalist School and described the concept li as follows: 1 2

Grahams translation of a chapter Mingshi lun ਽ሖ䄆 in the book Mozi ໘ᆀ. In pinyin: Laozi and Han Feizi

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⸝䮧, ᯩൃ, ี㜶, 䕅䟽, ⲭ唁ѻ䄲⨶. (Han Fei 2010. Jie Lao, 29) We call li that which is long or short, square or round, hard or soft, heavy or light, white or black (Han Feizi, Jie Lao).

The Norwegian sinologist and specialist in Chinese logic, Christoph Harbsmeier, uses this quotation to support his conjecture that the concept li designated the attributes of objects (Harbsmeier 1989, 238). However, he specifies that in this context the term li can only refer to those characteristics that can be perceived by our senses. His doubts about the correctness of this translation are evident in the following comment: By way of experiment, I shall hazard the translation “attribute” for li, which is an extension of the meaning “visible pattern”, as is well attested to in early literature. (Harbsmeier 1989, 238)

In fact, in the earliest sources, li was understood as a visible structure, such as we find in the lines in jade. As Xunzi 㥰ᆀ (ca 300–230), one of the two main successors to Confucius declares in his main work, Rectifying names ↓਽3: ᖒ億㢢⨶ԕⴞ⮠ Form, color and structure can be discerned with the eyes4 (Xunzi 2010. Zhengming, DC 2008, 9)5.

This structure can apply to any physical thing. In the Book of Ritual (Li ji ⿞䁈), for example, it appears as a notion that denotes a structure of veins and sinews in the flesh of animals: ਆ⢋㚹ᗵᯠ⇪㘵ˈ㮴࠷ѻˈᗵ㎅ަ⨶ (Li ji 2010. Nei ze, 53) The beef we are using must be fresh. We cut it so as to cleave its structure.

The term li ⨶ was also used in this sense by Zhuangzi 㦺ᆀ, in reference to the art of butchering, for when cutting beef the master butcher should always: 3

Xunzi 㥰ᆀ (Master Xun) The later commentator, Yang Jing, points out that in this context the character li signifies a structural pattern: ὺَ⌘: ⨶, ㌻⨶ҏ (qf. Gu Hanyu da cidian 2000) 5 John Knoblock translates li as “design” (Xunzi, trans. Knoblock, John 1994, 129) 4

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


‫׍‬Ѿཙ⨶ (Zhuangzi 2010. Yangsheng zhu. 2) Follow its natural structure.

The concept li was already mentioned in the oldest commentaries on the Book of Changes, where it denotes the basic structure of heaven and earth. While neither Confucius nor Laozi use the character li in their works, it appears frequently in the writings of their immediate successors. As with the majority of classical Chinese words, the notion li can appear in either verbal or substantive form. As a noun, it signifies “pattern” or “structure”, and seems to indicate the sum of all the attributes perceivable by the senses (length, color, consistency, weight, form). If we wish to “cultivate” any given object, we must follow its intrinsic structure. Hence, when the character li appears with a verbal function, it signifies the process of ordering certain things and phenomena in accordance with its intrinsic structure. In its original verbal form it meant the cultivation of raw jade in accordance with the lines that determine its structure. ⦻ѳ֯⦹Ӫ⨶ަ⫎㘼ᗇሦ✹. (Han Fei 2010. He shi, 1) Thus, the king ordered the jeweler to cultivate the raw stone (in accordance with its structure) in order to obtain the gem.

In the framework of Confucian rituality, the term li with a verbal function already appears in the classical Book of Ritual (Li ji ⿞䁈), where it is applied in the sense of regulation. йॱ㘼ᴹᇔ, ࿻⨶⭧һ. (Li ji 2010. Nei ze, 80) At the age of thirty, he already had his own home and began to engage in the affairs of men (i.e. to conduct himself in accordance with the prescribed activities of men).

In one of the oldest Chinese encyclopedias, the Explanation of Texts and Interpretation of Characters ( 䃚᮷䀓ᆇ ) 6 , we find the following definition of li’s verbal function: /䃚᮷/: ⨶, ⋫⦹ҏ (Shuowen jiezi 2010, 28) Li (means) to order (cultivate) jade


Compiled ca. 100AD, by Xu Shen 䁡᝾.


Chapter Three

It is of paramount importance that this ordering (or cultivation) occurs in accordance with the structure, expressed by the substantive function of the term li. Translating its verbal form with the term “to structure” is thus appropriate. However, in the Indo-European languages, this verb has the connotation of establishing a structure in something which is unstructured, while li in its verbal function instead expresses the ordering (or “squaring”) of an object in accordance with a pre-existing system which is intrinsic to it7: ࠑ⢙㘵ᴹᖒ㘵, ᱃㻱ҏ, ᱃ࢢҏ. օԕ䄆ѻ, ᴹᖒࡷᴹ⸝䮧, ᴹ⸝䮧ࡷᴹ བྷሿ, ᴹᯩൃ. ᴹᯩൃࡷᴹี㜶. ᴹี㜶ࡷᴹ䕅䟽, ᴹⲭ唁. ⸝䮧, བྷሿ, ᯩൃ, ี㜶, 䕅䟽, ⲭ唁䄲ѻ⨶.⨶ᇊ㘼⢙᱃ࢢҏ. ᭵Ⅲᡀᯩൃ, 㘼䳘ᯬ㾿 ⸙, ࡷ㩜һѻ࣏ᖒ⸓. 㘼㩜⢙㧛нᴹ㾿⸙. 㚆Ӫⴑ䳘ᯬ㩜⢙Ⲵ㾿⸙, ࡷһ ❑нһ, ࣏❑н࣏. ࠑ⨶㘵ᯩൃ䮧⸝ี㜶ѻ࠶ҏ᭵⨶ᇊ㘼ᖼ⢙ਟ䚃. (Han Feizi 2010. Jie Lao, 29) After the structure of a certain thing has been defined, it can be cultivated (squared). If we want to square it in a proper (square or round) form, we have to follow its model. These models are part of every existing thing. The sages can always follow them and this is why they succeed in everything they do. The structures can be divided into square, round, long, short, soft and hard. This is why, once their structure has been defined, all things can follow the Way.

This term underwent numerous semantic variations. The original sense of cosmic structure was first enriched with social connotations; then with the structure of language and meaning and, finally, of mind and consciousness. All these structures are reflected in manifold structural patterns that are within everything that exists in the objective concrete reality. 㩜⢙↺⨶ˈ䚃н⿱ˈ᭵❑਽DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Ze yang, 10) All things have their different patterns (li), but Dao treats them all in the same way; therefore, it is nameless.


Regarding the philosophical connotations of such an understanding, we should bear in mind the conservatism which so often appears as a decisive factor in traditional Chinese, especially Confucian, axiology, and the elements of a specifically Chinese aesthetic that attributes greater value to Art that seeks to express itself in accordance with the visible structures of Nature, than to a creativity that gives form to new modes of expression which did not exist before.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


From the Song ᆻ (960–1279 AD) Dynasty onwards, all these specific kinds of structural patterns were unified in a single, general and basic rational structure characterized by its fundamental compatibility with an unlimited diversity of structural patterns. The basic structure of the universe is defined by its fundamental pattern which can be established in countless particular forms. ❦а⢙ѻѝˈཙ⨶ᆼާ. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, Taiji tu shuo, 9) Thus, the structure of Nature in its totality is contained in every particular thing.

A basic criterion or ultima ratio of this compatibility was to be found in either the ethically determined “justice” and “properness” of Confucian discourses, or in the “naturalness” of Daoist texts. This unification of particular, specific structural patterns into one single, general and basic structure, only became possible through a progressive semantic abstraction of the term li. This process lasted several centuries and must be viewed within the context of the more general changes in Chinese culture and society. In practical terms, it was defined by the political and economic development of traditional China, while ideologically it was the result of factors as varied as the formalization of Confucianism as state doctrine, the new approaches formulated by NeoConfucian theorists, and specific elements of Buddhist philosophy. We can reduce this process of abstraction somewhat schematically to three phases: the phase of ontologization (li as the cosmic structure or as the structure of nature and society), the phase of structural semantics (li as the structure of language and meaning) and the phase of epistemologization (li as the mutually compatible structure of external word and mind). Let us briefly examine the key turning-points in this process of abstraction.

Ontological Foundations: the Structural Order of the Universe (tianli ཙ⨶) As we have seen, the first level of abstraction of the notion li, which originally denoted a visually perceptible structure of material objects, manifested itself in the verbal function, in which it appeared as a word expressing the cultivation of objects in accordance with a certain structure. Given that all complex structures were thought to be organic (for the structurally ordered bands of colored stripes in jade were also understood to be the result of organic processes), and that in ancient China the


Chapter Three

foundation of the cosmic order was also generally thought to be a natural or organic structure, the earliest stage of the abstraction of the notion of structure logically referred to both the structure of the universe and the structure of all that exists. Already in the pre-Qin era we can find a number of maxims and formulations that confirm that li referred not only to what was visually perceptible, but also to an abstract structure. For example, in the earliest commentary on the Book of Changes (Yi jing ᱃㏃), the concept li appears with reference to the meaning of heaven and earth. The saying from the sixth line of the second hexagram kunඔ reads: 哳㼣, ‫ݳ‬ਹ (Zhou yi 2010. Kun, 6) The yellow lower garment: there will be great good fortune.

This saying is explained as follows: ੋᆀ哳ѝ䙊⨶ (Zhou yi 2010. Yi jing, Kun, 10) Wrapped in yellow, the noble man can connect himself with the cosmic structure.

We should recall that the Book of Changes has also been construed as a work that helps one to understand this fundamental structural order, and act in accordance with it. ᱃㉑㘼ཙлѻ⨶ᗇହ. (Zhou Yi 2010. Xi ci shang, 1) (The Book of) Changes is simple, and yet it embraces the structure of everything that exists.

The following saying is attributed to the early legalist thinker Guan Zhong ㇑Ԣ (725–645 BC), who lived in the 7th century BC: ᰕᴸѻ㠷਼‫ˈݹ‬ཙൠѻ㠷਼⨶. (Guan Zhong 2010. Xinshu xia, 37) Sun and moon are connected by the same light, and heaven and earth by the same structure.

Here, we can discern the consolatory idea that human beings do not exist in an arbitrary and unpredictable cosmos, but in a well ordered universe that can be apprehended and controlled through the recognition of

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


its order. The structural order as expressed by this notion, thus often appears in binary parallelisms as the semantic opposite of chaos (luan Ҳ): ӱ㘵ᝋӪˈ㗙㘵ᗚ⨶. (Xunzi 2010. Yi bin, 18) To posses humanity means to love human beings. To possess righteousness means to follow the structure (i.e. the structural order). ᆛযᆀᴠ˖䶎⊍ᡰ⸕ҏʽᖬӱ㘵ᝋӪˈᝋӪ᭵ᜑӪѻᇣѻҏ˗㗙㘵ᗚ ⨶ˈᗚ⨶᭵ᜑӪѻҲѻҏDŽ(Xunzi 2010. Yi bin, 19) Master Sun replied: What do you know?! Even if possessing humanity means to love human beings, they can be harmed by malicious people. And even if possessing righteousness means following the structural order, it can still be transformed into chaos by them.

Most philosophers who dealt with cosmological issues proposed a similar structural order for all that exists. It is not surprising therefore, that Dong Zhongshu 㪓Ԣ㡂, the most important advocate for the renewal of Confucian teachings from the Han dynasty, wrote as follows: 㩜⢙㧛нᗇަ⨶⸓. (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shizhi, 13) Every single thing in this world has its own structure.

Clearly, this does not refer solely to visible structures, but also to structural patterns of the universe that cannot be directly apprehended by the senses. ᵘ⭏⚛ˈ⚛⛪༿ˈࡷ䲠䲭ഋᱲѻ⨶. (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shizhi, 13) Wood generates fire and fire generates summer. This is part of the structure of yinyang and of the four seasons.

This structural order was seen as a basic attribute of the universe, together with all its implications. It follows, therefore, that the structural foundation of the universe was as eternal and boundless as the universe itself. अ䶌䲠䲭ѻ⨶ˈᐢᚹާᯬަѝ⸓DŽ䴆❦ˈ᧘ѻᯬࡽˈ㘼н㾻ަ࿻ѻ ਸ˗ᕅѻᯬᖼˈ㘼н㾻ަ㍲ѻ䴒ҏ. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, Taiji tu shuo, 4)

Chapter Three


The structure of movement and stillness, or yin and yang, exists in these entities beforehand. If we try to discover its origin, we will never find its beginning, and if we try to trace its development, we will never reach an end.

In the ontological approaches of the early Neo-Confucians, a similar idea of eternity and boundlessness was related to another, equally important attribute of structure, that of its overall integrity which, however, was only comprehensible in part. The structural pattern that underlay it was thus capable of constant amalgamation and dissolution. 䲠䲭ཚᾥˈнਟ䄲ᴹҼ⨶ᗵ⸓. It cannot be claimed that yinyang and the ultimate extreme are necessarily8 of different structures.

The notion of structure also figures in the works of the classical representatives of philosophical Daoism. Like most thinkers of his time, Laozi’s successor Zhuangzi, the second most important of exponent of ancient Daoism, understood the concept li primarily as a structural pattern. ⢙ᡀ⭏⨶䄲ѻᖒ. (Zhuangzi 2010. Tian di, 8) When things come into being, their structure is born. This is what we call form.

At the same time, however, li was also an all-embracing structure of the natural or cosmic order. 茢ӱ䛚˛ᱟҲᯬᗧҏ炚婒㗙䛚˛ᱟᛆᯬ⨶ҏ. (Zhuangzi 2010. Zai you, 1) What can be said about humanity? It brings confusion into (natural) virtues! And what can be said about justice? It disturbs the (natural) structural order!

As opposed to the Confucian virtues, which Zhuangzi condemned as false products of the ideological suppression of human integrity and personal freedom, this concept of natural order or structure was something which should be followed. ৫⸕㠷᭵ˈᗚཙѻ⨶. (Zhuangzi 2010. Ke yi, 2) 8

My emphasis

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Things we learn or stories we hear are not important. It is far better to follow the natural structure.

In Zhuangzi’s view, following or being in accordance with the concept li in no way contradicted the Daoist concept of non-action. On the contrary, he saw it as a manifestation of the structural order of dao, the key notion and basic principle of Daoist philosophy. ཛᗧˈ઼ҏ˗䚃ˈ⨶ҏ. (Zhuangzi 2010. Shan xing, 1) Therefore virtue is harmonic and dao is structured.

This statement would give rise to many divergent interpretations, speculations and misunderstandings, as later thinkers sought to understand the conceptual links between the notions li and dao 䚃. In this phrase, the notions he (harmony) and li (structure) were assumed to function as adjectives. But since in classical Chinese this semantic construct9 can also express the identity of two objects (nouns)10, many interpreters understood this phrase to mean the equivalence of the concepts dao and li. The view that these terms ultimately mean the same thing would be confirmed by various philosophical sources in the centuries which followed. In fact, even at the start of the Chinese pre-modern era, the precursor of the Neo-Confucian revival, Zhou Dunyi ઘᮖ乔 (1017– 1073), could still write: 䚃ˈণ⨶ѻ䄲ҏ. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, Cheng shang 1, 13) Dao is that by which we denote (express) structure.

Based on many earlier works, however, it is evident that these concepts were understood as being different. Guan Zhong ㇑Ԣ (ca. 7th century BC), for example, clearly understood structure as something which is defined by dao. Ӕ↓࠶ѻ䄲⨶DŽ丶⨶㘼нཡѻ䄲䚃. (Guan Zhong 2010. Jun chen I, 8) Dividing different interpersonal relationships and their proper distinguishing is called structure. To follow the structure without losing it is called dao. 9

A, B + ҏ For example: ੋᆀ㡏ҏ (ᆄᆀ), 䓺ᵘҏ (໘㏃)


Chapter Three


And if we examine the whole of Zhuangzi’s philosophy, equating structure (li) with dao is clearly an error, for he often explicitly distinguishes between these two concepts. ⸕䚃㘵ᗵ䚄ᯬ⨶ˈ䚄ᯬ⨶㘵ᗵ᰾ᯬ℺ˈ᰾ᯬ℺㘵нԕ⢙ᇣᐡDŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Qiu shui, 7) He who knows dao is sure to be familiar with the structure. Once familiar with the structure, he is sure to understand how to regulate his conduct in all different circumstances. Having that understanding, he will not allow things to harm him.

Despite this distinction, the idea that these two notions are equivalent can still be found in later philosophical sources. Harbsmeier, for example, notes that in the oldest commentaries of Huai Nanzi ␞ইᆀ (2nd century BC), on six occasions the word dao is used to explain the concept li (Harbsmeier 1998, 238). And several centuries after Hua Nanzi, Chen Chun 䲣␣, the author of the celebrated philosophical dictionary from the Song Dynasty, was still able to conclude that: 䚃㠷⨶བྷ’ਚᱟаԦ⢙, ❦᷀⛪ҼᆇӖ⚖৸࠶ࡕ. (Chen Chun 1983, 40) The words li and dao have more or less the same meaning. But since they are written in different ways (with different characters), they must be different.

He then goes on to define this difference, explaining that the notion dao has a wider, more general and universal meaning, while the notion li refers to more particular, individual meanings and to actual reality11 (Chen Chun 1983, 40). A similar distinction already appears in the works of the aforementioned legalist, Han Fei 七䶎, who flourished in the 3rd century BC. As noted, Han equated the term li with structural patterns of visible length, depth, thickness or consistency. But it is precisely in its relation with the concept dao, that he gave a more detailed explanation of its meaning: 㩜⢙਴⮠⨶, 㩜⢙਴⮠⨶㘼䚃ⴑ. (Han Fei 2010. Jie Lao, 23) All that exists has its own structures; but while each thing that exists has its own, specific structure, all of these are exhausted by dao. 11

䚃ᆇ䔳ሜ, ⨶ᆇ䔳ሖ.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


He also explains the relation of dao to the concept li in analogical terms: 䚃㘵ˈ㩜⢙ѻᡰ❦ҏˈ㩜⨶ѻᡰねҏDŽ⨶㘵ˈᡀ⢙ѻ᮷ҏ˗䚃㘵ˈ㩜 ⢙ѻᡰԕᡀҏDŽ᭵ᴠ˖ ‘䚃ˈ⨶ѻ㘵ҏDŽ’ ⢙ᴹ⨶нਟԕ⴨㮴ˈ⢙ᴹ⨶ нਟԕ⴨㮴᭵⨶ѻ⛪⢙ѻࡦDŽ(Han Fei 2010. Jie Lao, 23) Dao is that which makes all things what they are. It is that which unites all particular structures. Structure is a pattern which is present in all completed things, while dao is the very reason of their formation. Therefore, we say that “dao is structured”. Because all things have structures, they cannot merge with one another. Thus, structure is the system of every single thing.

In earlier sources, such as the proto-Confucian classic The Book of Rituals (Li ji ⿞䁈), both terms often appear in parallelisms, in which they denote similar or parallel factors: ⇻䆺ཙѻ䚃ˈ⇻㎅ൠѻ⨶ˈ⇻ҲӪѻ㌰DŽ(LI ji 2010. Yue ling, 8) We must not change the dao of heaven, just as we must not destroy the structural patterns of earth. We must not cause chaos in the interpersonal order.

The contemporary theorist, Wang Fengyang ⦻ 付 䲭 , defines the relation between these concepts as a complementary one. In his view, dao is complementary to virtue (de ᗧ) in the field of ethics, with which it forms a binary category, while in the field of philosophy and politics, dao is complementary to the concept li. In philosophical contexts, dao and li thus also form a binary category. In this sense, dao is seen as a basic principle, while li is the forming of its concrete manifestation 12 (Wang Fengyang 1993, 430). With the expression wu li ( ⢙ ⨶ ) 13 , the philosophers of the Six Dynasties period (220–439) denoted mainly the structure of the external world. In his Commentaries on the Book of Changes (ઘ᱃⮕ֻ) Wang Bi ⦻ ᕬ , the leading Neo-Daoist of that period, also confirmed this interpretation: 12

䚃઼ᗧ൘ٛ⨶么ฏ⴨㺘㼑൘ଢᆨ઼᭯һ么ฏѝࡷ䚃㠷⨶⴨㺘㼑䚃઼ ⨶⴨ሽ䚃ӽ㺘⽪⢙Ⲵṩᵜ㾿ᖻ⨶ࡷᤷ䚃൘һ⢙ѝⲴާ億㺘⨮ྲ七䶎 ᆀ 䀓㘱䚃㘵㩜⢙Ⲷᡰ❦ҏ㩜⨶ѻᡰねҏ. 13 In modern Chinese, this expression denotes physics, and sometimes also physical laws.


Chapter Three ⢙(❑)ྴ❦ˈᗵ⭡ަ⨶DŽ(Wang Bi 1969. Ming yuan, 42) Things are not chaotic, but necessarily follow their structures.

These specific structural patterns were not unified until the rise of NeoConfucian philosophy in the Song Dynasty. Henceforth, the notion li would be understood in both senses: as each particular structural pattern, as well as the all-embracing, overall structure. Cheng Hao 〻 井 , for example, concluded that: а⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I, Yi shu, 13) The basic structure of each single thing is also the basic structure of everything that exists.

Zhu Xi ᵡ⟩ described the unification of particular concrete structural patterns into a single structure in greater detail, and used the term li to denote both the concrete, specific structural pattern visible at the level of particular things and the general structure of all that exists. He tried to explain this amalgamation of particular structures within a single, universal one, as follows: 䴦䴦⺾⺾⑺ਸ䎧ֶ,н⸕н㿪㠚❦䟂ᛏ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I, Yi shu, 13) If we unite all separate particulars, it will be self evident.

Such unification was premised on a comprehension of structure as a totally rationalized form no longer limited to concrete (natural, social, linguistic etc) formations. Li Gong ᵾຘ (1659–1746), a representative of the realist current of late Ming Dynasty Neo-Confucianism, was among the first to point out that a similar concept of structure had to be a completely abstract or “empty” notion which could––contrary to its original meaning––still be equated with concrete things: ⨶, 㲋ᆇҏ, ਟ⛪⢙Ѿ˛(Li Gong n.y., 385) And yet, if structure is only an empty word, how can it be a concrete existing thing?

On the other hand, the idealist current of Ming Dynasty NeoConfucianism, and especially the School of Mind (ᗳᆨ), underscored the

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


ethical nature of cosmic structure, focussing on the binary category and mutually oppositional poles of the cosmic or heavenly structure (ཙ⨶) and human desire (ӪⅢ). In their effort to preserve this morally defined, heavenly structure within human subjectivity, and in the stress placed on the negative connotations of human desire, we can detect both Daoist and Buddhist influences. As their chief exponent, Wang Shouren14, affirmed repeatedly that it was important ৫ӪⅢᆈཙ⨶ (Wang Shouren 2010. Chuan xi lu I, 3, 11, 28, 99, 111) to eliminate human desires and preserve the cosmic structure15.

As we noted earlier, the abstraction of this notion was a very gradual process which extended over a period of 1500 years, and can be traced back to the classical works of the ancient Chinese philosophers. Many quotations from the earliest sources (e.g. Zhuangzi) confirm that the notion li ⨶ denoted not only perceptible structural patterns, but also an abstract structure. Hence, the comprehension of structure in the sense of an ontological foundation of everything that exists was a concept current among Chinese scholars even before the Warring States period ᡠ഻ (475– 221 BC). However, the social connotations of the notion li were formulated nearly contemporaneously with the cosmic ones, a fact which should not surprise us, given that the structural connection between Nature and society is one of the main features of ancient Chinese holism. In fact, a basic tenet of this worldview is that whatever occurs in Nature must perforce have an impact on society, and vice versa (see Chapter 1).


⦻ᆸӱ (alias Wang Yangming ⦻䲭᰾, 1472–1529) The mutually oppositional poles of this binary structure are the notions of desire Ⅲ and structure ⨶, or of human desire ӪⅢ and cosmic structure ཙ⨶. In addition to this binary oppositional pair ৫ Ӫ Ⅲ , ᆈ ཙ ⨶ , in the Chinese philosophical tradition we often encounter a similar phrase ⑋ӪⅢ, ᆈཙ⨶ which has basically the same meaning, to whit: if someone wishes to attain enlightment or comprehension, that is, if they wish to become a sage or a nobleman, they must first free themselves from the yoke of their own worthless desires and commit themselves to preserving and developing the ethically conceived structural patterns of existence. 15


Chapter Three

The Structure of State, Society and Culture (wen li ᮷⨶) The debate, therefore, revolved mainly around the possibility of the structural unification (compatibility) of two very different aspects of human existence. The basic cosmic structure, which was characterized by its regularity, served as a model for the structural regulation of society. For the Confucians, regularity was a fundamental feature of the cosmic structure, with which the structure of society had to conform. кާཙ᮷ˈлާൠ⨶. (Shi ji 2010. Qinshi huang ben ji, 47) Above, we act in accordance with the patterns of heaven, while below, we act in accordance with the structure of earth.

As is evident in the citations which follow regarding the structural connections among nature, society and culture, the notion li ⨶ was applied not only in the sense of a visible pattern, but also in that of an abstract structure. Social connotations of the concept of structure were expressed in the structural foundations of a systemically regulated society and state. In political discourses, this system of structural regulation was seen as a precondition of any harmonious community. ཛ᰾⦻⛪ཙл↓⨶ҏ (Guan Zhong 2010. Ba yan, 3) Enlightened rulers establish a proper (structural) order in their states.

Here, the notion li denotes a structure in the sense of a social/political order or systemic regulation. ❑ੋᆀˈࡷཙൠн⨶ˈ⿞㗙❑㎡ˈк❑ੋᑛˈл❑⡦ᆀˈཛᱟѻ䄲㠣 ҲDŽੋ㠓ǃ⡦ᆀǃ‫ݴ‬ᕏǃཛ႖ˈ࿻ࡷ㍲ˈ㍲ࡷ࿻ˈ㠷ཙൠ਼⨶ˈ㠷㩜 ц਼ѵˈཛᱟѻ䄲བྷᵜDŽ(Xunzi 2010. Wang zhi, 18) If there were no rulers, heaven and earth would not be (systemically) ordered. Rituality and righteousness would not be united and there would be no rulers and teachers above, and no fathers and sons below. This would mean a situation of total chaos. The existence of rulers and subjects, fathers and sons, elder and younger brothers, men and wives, and the fact that everything that begins has an ending and vice versa, is due to the unification of heaven and earth within a single structure that embraces all worlds in eternity. This is what we call the Great Foundation.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Thus, whatever is not in accordance with this structure is chaotic. The absolutist scholars of ancient China were warning against a lack of coordination that would lead to universal chaos. Because the Confucian and proto-Legalist16 worldviews were based upon a hierarchic structure of the universe and human society, these thinkers also used the notion of structural regularity to confirm the need for an absolute ruler. ֯ཙл‫ޙ‬ཙᆀDŽཙлнਟ⨶ҏDŽа഻㘼‫ˈੋޙ‬а഻нਟ⨶ҏDŽаᇦ㘼 ‫ޙ‬⡦ˈаᇦнਟ⨶ҏDŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Ba yan, 5) If there were two sons of Heaven, the world could not be (systemically) ordered. If a state was ruled by two rulers, the state would not be (systemically) ordered. And if there were two fathers in a family, the family would not be (systemically) ordered.

The all-embracing structure of Nature and the universe had to be understood as being permeated with ethics and therefore “sensitive”. At the same time, it could also be seen as the principal criterion of social and individual morality. ӱ㗙ѝ↓ˈ਼Ѿа⨶㘵ҏ. (Zhou Dunyi I. Taiji tu shuo, 9) Humanity (mutuality), righteousness, the Middle Way and regularity––all these are implied in a unified structure.

Hence, already in the ancient Confucian classics, the notion li in the sense of an all-pervasive cosmic order, signified a structure permeated with ethics, as well as a norm for human existence in society. Ӫ⭏㘼䶌ˈཙѻᙗҏ˗ᝏᯬ⢙㘼अˈᙗѻⅢҏDŽ⢙㠣⸕⸕ˈ❦ᖼྭᜑ ᖒ✹DŽྭᜑ❑ㇰᯬ‫⸕ˈޗ‬䃈ᯬཆˈн㜭৽䓜ˈཙ⨶⓵⸓. (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 7) At birth, human beings are standing still. This is their fundamental nature. But as soon as they sense the presence of things, they begin to move. This is due to desires that are also part of their nature. When they finally get to know things, their hate and love are born. If they are not able to order these intrinsic emotions properly, the accumulated knowledge can lead them

16 Although Legalism as a state doctrine was not established before the Qin 〖 Dynasty (221–206 BC), elements of Legalist thought had appeared in many political theories and currents as early as the 7th century BC.


Chapter Three astray. Such people are not able to reflect on themselves and they thus lose the connection with the (proper) structure of Nature.

The most perfect or flawless social authority is thus someone who knows this structure and does not oppose it. Only such persons can define the criteria for what constitutes proper individual behavior. ሺཙൠѻ⨶ˈᡰԕ䄆ေҏDŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Chi mi, 8) He who respects the structural regularity of heaven and earth can be considered a genuine authority.

Here, structure is understood as a system of mutual relations that makes the regulated functioning of state institutions possible. In Confucian and Legalist discourses, this structure was seen as the basis of any wellregulated human society. ⛪Ӫੋ㘼н᰾ੋ㠓ѻ㗙ԕ↓ަ㠓ˈࡷ㠓н⸕⛪㠓ѻ⨶ԕһަѫ⸓. (Guan Zhong 2010. Xing shi jie, 46) If a ruler does not know the (ethical rules of) righteousness that define relations between rulers and subjects, and by means of which he can guarantee the proper (behavior) of his subjects, it means that they, in turn, cannot recognize the structural system that would enable them to properly serve their ruler.

Of course, as a structural criterion for such a system, li is also conditioned by “proper” norms (chang ᑨ): ᆀ႖нཡަᑨˈࡷ䮧ᒬ⨶㘼㿚⮿઼DŽ᭵⭘ᑨ㘵⋫ˈཡᑨ㘵ҲDŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Xing shi jie, 10) When children and women act in accordance with the norms, the old and young will be properly (structurally) regulated and harmony will prevail among strangers and relatives. Thus, the norm rules. Not following it means creating chaos.

If someone is not in conformity with this “proper”, or ethically sensitive structure of cosmic regularity, they are not suited to living in a well-ordered society, for they exist at the same level as animals or physical objects.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


ཛ⢙ѻᝏӪ❑マˈ㘼Ӫѻྭᜑ❑ㇰˈࡷᱟ⢙㠣㘼Ӫॆ⢙ҏDŽӪॆ⢙ҏ 㘵ˈ⓵ཙ⨶㘼マӪⅢ㘵ҏDŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 8) If a person is thus continuously restless because of external things, if their hatred and love are not properly ordered, then things become supremely important (to them) and persons become things. A person who becomes a thing loses contact with the proper structure and becomes a victim of their own desires.

In Confucian discourse this is, of course, the worst thing that can happen to someone in human society. Even Zhang Zai ᕥ䔹 (1020–1077), the most important precursor of Neo-Confucianism, warned passionately against the oblivion that awaits those who lose the proper social mechanisms: ᖷ⢙௚ᗳˈӪॆ⢙㘼⓵ཙ⨶㘵Ѿʽ(Zhang Zai 2010. Shen hua IV, 18) By no means follow things and do not bury your mind, for the man who becomes equal to things loses his (proper) structure.

Someone who loses their structure of ethical regularity thinks only of satisfying their own desires: к䚄৽ཙ⨶ˈл䚄ᖷӪⅢ㘵㠷ʽ(Zhang Zai 2010. Cheng ming, 22) Opposing the natural structure leads to merely following human desires!

The ultimate responsibility for preventing such chaos naturally lies with the supreme ruler. He must therefore watch closely over the transformation and establishment of the proper cosmic structure in society. Rulers who do not undertake this task, are unworthy of their position, for their policies inevitably lead to ruin: Ҳѫк䘶ཙ䚃ˈл㎅ൠ⨶ˈ᭵ཙнҸᱲˈൠн⭏䋑. (Guan Zhong 2010. Xing shi jie, 64) Chaotic government is in contradiction with the way of heaven and destroys the structural relations of the earth. Thus (under such government), heaven is not in accordance with the regularity of time and cannot bring prosperity. ᱟ᭵ˈ᰾ੋሙሏһ⨶. (Guan Zhong 2010. Ban fa jie, 4)


Chapter Three Therefore, the enlightened ruler (noble man) will always watch vigilantly over the structure of all things. For Zhuangzi, this structure––like dao––is conditioned ethically, since it opposes human self-interest. ਽࡙ѻሖˈн丶ᯬ⨶ˈнⴓᯬ䚃DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Dao zhi, 4) Fame and (personal) advantage are opposed to the structure and beyond the reach of dao.

In Daoism, however, the structure of Nature is (like dao) intangible, ineffable and spontaneous. Therefore, it cannot be reduced to minute regulations and concrete teachings. ཙൠᴹབྷ㖾㘼н䀰ˈഋᱲᴹ᰾⌅㘼н䆠ˈ㩜⢙ᴹᡀ⨶㘼н䃚DŽ㚆Ӫ 㘵ˈ৏ཙൠѻ㖾㘼䚄㩜⢙ѻ⨶DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Zhi bei you, 2) The sublime beauty of heaven and earth cannot be expressed by words. Although the four seasons follow one another in accordance with the clearest laws, they do not discuss them. All things have their complete and distinctive structures, but they say nothing about them. The sages describe the admirable operations of heaven and earth, and apprehend and understand the structure of all things.

For Zhuangzi, this natural structure is not only a proper regulation, as demonstrated in Confucian discourses, but represents a natural system which is relative within Nature, for it embraces every aspect of actuality, including the negative ones. ᭵ᴠ˖㫻ᑛᱟ㘼❑䶎ˈᑛ⋫㘼❑ҲѾ˛ᱟᵚ᰾ཙൠѻ⨶ˈ㩜⢙ѻᛵ㘵 ҏDŽ(Zhunagzi 2010. Qiu shui, 5) The sayings which tell us to approve the right, and to ignore the wrong, to approve those who secure good government, and to ignore those who sow disorder, show a lack of familiarity with the structure of heaven and earth, and with the different situations of things.

The fundamental relativity of all that exists, which is characteristic of Daoist discourses, therefore also manifests itself in the structural order of men and Nature. And li ⨶ (structure), like dao, is thus also intangible, eternal and changeable, while also being ordered spontaneously. Amalgamation or “incorporation” into this natural order frees individuals

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


from the yoke of artificial rules that are (according to the Confucians) intended to warn human beings, society and the world of the uncertainty of existence. 䚃❑㍲࿻ˈ⢙ᴹ↫⭏ˈнᙳަᡀ˗а㲋а┯ˈнսѾަᖒDŽᒤнਟ 㠹ˈᱲнਟ→˗⎸᚟⳸㲋ˈ㍲ࡷᴹ࿻DŽᱟᡰԕ䃎བྷ㗙ѻᯩˈ䄆㩜⢙ѻ ⨶ҏDŽ⢙ѻ⭏ҏ㤕傏㤕俣ˈ❑अ㘼н䆺ˈ❑ᱲ㘼н〫DŽօ⛪Ѿ˛օн ⛪Ѿ˛ཛപሷ㠚ॆDŽ(Zhunagzi 2010. Qiu shui, 6) Dao has no beginning or end. Things die and are born without reaching a perfect state. Now there is emptiness, now fullness. Nothing remains in one form. Years cannot be repeated and time cannot be stopped. Disappearances and growth, fullness and emptiness begin anew in the same moment they end. This is what we call the method of the great righteousness and is the subject of our discourses on the universal structure. The life of things is like a galloping horse. There is no movement without change and no moment without an alteration. What should we be doing? What should we not be doing? All we can do is allow this course of natural transformation to continue.

But for Zhuangzi, this fundamental structure of being is still ethically grounded. The crucial difference between the Confucian concept of moral structure and Daoist discourse lies in the latter’s original naturalness’. Daoist ethics rest upon a system that is not defined by any canonic virtues of “proper” humanity or righteousness (ren yi ӱ㗙). Nonetheless, those who disregard this spontaneous system can still experience difficulties or even a precipitous decline and dissolution. 㦺ᆀѻᾊ, 㾻オ儁僿 ❦ᴹᖒ. ᫭ԕ俜ᦦ, ഐ㘼୿ѻᴠ: ཛᆀ䋗⭏ཡ⨶㘼 ⛪↔Ѿ? (Zhunagzi 2010. Zhi le, 4) On his way to the state Chu, Zhuangzi saw an empty skull, bleached white but still retaining its shape. He tapped it with his riding-crop and asked: “Have you, Sir, in your greed for life, lost the structure, and become like this?”

Daoist critics pointed out that the Confucian understanding of structure and its functions only served the interests of the ruling classes. а㚎Ӫѻ䙾ˈ㍲䓛нᘈˊ֯ѻ⨶഻ˈкф䢔Ѿੋˈлф䘶Ѿ≁ˊ (Liezi 2010. VI, Li ming, 3)


Chapter Three Those who, having heard that someone once made a mistake and can never forget it, by making this the main criterion for structuring the order of the state, will only serve the interests of the ruler, while harming the interests of the people.

In Confucian discourses, the term li ⨶, when appearing in its verbal function, primarily meant the (proper) structuring of a society or state, or its regulation in accordance with the (proper) social structure. The term is often used in this sense by Gongsun Long ‫ޜ‬ᆛ喽, the chief exponent of the School of Names (ming jia ਽ᇦ): ӺᴹӪੋˈሷ⨶ަ഻ˈӪᴹ䶎ˈࡷ䶎ѻDŽ❑䶎ˈࡷӖ䶎ѻDŽᴹ࣏ˈࡷ 䌎ѻDŽ❑࣏ˈࡷӖ䌎ѻDŽ㘼ᙘӪѻн⨶ҏˈਟѾ ˛(Gongsun Long 2010. Yifu, 9) Let us assume there is a ruler who wants to order his state (in accordance with the correct social structure). He punishes people who commit crimes, but also those who do not commit crimes. He rewards people who deserve a reward, but also those who do not deserve any reward. And then he complains that the society is not ordered (in accordance with the right structure). Does this seem right?

Similar applications of the term li in its verbal function can also be found in Xunzi’s writings. ᭵ཙൠ⭏ੋᆀˈੋᆀ⨶ཙൠ. (Xunzi 2010. Wang zhi, 18) Thus, heaven and earth bring forth the ruler, and he in turn orders them (in accordance with the structure).

As we saw in the previous chapter, the first philosopher to renew Confucian teachings, Dong Zhongshu 㪓Ԣ㡂 (179–104 BC), understood the concept li ⨶ primarily as an expression of the structural order of the universe. Being a proper Confucian, Dong naturally also transferred cosmic principles to the political sphere. In his main work ( ᱕⿻㑱䵢 Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals), the structural connection between heaven and earth, men and nature, biology and culture is clearly evident. He therefore concludes that only that government which takes this structural link into consideration can be said to be harmonious.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


᱕ˈௌ≓ҏˈ᭵⭏˗⿻ˈᙂ≓ҏˈ᭵⇪˗༿ˈ′≓ҏˈ᭵伺˗ߜˈ૰ ≓ҏˈ᭵㯿˗ഋ㘵ˈཙӪ਼ᴹѻˈᴹަ⨶㘼а⭘ѻˈ㠷ཙ਼㘵བྷ⋫. (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Yin zong yang yi, 39) Spring is the era of joy, hence a period of life. Autumn is the era of anger, hence a period of killing. Summer is the era of pleasure, hence a period of nourishment. Winter is the era of sorrow, hence a period of concealment (storing). These four factors are present in both Nature and human beings. Mastering and applying their structure leads to an order that can be compared to the heavenly one.

But this semantic level of the abstract term li in its substantive function can also be traced back to the ancient schools of classical thought. Especially in the social theories of philosophers from the pre-Qin17 era, the term li was often used as an expression which, among other meanings, also denoted social structure, or the most effective and rational division of the population into specific social strata. In fact, it had already been used in this sense by Confucius’ follower Xunzi. ࠑਔӺཙлѻᡰ䄲ழ㘵ˈ↓⨶ᒣ⋫ҏ. (Xunzi 2010. Xing e, 12) As a rule, from antiquity to the present day, what the world has called good is what is proper, in accord with the structure, peaceful and well-ordered.

Achieving peace and welfare in the original chaos of human society was only possible if all social classes were systematically (i.e. in accordance with proper structure) regulated and if all the competencies of state offices were minutely defined:18 ❦ᖼ᰾࠶㚧ˈᒿһᾝˈᶀᢰᇈ㜭ˈ㧛н⋫⨶ˈࡷ‫ޜ‬䚃䚄㘼⿱䮰ຎ⸓ˈ ‫ޜ‬㗙᰾㘼⿱һ᚟⸓ (Xunzi 2010. Jun dao, 7) The competencies should be clearly distributed. Specific activities and functions should be regulated. In this way, nothing will remain excluded from the structural order (system) and the principle of the public good will be put into effect, while private interests will be checked. Justice and


The literal translation of the term ‫〖ݸ‬䄨ᆀ (philosophers from the era before the Qin dynasty) which refers to the period of the flourishing of the classical philosophical schools before China’s unification. 18 Why the Confucians have never succeeded in suppressing widespread corruption and nepotism, even to the present day, is of course another question.


Chapter Three transparency will prevail in the public sphere and private matters will be suspended.

Clarity, in the sense of transparency, is thus one of the basic features of the ancient Chinese comprehension of structure. It represents a system or systemic order that manifests itself in each single pattern that forms a part of the whole. 䃐ᗳ㹼㗙ࡷ⨶ˈ⨶ࡷ᰾ˈ᰾ࡷ㜭䆺⸓DŽ(Xunzi 2010. Bu gou, 9) Honest and righteous people act in accordance with the structure, which is transparent, and transparency makes changes possible.

Therefore, every good government should provide for an order in which the existence and the activities of each individual can remain an indivisible part of this structural order which pervades both the cosmos and human societies. к㧛н㠤ᝋަлˈ㘼ࡦѻԕ⿞DŽкѻᯬлˈྲ‫؍‬䎔ᆀˈ᭯Ԕࡦᓖˈᡰ ԕ᧕лѻӪⲮဃᴹн⨶㘵ྲ䊚ᵛ. (Xunzi 2010. Wang ba, 15) Every government loves its citizens and rules them through rituality. Superiors protect their subordinates as if they were helpless babies. Therefore, they have established a political order and those who do not act in accordance with its structure are as rare as the tip of a hair.

Chinese philosophers have generally denoted the structure of a hierarchically ordered society of this kind with the term wenli ᮷⨶ 19 . Xunzi’s arguments for the rejection of innate human instincts in favor of a proper (Confucian) education include the following dire prediction: ⭏㘼ᴹ㙣ⴞѻⅢˈᴹྭ㚢㢢✹ˈ丶ᱟˈ᭵␛Ҳ⭏㘼⿞㗙᮷⨶ӑ✹DŽ (Xunzi 2010. Xing e, 1) The desire for everything that pleases our eyes and ears is also innate. If we should follow this love for sounds and images, obscenity and chaos would prevail. It would make an end of rituality, righteousness and (structurally) ordered culture.


The literal translation of this term is the “structure of culture” or the “cultivated structure”.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Specific uses of the term li ⨶, in the sense of a well-ordered, structural system of Nature and society, also define the differences between the two most important followers of Confucius, Mencius and Xunzi. In fact, the latter applied li to the artificial, posterior factors of social nurture and secondary socialization that must take place in civilized societies, and used it in various passages in which he differentiated between innate (xing ᙗ) and imparted (wei ‫ )ڭ‬qualities: ᙗ㘵ˈᵜ࿻ᶀᵤҏ˗‫ڭ‬㘵ˈ᮷⨶䲶ⴋҏDŽ(Xunzi 2010. Lilun, 22) (Human) nature is that which is innate and primitive. Only that which is artificially imparted can lead to the flourishing of a cultural order (structure).

According to Xunzi, a cultural order could certainly not appear of its own accord. In fact, this order had been established by the radiant mythological rulers who had reigned during the golden era of the Confucian past. ᭵‫⦻ݸ‬㚆Ӫᆹ⛪ѻ・ѝࡦㇰˈа֯䏣ԕᡀ᮷⨶. (Xunzi 2010. Lilun, 28) The sacred rulers of the past established the centralized system and the control over all segments. This was enough for the creation of a cultivated structure (cultural order).

The main task of current rulers was thus to act in accord with the foundations which had been laid by their divine predecessors. Rulers should be seen as the source and founders of any culture: ੋ㘵ǃ⋫䗘ѻѫҏˈ᮷⨶ѻ৏ҏ (Xunzi 2010. Lilun, 30) The ruler is the leader of a systemic political order and the source of the cultural order (structure).

Given Xunzi’s conviction that everything good, moral and useful in men and society was artificial in the sense of being imparted through education, the harmonic society understood as structural order and cultivation (wen li ᮷⨶) could only be the result of external, artificial factors of socialization, which were rooted in suprahuman spheres inaccessible to ordinary people. These external factors had to be preserved and reproduced with the aid of appropriate ideologies. Here, Xunzi represents a link between Confucianism and Legalism, for all ideal


Chapter Three

systems that could not function in this context, i.e. all those teachings that did not prescribe the need to mold individuals into this system or structural order, were viewed as superfluous and expendable. ࠑ⸕䃚ˈᴹ⳺ᯬ⨶㘵ˈ⛪ѻ˗❑⳺ᯬ⨶㘵ˈ㠽ѻDŽ(Xunzi 2010. Ru xiao, 9) Those kinds of knowledge that are advantageous to the structure will be applied, while those that are not, will be abandoned.

On the contrary, Mencius, who advocated the innate goodness of human nature, argued that one’s “proper” structure was intrinsic to every human being. It was thus something which was a-priori part of every human mind, and which united all people. ਓѻᯬણҏˈᴹ਼㘶✹˗㙣ѻᯬ㚢ҏˈᴹ਼㚭✹˗ⴞѻᯬ㢢ҏˈᴹ਼ 㖾✹DŽ㠣ᯬᗳˈ⦘❑ᡰ਼❦Ѿ˛ᗳѻᡰ਼❦㘵ˈօҏ˛䄲⨶ҏˈ㗙 ҏDŽ(Mengzi 2010. Gaozi I, 7) All people like food that tastes good. All people like to listen to good music and look at beautiful images. Why should the mind be an exception? Thus, what is common to the minds of all people? It is the (proper) structure and righteousness.

What is common to both these followers of Confucius, is the understanding of the concept li ⨶ as a “proper” social structure or a (rationally) most appropriate (“proper”) social order or system. This normative aspect of the concept of structure would gain in importance in the following centuries, as Confucianism gradually developed into an increasingly formalized state doctrine. In the ancient, original Confucianism of the pre-Qin era, however, this concept was still mainly tied to the pragmatic ethics of so-called “proper meaning” or righteousness (yi 㗙). ᭵⨶㗙ѻᚵᡁᗳˈ⥦㣫䊒ѻᚵᡁਓDŽ(Mengzi 2010. Gaozi I, 7) Therefore, (proper) structure20 and righteousness are pleasing to my mind, just as cereals and meat are pleasing to my taste21.

20 21

In the sense of social order. The literal translation of the term kou ⎋ is “mouth”.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


The existence of omni-comprehensive laws that regulate the entire cosmos can thus be epitomized in the concept of structure li ⨶, understood as the highest expression of natural order. The transfer of this structural pattern into the social sphere offered the Confucians pragmatic solutions for human inter-relations and new models for political systems in human society22. We have already noted the connection between the most rational possible structure of society and Confucian ethics, which were rooted in the pragmatic tendencies that emerged during the crucial Warring States period, and reflected in the idea of “proper meaning” and righteousness. As in all societies throughout history, social ethics in China also served as an ideological “glue” or way of binding the social order. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the notion li combined both sets of connotations: those regarding social structures, as well as those expressing the internal composition of the prevailing ethics. Already in the central work of the classical Confucian canon, the Book of Rituals, the notion li ⨶ was defined as the structural basis of the most important concept of Confucian axiology and social theory, namely the concept of rituality li ⿞: ⿞ҏ㘵, ⨶ҏ. (Li ji 2010. Zhong ni yan ju, 6) The ritual is structured. (Or: The ritual is structure)23.

Music, which constitutes an important element of rituality, is likewise structured. ⿞ҏ㘵ˈ⨶ҏ˗′ҏ㘵ˈㇰҏDŽੋᆀ❑⨶нअˈ❑ㇰн֌DŽ(Li ji 2010. Zhong ni yan ju, 6) Ritual is structured and music is also classified. The noble man never opposes this (proper) structure or this (proper) classification. 22 In this sense, the notion li also often represented the structural composition of military formations: ሏᮨ㘼⸕⨶ˈሙಘ㘼䆈ऍˈ᰾⨶㘼ऍᮥ. (Guan Zhong 2010. Bing fa, 2) If we learn the number (of enemy soldiers) and comprehend their structure, if we find out what kind of weapons they use and understand their strategy, we will understand their structural order and be able to defeat them. 23 As we have seen, the word li can appear as different functions and parts of speech. Both translations could therefore be correct. The former is perhaps more accurate, for in a later chapter we find a definition which states that the proper structure is a pattern of rituality (Li ji 2010. Li qi, 2): 㗙⨶ 㼑ѻ᮷ҏ. Thus, rituality is structured and acts in accordance with the patterns of righteous structure (or the structure of righteousness).

Chapter Three


Music is thus a structure which is mutually compatible with the ethically conceived cosmic structure. ′㘵, 䙊ٛ⨶㘵ҏ. (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 5) Music connects us with the structure of ethics (of human relations) 24 .

Because the “real”, “natural” or “proper” structure of everything that exists is uniformly coherent in its essence, if we immerse ourselves in music and unite ourselves with its structure, we can regain our original unity with the structure of the universe, which is expressed in the ancient Chinese phrase “the unity of Nature and men25”. This explains why music was such an important element in Confucian rituality and it is in investigating this art that we first encounter the connection or structural compatibility of music and mind. ࠑ丣㘵ˈ⭏ᯬӪᗳ㘵ҏ˗′㘵ˈ䙊ٛ⨶㘵ҏDŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 5) All tones arise from mind26.

If the structure of music is compatible with cosmic and social structure, as well as with the structure of mind, then the structure of mind must also be compatible with the structure of Nature and society. However, philosophers from the pre-Qin era were interested in mind primarily in epistemological terms, given that one of the central features of traditional 24

In this instance, compatibility is expressed by the character tong 䙊, which literally means “free flowing” (a channel of free interaction), or the property of structural interference. This character is also central to the epistemological system of the modern Chinese theoretician, Tan Sitonga 㾳ఓ਼ (1865–1929). According to his mechanistic understanding of the concrete actuality, it is the very possibility of this flow which establishes the internal, but also the external conditions of perceiving, comprehending and communicating reality. At the level of subjectivity, the flow makes possible the mutually adjusted and coordinated functioning of the sense organs (wu guan ӄᇈ), brain (nao 㞖) and nervous system (naoqi jin 㞖≓ ㅻ). At the same time, it enables this system to connect with the structure of (external) reality. Interestingly, he also equated the concept of flow with the possibility of establishing a social ethics (see Rošker 2008, 198). 25 ཙӪਸа 26 In Chinese tradition, tones (丣) appear as the cultivation of sounds (㚢). (See: ⸕ 㚢㘼н⸕丣㘵ˈ⿭⦨ᱟҏ˗⸕丣㘼н⸕′㘵ˈ⵮ᓦᱟҏDŽୟੋᆀ⛪㜭⸕′, (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 5)

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Chinese theories of knowledge was the close connection between (individual) knowledge and (socially relevant) practice (zhi ⸕, xing 㹼). The ethics that functioned within the social structure as a pragmatic, internal political status quo, were once again inextricably connected with language as the principal means for making agreements. The vital role of language, which had to be unified (including a uniform script) to meet the needs of the future empire, derived from the critical situation of the various Chinese states that were engaged in a bloody struggle for domination. The period of the greatest flourishing of ancient Chinese philosophy was thus a transitional period, which led from the archaic feudal social order within the individual states, to the unified order of a single vast state that was governed by a ruling elite based on clan alliances and which wielded both political and economic power.

The Constitution of Language and Meaning: the Birth of Structural Semantics (ming li ਽⨶) In Neo-Confucian treatises, the concept li ⨶ represented the central, basic structure of everything that exists which unified all specific particular patterns. However, even before this renewal of classical Confucianism, it had already been clear for some time that li also had to represent the basic structure of human mind, perception and expression, and thus the structure of language as well. As an exponent of the classical Confucian tradition and in accordance with immanent metaphysics, the Neo-Confucian philosopher Cheng Hao equated this new concept of the all-embracing but simultaneously omnipresent structure ⨶ with the notion of Nature (tian ཙ ), which constituted the highest Confucian cosmic principle and which sometimes is still denoted as dao 䚃. In Cheng Hao’s writings we find a clear indication of the inherent connection of the allembracing structure li 䚃 with human reason (and thus with language): ཙ㘵⨶ҏ,⾎㘵࿉㩜⢙,㘼⛪䀰㘵ҏ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui Yan, 1179) Nature is structured; its spirit pervades everything that exists in a mysterious way and is able to express it (i.e. all that exists) through language.

Such conclusions, which could already be found in the works of the Neo-Confucian theorists of the Song and Ming dynasties, are the result of more than one thousand years of development and investigations into the


Chapter Three

structure of the concepts of language and meaning. In fact, many centuries before, the Confucian Xunzi (ca. 310–230 BC) had extended his understanding of structure to include the structure of language: 䗝丶ˈ㘼ᖼਟ㠷䀰䚃ѻ⨶. (Xunzi 2010. Quan xue, 16) If words flow beautifully, the language is well structured.

The political theoretician Guan Zhong, likewise proceeded from the fundamental premise that determining the proper structure which defines proper language was essential for the establishment of proper names, and thus for the existence of a well-ordered and harmonious state. Ӫѫࠪ䀰ˈ丶ᯬ⨶ˈਸᯬ≁ᛵˈࡷ≁ਇަ䗝ˈ≁ਇަ䗝ˈࡷ਽㚢ㄐ. (Guan Zhong 2010. Xing shi jie, 11) The words expressed by rulers are in accordance with the structure and thus with the situation of the people. They can therefore accept his statements. And if they do, the proper names are established.

The earliest explanations and interpretations of reality, in which the term li (among others) was also understood as an abstract structure of language, can be found in the works of the late Mohists. The chapter Daqu of the Mohist canon, which primarily seeks to define a number of central notions, includes the following definition: ཛ䗝ԕ᭵⭏ˈԕ⨶䮧ˈԕ于㹼ҏ㘵. (Mozi 2000. Daqu 44, 172) Sentences arise from reasons; they develop in accordance with the structure and move in accordance with categories.

Sentential and linguistic structure served the Mohists as a basic tool for defining the relation between actuality and its conceptual understanding or naming. The classical Chinese term ming ਽, for example, can appear in two semantic connotations. The first, which is mostly found in logical discourses, is that of a name (as a linguistic sign), while the second, which generally occurs in semantic and epistemological discourses, represents a concept. 'ᾲᘥ' ઼ 'ㇴ⮷' 䜭ᱟ㘫䆟਽䂎. ѝ഻ਔԓᴹᡰ䄲'਽'. '਽' ᴹ‫ޙ‬ኔ᜿㗙, а ᤷ਽䂎, аᤷᾲᘥ. '໘㏃' 䃚: '਽: 䚄, 于: ⿱'. '䚄਽', '于਽' 䜭ᱟᾲᘥ . 㥰

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


ᆀ '↓਽' ㇷᡰ䄲 'བྷ‫ޡ‬਽' ('⢙') ઼ 'བྷࡕ਽' ('匕⦨') ҏ䜭ᱟᾲᘥ. (Zhang Dainian 2003, 118) “Concept (gainian)” and “category (fanchou)” are translated notions. Ancient China developed the so-called “name (ming)”. This word had a dual meaning: terms, and concepts. In the “Mo Jing” it is written: “Terms (ming) can be divided into universal (complete) and particular (partial)”. Here, both kinds of terms represent concepts. Xunzi’s distinction, in his essay on “Correct names”, between “Great universal names” (which refer to every thing or being) and “Great particular names” (which refer to particulars) was dealing with concepts in both cases.

The precise definition and formulation of notions was an essential methodological function in the logic of disputes, i.e. the semantic logic that provided the theoretical basis for late Mohism: ཛ䗟㘵ˈሷԕ᰾ᱟ䶎ѻ࠶ˈሙ⋫Ҳѻ㌰ˈ᰾਼⮠ѻ㲅ˈሏ਽ሖѻ⨶. (Mozi 2000. Daqu 45, 173) Dialectics explain the lines of demarcation between true and false and order and chaos; they explain the points of identity and difference and explore the structure of concepts and realities.

The view that the relation between actuality and its naming or its conceptual understanding was defined by a unified structure had been proposed by certain theorists even earlier. Deng Xi 䝗᷀, for example, the exponent of the School of Names from the 6th century BC, wrote: ᭵㾻ަ䊑ˈ㠤ަᖒˈᗚަ⨶ˈ↓ަ਽. (Deng Xizi 2010. Wu hou pian, 16) First we have to look at the appearance of an object, in order to perceive its external form. The proper concept of the object can be defined by following its structure.

What Deng Xi defined was an epistemology of structural perception, by which concepts were established in accordance with the intrinsic system of the objects of recognition that formed a part of the external reality. The reformer of Confucian ideology from the Han dynasty, Dong Zhongshu, adopted the idea of the structural connection of names and actualities in principal although, as a Confucian, names (in the sense of concepts) were naturally primary. Hence, the basic structure of the linguistic, social and ethical spheres had to be formed in accordance with


Chapter Three

“proper naming”, i.e. with concepts that could not be arbitrary, since they implied the a-priori essence of reality27. ␡ሏ਽㲏: 䤴ަ俆ㄐѻ᜿ˈԕリަѝѻһˈࡷᱟ䶎ਟ⸕ˈ䘶丶㠚㪇ˈ ަᒮ䙊ᯬཙൠ⸓DŽ... ᱟ᭵һ਴丶ᯬ਽ˈ਽਴丶ᯬཙˈཙӪѻ䳋ˈਸ㘼 ⛪аˈ਼㘼䙊⨶. (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shencha minghao, 1) Concepts are the crucial element of the great structure. If we apply the meaning of this crucial element to related questions, we will be able to grasp (the difference between) true and false. The difference between congruency and discordance will become obvious. All this will enable us to comprehend their connection with heaven and earth... If we deal with all questions in accordance with their concepts, which are congruent with nature, the division between men and Nature will disappear. Thus, men will unite with Nature and become congruent with the structure.

Dong believed that the chief aim of Confucius’ The Annals of Spring and Autumn (᱕⿻䤴) was to be found precisely in the regulation of names (concepts) and in their being made to conform with the Confucian “proper names”, which were considered to be in accordance with the natural structure of the universe28. Thus, in his commentary on this classic work, he writes: ᱕ ⿻ 䗘 ⢙ ѻ ⨶ ˈ ԕ ↓ ަ ਽ ˈ ਽ ⢙ ྲ ަ ⵏ ˈ н ཡ ⿻ ∛ ѻ ᵛ . (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shencha minghao, 4) The Annals of Spring and Autumn explore the structure of things in order to make the rectification of names possible. If the names of things are the same as the things themselves, nothing will be lost.

However, like other thinkers of the Han Dynasty, Dong also began to develop the Mohist view that language was a system that was structured in accordance with the concept li ⨶. In this case, concepts or names were seen explicitly as the nominal or conceptual signs (ming hao ਽㲏) which, in the process of language formation, could serve as a kind of code that enabled one to gain insight into their structure.


Both ancient and medieval Confucians argued for a conceptual theory of knowledge, since in the Confucian system names represent the essence of reality. 28 Here, we are of course referring to the well-known Confucian theory of the Rectification of Names (↓਽䄆).

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


≁ ѻ ⛪ 䀰 ˈ പ ⥦ ⷁ ҏ ˈ 䳘 ަ ਽ 㲏 ˈ ԕ ‫ ࡷ ˈ ⨶ ަ ޕ‬ᗇ ѻ ⸓ DŽ (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shencha minghao, 4) When people created language, they first acted as if they were blind: they followed the symbolic signs of names to gain insight into their structure and acquire the ability to master it.

But the Confucian reformers were not alone in developing the heritage of the late Mohists along these lines. The author of the Daoist work Huai Nanzi ␞ইᆀ , also indicated language as a well-regulated system that could function properly only when it was in accordance with the structure li. In describing the ideal society of the past, he declares that: ℞妨䔍侴⽒䎮. (Huai Nanzi 2010. Ben jing xun, 1) …its language was well ordered and in accordance with the proper structure.

The systematic structure of language would become a crucial problem during tzhe period of the Six Dynasties, especially within the Neo-Daoist School of Mystery (Xuan xue ⦴ᆨ), which founded and developed an entire philosophical discipline that continued the Mohist and Nominalist tradition of semantic logic. They called this discourse Ming li ਽⨶ (the structure of names or concepts)29. The disputes and theories concerning this and related questions were so popular in intellectual circles that the name of this discipline eventually became synonymous with philosophy as such30 (Tang Junyi 1955, 65). Wang Bi, the best known exponent of the School of Mystery, wrote in his commentaries on Laozi’s Book of the Way and Virtue (䚃ᗧ㏃): ཛн㜭䗟਽ˈࡷнਟ㠷䀰⨶. (Wang Bi 1974, 40)


The notion ming (਽) has usually been translated into Indo-European languages, and also into Modern Chinese, with the terms “name” or “denoting”. However, in classical Chinese philosophy, especially in its epistemological discourses, this notion refers to concepts and to the conceptualization of specific objects in the external reality. (see Zhang Dainian 2003, 118). 30 Because these discourses dealt mainly with semantic logic, not surprisingly the first translators of Western philosophical systems, such as Yan Fu ೤ᗙ, translated the term “logic” with the expression Ming xue ਽ᆨ (The Teachings of Names). See Cui Qingtian 2005, 17.


Chapter Three If we cannot distinguish certain names (concepts), we cannot speak about the structure of language.

His methodology was based upon a hermeneutics that sought to reveal the hidden meaning within the structure of an entire text. ሻ㘼ᖼᰒަ㗙ˈ᧘㘼ᖼⴑަ⨶DŽ(Wang Bi 1974, 40) First, we have to search for the meaning of (particular concepts), and then we can fully comprehend their structure by means of inference.

In his writings, Wang Bi was mainly concerned with investigating the relations among meaning (yi ᜿), words (yan 䀰) and symbols or signs (xiang 䊑 ). Each particular meaning was always embedded in a metaphysical structure that could be denoted by a common compound “semantic structure” (yili ᜿⨶). Words and symbols, however, were the descriptive (metaphorical) expressions of certain elements occurring within this structure. These expressions were signs with perceptible forms by which they could be determined: therefore, they pertained to the sphere of the physical, determinable, apprehensible. If we wished to define them using traditional methods for determining reality, such as the binary category of ground (ben ᵜ) and summit (mo ᵛ), which Wang Bi also applied in his idealist model, then the meaning belonged to the sphere of abstractions, where it provided the metaphysical basis for the forming of words and symbols 31 (Zeng Chunhai 2002, 175). The members of the School of Mystery based their theorizing on two fundamental premises: that concepts (ming ਽) were the foundation of language (yan 䀰); and that meaning (yi ᜿) was always evident within the structure (li ⨶), since it was present within things (wu ⢙ ) as such 32 (Tang Junyi 1955, 66.) However, it should be recalled that in their earlier disputes on names (concepts) and actualities, the classical philosophers of the pre-Qin era (i.e. the Mohist School and the School of Names) had taken their departure from a notion of reality in which there was an objective, external world and an external form of things. This form was seen as an imminent part of the structure of things that was rooted, as we have seen, in the ancient 31

❦㘼, '᜿' ᱟ ᖒкⲴ⨶, ਸち⛪ '᜿⨶' , '䀰' 㠷 '䊑' ѳഐ䀰䆠∄ᬜ '᜿⨶' 㘼䁝, ᴹᖒ䐑ਟሻਟេ㯹, ⛪ᖒ㘼л㘵. ഐ↔, ቡ⦻ᕬⲴᵜᵛ䰌‫ײ‬ᷦΏ㘼䀰, '᜿' ⛪ᖒ 㘼кⲴኔᶱ, ѳᱟ '䀰', '䊑' ᡰ⭡ᬊѻ'ᵜ', 䠍ሽᡰᬜ㺘䘠Ⲵ '᜿' 㘼䀰, '䀰', '䊑' ᱟ ᵛ. (cf Zeng Chunhai 2002, 175) 32 妨ᷳ㇨㛔⛐⎵, シᷳ㇨⍲⿮⛐䎮, 侴ᶵ⽭⛐䈑. (cf Tang Junyi 1955, 66.)

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


concept li. The structure (li ⨶) of meaning, however, which does not appear before the period of the Six Dynasties, was no longer something directly connected to things or forming part of them. It thus represented a certain degree of abstraction of the term li. Consequently, and in what constituted one of the most important theoretical shifts in the history of traditional Chinese thought (Tang Junyi 1955, 66), the exponents of the School of Mystery gradually shifted their focus from the relation between names (concepts) and actualities to the relation between language (yan 䀰) and meaning (yi ᜿), while also investigating the structure of concepts or names (ming li ਽⨶). The School of Mystery’s debates on the relation between language and meaning can therefore also be considered a theoretical elaboration of the ancient disputes on the relation between names (concepts) and actualities. The School’s structural semantic investigations into names were based primarily on Mohist and Nominalist principles, as well as even earlier paradigms taken from Zhuangzi’s epistemology and the philosophy of language. This central figure of classical Daoism naturally argued that language could not completely express meaning, while meaning could not fully attain dao (Tang Junyi 1955, 67). During the period of the Six Dynasties, the question whether language could exhaustively express meaning gave rise to two opposing ideal currents. The main exponent of the affirmative view, Ouyang Jian ↀ䲭ᔪ, based his argument on the structure (li) of meaning: ཛ⨶ᗇᯬᗳ, 䶎䀰н⭵. ⢙ᇊᯬᖬ, 䶎਽н䗘. ਽䙀⢙㘼䚧, 䀰ഐ⨶㘼䆺. нᗇ⴨䆭㠷⛪Ҽ⸓. 㤋❑ަҼ, 䀰❑нⴑ᜿. (Tang Junyi 1955, 67) The structure is formed in our mind, therefore it can be expressed by language. Through the structure of language we can define objects that can be differentiated from one another by concepts. Concepts change in accordance with objects, and language in accordance with the structure. These two cannot be separated. And because they cannot be separated, language can fully express meaning.

Ouyang thus postulated a concept of structure that arose from mind and included linguistic, conceptual and semantic patterns. All three aspects were dynamic and changeable, as was the structure (li ⨶) that connected them. Even his main adversary Wang Bi, who denied that language could exhaustively express meaning, did not question the structural connection between language and thought. Instead, he preferred to base his refutation


Chapter Three

of Ouyang’s view on the unreliability of the concept (ming ਽) as such33, an argument which was also adopted by his contemporary He Yan օᇤ (190/?/–249), in his treatise Teachings on Namelessness (❑਽䄆). Guo Xiang 䜝䊑 (252/?/–312), the third leading exponent of the School of Mystery, argued that while names (concepts) expressed objects (either in visual or phonetic form), they also limited our images of them. Concepts were thus only necessary until such time as we could comprehend the structure (li ⨶) of the objects to which they referred34 (Tang Junyi 1955, 67). The main treatises by the leading philosophers of this period, who generally belonged either to the School of Mystery (⦴ᆨ) or the academic group of Pure Conversations (␵䃷), therefore dealt with the problem of the structure of concepts (਽⨶) and meaning (᜿⨶). Given their shared assumption that the meaning of a specific word was formed based on its relations with other words, these treatises can be seen as containing the germs of the structural semantics that would be developed more than 1500 years later in Western linguistic discourses. It is also important to note that the Wei Jin philosophers provided a theoretical elaboration of the ancient Chinese intellectual tradition which, on the formal semantic level, was rooted in semantic parallelisms and in the specific Chinese structure of analogical thought. For this reason, traditional Chinese discourses gradually came to form a specific literary style, in which the semantic structure of a text was defined by the contents and interrelations among word fields. In their investigations into semantic structure, the exponents of the School of Mystery definitely went beyond the linguistic-logical disputes of the Mohist School and the School of Names. These two currents from the pre-Qin era had addressed a number of questions concerning the nature of real objects that were linked to logic and the systematization of the concrete features of these objects, such as form, color and volume, as well as their dynamics and their presence/location in time and space. Despite the sometimes overly abstract nature of these arguments, they always referred to a specific, concrete, existing actuality and its structure. Even when dealing with the conceptual determination of these objects, they 33

Because his commentary on Laozi’s Book of the Way and Virtue was central to his own philosophy, in this context Wang Bi adopted Laozi’s view on the impossibility of denoting (conceptualizing) the eternal, i.e. the genuine dao (䚃❑ 䚃䶎ᑨ䚃, Laozi 2010, 1). 34 ᰾↔⨶ҏࡷ਽䐑ਟ䚪 (cf Tang Junyi 1955, 67)

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


always remained within the parameters of the then prevailing disputes on the relation between names (concepts) and actualities. But the discourses of the philosophers of the Wei Jin period began to investigate the structure of meaning in a way that was no longer limited to the sphere of the concrete, existing, objective, external actuality (Tang Junyi 1955, 68). The focus of the theorists from this period was no longer limited to responding to questions concerning “proper” behaviour, i.e. “proper” rituals, or with formulating wise maxims that inspired people to a wiser, more ethical life, leading to a more harmonic society. Instead, they were interested in the question of expressions and in investigating the relations between these maxims or sayings and the reality to which they referred. This meant determining which kinds of concepts (names) were suitable for denoting certain things and which were not and, conversely, which kinds of realities could be designated by certain concepts, and which could not. Based on these investigations, they tried to establish semantic markers that divided specific concepts from one another, in order to be able to identify the errors and misapprehensions that resulted from the improper use of names. In effect, these theorists had discovered the epistemological dimension of meta-language which, in turn, would lead them to analyze the relation between human reasoning and their own cognitive concepts and, ultimately, these concepts as such: 䙉൘䚿䕟ኔ⅑к, ᱟ∄а㡜Ⲵᙍᜣ䀰䃚, ਚⴤ᧕ੁཆᙍᜣ⭊哬ᶡ㾯⭊哬 㹼⛪ѻ䚃㘵, ѳᴤ儈аኔⲴᙍᜣ. 㘼 㠣㥰ᆀѻа࠷䰌ᯬ਽ሖ୿乼Ⲵ䀾 䄆᮷ᆇ, Ⲷ⮦‫ྲڊ‬ᱟ㿰. 㘼↔Ӗਟ䃚ণ兿ᱹԕл਽⨶ѻ䄆Ⲵа␥Ⓚᡰ㠚. նᗎ‫〖ݸ‬ѻ䃷਽ሖ, 㠣兿ᱹѻ䃷਽⨶ ফᱟѝ഻ᙍᜣਢⲴаབྷ䕹䙢. (Tang Junyi 1955, 66) In terms of logic, this was certainly a higher level of thought than that of simple theories that merely implied direct and one-dimensional reasoning about things and the external reality. Theories formulated at this level were more abstract and belonged to higher cognitive levels. They were theories about “how theories were made”. The principles derived from such theories, were principles of “how principles were established”. Hence, what we have here is another type of structure (li ⨶). All the writings on the relation between names (concepts) and actualities from the pre-Qin era, from Mozi to Xunzi, can be seen as being based upon a realistic world view. Of course, all these writings constituted one of the foundations upon which, during the period of the Six Dynasties, the theory of the structure of concepts (names) would be based. Nonetheless, we must recognize that, from the pre-Qin era with its philosophy of the relations between names (concepts) and actualities, until the period of the Six Dynasties and its


Chapter Three philosophy of conceptual structure, Chinese thought had made a great leap forward.

As we have seen, the philosophers of the Six Dynasties initially confirmed the first, simpler discursive level that had appeared in the preQin era, and which was linked to the problem of the structure of external objects, as the “structure of reality” (wu li ⢙⨶), as opposed to their own, later discourses on the structure of concepts (ming li ਽⨶). However, after defining the difference between these two kinds or types of structure, they were confronted with the problem of their compatibility. As we noted in Chapter 1, pre-modern Chinese theories of knowledge generally presumed the mutual compatibility of internal and external structures 35 . For premodern theorists, this compatibility was not just a feature of human perception, comprehension and communication, but also a fundamental precondition. In the Neo-Confucian writings from the Song Dynasty, i.e. in the era in which structure (li) became one of the central concepts of Chinese philosophy, the structural connection between external reality, mind and language was already considered a long-established fact. Cheng Hao, for example, described it as follows: ཙ㘵⨶ҏ, ⾎㘵࿉㩜⢙, 㘼⛪䀰㘵ҏ. (Cheng Hao/Yi, Er Cheng ji IV, Sui Yan, 1179) The structure of Nature permeates in a miraculous way everything that exists and also creates language.

This near-axiomatic supposition, which was based upon the structural connection between language and Nature, probably also derived from the epistemological shift brought about by the philosophers of the early middle age, who created a logically grounded and coherent theoretical system that connected mind and the external world.

The Empty Structure of Chinese Buddhism (kong li オ⨶) As we saw in the previous section, the structural semantics of the philosophers of the Six Dynasties era focused primarily upon problems of the structural connections between concepts, words and meaning. 35 Here, the notion “external structures” denotes the structures of the external world, i.e. objects, whereas the notion “internal structures” refers to the (subjective) structures of the mind.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


а਽ণ・, ࡷަ᜿ᡰ㺘ѻ⨶ণ・, ・ণн㜭ਆ⎸. (cf Tang Junyi 1955, 80) As soon as a certain concept is established, a structure that expresses its meaning/s is also established. And as soon as this is established, it cannot be eliminated.

The impossibility of eliminating conceptual structures, of course, derives from the fact that these were abstract structures existing in the human mind. Once formed, these structures contained meanings that could not simply be eliminated. An important aspect here, with respect to the future development of Chinese thought, is that this position is clearly antithetical to the notion of empty (or depleted) structure (kong li オ⨶), as it would be developed in the theoretical discourses of sinicized Buddhism during the periods of the Northern and Southern Dynasties ইेᵍ (420– 581) and the Sui 䲻 (581–618) and Tang ୀ (618–907) Dynasties (Tang Junyi 1955, 80). The Chinese Buddhists also often applied the character li ⨶ in their writings, especially those of the Faxiang zong ⌅⴨ᇇ36, Tiantai zong ཙਠᇇ and Huayan zong 㨟೤ᇇ37 schools. Although following the semantic scope of the structure and structural pattern, the comprehension of the term li in these texts differs considerably from the understanding of the same character among the exponents of the School of Mystery and the Pure Conversations. As is well known, a fundamental tenet of Buddhism is that the phenomenal world is illusory: as such, it is not only abstract and empty, but does not even exist in reality. The Buddhist theoreticians from the early middle age in China did not occupy themselves with meta-theoretical abstractions of conceptual structures. The “depleted” structure which concerned them was, in its essence, profoundly different from the structure of concepts and meaning that formed such a crucial subject of debate for the exponents of early Chinese structural semantics. ൘਽⨶ѻ䄆ѝ, 䀰ਚᱟ䀰, 㘼൘オ⨶ѻ䄆ѝ, ࡷਟ...ԕ䀰䚄❑䀰Ⲵ⨶ᜣ. (Tang Junyi 1955, 80) In the treatises of conceptual structure words appear only as words. In the treatises of depleted structure, however, words can help attain the ideal state, in which there are no words.

36 37

Madhyama–yƗna Avatamsaka


Chapter Three

Comprehension as such is not a basic aim of Buddhism. Buddhist theory does not seek to comprehend the world and its mechanisms of existence. And while explications of Buddhist theory also represent a kind of knowledge, attaining such knowledge is not of central importance in Buddhist discourses, as this would merely signify an ideology, a theory that we could denote, for example, with the expression T and which in order to exist would again necessarily require its own negation, namely–– T. Therefore, Buddhists do not regard their teachings as a form of precious knowledge or theory; instead, their fundamental concern is the gradual elimination of all words and the cognitive scopes they imply (Chen and Rošker 2004, 36). Based upon the unique supposition of the nature of vacancy, Buddhism has developed a special methodology for breaking through the closed structures of awareness, in which all living beings are imprisoned. Buddhism thus seeks to break through the illusory sphere of phenomena: in order to do this, one must gain insight into the real contradictions that determine meanings and their structures, thereby making it possible to eliminate or deplete them (kong オ ). Although the notion kong has generally been translated as “emptiness” in Indo-European languages, the etymological meaning of the Chinese word kong オ actually differs from the words xu 㲋 or wu ❑ which––especially in Daoist contexts––denote two kinds of emptiness. While the latter generally signifies the absence of any (or of a certain) object or entity, the term xu refers to an empty space and/or time, i.e. to a certain state of emptiness. The terms wu and xu were mostly applied by the Daoists, while kong was the word used to denote emptiness in Chinese Buddhist discourses. This notion of emptiness referred primarily to a process of depletion or emptying, and to the result of this process, namely the state of becoming (or being) empty. 㠣ᯬオᇇѻ䃚オ, а਽н਼ᯬ䃚❑. วᴹว❑, 䜭нᱟオ. ❑ᱟ㧛ᴹ. (❑ ৸䘁Ѿа▋ᴹ). オᱟ㾱৫ᦹᡁ‫ف‬ᡰวѻᴹ. ѝ഻Ⲵオᆇ, ৏ᗎ൏ᗎイ. ⮦ᱲ⭡ᐕᧈ൏ᡀイѻ᜿. イѻᡀ, ⭡ᯬ৫൏. ৫൏ᱟа⍫अ. (Tang Junyi 1955, 80) The concept of kong as applied by the School of Emptiness (Kong zong) differed significantly from the term wu. This concept cannot be equated with the presence or absence of phenomena. The term wu means absence in the sense that there is nothing which might be present (however, this term also implies a latent presence). The term kong, however, means the elimination of all presence contained in the phenomenal world. The Chinese character kong was originally compounded from the characters that denote earth and hole. A hole came into being when workers removed

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


earth from it. Thus, a hole became a hole when earth was eliminated, which meant that it involved an action.

This action, however, referred only to the elimination of earth. After the earth was removed, the very act of removing (depleting or vacating) was removed (depleted) as well. Thus, even in Buddhism, the word kong referred to the depletion or elimination of phenomena which constituted an obstacle to the process of enlightenment (of course, this regards only certain acts or events). After the phenomenal obstacles were eliminated, the very act of eliminating or depleting was eliminated as well. But as long as we are not completely freed from the yoke of samsaric actuality, even after the elimination of these (external) phenomena our awareness still retains certain teachings, convictions and thoughts. Even during the process of trying to break through the sphere of illusion by eliminating these teachings, convictions and thoughts, they still remain latently present. Once the breakthrough has occurred, however, all the teachings, convictions and thoughts that led to it, are eliminated as well. This distinction was stressed by the School of Emptiness, which compared the process of eliminating or depleting thoughts by means of other thoughts with a flame in which something is burning (Tang Junyi 1955, 80). After this object has been completely consumed by flame, the flame dies as well, and is no longer present. ྲ䃚オオ, ࡷオオ䚴㾱オ᡽ሽ. ❦ྲ↔䃚, ᜸䃚オ, 㘼オ᜸ཊ, ᜸нᡀオ. 䙉ぞ୿乼, ㍄൘਽⨶к, Ӗਟ䃚ᱟ❑⌅ሷⲴ. (Tang Junyi 1955, 80) When we speak about the depletion of emptiness, this depletion of emptiness also must be depleted. The more we speak about the depletion of emptiness, the more depletion exists and the further removed we are from real emptiness (depletion). Thus, in the context of pure conceptual structure, it is not possible to speak about it.

In the discourses of sinicized Buddhism, the meanings and their structures that form a part of our everyday awareness are null and void in their very essence; in order to eliminate them, it is sufficient to gain insight into the empty nature of the structure which defines them. This negation of structure in the sense of phenomena was constantly stressed by the Faxiang School. ᡰว䶎⨶. (⌅⴨ᇇধа, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 80) Phenomena are a non-structure.


Chapter Three

Before gaining this insight, however, we believe that meanings, as well as their structures within our consciousness, really exist: the meanings of particular events or objects are situated in the conceptual structure that corresponds to the things and events of the external world. But this is only a false, deceptive image that has been transmitted to us by our senses. The senses thus lead us to the presence (of the phenomenal world), while the structure denotes (its) absence. ᛵᴹ⨶❑ (⌅⴨ᇇধҍ, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 80) The senses are presence, while the structure is absence.

This state in which we are victims of our senses can be compared to a rope that we mistake for a snake. ྲᡁ‫ف‬䃔㒙⛪㳷ᱲ, 㳷ᱟ'ᛵᴹ', ❦ྲ㩭ࡠሖ䳋, ᡆྲ⨶㘼ᙍ, ࡷі❑↔ 㳷, ࡷ↔㳷ᱟ '⨶❑', 'オ⨶'. (Tang Junyi 1955, 81) If we see a rope and think it is a snake, then the presence of this snake is conditioned by the senses. But if we return to reality, or if we think about it from the viewpoint of the (rational) structure, we will perceive that there is no snake. Thus, the snake is the “structure of absence” or the “depleted structure”.

If we mistake a rope for a snake, the conceptual structure of this snake is empty. If we consider the snake in terms of this structure, then we cannot establish its actual concept. The snake is thus a metaphor for a world of countless illusory phenomena in the sphere of samsara. The existence of any concepts of such illusory phenomena is likewise impossible, since the structure that defines them is also depleted. The depleted structure that exists beyond all illusory phenomena, eliminates (depletes) them each time we perceive it. In this sense, the conceptual structure of vacancies differs from conceptual structures as defined by the Neo-Daoists, for while the latter enable us to perceive and comprehend things which exist, the depleted structure of the Buddhists was a means to become aware of their non-existence. It thus resembles a black hole which absorbs everything with which it comes into contact. The structure that, whenever it appears, depletes all phenomena, certainly cannot be considered a condition of their existence. On the contrary, this structure is the cause of their elimination. Hence, it can neither be part of the phenomena, nor of the concepts defined by them. What, therefore, is the real nature of this depleted structure?

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Ӫオа࠷ྴวᖼ, 㜭䅹ᗇ䎵а㡜᜿䀰ຳᙍ䆠ຳѻᗳ, ᡆާ㡜㤕Ცѻᗳ, ↔ᗳі䶎㧛ᴹ. ྲᴹ↔ᗳ, ࡷ↔ᗳ㑡❑ྴวਟオ, Ӗнᗙ޽ᴹオѻ㿰ᘥ ᡆオ⨶ѻ㿰ᘥₛӉᯬᗳ, ӽн㜭䃚ަণнާᴹ↔㜭オྴวѻ⨶. (Tang Junyi 1955, 80) When a person depletes all phenomena and when their awareness is capable of transcending the sphere of language, thought and meaning, they become wise. We cannot say that the wise have no awareness. However, in this awareness there are no phenomena left that can be eliminated (depleted). Nor is there any idea of depleting or any idea of depleted structure. And yet, it still contains a structure that can potentially deplete all phenomena.

A person whose awareness is empty while still including this black hole of depleted structure, is a Boddhisatvas. That is, they are an enlightened being who remains in the eternal circuit of lives and deaths in order to help others who, due to their desires and attachments are still ensnared in the illusion of phenomena and the suffering that results, to also reach enlightenment. As stated in the principal work of the Faxiang School, The Completion of Pure Recognition ᡀୟ䆈䄆, the enlightened awareness of Boddhisatvas cannot be joined to Nirvana: ᯧᡰ⸕䳌亟⌅オ⨶, ↔⨶ণ❑տ⎵ⴔ. (⌅⴨ᇇধॱ䟻ഋ⎵ⴔ, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 80) When all obstacles of (common) knowledge are eliminated (broken) the depleted structure appears; but this depleted structure is not situated in Nirvana.

The contents of the depleted structure is therefore an essential part of enlightened awareness. ഐྲަнާ↔⨶, ↔ᗳণн㜭ᑨտᯬ❑ྴวѻຳ⭼, Ӗн㜭䃚⌅ԕ⹤Ԇ Ӫѻྴว. ഐ㘼ަ㠚ᐡѻ❑ྴวਟオ, ሽԆӪѻྴวѻ䎧, 㜭ааオѻ. (Tang Junyi 1955, 81) If the (awareness of enlightened people) did not contain this structure, it would be unable to exist and live within the world of false phenomena, nor could it proclaim dharmic teachings and methods in order to help others to break through this world of false phenomena. Since this (enlightened) awareness, as such, does not contain any illusory phenomena, it can deplete, one by one, all the phenomena that form part of the awareness of others.


Chapter Three

If we consider depleted structure (or the structure of depletion) from the viewpoint of awareness, it is clearly a structure which, unlike phenomena, is real (zhen li ⵏ⨶). ➙ᜡ䳌ⴑᡰ亟ⵏ⨶. (⌅⴨ᇇধॱ䟻ഋ⎵ⴔ, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 81) When all obstacles of suffering have been eliminated, the real structure appears.

This insight, of course, is not conditioned by any kind of sensory perception, but by its elimination; and this in turn leads to the pure, real awareness that transcends all the mental (emotional) fluctuations caused by earthly joys and woes: ᗳⵏྲ䮰ᱟ⨶, ᗳ⭏⑋䮰ᱟһ. (㨟೤ᇇӄᮉ→㿰)-(བྷ↓㯿ഋॱӄধ,cf Tang Junyi 1955, 80) The real, actual awareness amalgamates with the structure; the awareness which still contains emotional fluctuations, however, belongs to (earthly) matters.

Such awareness is a precondition for amalgamation with the real structure: Ⲭᗳⵏ⨶. (⌅㯿ѻ㨟೤Ⲭ㨙ᨀᗳㄐ, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 81) An unfolded (mature) awareness is the real structure.

This structure cannot be perceived by the senses, because it does not pertain to the perceptible phenomena of the external world: ⨶❑ᖒ⴨. (㨟೤ᇇӄᮉ→㿰 - བྷ↓㯿ഋॱӄধ, cf Tang Junyi 1955, 81) The structure does not have any phenomenal form.

The real structure can thus only appear through the depletion of our senses. Our senses, which are part of the illusory world, are also eliminated (depleted) by this very structure of depletion. The real structure does not appear upon the depletion of all false phenomena and sensations that falsely convey to us the illusory existence of these phenomena, but only after the depletion (elimination) of the structures of sensory perception that make these processes possible. The structure of depletion

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


thus eliminates the perceptive structures of our senses or, if one prefers, their “essential nature” through the process of depletion (Tang Junyi 1955, 81). Hence, this is a structure which is real, and which gradually removes the layers of sensation and awareness of the illusory phenomenal world. Because this structure can only be revealed to us through our insight into the empty nature of reality, the Buddhists named it the depleted structure or the structure of emptiness.

The Structural Compatibility of Being and the Structure of Human Nature (xingli ᙗ⨶) The next stage in the process of the abstraction of the term li took place within the context of the Neo-Confucian renewal, where it acquired new dimensions as the central notion in pre-modern Chinese philosophy. While Chinese intellectual history named the main current of this renewal the School of Structure (li xue ⨶ᆨ38), it is also often known as the “School of the structure of human nature” (xingli xue ᙗ⨶ᆨ)39, due to the new dimension of the notion of structure elaborated by the Neo-Confucians, which they called the “Structure of human nature” (xingli ᙗ⨶). At the start of the Neo-Confucian era, in the 11th century AD, its precursor Zhou Dunyi defined the relation between human nature and structure as follows: ᡀࡷ⢙ѻᐢᡀˈᙗࡷ⨶ѻᐢ・㘵ҏ. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, Cheng shang 1, 13) Perfection is what comes into being when things are completed, and nature is what comes into being when the structure is established.

The most important Neo-Confucian theorist, Zhu Xi ᵡ ⟩ viewed structure as the basic constitution and precondition of everything that exists: ᵚᴹཙൠѻ‫ݸ‬, ⮒ㄏਚᱟ⨶, ᴹ↔⨶, ‫ׯ‬ᴹ↔ཙൠ. (Zhu Xi 2010. Li qi shang, 1) That which has to exist before heaven and earth, is structure. Only when there is structure, heaven and earth can come into existence. 38 In Indo-European languages, the phrase Li xue ⨶ᆨ has traditionally been translated as “The School of Principles”. 39 Traditional translation: “The School of Nature and Principles”.


Chapter Three

A similar understanding of structure as the ontological basis of everything that exists can already be found in his predecessors, the Cheng brothers: ❑䶎⨶ҏ, ᜏ⨶⛪ሖ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui yan, 1269) Structure is in everything. (Nothing exists without structure). Only structure is real.

Structure is thus essential, and its influence appears in the principles of everything that exists in Nature. Natural events are not the result of some divine will or higher power, but the spontaneous manifestations of the “adjustment” of all that exists to the fundamental constitution of the natural or heavenly structure: фྲ䃚, ⲷཙ䵗ᙂ, ㍲нᱟᴹӪ൘кउᙂ, ਚᱟ⨶ྲ↔. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui yan, 1187) For example, if we say that heaven is angry, this does not mean that there is an angry man above us; it is only because the structure is like that.

This structure is not empty, however. Being proper Confucians, the philosophers of the Neo-Confucian renewal adhered to its ethical foundations when dealing with the concept li. This means that they stressed its connotations as a structural pattern, implied in rituality and culture (liwen zhi li ⿞ ᮷ ѻ ⨶ ), while trying to adjust such an understanding to numerous other connotations of the character li, especially with respect to the problem of the distinction between the structures of (external) objects (wuli ⢙⨶) and the structure of names or concepts (mingli ਽ ⨶ ). This led them to develop an important new understanding of structure as a pattern that is compatible with other structural patterns. And this provided the basis for logical connections and the comprehension of objects such that, in understanding the constitution of the basic structural pattern that determines everything that exists, it was also possible to gain insights into all the other structures compatible with it40. Such structural logic was applicable in the recognition of every object,


See: а⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, 1981. I, Yi shu, 13). The concept of the structural pattern (yili 㗙⨶) was examined and elaborated in detail in the 20th century by Feng Youlan 俞৻㱝 (see Chapter 5, Renewal of Structure in Modern Confucianism)

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


because no structure was excluded from the basic paradigms that defined the system of all structures. Ṭ⢙マ⨶, 䶎ᱟ㾱マⴑཙлѻ⢙, նҾаһкマⴑ, ަԆਟԕ于᧘. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui yan, 1187, cf Wang Zuoli and Li Yuanming 2001, 250) If we want to recognize the elementary structure of everything that exists, we need not explore every existing thing. It is enough to gain insight into the basic structure of one single thing and then from it we can infer all the others.

The dual nature of structure that unified in itself countless partial structural patterns, could also be seen in the binary complementarity that conditioned its existence (and with it, all existence): ཙൠ㩜⢙ѻ⨶, ཙ⦘ᗵᴹሽ…ᴹ䳡ࡷᴹ䲭, ᴹழࡷᴹᜑ, ᴹᱟࡷᴹ䶎, ❑ аࡷ❑Ҽ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui yan, 2168) In the structure of all that exists and in Nature all things are paired: if there is yin, there must be yang, if there is good, there must be evil, if there is right, there must be wrong and if there is one, there must be the other.

Ethical connotations of the notion of structure were linked to the allembracing concept of heavenly or cosmic structure (tian li ཙ⨶), which represented a much broader pattern than those that could be observed in the limited structures of objects (wuli ⢙⨶): ᆻ᰾݂㘵䀰ཙ⨶, 䶎ਚ㿆⛪ཆ൘Ⲵ⢙䌚ⲴཙൠΏ䙐ѻ⨶, ྲਚ㿆⛪ཆ൘ Ⲵ⢙䌚ⲴཙൠΏ䙐ѻ⨶, ‫ׯ‬ਚᱟ⢙⨶㘼䶎ཙ⨶. (Tang Junyi 1955, 82) When the neo-Confucians of the Song and Ming dynasties spoke about the structure of Heaven (cosmic structure) they were not referring only to the material, external structure from which the world was composed. In fact, this would not be a cosmic structure, but merely the structure of external objects.

As we shall see, this concept of cosmic (heavenly, natural) structure was precisely the notion which would have a decisive influence on the Neo-Confucians when formulating their structurally determined theory of knowledge. In this concept they perceived a structure that arose from mind and its innate qualities and that was capable of establishing a connection between human perception and the objects of the external world. It was no


Chapter Three

accident, therefore, that the structure of these innate qualities that manifested themselves in the concept of the structure of human nature (xingli ᙗ⨶) became the centerpiece of Neo-Confucian philosophy. The Neo-Confucians were the first philosophers to understand the notion of human nature (which had such an important role in the thought of Confucius’ two most important followers, Xunzi and Mengzi) as something that had its own structure: ᙗণ⨶ҏ (Zhu Xi 2010. Xing li. I, 67) Human nature is a structure (or: is structured).

The structure of human nature thus means that every individual is structured in a certain way: ᐡ㠷⨶⛪а (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I, Yi shu, 18) The Self and the structure are one and the same.

As a Confucian, Zhu Xi naturally assigned a central role to ethics, insisting that structure was not merely constitutive of external objects as reflected in the term wuli ⢙ ⨶ , but also implied all fundamental Confucian virtues. Because the Neo-Confucian renewal adhered to the Mencian view of human nature, the structure of virtue was also seen by Zhu Xi as being reflected in the concept of the structure of human nature (xingli ᙗ⨶). Contrary to his predecessors, the Cheng brothers (〻井〻 乔), in this concept Zhu Xi not only found a structure of human virtues, but the basic mental pattern which, through its positive values, was also connected to the pattern of cosmic structure (Tang Junyi 1995, 82). The link between men and the cosmos was thus based upon the structure of virtues that unified both into the holistic unity of the harmonic being. The chief exponent of the Neo-Confucian School of Mind (Xin xue ᗳ ᆨ), Wang Shouren ⦻ᆸӱ41, connected the structures of heaven (tianli ཙ ⨶ ) and human nature (tianli ཙ ⨶ ) through the concept of innate knowledge (liang zhi 㢟 ⸕ ). Unlike previous philosophers, his work clearly shows that he viewed the cosmic structure not only as constitutive of external reality, but also as a structure which was closely connected


Alias Wang Yangming ⦻䲭᰾ (1472–1529)

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


with certain elements of human inwardness, and especially with its innate qualities. Within the limits of our argument, it is certainly interesting to see how the Neo-Confucian concept of the structure of human nature (xingli ᙗ⨶) differs from earlier philosophical treatises on other structural patterns, with respect to certain basic characteristics. Here, we should recall the fundamental ethical preconditioning of Confucian and Neo-Confucian discourses. In the ancient classics, such as the Book of Ritual ⿞ 䁈 (especially in the section on music ′䁈), rituality was already seen as a kind of medium which, through its compatibility with the inherent structural order of their minds, connects human beings with the cosmic structure. ⿞ҏ㘵ˈਸᯬཙᱲˈ䁝ᯬൠ䋑ˈ丶ᯬ公⾎ˈਸᯬӪᗳˈ⨶㩜⢙㘵ҏDŽ (Li ji 2010. Li qi, 3) Ritual is in accordance with the seasons. It is also congruent with the physical elements of earth. It operates together with the worlds of ghosts and spirits and is congruent with human mind. Thus, it structurally orders everything that exists.

But the theorists who construed music as a transmitter which, through its own inherent structure, enabled human beings to connect with the system of the universe, did not interrogate the concrete constitution of the mind which, in their view, was precisely what made this connection possible. This state of things remained unchanged even during the period of the Six Dynasties, when treatises on music constituted one of the main discourses on the connection between mind and external elements. With its supposition of the structure of human nature (xing li ᙗ⨶), Neo-Confucian philosophy bridged the gap which until then had prevented the formulation of a coherent theory on the compatibility of external and internal worlds that makes human perception possible. The basis of this structure was distinctly ethical. The Confucian virtues, which were reflected in their main ethical principle of humanity (ren ӱ), not only underpinned the moral sensibility of the universe, but also constituted the basic principle of human mind. While the former manifested itself in the concept of cosmic structure, the latter appeared in the structure of human nature. ᆨ㘵丸‫ݸ‬䆈ӱ. ӱ㘵⑮❦㠷⢙਼億, 㗙⿞ᲪؑⲶӱҏ. 䆈ᗇ↔⨶, ԕ䃐ᮜ ᆈѻ㘼ᐢ. (〻᰾䚃. 䆈ӱㇷ, cf Tang Junyi 1995, 82)


Chapter Three Scholars should first learn to know humanity (ren). This is what connects us with all things, forming one single substance. Righteousness, rituality, wisdom and confidence––all these are (implied in) humanity. Whoever recognizes this structure, can preserve it through sincerity and respect.

Humanity was thus seen as a kind of link that connected the cosmic structure with the structure of human nature. ᰾䚃ᡰ䄲ӱᱟᙗ⨶, Ӗণཙ⨶. (Tang Junyi 1995, 83) What Mingdao42 calls humanity, is the structure of human nature and, at the same time, also the cosmic structure.

Through the concept of humanity, which signified the possibility of the structural connection of mind with the ethically ennobled universe, each individual could complete their nature, thereby becoming a true, ethically sensible human being. ❦ᡁሖ⨮ӱѻཙ⨶㘼ⴑᡁѻӪᙗ, ࡷᡁѻ᭩䆺ᐢᡀѻᡁ, 㘼䘭╨䎵ࠑ‫ޕ‬ 㚆, ↓ᡰԕᆼᡀᡁѻᡰԕ⛪Ӫ. (Tang Junyi 1995, 85) If I attain the humanity of the universal structure and thus complete my human nature, I can change my previous personality, gradually surpassing common people and becoming wise. This is what enables me to perfect everything that makes me a human being.

Of course, the structure of human nature is not something which is visible, tangible or quantifiable. This structure, which is latent in human beings, is not a material, but an abstract one. Like all other structural patterns it can only be attained in the concrete actuality by interacting with the vital potential of creativity (qi ≓). ᴹ⨶, ࡷᴹ≓.ᴹ,ࡷᴹᮨ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui Yan, 1225) If there is structure, there is also creativity, and if there is creativity, there are also multitudes (of things).


Cheng Mingdao 〻᰾䚃, i.e. 〻仒 Cheng Hao

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


Structure and Creativity: the Complementarity of the Concepts li ⨶ and qi ≓ Although the concepts li ⨶ and qi ≓ mostly appear as a binary category in the context of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucian renewal, they can already be found as a notional pair in the parallelisms of the ancient Confucian classics: अഋ≓ѻ઼ˈԕ㪇㩜⢙ѻ⨶DŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 31) The harmonious action of the four (seasonal) creativities 43 displays the structure of everything that exists.

Zhang Zai ᕥ䔹 (1020–1077) and Zhou Dunyi ઘᮖ乔 (1020–1077), the forerunners of the Neo-Confucian renewal, viewed the significance of the complementary function of these two concepts in a way similar to Zhu Xi: ཙൠѻ≓ˈ䴆㚊ᮓǃ᭫ਆⲮງˈ❦ަ⛪⨶ҏ丶㘼нྴDŽ(Zhang Zai 2010. Tai he, 1) The creativity of heaven and earth indeed has the qualities of condensation and dispersion, but it functions congruently with countless different pathways, where it operates in accordance with structure (li) and therefore never dissipates. Njⵏnjԕ⨶䀰ˈ❑ྴѻ䄲ҏ˗Nj㋮njԕ≓䀰ˈнҼѻ਽ҏ. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, Taiji tu shuo, 5) From the viewpoint of structure, we denote as “real” that which is not irrational. From the viewpoint of creativity, however, “essence” means nothing else.

Translation and its Discontents As we saw earlier, Zhu Xi’s philosophy was also founded upon the binary category of li ⨶ and qi ≓. Although in Western sinology, as well as in modern Chinese literature, these two concepts have been generally translated as a dualism between an ideal principle and matter, a new approach to this structural paradigm of the Chinese intellectual tradition 43

Here, the notion qi probably stands for the four seasons.


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can provide us with fresh insights and lead to other possible interpretations of this bipolar pair. When the first sinologists (who were Christian missionaries) initially encountered Neo-Confucian philosophy in the 17th Century, it was perfectly natural for them to interpret its bipolar conception of the world–– which was based on something called qi ≓ in relation to something else called li ⨶––in terms of matter and idea, respectively. However, in our view, the concept li cannot be understood as idea or principle in the “Western” sense, but rather as structure or a structural pattern, which can, of course, also pertain to the sphere of abstractions or ideas (Rošker 2010, 79–80). Similarly, and based on a more profound understanding of NeoConfucian philosophy, it is evident that the concept qi can hardly be understood as matter in the “Western” sense. In fact, the Neo-Confucian philosophers defined it as something which is not necessarily substantial, for air or even a vacuum (the Great void ཚ㲋) are composed of it. Thus, it denotes a concept which could be more appropriately defined as creativity, or a potential that functions in a creative way: ≓ѻ㚊ᮓᯬཚ㲋⭡ߠ䟻ᯬ≤. (Zhang Zai 1989, 389) In the Great void, qi condenses and dissolves again. This can be compared to ice dissolving in water.

However, as we have just noted, most traditional European and American sinologists have translated this concept as matter. For example, in the translation of this quotation by the renowned early 19th century French sinologist, Le Gall, the notion qi is clearly understood as referring to atoms: Le condensation et les dispersions des atomes dans la T’ai-hiu peuvent se comparer a la fonte de la glace dans l’eau. (Le Gall in Graham 1992, 60)

This translation of the concept qi is problematic, for it derives from a deeply ingrained sense of the criteria, which are based upon the model of Cartesian dualism. Although Zhang Zai’s comparison with water explicitly states that qi is a continuous state, and not an aggregate of atoms, the analogy with matter was so deeply rooted in Le Gall’s perception, that he automatically saw the notion qi as an entity which contains or is composed of atoms. Hence, Le Gall and other sinologists who followed his reading have misled scholars as to whether traditional Chinese philosophy applied the concept of atomicity (Graham 1992, 61).

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


The second term, or the concept li, indicates the notion of structure, a structural pattern and the structural order of things. Taken as a whole, li represents a cosmic pattern, defining lines of movement or the dynamicity of men and Nature. These structural lines are seen as relations which define both the sphere of ideas and that of phenomena. At the same time, they make possible the mutual adjustment of binary oppositions with complementary functions, as well as their orderly fusion within the cosmic unity. The concept li is not obeyed or violated like a law; instead, one either goes with or against the grain of it, as in chopping wood. Le Gall translated it as “forme”, thus remolding the whole neoConfucian cosmology after the analogy of Aristotelian form and matter (atoms). J. Percy Bruce instead translated this term as “law”, thereby incorporating into neo-Confucian terminology itself the wrong answer to the question “Are there laws of Nature in China?” (Graham 1992, 61).

Li and qi are thus complementary concepts, which can be explained as a structure (or structural pattern) and a creative, formative potential (creativity). Both are of immanent nature and can therefore be present in the spheres of both ideas and phenomena. Euro-American philosophy offers no precise equivalents for these two terms. If we want to comprehend the modes of their existence and their functions, we must first free ourselves from reasoning in terms of Cartesian dualisms and instead try to enter into a mode of thought based on the model of analogy, which arose from and was prevalent in the immanent metaphysics of traditional Chinese thought. Graham (1992, 61, 62) cautions that discourses of Chinese complementary binarity may seem to be merely the result of concrete thinking to someone who views Chinese cosmology in terms of dualistic binarity. In following this bias, the Chinese mode of thinking seems based on analogies of “real” physical coagulation and dissolution or real patterns in jade, analogies which instead should be understood as abstractions. If the cosmos is composed of matter which functions according to concrete natural laws, then traditional Chinese philosophers are clearly mistaken, locked as they were into immutable, conceptual schemes that have long since been superseded. But such misinterpretations result from a lack of insight into the nature of abstraction, which follows different paradigmatic methods. For someone raised within a specific cultural-linguistic context, the corresponding modes of thought are so ingrained and automatic that they need not reflect constantly on the underlying metaphorical roots of their


Chapter Three

thoughts. Such reflection becomes necessary, however, whenever it is a question of theories arising from discourses that are structured differently. Chinese concepts appear concrete to us only because the inquiring outsider, unlike the insider who habitually thinks in these terms, needs to fix his attention on their metaphorical roots. He is much less conscious of the metaphors underlying his own “matter” and “law” which, however, he must rediscover if he wants to explore the differences in a radical or fundamental way (Graham 1992, 61).

In the Neo-Confucian tradition, li as a structural principle is thus a potential which cannot exist without its opposite pole, the potential of formative creativity (qi). But this binary opposition includes concepts which are not comparable to the concepts of idea and matter, given that they can appear in both spheres and forms. Perhaps even more importantly, this binary concept differs from the dualistic model of idea and matter not only in terms of its inherent relational pattern, but also in terms of its function. Given that li and qi form a binary concept in which the question of the primacy of idea or matter is not an issue, the translation of the term li as (natural) law is manifestly incorrect. As opposed to li’s immanent nature, the notion of law in the Euro-American tradition represents an external axiom which influences and determines things from outside. Similar difficulties arise with the translation of li as “principle”, a concept usually understood in terms of its effects, and not its causes and function44. The notion qi has likewise caused sinologists problems over the centuries. In fact, in Western languages it is extremely difficult to find an equivalent locution: Legge, for example, translated it as “passion-nature”, Couvreur as “sensibility”; Faber referred to “instincts” and Wilhelm “vital energy”, while Julien instead spoke of a “spiritus vitalis” (Forke 1934a, 200). Most Chinese interpreters define it as a concept that denotes matter or substantiality, while the most common Western translation of qi in recent years is “vital energy”. But since qi definitely belongs to immanent concepts that can be found in ideal as well as material spheres, both translations are problematic. The concepts of matter or substantiality cannot coherently refer to the ideal sphere, while energy is always exclusively immaterial. In any case, qi is a central notion that appears repeatedly in various theories throughout the entire history of Chinese thought. Further, given 44

The analogy between traditional Chinese and orthodox “Western” medicine is of utmost interest here.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


that the concept qi, within its semantic scope of structure and structural pattern, has also undergone a number of semantic developments and mutations, it presents different semantic connotations depending on the philosophical work in which it occurs. It already appears in the writings of Mencius, where it shares a conceptual dichotomy with the human will. If, in the isolated context of the following quotation, we leave aside what would seem to be the most appropriate translation i.e. that of vital energy, we can readily assume that the potential of creativity as the possibility of acting and creating is, in fact, what makes life possible. ཛᘇ, ≓ѻᑕҏ, ≓, 億ѻ‫ݵ‬ҏ,ཛᘇѻ✹, ≓⅑✹, ᭵ᴠ, ᤱަᘇ, ❑᳤ަ ≓. (Mengzi 2010. Gonsun Zhou shang, 2) The will directs creativity, and creativity brings the body to completion. The will is primary and creativity follows. Therefore I say: preserve your will without harming creativity.

Despite the fundamental primacy of the will for Mencius, both notions remain in a complementary relation. ᘇ༩, ࡷअ≓, ≓༩, ࡷअᘇҏ, Ӻཛ䒦㘵, 䏘㘵, ᱟ≓ҏ,㘼৽अަᗳ. (Mengzi 2010. Gonsun Zhou shang, 2) When the will is focused, it moves creativity; and when creativity is focused, it moves the will. For example, if we move our legs and run, then this is creativity which, however, retroactively influences our mind.

The term qi did not appear in the binary opposition of the concept of structure and structural pattern before the rise of the Neo-Confucian discourses of the Song (969–1279) and Ming Dynasties (1368–1644). In their works, Zhu Xi and his contemporaries mostly adhered to the philosophical notions that had been assigned to the term qi by Zhang Zai, one of the main precursors of the Neo-Confucian renewal, or to that found in the passage cited above 45 , in which qi is described as a substance defined by its characteristics of condensation and dispersion, and in which its “consistency” is not limited to either matter or idea, for in its condensed state it appears as the former, and in a highly dispersed state as the latter46. In both cases, however, it is something which is void in essence. 45 46

㯋ᷳ倂㔋㕤⣒㲋䓙⅘慳㕤㯜. (Zhang Zai 1989, 389) As this and similar quotations make clear, traditional China did not apply any


Chapter Three ཚ㲋❑ᖒˈ≓ѻᵜ億DŽ(Zhang Zai 1989/2, 389) The Great void is formless, and yet it constitutes the essence of creativity.

Although Zhang defined this creative potential in very precise terms as the ontological basis of the universe, it was nonetheless also conditioned and defined by the structure of this maxim. For Zhang Zai, the concept li still represented the concretization of the basic ideal structural order that makes any existence possible (Bauer 2000, 253). Without this structural order, the potential of creativity could not transfer itself from the “Great void” into the world of material forms, where it condensed into concrete objects. The Neo-Confucians, however, also viewed the concept qi as a primary notion which unites the complementary oppositions of the binary category yin 䲠 and yang 䲭. In this sense, Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) wrote: Ҽ≓Ӕᝏ,ॆ⭏㩜⢙, 㩜⢙⭏⭏, 㘼䆺ॆ❑マ. (Zhou Dunyi 2000, 48) Mutual interaction between both (basic principles) of creativity produces all that exists.

Zhang Zais’ followers, the Cheng 〻 brothers, 47 also saw qi as the creative potential which concretizes itself in numerous elements of perceptible phenomena that can be categorized in the dual opposition of yin and yang, although they also often defined it as a dual opposition of the highest principle dao. 〻ᆀᴠ: ᴹᖒ㑭ᱟ≓, ❑ᖒਚᱟ䚃 (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, 1981/IV Sui Yan, 2168) The Masters Cheng said: What has form is creativity, and what is without form is the Way (dao).

Thus, dao and qi were understood as oppositional concepts, expressing different forms of existence. At this conceptually abstract level they are not perceptible. Dao, however, can be realized as li, manifesting itself in the effects of the structure of Nature. On the contrary, qi is primarily

strictly dualistic methodology for distinguishing between matter and idea. 47 Cheng Hao 〻井 1032–1085 and Cheng Yi 〻乔 1033–1107

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


present within the phenomenal world as the potential which infuses life into this structure48. The Cheng brothers pointed out that both concepts, li and qi, were real. But qi as a manifestation of all concrete objects is inevitably linked to structural patterns, expressed by the concept li. Their mutual relation is complementary; but while the structural principle li cannot be perceived directly49, the principle qi can be apprehended in the countless materialized forms of the phenomenal world. ᴹ⨶, ࡷᴹ≓.ᴹ≓,ࡷᴹᮨ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. IV, Sui Yan, 225) If there is structure, there is also creativity. And if there is creativity, there is also the multitude (of things).

Thus, the Cheng brothers saw the concept of creativity as divided into two basic moments that were named yin and yang by Cheng Yi. They were understood as the bipolar foundation of the phenomenal world. It is clear that yin and yang as expressions of the basic structure of material world are thus similar to qi, and inevitably linked to the basic ideal principle dao: 䴒䲠䲭ࡷ❑䚃, 䲠䲭≓ҏ,ᖒ㘼лҏ, 䚃ཚ㲋ҏ,ᖒ㘼кҏ. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, 1981/IV Sui Yan, 1225) Without yin and yang there is no dao. But yin and yang together form the potential of creativity that realizes itself in external forms (of phenomena), while dao is the great void that is situated above the forms (of phenomena)50. 48

This does not refer to life only in the literal, organic sense. For example, in the anti-earthquake buildings common in Asia, the framework of such buildings can be represented as li, while the walls and other infrastructure which fills this framework and infuses “life” into the building, can be viewed as qi. 49 As already seen in early Neo-Confucian epistemology, the manifestation of this notion can be seized by reason. In fact, li denotes a certain basic structure that is part of all the patterns of nature, including the structural order of mind. 50 The Neo-Confucian term xing’er shang ᖒ㘼к (lit.: above the forms), which can already be found in the Book of Changes (᱃㏃), refers to entities that occur outside the phenomenal world, while its anti-pole xing’er xia ᖒ㘼л (lit.: below the forms) denotes directly perceptible objects in the phenomenal world. And while in modern Chinese, the expression xing’er shang ᖒ㘼к (lit.: above the forms) is a synonym of the Western term “metaphysics”, the semantic connotations of both


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This raises the question of how the Cheng brothers understood the notion dao, which in their system denoted a manifestation of the world of ideas. The effects of dao that can also be perceived and apprehended in the phenomenal world are always conditioned by the basic paradigms of Nature. In fact, most of the Song philosophers equated these paradigms with the structure of Nature (Heaven) (ཙ⨶): 䚃ᗳཙ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I, Yi shu, 312) Dao’s mind (consciousness) is the structure of Nature (Heaven).

The Triumph of Complementarity or the Deceptiveness of the Primary Role of Structure Based upon this fundamental supposition, their successor Zhu Xi interpreted the complementary relation between structure and creativity in a similar way: ཙൠѻ䯃ᴹ⨶ᴹ≓. ⨶ҏ㘵, ᖒ㘼кѻ䚃ҏ, ⭏⢙ѻᵜҏ, ≓ҏ㘵, ᖒ㘼 лѻಘҏ, ⭏⢙ѻާҏ. ᱟԕӪ⢙ѻ⭏,ᗵく↔⨶, ❦ᖼᴹᙗ, ᗵく↔≓, ❦ᖼᴹᖒ. (Zhu Xi 1996, 5680) Between earth and heaven are structure (li) and creativity (qi). The structure is dao51 which is abstract and represents the basis of all beings and things. Creativity is concrete and is the means for creating living beings and things. Thus, structure is necessarily required for the creation of human nature and the nature of things, and creativity for the production of their (concrete) manifestations.

Despite the fact that both elements form a complementary pair representing the indivisible basis of everything that exists, and that Zhu Xi claimed that complementary pairs cannot be differentiated into primary and secondary poles with respect to time or space 52 , he nonetheless stressed the primary importance of structure.

expressions are quite different. 51 Zhu Xi did not apply the term dao in either the Daoist sense of the highest principle, nor in the orthodox Confucian sense of (social) position. Instead, he followed his predecessors, the Cheng brothers, who understood the concept dao as the essence of the cosmic structure (see previous quotation). 52 See Zhu Xi’s citation in Chapter 1, The Principle of Complementary.

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


୿, ‫ݸ‬ᴹ⨶ᣁ‫ݸ‬ᴹ≓, ᴠ, ⨶ᵚే䴒Ѿ≓, ❦⨶ᖒ㘼к㘵, ≓ᖒ㘼л㘵,㠚 ᖒ㘼к л䀰, 䉸❑‫ݸ‬ᖼ, ⨶❑ᖒ, ≓‫ׯ‬㋇ᴹ⑓┃. (Zhu Xi 2000, 137) (The disciple) asked: What came first, structure or creativity? (Zhu Xi) replied: Structure cannot exist without creativity. But structure is abstract (above the forms or phenomena), while creativity is concrete (below the forms or phenomena). From this point of view, we obviously cannot do without progression (lit.: without before and after, or in front and behind). Structure has no external form, while creativity is full of dross (excrements).

This helps explain some of his other assertions, in which he emphasizes the primary role of structure: ‫ݸ‬ᴹ‫ػ‬ཙ⨶Ҷ, ফᴹ≓, ≓ぽ⛪䌚, 㘼ᙗާ✹. (Zhu Xi 2000, 136) The cosmic structure is primary; creativity can only come afterwards. When creativity accumulates, it becomes matter. In this way, nature completes itself. ᴹᱟ⨶, ‫ׯ‬ᴹᱟ≓, ն⨶ᱟᵜ. (Zhu Xi 2000, 136) If there is structure, there is also creativity. But structure is fundamental. ᱟᴹ⨶, ᖼ⭏ᱟ≓. (Zhu Xi 2000, 137) First there is structure. Then creativity is born.

Qi is a potential, like air or evaporation (Forke 1934b, 173). It basically represents the capability of realizing or experiencing all that which is established within the structural patterns of existence. Physical matter arises when there is enough accumulated qi. For Zhu Xi, the distinction between matter and idea is still infinitesimal, irrelevant and blurred. The categorical distinction, by which li corresponds to idea and qi to matter is, essentially, a product of westernized thinking and therefore wholly inappropriate. According to Zhu Xi, creativity (in the sense of substance) can and should be equated with spirit or mind: ᗳ㘵, ≓ѻ㋮⡭. (Zhu Xi 2000, 223) Mind is the finest essence of creativity.


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The relation between the two concepts thus remains a complementary one. In modern interpretations, however, the Neo-Confucian concept li has often been identified with the ancient Greek notion of logos, as something which denotes both natural laws and the ultimate ethical criterion. At the same time, linking the natural and (inter)human factors of existence in a similar organic-structural concept also represents the central principle of the holistic cosmo-ontology that forms the basis of specific classical Chinese discourses. While dao in Daoist discourses underpins all spiritual and physical cosmic elements, in Neo-Confucian discourses it only appears at the metaphysical level, where it unites both natural and ethical principles53. In this system, the concept of creativity is realized through bipolar structured processes of the correlative interaction of yin and yang. Its function is that of creating, forming and preserving the dynamic coherence of the physical world.

Ethical Dimensions The material condition of life forms a framework that cannot be altered by human beings, just as they cannot change the basic physical form of their bodies. Within this framework, however, we have the right and duty to live in the greatest possible accord with the paradigms of the integral order of cosmic structure. These paradigms permeate Nature and society and are expressions of the spontaneous reality of dao. While most modern scholars agree that ethics is an area in which the Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi did not produce anything genuinely new, we should recall that his writings were aimed essentially at developing the original Confucian ethics, and they should therefore be read and interpreted in this light. By weaving innovative interpretations of the Confucian moral classics into his own philosophical system and, in particular, by establishing the binary category of structure and creativity, he not only elaborated existing methodological aspects of traditional Chinese philosophy, but classical Confucian ethics as well, which until that time had been rooted in the necessary, mechanistic adjustment of individuals to the ancient patterns of the dominant morality.


In accordance with traditional views, for Zhu Xi dao was still the central ethical principle which embodied the five cardinal Confucian virtues. In this context, dao was an abstract principle, while li was the “structural pattern” for its realization; dao and li are thus nearly identical in this sense. (see: Forke 1934b, 194: “Dao means the great, universal way, while li is a system of tiny paths, that lead from it in different directions”).

The Origin and Semantic Development of the Term Li


In any case, the complementary nature of traditional Chinese dialectics prevented him from achieving a radical revision of classical idealism. Despite his marked “idealist” propensities, he could never make the final leap towards a total negation of the material sphere, i.e. towards an antithesis, in the Western sense, of a dialectical contradiction. In Zhu’s system, structure and its countless patterns are of primary importance, not only in the sense of the original principle of being, but also as posing an ultimate ethical criterion for everything that exists. Nevertheless, Zhu Xi’s notion of structure forms a concept that is inevitably closely connected to the concept of creativity. In fact, he explicitly states that without concrete forms, the existence of structure would remain baseless and thus superfluous. ⨶≓ᵜ❑‫ݸ‬ᖼѻਟ䀰, ❦ᗵⅢ᧘ަᡰᗎֶ, ࡷ丸䃚‫ݸ‬ᴹᱟ⨶, ❦⨶৸䶎 ࡕ⛪а⢙, ণᆈѾᱟ≓ѻѝ, ❑ᱟ≓, ࡷᱟ⨶Ӗ❑᧋ᩝ㲅. (Zhu Xi 2000, 137) With respect to structure and creativity, we cannot speak about any succession (lit.: before and after, or in front and behind). But if we wish to follow them back to their origins, we must say that structure comes first. Yet structure is by no means a separate thing, since it is situated in creativity. Without creativity, structure would have nothing to attach itself to.

In traditional Chinese explicative texts, the Neo-Confucian understanding of structure and its creative potential are sometimes illustrated with allegories based on the lives, thoughts and sensations of human beings. Thus, human veins and arteries can be seen as structure, and the blood flowing through them as creativity. The skeleton is structure, while the organs, muscles and skin form the creativity which imparts life to it. The innate characteristics of every human being pertain to the structural patterns of Nature, while their actual, material life in society is its creative potential54. The human mind is a rational structure, and what each person produces through their rational processes is creativity. The external world is likewise a structure, while (individual and social) human life is creativity, with effects that are either good or evil. In any case, both concepts have the nature of an ontological duality which is a characteristic feature of immanent philosophy. Further, the two expressions that denote the spheres above and below phenomena (xing’er 54

In western scientific terms, we could say that DNA is structure, while the unique characteristics of each individual carrier are creativity.


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shang ᖒ㘼к, xin’er xia ᖒ㘼л) cannot be understood in the sense of ideas and matter, or as the metaphysical and physical spheres. In NeoConfucian philosophy, the concept of phenomena is much too inclusive to permit a clear-cut distinction between physics and metaphysics, referring as it often does, to the sphere of realities existing only in the world of ideas or illusions. Although creativity is that potential which completes every structure, it also belongs to phenomenological categories, even when they only exist in our mind or in the awareness of the tradition in which we live. But what exactly is this non-phenomenal world which Neo-Confucian philosophers considered the basic characteristic of structure? It is an endless, open and dynamic order which cannot even be apprehended, let alone comprehended, by our limited sensory organs. In fact, it is unimaginable and therefore cannot pertain to our phenomenal world. Nevertheless, because we are part of its countless phenomenal patterns, we are also part of this structure. As we noted in our discussion of Zhu Xi, through the concept of creativity the Neo-Confucians elaborated the traditional Confucian ethics that were based upon the necessary, mechanistic adjustment to the ancient patterns of the dominant morality. Thus, in its complementary relation with creative potential, the concept of structure did not remain limited to ontology or epistemology, but acquired a new ethical dimension. In other words, the mutual interaction between both anti-poles of existence imparted a dynamic of self-awareness into the formerly static framework of totally fixed values and virtues. ❦⨶❑ᖒˈ㘼≓ফᴹ䐑DŽ≓ᰒᴹअ䶌ˈࡷᡰ䔹ѻ⨶Ӗᆹᗇ䄲ѻ❑अ 䶌ʽ(Zhu Xi 2010. I, Liqi, 84) The structure has no form, while creativity is limited to its pathways. But because creativity is dynamic (lit. has movement and immobility), we cannot say that structure is without dynamics.

Clearly, this awareness is also structured, otherwise it would not be possible. The property of creativity, however, is that potential which can also activate the limited and transitory system of human mental processes. We shall now examine how traditional Chinese discourses dealt with these processes and their relations with the external world.


Because mind, or consciousness, is one of the essential preconditions for the process of comprehension, before examining the structural characteristics of Chinese epistemology in detail, we must first take a closer look at the traditional understandings of mind and its potential for the perception and comprehension of the external world.

Mind as the Structural Cynosure of Perception and Comprehension As is well known, in contemporary sinology the meaning of the Chinese word xin ᗳ, which is commonly translated into Indo-European languages as “heart”, is not limited to the common connotations of this term. Unlike Western definitions, the Chinese metaphorical understanding of this notion not only connotes this organ as the seat of the emotions, but also as the center of perception, comprehension, intuition and even rational thought1. The origins of this tradition are remote, and reach far back into pre-Qin intellectual history. The human heart (center) was not only posited as the seat of the concept of mind or consciousness (xin ᗳ), and thus the source of both emotions and reasoning, but was also conceived of as a kind of sense organ by the ancient Chinese. Indeed, Mencius2 sometimes even views it as the principal sense organ, responsible for selecting and interpreting the sensations transmitted to it by the other sense organs. In other words, while the latter enabled perception, mind (xin ᗳ) made possible the comprehension of external reality or that part of reality 1

In recent sinological research (including my own), the term xin is therefore often interpreted as “human mind”. 2 ਓѻᯬણҏˈᴹ਼㘶✹˗㙣ѻᯬ㚢ҏˈᴹ਼㚭✹˗ⴞѻᯬ㢢ҏˈᴹ਼㖾 ✹DŽ㠣ᯬᗳˈ⦘❑ᡰ਼❦Ѿ˛ᗳѻᡰ਼❦㘵ˈօҏ˛䄲⨶ҏˈ㗙ҏDŽ(Mengzi 2010. Gaozi I, 7)


Chapter Four

transmitted by the sense organs. In Guanzi, a philosophical work ascribed to the legalist politician Guan Zhongu ㇑ Ԣ (7th century BC, though probably dating from much later) this primary function of mind does not only refer to the sense organs, but to all the other major organs as well. This approach was typical of the legalist scholars, who erected the concepts of Confucian hierarchy upon absolutist foundations. Such discourses also recall the relation between the (inferior) body and the (superior) spirit, prevalent in ancient and medieval Europe: ᗳѻ൘億ˈੋѻսҏDŽҍヵѻᴹ㚧ˈᇈѻ࠶ҏDŽᗳ㲅ަ䚃ˈҍヵᗚ ⨶DŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Xin shu shang, 1) In the human body, mind occupies the position of the ruler. The nine organs function as its servants or officials. Mind regulates their methods (dao) and the nine organs follow their structure (or: their structural patterns) (li).

In this passage, we once again find a parallelism in which the concepts dao and li appear as a binary oppositional pair3, with the former denoting a fundamental, universally valid structure, while the latter indicates the various structural patterns of specific concrete objects. In Daoist discourses, human beings can only recognize the structure of concrete phenomena, that is, through empirical knowledge they can only gain insight into those parts of the structural order that manifest themselves in certain patterns of reality. According to the Daoist philosophers, trying to comprehend the basic structure of Nature through reason was a futile undertaking4, for the all-embracing dao that epitomizes (and derives from) the fundamental structure of Nature, remains inexpressible and thus cannot be recognized through the principles that determine the phenomenal world. As a result, the fundamental structural order of Nature cannot be grasped by the limited apparatus of our cognitive methods.


If we consider its etymological meaning, in this particular context 䚃 dao (the way) probably represented a unified system of channels, through which information about the external world flowed in a way determined by mind, and in accordance with the structural patterns (li ⨶). 4 See Ც㘵ウ⨶㘼䮧ឞDŽ(Guan Zhong 2010. Da kuang, 3) (“The sages investigate the structure through extensive reasoning”).

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


䳘ᒿѻ⴨⨶ˈ⁻䙻ѻ⴨֯ˈマࡷ৽ˈ㍲ࡷ࿻DŽ↔⢙ѻᡰᴹˈ䀰ѻᡰ ⴑˈ⸕ѻᡰ㠣ˈᾥ⢙㘼ᐢDŽ㿙䚃ѻӪˈн䳘ަᡰᔒˈн৏ަᡰ䎧ˈ↔ 䆠ѻᡰ→DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Ze yang, 11) The structure that determines the order in which everything functions with mutual effects, revives when exhausted, and begins again when it ends. These are the properties of things. Words can describe them and knowledge can grasp them only to the extreme limits of objects. Men who study dao do not go on when these processes end, nor do they try to discover how they began.

Like dao itself, its structural regularity i.e. the fundamental structure of Nature, is also something indeterminate and unfathomable for human beings, something that floats in the empty sphere beyond the phenomenal world. ᴹ਽ᴹሖˈᱟ⢙ѻት˗❑਽❑ሖˈ൘⢙ѻ㲋DŽਟ䀰ਟ᜿ˈ䀰㘼᜸⮿DŽ ᵚ⭏нਟᗼˈᐢ↫нਟ䱫DŽ↫⭏䶎䚐ҏˈ⨶нਟⶩDŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Ze yang, 12) To have a name and a real existence: that belongs to the world of objects. Not to have a name, and not to have real being: that is the emptiness of things. We may speak and think about it, but the more we speak, the less we know. Before birth takes place, it cannot be prevented, nor can death be pursued beyond its occurrence. Birth and death are not far apart, but the structural order that defines them, withdraws our eyes.

In legalist (and, to some extent, also in Confucian) discourses, the mind had the task of regulating not only the sensations of external reality that were transmitted to it by the sense organs, but also the emotional reactions to these sensations. Xunzi, for example, was convinced that: 婒㓭╄⾺⑨㦪ッら㫚炻ẍ⽫䔘ˤ(Xunzi 2010. Zheng ming, 5) Mind differentiates joy from grief, happiness from sorrow and love from hate.

According to the ancient Chinese worldview, such regulation was always performed in a structural manner, i.e. in accordance with a basic, preexisting structure and by means of specific, mutually compatible structural patterns. Consequently, the mind which regulated all these sensory and emotional moments had to be structured as well. Ji Kang ねᓧ (221–262), a philosopher and musicologist from the Wei Jin era,


Chapter Four

understood mind as a kind of basic mental entity that contained many different particular structural patterns: ᭵ᗳᖩᯬ⵮⨶. (Ji Kang 1962, 220) Mind regulates many structures (structural patterns)

Although Ji Kang, whose treatise on music will be examined in detail below, was mainly concerned with criticizing Confucian rituality, his treatises are also significant in terms of epistemology and the theory of perception.

The Example of Music As we have seen, Wang Bi and his followers, the Neo-Daoists from the Wei Jin Nanbei era, had already given precise definitions of the connection between the structure of the external world and the structure of mind, albeit their focus was not exclusively on the semantic structure of language, but often on the axiological and aesthetic structure of music. Of course, the idea of music as a basic element that can unite individual and cosmic consciousness dates from much earlier, and can already be found in the ancient Book of Rituals (⿞䁈), especially in the section “On Music” (′䁈) which deals with its function and meaning as a central ritualistic feature of Confucian society. The main theme of this text is that musical sounds have a certain impact on the mind, and that their structural order was in accord with the structure of ethically “proper” human relations in society. ࠑ丣㘵ˈ⭏ᯬӪᗳ㘵ҏ˗′㘵ˈ䙊5ٛ⨶㘵ҏ. (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 5)

5 Here, the compatibility between human mind and the cosmic structure was expressed by the character tong 䙊, which means free circulation. Traditional Chinese scholars generally subscribed to the supposition that the mutual compatibility of different structural patterns made free circulation (tong 䙊) among them possible. As we shall see, the notion of free circulation was one of the crucial elements that enabled vital connections among all structural patterns and which conditioned the constructive functioning of the whole system. This character was also fundamental for the epistemological system of the modern Chinese theoretician, Tan Sitong 㾳 ఓ ਼ (1865–1929). According to his mechanistic understanding of external reality, the possibility of free circulation was a precondition that constituted external, as well as internal modes for the perception,

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


All sounds arise from the human mind; music connects us with the social ethics of the all-embracing structure (of the cosmic order).

According to the classical proto-philosophers who are said to have set down this text, the structure of music was an artificial structure that could only be created by the human mind. Tones were seen as cultivated versions of sounds: 㚢ᡀ᮷ˈ䄲ѻ丣DŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 3) A sound that has a cultivated pattern is called tone.

Tones were thus a primary manifestation of men as cultural beings, for this special category of sounds could not be created or comprehended by any other creature: ᱟ᭵ˈ⸕㚢㘼н⸕丣㘵ˈ⿭⦨ᱟҏ (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 3) Therefore, animals can identify sounds, but not tones.

According to these theorists, in musical structure there was not only a complex succession of aurally perceptible tonal and rhythmic patterns, but the ability to create and perceive such patterns was an exclusive privilege of the best educated and most cultivated “noblemen”. ⸕丣㘼н⸕′㘵ˈ⵮ᓦᱟҏDŽୟੋᆀ⛪㜭⸕′. (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 3) Those who only recognize tones, but not music, belong to the mass of ordinary people. Only the nobleman can comprehend it.

In any case, tones as such were seen as a human reaction to external reality, while their structure was comparable to the structure of society and the social order. Harmonious music was thus comparable to a harmonious society.

comprehension and transmission of reality. At the level of inwardness, free circulation makes possible a coordinated and mutually adjusted functioning of the human sense organs, brain and nervous system, while at the same time also conditioning the connection of this system with the structure of (external) reality. Interestingly, he also equated the concept of free circulation with the possibility of the realization of a social ethics (Rošker 2008, 326).


Chapter Four ࠑ丣㘵ˈ⭏Ӫᗳ㘵ҏDŽᛵअᯬѝˈ᭵ᖒᯬ㚢DŽ...ᱟ᭵ˈ⋫цѻ丣ᆹԕ ′ˈަ઼᭯DŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 3) All sounds arise from the human mind; music connects us with the social ethics of the all-embracing structure (of the cosmic order).

This explains why music was such a significant element in the teaching of rituality, as practiced by the classical Confucians. They considered it a medium with a great impact upon human beings, which therefore had to be regulated and controlled. And this was possible thanks to their conviction that the structure of music (in the sense of its orderly, structured rhythmic and tonal framework) was compatible with the structural order of the human mind. ᖻሿབྷѻちˈ∄㍲࿻ѻᒿˈԕ䊑һ㹼DŽ֯㿚⮿䋤䌔ǃ䮧ᒬ⭧ྣѻ⨶ˈ Ⲷᖒ㾻ᯬ′ˈ᭵ᴠ˖“′㿰ަ␡⸓DŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 28) If we want (music) to suit all matters and actions, then big as well as small tones have to be properly tuned. They must also be adjusted to the structural timing (of the melody). Only in this way, can music suit the individual structural patterns of all people, rich and poor, men and women; thus, everyone will have the opportunity to perceive the form (of their own patterns) in music. Therefore, I say they can observe their own depths (or inwardness) through music.

This is what makes it possible to order and cultivate feelings. ᭵ᴠ: ′㘵′ҏ. ੋᆀ′ᗇަ䚃, ሿӪ′ᗇަⅢ. ԕ䚃ࡦⅢ, ࡷ′㘼нҲ. ԕⅢᘈ䚃, ࡷᜁ㘼н′. (Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 32) Therefore I say: there is joy in music. The nobleman feels joy when he is in accordance with dao, while ordinary people are happy when fulfilling their desires. These must be controlled by dao so that music will not lead to chaos. But if dao is overwhelmed by desire, then this is falseness and not music.

Because the Confucians gave such paramount importance to a harmonious, ordered society, human emotions were naturally a key factor in achieving this goal. Music therefore had to be suited to the innate moral predispositions of human beings, and only music with a structure which met this criterion could be approved. Music that was ritualized in

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


accordance with such predispositions had the character of model 6 melodies. ′ҏ㘵ˈᛵѻнਟ䆺㘵ҏDŽ⿞ҏ㘵ˈ⨶ѻнਟ᱃㘵ҏDŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 38) The emotions aroused by music have to be fixed and unchangeable, just like the structure of ritual which cannot be altered.

Music thus had the function of inducing harmony and preventing social upheaval: ᭵′ҏ㘵ˈअᯬ‫ޗ‬㘵ҏ˗⿞ҏ㘵ˈअᯬཆ㘵ҏDŽ′ᾥ઼ˈ⿞ᾥ丶ˈ‫ޗ‬ ઼㘼ཆ丶ˈࡷ≁ⷫަ乿㢢㘼ᕇ㠷⡝ҏ˗ᵋަᇩ䊼ˈ㘼≁н⭏᱃ធ✹DŽ ᭵ᗧ䕍अᯬ‫ˈޗ‬㘼≁㧛н᢯㚭˗⨶Ⲭ䄨ཆˈ㘼≁㧛н᢯丶DŽ᭵ᴠ˖㠤 ⿞′ѻ䚃ˈ㠹㘼䥟ѻˈཙл❑䴓⸓DŽ(Li ji 2010. Yue ji, 45) Music causes shifts in human inwardness, while rituals cause shifts in their external behavior. When music achieves total harmony, and when rituals are performed to perfection, human inwardness and the external behavior of people are congruent. (In such cases), even when people see something they desire, they will not quarrel over it. When observing the faces of other people, they will not have any negative feelings towards them. Because virtue will prevail in their minds, people will be obedient. Their external behavior will be well structured (well ordered), so they will follow commands. Therefore I say: those who are able to follow the principles of ritualized music and to apply them in society, will have no difficulties in the world.

Every successful leader should comply with these instructions in order to attain the ideal rank of “internal sage and external ruler” (‫ޗ‬㚆ཆ⦻) (see Rošker 2008, 212). ᭵ᗧ䕍अѾ‫ˈޗ‬㘼≁㧛н᢯㚭˗⨶ⲬѾཆˈ㘼⵮㧛н᢯丶DŽ(Li ji 2010. Ji yi, 24)


Mao Zedong’s ∋◔ᶡ wife, Jiang Qing ⊏䶂 had similar pretensions: during the Cultural revolution, when she headed the film section of the Propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party, she only permitted the public performance of eight “model” works.


Chapter Four He whose inwardness is virtuous and whose external behavior is in accordance with the structural patterns of order, will always be obeyed by everybody.

The Daoist understanding of music was instead quite different. Zhuangzi, for example, declared that music became real music when its spontaneous processes ordered every being: ཛ㠣′㘵ˈ‫៹ݸ‬ѻԕӪһˈ丶ѻԕཙ⨶DŽ(Zhuangzi 2010. Tian yun, 4) Perfect music is primarily a reaction to human affairs but, in this, it follows the natural structure.

Questions as to why certain tonal, rhythmic and dynamic structures affect the mind by producing different moods, were therefore in the foreground of political and philosophical theorizing from the early middle age. The discourses of the School of Mystery, and especially the Pure Conversations group, regarding conceptual structures were thus not limited to the semantic structure of language and human speech, but also implied other possible forms of transmission or communication between the internal and external worlds. Of particular significance here is Ji Kang’s treatise on sounds7 in which he argues that sounds as such do not imply any emotions, even though people can feel joy or sorrow when listening to them. Some of his contemporaries held the opposing view, claiming that emotions were already present in the tones of a melody or in its structure. But as Tang Junyi points out, both arguments assume a connection (or relation) between two structures (li), one external and the other internal (Tang Junyi 1955, 68). Despite their diametrically opposed points of view, both the defenders and critics of Ji Kang’s theory agreed on the basic assumption that certain sequences or tonal patterns (the rhythmic and tonal structure of music) could provoke feelings in the human mind. And this was due to the fact that not only music, but also human emotions (as parts of mind) are structured8. 7 As a point of interest, in this treatise the character li ⨶ was applied not only as a substantive, but also as a verb, in the sense of tuning an instrument: “᱄՟⢉⨶⩤” (Ji Kang 1962, 202). 8 While the idea of music as a systematically ordered structure of tones and rhythms was common to both the Chinese and Western traditions since the middle ages, theories on the structure of emotions did not appear in Europe until the turn of the 20th century.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


The Epistemology of Ji Kang’s Thesis on the Absence of Emotions in Music Ji Kang is definitely one the most interesting figures from the period of the Three Kingdoms (й഻, 220–280 AD). His writings are especially important as theoretical bridges between philosophical and religious Daoism. While his famous polemic In Music there is no Joy or Sorrow (㚢 ❑૰′䄆) has generally been viewed as a subtle and indirect critique of Confucian rituality and its “abuse” of music for political purposes, our reading of his theory will be based on Ji Kang’s understanding of the epistemological basis of perception and comprehension, and his views concerning the structural connection between the subject and object of comprehension. In fact, Kang’s polemic can also be interpreted as an elaboration of Mohist (໘ᇦ) and Nominalist (਽ᇦ) approaches to the relation between names or concepts (਽) and actualities (ሖ). While criticism of the formalization of music within Confucian rituality is certainly central to Ji Kang’s (223–262) treatise In Music there is no Joy or Sorrow (㚢❑૰′䄆), his argument goes well beyond the issue of ritual, ultimately concluding that the Confucian position that emotions are inherent to music is degrading for music as such. A nonconformist thinker who not only enjoyed music but, as behooves a true Daoist bohemian, was also a lover of fine wines, Ji Kang often drew comparisons with the intoxicating quality of alcohol to support his views: ❦઼㚢ѻᝏӪᗳˈӖ⥦䞂䟤ѻⲬӪᛵҏDŽ䞂ԕ⭈㤖⛪ѫˈ㘼䞹㘵ԕௌ ᙂ⛪⭘DŽަ㾻↑ᡊ⛪㚢Ⲭˈ㘼䄲Ǎ㚢ᴹ૰′ǎˈ⥦нਟ㾻ௌᙂ⛪䞂 ֯ˈ㘼䄲Ǎ䞂ᴹௌᙂǎѻ⨶ҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 204–5) Music moves the human mind the way alcohol releases human emotions. The basic feature of alcohol is its sweetness or bitterness. Its most important effect on a drinker is either euphoria or wrath. The claim that music contains joy and sorrow because it releases cheerfulness or melancholy, is as unreasonable as the claim that alcohol contains euphoria and wrath because these emotions are released by it!9


All translations from Ji Kang’s Essay are my own and often differ significantly from previous translations that were available to me. However, I did use Robert G. Henricks (1983, 71–107)’ version as a basic reference, which is included in his annotated anthology Philosophy and Argumentation in Third-Century China.

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In addition to such logical arguments, Ji Kang also criticized the political misuse of music: Ji Kang expressed his socio-political concerns through the medium of music, which was previously regarded as having moral bearing and rectitude. Denying such rectitude became fundamental for Ji Kang, who claimed that music was incapable of possessing human emotion, thereby freeing it from the restraints of Confucian rituality. (Chai 2009, 1)

But the political function of music in rituality is not the only aspect which Ji Kang questioned and at various points in his essay he also criticizes the reductive formalization which views music as a medium for a “proper” structural connection between the cosmic order and human awareness. In fact, the Confucian classics were based upon the assumption that the structure of music was compatible with the structure of the cosmos. The performance of “proper” music could thus reunite men with the “regularity” of the cosmic order; in other words, the structure of music could reintegrate human beings into the totality of everything that exists. Music was thus an important element in the re-creation of the highest ideal of Confucian holism, that of the “unity of men and nature” (ཙӪਸа). Ritual as such was seen not only as an arbitrary form but as a formalized pattern which, if properly executed, could create a structural connection with the cosmic order. ⿞ҏ㘵, ⨶10ҏ. (Li ji 2010. Zhong ni yan ju, 6) Ritual is structured.

In the regulation of the cosmic order, however, original Confucianism saw not only a neutral pattern of substantial cosmic relations, but also an ethically ennobled structure. ⨶㘵, 㗙11ҏ (Li ji 2010. Sang fu si zhi, 3) Structure is righteous.


This passage should not be translated as the equivalence of two substantives (li ⿞ = ritual and li ⨶ = structure) but as a definition of the substantive li ⿞ (ritual) by the qualifier li ⨶ (structured). 11 As in the previous example, this citation also includes a definition of the noun ⨶ (structure) by the adjective yi 㗙.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


In early medieval China, the prevailing views on the relationship between music and the minds of listeners derived mainly from this Confucian paradigm concerning the one-dimensional structural connection between music and the cosmic order. Given the analogous structural compatibility of mind and the cosmic order, music became the medium by which emotions could be transferred from the composer or performer to the listener. Consequently, music was perceived as a conductor or “carrier” of emotions which could be re-produced in the minds of its listeners. The standard Chinese view of music is that it is a carrier of emotion: which is to say it both conveys the mind and feelings of the performer/composer, and transfers its own emotional quality to the listener. (Henricks 1983, 71).

Ji Kang instead believed that music had an inherent structure which was manifested in its quality; however, this structurally conditioned quality was not expressed by emotions, but by harmony (he ઼). Harmony did not cause (and therefore transfer) emotions but only released or liberated emotions that already existed in the minds of listeners. Its effect was therefore cathartic. And this explained why different people could react to the same piece of music with completely different feelings. (Henricks 1983, 71) Ji Kang presented his criticism in the form of a dialogue, in which the traditional Confucian view is expressed by a fictional “guest from (the state of) Qin” (〖ᇒ), who declares: ཛ㚢丣㠚⮦ᴹаᇊѻ૰′ˈն㚢ॆ䚢㐙ˈнਟ‫ع‬ংˈн㜭ሽ᱃ˈ‫ٿ‬䟽 ѻᛵˈ䀨⢙㘼֌ˈ᭵Ԕ૰′਼ᱲ㘼៹㙣DŽ䴆Ҽᛵ‫ء‬㾻ˈࡷօᨽҾ㚢丣 ᴹᇊ⨶䛚˛(Ji Kang 1962, 223) Music as such contains strictly determined emotions of joy and sorrow, but their transformation is gradual; it cannot be accelerated to produce immediate changes in the listener. However, if emotions are strong they show their effects at once. Then the listener can be moved by both joy and sorrow. Although both feelings can appear simultaneously, you still cannot say that music has no fixed structure!

Ji Kang did not deny that music was structured, but refuted the idea that the structure of music was directly connected to the structure of emotions.


Chapter Four 㠣Ҿᝋ㠷нᝋˈௌ㠷нௌˈӪᛵѻ䆺ˈ㎡⢙ѻ⨶ˈୟ→ᯬ↔DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 207) Concerning love and lack of love, good and bad moods, and all the changes in human sentiments: they cannot be a part of the all-embracing structure.

Instead, the feeling and expression of emotions were also based upon certain structural principles: ཛሿ૰ᇩ༎ˈ⭊ᛢ㘼⌓˗૰ѻᯩҏDŽሿ↑乿ᚵˈ㠣′㘼ㅁ˗′ѻ⨶ ҏDŽօԕ᰾ѻ˛ཛ㠣㿚ᆹ䊛ˈࡷᙑ❦㠚㤕ˈᡰ㠚ᗇҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 220) Melancholy is expressed by a dejected face, but deep sorrow leads to weeping. This is the tendency of sorrow. Cheerfulness lights up our face, but great joy leads to laughter. This is the structural pattern of joy.

But the structure of emotions was not directly connected to the structural principles of music: 㠣ཛㅁಡˈ䴆ࠪҾ↑ᛵˈ❦㠚ԕ⨶ᡀ˗৸䶎㠚❦៹㚢ѻާҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 221) Although smiles and laughter originate from happy feelings, they are the results of their own structural pattern. They are by no means natural reactions to music.

For Ji Kang, the structure of music represented a part of the allembracing cosmic structure, and was therefore of a rational nature. He saw music as something which acted in accordance with certain principles. But the command of these principles was not accessible to everyone. Therefore, he also opposed the traditional Confucian belief that every kind of music could be comprehended by every human being. ཛ㚆Ӫマ⨶ˈ䄲㠚❦ਟሻˈ❑ᗞн➗DŽ㤽❑ᗞн➗ˈ⨶㭭ࡷ䴆䘁н㾻. (Ji Kang 1962, 216) The sages have complete insight into the structural order. Therefore they can illuminate and explain everything that exists in nature. But if the structural order remains hidden for someone, then it is not possible to discern it, even though one studies it closely.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


He also reproached the Confucians for their oversimplified view of music. The automatic transfer of emotions through the structure of music was impossible not only because of the absence of emotions in the music itself, but also because the comprehension of its structure required special skills. In his opponent’s oversimplified, one-dimensional presentation of the structural transfer of emotions through music, Ji Kang discerned an ideology which served the interests of the ruling bureaucracy: ↔Ⲷ؇݂ྴ䁈ˈⅢ⾎ަһ㘼䘭⛪㙣. ⅢԔཙлᜁ㚢丣ѻ䚃ˈн䀰⨶ 㠚DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 203–4) All these are false records, written by vulgar clerks who wanted to make their affairs sacred. They did not want the world to understand the real principles of music, and therefore they did not talk about its intrinsic structure.

Perfect music could only be created or performed by masters, who were wise enough to comprehend it. ӺᗵӁ㚢丣㧛н䊑ަ億㘼ۣަᗳˈ↔ᗵ⛪㠣′нਟ䁇ѻҾⷭਢˈᗵ丸 㚆Ӫ⨶ަᕖ㇑ˈ⡮ѳ䳵丣ᗇ‫ޘ‬ҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 210) If we claim that music always depends on its performer and that it conveys their mind, then perfect music could not be entrusted to blind musicians12. Only sages, who master the structural principles of their instruments, can create perfect music.

He also criticized the Confucians for basing their arguments exclusively upon quotations from the ancient classics, instead of trying to gain insight into the structural laws of all that exists, which also permeate music. ཛ᧘于䗘⢙ˈ⮦‫≲ݸ‬ѻ㠚❦ѻ⨶DŽ⨶ᐢ䏣ˈ❦ᖼُਔ㗙ԕ᰾ѻ㙣DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 202) Therefore, if we want to distinguish between things by inferences, we must first explore their natural structure. Only after we comprehend this structure can we try to explain it with ancient ideas.

12 In traditional China, professional folk musicians were usually blind. They generally chose this occupation, not because they possessed special musical skills or talents, but because they had very few other occupations open to them.


Chapter Four

But Ji Kang’s opponent remains convinced that music has the same effects on all people, and supports his view with examples from daily experience. Ӻᒣ઼ѻӪˈ㚭ㆿㅋᢩᢺˈࡷᖒ䒱㘼ᘇ䎺˗㚎⩤⪏ѻ丣ˈࡷ㚭䶌㘼ᗳ 䯁DŽ਼аಘѻѝˈᴢ⭘⇿↺ˈࡷᛵ䳘ѻ䆺˗ཿ〖㚢ࡷⅾ㗘㘼ឧមˈ⨶ 啺ᾊࡷᛵа㘼ᙍሸˈ㚶ဓᔴࡷ↑᭮㘼Ⅲᝌ. (Ji Kang 1962, 215) If someone who is completely calm and balanced listens to the music of the zheng (zither), di (flute) or pipa (lute), they will become carefree and lively. If they listen to the sounds of the qinse (lute), however, they will become completely calm and relaxed. Even if different melodies are played by the same instrument, they affect the emotions differently. The sounds [in the music] from the state of Qin produce feelings of admiration and solemnity. The structure of the music from the states of Qin and Chu brings about unity in our feelings and concentration in our thoughts, and if we listen to a ditty, we become cheerful and content.

As we have seen, Ji Kang did not oppose the notion of music as structured, even pointing out that different regions produced different musical structural patterns. ཛ↺ᯩ⮠؇ˈⅼଝн਼. (Ji Kang 1962, 199) Different places have different customs; their singing and crying are performed in different ways.

But emotions were not, and could not be, a product of musical structure; they were reactions to other laws. ཛ伏䗋ѻ㠷⭊ಡ˗➿ⴞѻ㠷૰⌓ˈ਼⭘ࠪ␊ˈ֯᱃⢉ేѻˈᗵн䀰′ ␊⭌ˈ㘼૰␊㤖DŽᯟਟ⸕⸓DŽօ㘵˛㚼⏢㚹≱ˈ䑗ㅞ‫❑ˈࠪׯ‬ѫᯬ૰ ′˗⥦㈱䞂ѻ೺┹ˈ䴆ㅞާн਼㘼䞂ણн䆺ҏDŽ㚢‫ء‬а億ѻᡰࠪˈօ ⦘⮦ਜ਼૰′ѻ⨶䛚˛(Ji Kang 1962, 212) If we eat sour food, we break out into convulsive laughter. If smoke gets into our eyes, they begin to water as if we were full of sorrow. In both cases, we produce tears. But even if these were tasted by Yi Ya13 he could not claim that the tears which arose from joy were sweet, while the tears which arose from sorrow were bitter. This is obvious, but why? Human 13

Yi Ya was a noted expert in culinary matters from the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC) (Henricks 1983, 71).

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


tissues secrete liquids which form droplets that are secreted under pressure. This has nothing to do with sorrow or joy. It can be compared to the pressing of alcohol through fabric. Although the pressure may differ, the flavor of wine remains unchanged. All music arises from the same essence. How can it contain the structure of sorrow and joy?

While the structure of music was rational, it differed from the structure of logic or thought. ᗳ㜭䗘⨶ழ䆊ˈ㘼н㜭Ԕ㊏㊕䃯࡙. (Ji Kang 1962, 219) A man whose mind is well acquainted with the structural principles of logic, and who can therefore discuss it wisely, is not necessarily good at playing the flute.

Music and mind are thus not the same, i.e. they are not of one unified structure. ❦ࡷᗳѻ㠷㚢ˈ᰾⛪Ҽ⢙DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 214) Therefore it is quite evident that mind and music are two different things.

It is this basic assumption which led Ji Kang to conclude that a structural transfer from the mind of the composer to the mind of the listener is not possible. In fact, this transfer was already impossible because of the complexity of musical structure which is not based upon a single, comprehensive tonal construction but upon infinity of different possible structural patterns. 㤕䋷нപѻ丣ˈਜ਼а㠤ѻ㚢ˈަᡰⲬ᰾ˈ਴⮦ަ࠶ˈࡷ✹㜭ެᗑ㗔 ⨶ˈ㑭Ⲭ⵮ᛵ㙦˛(Ji Kang 1962, 225) If all sounds, which are not fixed by nature, were truly contained in a unified tonality, then while performing music, each one of them would always be found in its own place. But if this were so, how could they then contain numerous structural patterns to produce countless different feelings?

Ji Kang instead argued that perfect music had a completely different function: its effect was not the production of emotions, but the aesthetic experience of being, the incorporeal integrity of life. The sacred rulers of ancient times had understood this, for they still knew how to:


Chapter Four ሾަ⾎≓ˈ伺㘼ቡѻ˗䗾ަᛵᙗˈ㠤㘼᰾ѻ˗֯ᗳ㠷⨶⴨丶ˈ≓㠷㚢 ⴨៹˗ਸѾᴳ䙊ԕ☏ަ㖾. (Ji Kang 1962, 225) …convey its spiritual creativity, cultivate and complete it. They accepted its nature and could elucidate its perfection. This facilitated the accordance of mind with its fundamental structure and linked creative potential with sounds. Such unity draws forth the perfect beauty.

The Actuality (shi ሖ) of Music and its Conceptualization (ming ਽) The main thrust of Ji Kang’s criticism of Confucian ideology was directed at its overly simplified representation of music as being able to produce the proper emotions in the human mind for a morally faultless life in society. But if we exclude music as a structural conductor of emotions from composer/performer to the listener, it cannot be reduced to an ideological or propagandistic tool for attaining and preserving the interests of the ruling class. Ji Kang produced a number of interrelated arguments to support this view. The first of these derived from his understanding that the structure of being (the all-embracing cosmic order), like the structure of music, was infinite (Ji Kang 1962, 198). It was the openness and infinite nature of these two structures (cosmic and musical) which made them compatible. Since the structure of mind was also infinite, we are able to perceive the beauty of perfect music. However, because human emotions are limited, it is impossible to reduce the function of music to that of mediating the transfer of emotions among different minds. (Ji Kang 1962, 201). Ӻ⭘൷਼ѻᛵˈ㘼Ⲭ㩜↺ѻ㚢ˈᯟ䶎丣㚢ѻ❑ᑨૹ˛(Ji Kang 1962, 198) The multitude of different emotions which are possessed equally by all men can be released in countless different melodies. Is this not a proof for the fact that music cannot be standardized?

The mutual compatibility of both structures (cosmic and musical) is conditioned by their openness and infinite nature. Since the structure of mind is also infinite, we can perceive the beauty of perfect music. Human emotions, however, are limited, which is why it is impossible to reduce music to the function of a medium transferring emotions between different minds.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


⡮⛪ᐡቡ㚢丣ѻ❑ᑨˈ⥦䄲⮦ᴹ૰′㙣. (Ji Kang 1962, 201) Since you already realize that music cannot be standardized, how can you still believe that you can hear joy and sorrow in it?

Despite the structural compatibility of mind and the cosmic order14, emotions represent only a limited part of the phenomenal world and therefore cannot be equated with the openness of the basic structure of existence. 㠣ཛ૰′ˈ㠚ԕһᴳˈ‫ݸ‬䚈ᯬᗳˈնഐ઼㚢ˈԕ㠚亟Ⲭ. (Ji Kang 1962, 204) Joy and sorrow are caused by our experiences; they are thus already present in the human mind. The harmony of music merely causes the release or expression of these (already present) emotions.

Emotions are thus individual, subjective reactions to external stimuli. Like the unity of cosmic structure, the inherent integrity of musical structure lies beyond the phenomenal sphere of the multifarious, particular patterns of perception that determine everyday life. Instead, emotions belong to the category of subjective factors that cannot be generalized. ⭡↔䀰ѻˈࡷཆ‫ˈ⭘↺ޗ‬ᖬᡁ⮠਽DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 199) The internal and external worlds differ from each other, which is why my subjective concepts differ from those of other people.

For Ji Kang, mind or awareness was based upon subjectivity whereas music belonged to objective reality. Hence, Ji Kang’s epistemology of music was based on distinguishing the external actuality (shi ሖ) of music from its perception or conceptualization (ming ਽) by human beings. In fact, he considered these two entities as being completely separate15.

14 ֯ᗳ㠷⨶⴨丶 (Ji Kang 1962, 225) (Mind is in accordance with the structure /of music/). 15 ❦ࡷᗳѻ㠷㚢ˈ᰾⛪Ҽ⢙ (Ji Kang 1962, 214) (Therefore, it is quite evident that mind and music are two different things).


Chapter Four

The terms ming ਽and shi ሖ belong to the basic binary categories16 of classical Chinese epistemology (Rošker 2008, 10–1). The binary categorical relationship between these two mutually opposed poles already underlay the Confucian theory of the Rectification of Names (↓਽䄆), which was developed further by the Sophist (ྡᐙ) and Later Mohist Schools (ᖼᵏ໘ᇦ). Later, it would be modified again by the Neo-Daoist philosophers of the Wei–Jin period, especially in the disputes between the groups of Pure Conversations (␵䃷) and the School of Mystery (⦴ᆨ), to which Ji Kang belonged. Like most of his contemporaries, Ji Kang was also embroiled in the dispute on the ability of language and comprehension to accurately portray reality. While these questions are not central to his treatise on music, his views on the relation between concepts and actualities can help clarify his overall argument in a number of ways. In the introduction to his treatise, Ji Kang states that the question he proposes to examine hinges on the relationship between concepts and actualities (Ji Kang 1962, 196). Specifically, if the proper conceptualization (naming) of objects means comprehending their essential features, and not their marginal or occasional characteristics, then this must also hold true for the conceptualization of music and emotions. ഐһ㠷਽ˈ⢙ᴹަ㲏DŽଝ䄲ѻ૰ˈⅼ䄲ѻ′DŽ. ᯟަབྷ䔳ҏDŽ❦Ǎ′ Ӂ′Ӂˈ䦮啃ӁѾૹǎ˛૰Ӂ૰Ӂˈଝ⌓ӁѾૹ˛ഐ㥢㘼䀰ˈ⦹ᑋ䶎 ⿞ᮜѻሖˈⅼଝ䶎૰′ѻѫҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 198) Names (concepts) should conform to the objects to which they refer. Every object thus has its designation. When we weep we call this sorrow, and when we sing we say we are full of joy. This is generally true. But when we speak about music17, we are talking about more than just drums and 16

Binary categories represent one of the fundamental methodological features of traditional Chinese philosophy. They belong to special kinds of dualities that try to approach the real state of actualities by exploring relativities, expressed through two oppositional notions. Some of the best known binary categories are: yinyang (䲠䲭 light and shadow), tiyong (億⭘ organ and function), mingshi (਽ሖ concept and actuality), liqi (⨶≓ structure and creativity), benmo (ᵜᵛ root and summit) etc. (Rošker 2008, 10–1) 17 The traditional word for music yue ′ was expressed by the same character as the word le ′ , which means “joy”. Therefore, this sentence could also be translated as: “When we speak about joy, we mean more than drums and percussion!” See also Egan 1997, 13: “The ambiguity of the character ′, used both for yue ‘music’ and le ‘pleasure’ also figures in the ‘Record of Music’ and

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


percussion! And when we speak about sorrow, we mean something more than weeping and lamentation! Therefore, just as silk and jade are not the essence (actuality) of respectful rituals, so singing and weeping are not the essence of music!

Ritual is an actuality which cannot be conceptualized based on either superficial, visible elements, or the value of the precious objects which form part of it. Its true meaning, which is expressed by its name, i.e. the “concept of ritual”, must be found at the symbolic level (regardless of whether this is understood as being spiritual or ideological). This symbolic level, which in the case of music is expressed by (among other things) its fundamental characteristic of “shapelessness” (❑䊑), constitutes one of Ji Kang’s main arguments against the confusion between concepts and actualities prevailing in that period (Ji Kang 1962, 196). The emotions of sorrow and joy (as expressed by weeping and singing) thus cannot pertain to concepts which define the essence of music. What defines music’s actuality is, instead, a quality completely divorced from human sentiment. Sentiment (which consists of a range of different emotions) is the concept which defines joy and sorrow. Both joy and sorrow are therefore specific actualities that belong to the concept of emotions. Here, Ji Kang asks us to disregard momentarily the prevailing patterns for interpreting binary categories which treat music as an actuality and joy and sorrow as concepts. If we consider them separately, it is evident that the actuality of music has to be conceptualized based on axiological and aesthetic criteria, while the actualities of joy and sorrow belong to the concept of sentiment, which is essentially a psychological and emotional one (See Motte-Haber 1990, 63–70). The first pertains to external reality, the latter to the sphere of human subjective reality. This assumption underpins Ji Kang’s conclusion that music (which transcends the diversity of everyday experience) and joy and sorrow (being subjective reactions to such experience) are two separate entities (see Ji Kang 1962, 214). Therefore, joy and sorrow cannot be used as concepts to define music. 㚢丣㠚⮦ԕழᜑ⛪ѫˈࡷ❑䰌Ҿ૰′˗૰′㠚⮦ԕᛵᝏ㘼ᖼⲬˈࡷ❑ ‫ײ‬Ҿ㚢丣DŽ਽ሖ‫ء‬৫ˈࡷⴑ❦ਟ㾻⸓DŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 200) The chief characteristic of music is its quality (i.e. its being either good or bad). This has nothing to do with joy and sorrow. Joy and sorrow are

would pose a special problem to those who liked to enjoy music’s ‘sadness’”.


Chapter Four released by emotions and have no connection to music. If concepts and actualities are kept separate, then this becomes quite clear.

But Ji Kang’s opponent, the guest from the state of Qin, refused to concede that joy and sorrow had no relation to music, arguing that even if not produced, they were clearly released by music. Drawing on numerous historical testimonies, as well as his own observations of people’s reactions to different kinds of music, he concluded by denying that concepts could be divided from actualities. 㤽૰′⭡㚢ˈᴤ⛪ᴹሖˈօᗇǍ਽ሖ‫ء‬৫ǎ㙦˛(Ji Kang 1962, 202) Since joy and sorrow both arise from music then it has to have a certain actuality. Therefore, how can you claim that concepts can be “kept apart” from actualities?

However, Ji Kang did not wish to efface the distinction between concepts and actualities as such. He merely refused the prevailing interpretation of the relationship between music and the emotions of joy and sorrow which viewed music as actuality, and joy and sorrow as concepts which defined this actuality. His argument here was twofold: on the one hand, music and joy and sorrow both belonged to different forms of actuality; and on the other, these two forms of actuality could not be directly compared, for the former belonged to the sphere of objective actualities, and the latter to the domain of subjective actualities 18 . And while music could appear contemporaneously with feelings of joy and sorrow, it did not define, condition or produce them. Ji Kang tried to explain this by pointing out the important epistemological difference between the release of feelings and their generation. Ӻᗙ‫↔ٷ‬䃷ԕ↓਽㲏㙣DŽн䄲૰′Ⲭᯬ㚢丣ˈྲᝋើѻ⭏ᯬ䌒ᝊҏDŽ (Ji Kang 1962, 206) Let me once again explain the proper (meaning) of concepts and designations. We cannot claim that the release of joy and sorrow by music is the same as the production of love and hate by saints and fools respectively.


Cf. Ji Kang’s statement cited above ⭡↔䀰ѻˈࡷཆ‫ˈ⭘↺ޗ‬ᖬᡁ⮠਽. Internal and external realities are thus different and, consequently, subjective concepts differ from objective ones. (Ji Kang 1962, 199)

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


To clarify this point, Ji Kang pointed out the important epistemological distinction between the release of feelings and their generation (Ji Kang 1962, 206). In particular, he stressed the different denotations of specific words, pointing out that the word fa (Ⲭ, to release, liberate, rise) meant something quite different from the word sheng (⭏, to bear, give birth, live, produce)19. Words are semantic symbols or designations (㲏), and are used to express or denote concepts (਽). ཛ䀰䶎㠚❦аᇊѻ⢙ˈӄᯩ↺؇ˈ਼һ⮠㲏ˈ䏓㠹а਽ˈԕ⛪⁉䆈㙣. (Ji Kang 1962, 213) Language is not naturally fixed. Different places have different customs and designations for the same objects. All these different designations used for denoting (objects) derive from unified concepts.

Sentiment is thus a concept (਽) of mind which can manifest itself in the specific emotional effects (actualities ሖ) of joy and sorrow (૰′). But the concept of music is “empty” (㲋਽), that is, it is an abstract concept without predefined absolute values or limitations. Therefore, music as such cannot be directly compared with the determined actualities of joy and sorrow. ✹ᗇḃཚ઼Ҿ↑ឬǃ㏤㲋਽Ҿ૰′ૹ˛(Ji Kang 1962, 225) How can you spoil the highest harmony with cheerfulness and melancholy? And how can you fill an empty concept with joy and sorrow?

The Openness of Structure: the Empty Concept of Music and the Harmony (he ઼) of Freedom Ji Kang concluded that the ‘empty concept’ of music, which transcends the limits of fear, pleasure and all other actualities of sentiment, could only be “filled” by harmony, which is its essential feature. As a Neo-Daoist, Ji Kang considered harmony a metaphor for dao 䚃 which, it should be recalled, was also an expression of the cosmic structure (li ⨶)20. In his 19

See also the italics in Henrichs 1983, 81. As we saw in previous chapters, Zhuangzi discerned in the concept li ⨶ a manifestation of the structural order of dao: ཛᗧˈ઼ҏ˗䚃ˈ⨶ҏ. (Zhuangzi 2010 Shan xing, 1) (Therefore, virtue is harmonic and dao is structured). Guan Zhong ㇑Ԣ also saw structure as being defined by dao. Ӕ↓࠶ѻ䄲⨶DŽ丶⨶㘼 20


Chapter Four

interpretation of harmony, Ji Kang followed the Daoist understanding of this notion. The fact that this understanding of harmony underlies his essay on music can be interpreted as another subtle criticism of Confucian rituality. The same holds true for his understanding of the notion li ⨶. In Daoist treatises, adapting to the structure (li ⨶) was, like amalgamation with the Way (dao 䚃), something natural, to be seized spontaneously when an individual was prepared to accept and be reunited with the simplicity of existence. The principle of non-action (wu wei ❑⛪), which was the basic precondition for such acceptance, could therefore lead to a complete reunification with structure and thus with dao. The Confucian connotations of the notion of harmony instead stressed the social harmony that resulted when each individual knew their place in the social order, and acted accordingly. The Confucians consequently gave priority to controlling closely the transformation and assignment of the proper cosmic structure into the social sphere. In this conceptual framework, structure (li ⨶) represented well-ordered (i.e. proper and reasonable) relations between cosmic structures and the perceptive patterns of the mind. “Proper” music thus had an important role in Confucian discourses, as a well-ordered means for the social integration of individuals. Defining the “proper” structure that would determine “proper” music was essential for a harmonious society. For Ji Kang, the harmony of sequential, rhythmic and tonal structure was the only concept that defined the actuality of music. Only music which had a harmonic structure could be perceived (or conceptualized) as real music by the mind. Naturally, a similar concept of music could not contain emotions, as these were antithetical to any harmonic reconciliation 21 . Ji Kang therefore accused the Confucians of cognitive нཡѻ䄲䚃. (Guan Zhong 2010. Jun chen I, 8) (Dividing different interpersonal relationships and distinguishing them properly is called structure. To follow the structure without losing it is called dao). A similar relation between dao and li was also clearly defined by Han Feizi 七䶎ᆀ㩜⢙਴ ⮠⨶㩜⢙਴⮠⨶㘼䚃ⴑĂ䚃㘵ˈ㩜⢙ѻᡰ❦ҏˈ㩜⨶ѻᡰねҏDŽ⨶㘵ˈᡀ ⢙ѻ᮷ҏ˗䚃㘵ˈ㩜⢙ѻᡰԕᡀҏDŽ᭵ᴠ˖䚃ˈ⨶ѻ㘵ҏDŽ(Han Fei 2010 Jie Lao, 23) (Everything that exists has its own structure; however, even though everything that exists has its own specific structure, all such structures are exhausted by dao… Dao is that which makes all things what they are. It is that which unites all particular structures. Structure is a pattern which is present in all completed things, while dao is the reason for their formation. Therefore, we say that “dao is structured”). 21 See Egan 1997, 26–7: “The aim of Xi Kang’s argument is to stress the importance

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


inconsistency, declaring that their fear of the harmful effects of “improper” music was not only exaggerated but also completely groundless and illogical. ᗳᝏҾ઼ˈ付؇༩ᡀˈഐ㘼਽ѻDŽ❦ᡰ਽ѻ㚢ˈ❑ѝҾ␛䛚ҏ˗ ␛ ѻ㠷↓਼ѾᗳDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 231) When harmony touches the human mind, all local differences are reunited in the concept (of music). Music is conceptualized in this way and therefore cannot imply any lewdness or depravity. Lewdness and propriety are both parts of the human mind.

For Ji Kang, the highest form of the “empty concept” of music is harmony. It is this structural feature that distinguishes it from concepts which are produced in the mind, for while the latter are necessarily dependent on external states and impulses, harmony is the natural reality of music. And while the universal actuality of music can certainly influence the actualities of perception, this does not mean that music can function as a mediator between different subjective minds. 㚢丣ԕᒣ઼⛪億ˈ㘼ᝏ⢙❑ᑨ˗ᗳᘇԕᡰ؏⛪ѫˈ៹ᝏ㘼ⲬDŽ❦ࡷ㚢 ѻ㠷ᗳˈ↺ງ⮠䓼ˈн⴨㏃㐟. (Ji Kang 1962, 222) The essence of music is in its equilibrium and harmony. The effect of these two qualities upon external objects cannot be standardized. The chief feature of mind, however, is its dependence (on the external world), since its effects cannot be released until it reacts to what it perceives. Hence, the paths and trajectories of music and mind diverge completely and can never intersect.

Musical harmony thus effects the human mind and causes the release of the joy and sorrow already present within it. However, harmony cannot be completely comprehended by the mind for it is indefinable, invisible, and shapeless. The structure of harmony is infinite and open, just like the structure of the universe. Consequently, it can only be perceived through the various feelings which it releases within our consciousness.

of cultivating inner peace and serenity... In Xi Kang’s view, nothing is more harmful to the spirit then apprehension and emotion. For most men the great problem is simply that ‘thoughts and apprehension diminish the refined spirit, and sorrow and joy injure the calm essence’”.


Chapter Four ཛ૰ᗳ㯿ᯬ緉㸪㐝࿴⫆⪋ᚋⓐ㸹࿴⫆↓㇟㸪⪋ယᚰ᭷୺ࠋኵ௨᭷୺அ ယᚰ㸪ᅉஇ↓㇟அ࿴⫆⪋ᚋⓐ㸪඼ᡤむᝅ㸪၏ယ⪋ᕬࠋ(Ji Kang 1962, 198) Sorrow is hidden in the human mind and is released when we listen to harmonious music. Musical harmony is shapeless, while the sorrow in our mind is subjective. The subjective sorrow in our mind is released by the invisible harmony, so at that moment (of release) we are only aware of the sorrow.

Yet harmony cannot be equated with sentiment, and because even the creators of perfect music do not control it completely, they cannot use it to influence the minds of others. The harmonious, natural structure of music reveals its actuality, which eludes and surpasses the limits of human consciousness. 㠣′䴆ᖵ㚆Ӫ㘼֌ˈнᗵ㚆Ӫ㠚วҏDŽօ㘵˛丣㚢ᴹ㠚❦ѻ઼ˈ㘼❑ ‫ײ‬ҾӪᛵDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 209) Perfect music can only be created by saints. But these saints do not necessarily control it. Why is this so? Music has a natural harmony, which has nothing to do with human emotions.

Musical harmony thus forms part of the all-embracing structure of Nature, the ultimate principles of which cannot be comprehended by the human mind. Harmony is therefore not limited to any specific kinds of musical expression, but can manifest itself in numerous styles and forms of music. к⭏л⭏ˈᡰԕ൷ӄ㚢ѻ઼ˈᮈࢋḄѻ࠶ҏDŽ(Ji Kang 1962, 213) Regardless of an ascending or descending progression (of playing), the five tones can always form a harmony. In this sense, there is no difference between sharpness and softness.

Ji Kang’s fictional opponent objects that musical harmony cannot transcend and unite all the changes in the phenomenal world that manifest themselves in the daily emotional responses of a listener22: 22

Here, we also need to consider the epistemological difference between specific harmonies that are subject to continuous changes and thus represent parts of the phenomenal world, and the concept or idea of harmony, which transcends these changes.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


ᗳ⛪㚢䆺ˈ㤕↔ަ⵮DŽ㤽䒱䶌⭡㚢ˈࡷօ⛪䲀ަ૰′˛㘼նӁ㠣઼ѻ 㚢❑ᡰнᝏˈ䁇བྷ਼Ҿ㚢丣ˈ↨⵮䆺ҾӪᛵˈᗇ❑⸕ᖬн᰾↔ૹ˛(Ji Kang 1962, 116) The mind is changed by music; this fact can be proved by many examples. If liveliness and tranquility arise from music, why can not the same hold true for joy and sorrow? But you claim that there is no one who cannot be touched by music with perfect harmony. Thus, the great unity would be a product of music, while manifold changes could only arise from human sentiment. But I see that you do not intend either one of these conclusions.

Ji Kang responds by equating musical harmony with the reconciliation of different tastes. Someone who listens to music and immerses themselves in the feelings released by it, remains limited to their sensory perception, just like someone who enjoys food and concentrates only on the pleasure of a single taste. 㖾ᴹ⭈ˈ઼ᴹ′˗❦䳘ᴢѻᛵˈ䘁Ѿ઼ฏ˗៹㖾ѻਓˈ㎅Ҿ⭈ຳˈᆹ ᗇ૰′Ҿަ䯃ૹ˛ (Ji Kang 1962, 116) Beauty implies sweetness and harmony contains joy. But the feeling (of joy) which follows a melody is separated from the sphere of harmony. A mouth that reacts to the attractiveness (of one taste) is cut off from the domain of sweetness. How can we find joy and sorrow in it?

Ji Kang also points out that while liveliness and tranquility are characteristics of certain types of music, joy and sorrow are different kinds of feelings. 㤕ᴹᡰⲬˈࡷᱟᴹѫҾ‫ˈޗ‬н⛪ᒣ઼ҏDŽԕ↔䀰ѻˈ䒱䶌㘵ˈ㚢ѻ࣏ ҏ˗૰′㘵ˈᛵѻѫҏ˗нਟ㾻㚢ᴹ䒱䶌ѻ៹ˈഐ䄲૰′Ⲷ⭡㚢丣ҏ. (Ji Kang 1962, 219) What is released comes from the mind and is not connected with balance and harmony. Hence, we can say that liveliness and tranquility are effects of music, whereas joy and sorrow arise from sentiment. But we cannot claim that joy and sorrow arise from music just because it contains liveliness or tranquility.

With this argument, Ji Kang is also refuting the idea that certain forms of musical expression automatically give rise to specific feelings. The harmony which is present in any genuine music can certainly release feelings, but this does not mean that lively music always provokes joy, and


Chapter Four

tranquil melodies sorrow (Ji Kang 1962, 217). Harmony is something which can only exist in terms of wholeness, and therefore cannot be grasped through limited feelings which are not means of perception, but concrete reactions to events within the mind. ཛ丣㚢઼∄ˈӪᛵᡰн㜭ᐢ㘵ҏ (Ji Kang 1962, 217). Harmonic sequences of music cannot be experienced by human emotions.

However, this does not mean that Ji Kang excluded any possible connections between the qualities of music and the emotions released by them. As we will see in the next section, he argued forcefully that musical perfection manifests itself in harmony as a part of the limitless structure of the universe. Thus, the structure of perfect music always released in every human being an emotional state of mental harmony that connected them with the essence of Nature. Ultimately, the Confucian policy of dividing “proper” and “orderly” music from “improper” and “licentious” music was seen by Ji Kang as an unacceptable and essentially harmful form of discrimination that molded music into an ideological tool at the service of the dominant morality (Ji Kang 1962, 225). ‫ ⦻ݸ‬ཙл⍱㘼н৽ˈ᭵ާަ‫ޛ‬丣ˈн☶ަ㚢˗㎅ަབྷ઼ˈнマަ 䆺˗ᦀジヅѻ㚢ˈˈ֯′㘼н␛DŽ⥦བྷ㗩н઼ˈнᾥप㰕ѻણҏ. (Ji Kang 1962, 225) The ancient rulers were afraid that the whole world would inevitably sink into a repugnant baseness. Therefore, they established eight sounds that were considered free of disrespectfulness. But by so doing, they mutilated harmony and its infinite possibilities. They did away with all gentle and lovely music, hoping that music could still remain joyful, but without becoming lewd. Thus, they deprived it of its genuine harmony. They made it like a tasteless meat soup, which cannot be compared to the rich taste of peony23.

Ji Kang considered such motives not only harmful, but also degrading, and not just for those who were thereby excluded from the wonderful variety of music, but for music itself. If we analyze his treatise in terms of the structural relation between music, universe and mind, and his 23

In ancient China, the roots of peonies provided one of the strongest seasonings for various foods (Egan 1997, 24).

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


understanding of the relation between the actuality (ሖ) of music and its conceptualization (਽), we can discover new aspects in his criticism of Confucian rituality. For Ji Kang, the essence of music was to be found in the perfection which manifests itself in harmony as part of the all-embracing, incomprehensible and inexhaustible structure (li ⨶) of the universe 24 . Conforming to this great natural structure, which can be experienced through the structure of harmonious music, enables us to rise above the minutiae of our everyday existence, and reunite ourselves with the essence of Nature. In this sense, the “emptiness” of harmony transcends the binaries of both the internal and external (‫ޗ‬ཆ) worlds, and concepts and actualities (਽ሖ). Ji Kang was well aware that these binary categories merely served as tools of perception or methods of comprehension. This explains his insistence that the actuality ( ሖ ) of music must be conceptualized (਽) in accordance with universal axiological and aesthetic criteria, while the actualities (ሖ) of joy and sorrow pertain to the mental and subjective concepts (਽) of sentiment. For Ji Kang, the idea that music contains concrete feelings (such as joy and sorrow) was completely mistaken, for it meant understanding music as something basically subjective and personalized. To refute this understanding he looked to harmony, the essential feature of music, postulating that it formed part of the structural order of the universe. This structure was therefore universal, but could be expressed in the countless forms of different structural patterns25. Ji Kang does not deny that music can move the human mind, but specifies that it can only be moved through harmony (and not through feelings thought to be inherent to music). The structural transfer of musical harmony into the mind is possible, but necessarily remains beyond human 24

Modern Western musicology would arrive at similar conclusions: “While a composer can change the tonal-systemic order, he cannot define the musical expression. The most he can do is eliminate it. Thus, there is something nonarbitrary and unconscious connected to the emotional sense of music. It forces us to look at fundamental universal structures which exist before music.” (MotteHaber 1998, 64) 25 In this context, Ji Kang often cites Zhuangzi’s maxim on the same wind that blows through countless interstices and always causes different melodies, which is precisely why all things are exactly what they are. (੩㩜н਼㘼֯ަ㠚ᐢ, Zhuangzi, Jiwu lun, 1). This can also be compared to the later Neo-Confucian position concerning countless structural patterns of being that are all united within one all-embracing structure. (а⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. Cheng Hao/Yi 1981, 13)


Chapter Four

control. The structural harmony of music is inexhaustible but, like Zhuangzi’s sea bird which pines away in the golden cage of human desire (Zhuangzi 2001, Zhi le, 5), can only thrive in conditions of freedom. The misuse of music for the purposes of propaganda was therefore humiliating, even though the most perfect harmony could still contain a political message26. The will of the people, (Confucian) rulers included, is always limited to the phenomenal world. The Confucian fear of the uncontrolled impulses of the masses, which must be mastered and held in check, certainly could not be allayed by the pointless gesture of dividing “proper” from “improper” harmony, and even less by the attempt to transpose emotions into music. Instead of meddling with the structure of the harmonic order of the universe, they would be advised to adhere to the teachings of Laozi and engage in non-action (❑⛪)27. They should behave more ecologically and in accordance with Nature and leave earthly matters to be settled spontaneously and in conformity with the great Way. For as a manifestation of the natural structural order (li ⨶), the Way makes it possible for the human mind to be reunited with its all-embracing harmony through the structural patterns of perfect music.

The Structural Epistemology of the Pre-Modern Era The epistemological foundations and connotations of music constituted only one of the theoretical fields that had to be clarified in the disputes between the School of Mystery and the group of Pure Conversations (see Egan 1997, 6). In the Neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming Dynasties, the recognition of objects through their structural connection with the mind already constituted an important epistemological method. In fact, the concept of the structure of Nature or Heaven (tianli ཙ⨶), which underlay the Neo-Confucian idea of structure and which found expression in the notion of the structure of human nature (xingli ⿏䎮), had already gone beyond the one-dimensional image of the world, composed of specific, mutually discreet structural patterns. The modern theorist Tang Junyi 26

As Ji Kang later learned to his own detriment when he played the melody of Great Peace on the eve of his execution. Tradition has it he was the only person who could play this tune, and when he had finished he said this rhapsody had ceased to exist. (Egan 1997, 29) 27 See for example Chapter 37: 䚃ᑨ❑⛪㘼❑н⛪‫⦻ן‬㤕㜭ᆸѻ㩜⢙ሷ㠚 ॆ. (Laozi 2001, 32)

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


underscored the importance of this innovative concept which had been introduced into the traditional philosophical understanding of the world by the Neo-Confucian thinkers, and described their signature view on the connections between specific structural patterns as follows: ⵏ↓Ⲵཙ⨶, ᱟ⭡ᗳᙗѻ⨶䙊к৫, 㘼ᖼⲬ⨮Ⲵ䋛䙊‫ޗ‬ཆѻӪᡁ৺ᗳ⢙ ѻ ⨶. (Tang Junyi 1955, 82) The real structure of Heaven (Nature) arises from human mind and its innate qualities and manifests itself as a structure that incorporates exteriority and inwardness, subject and object, as well as mind and (material) things.

Although in the 11th century, the structural recognition of objects and their conscious, cognitive comprehension were still mostly distinct areas in terms of methodology, the forerunner of Neo-Confucian thought, Shao Yong 䛥䳽 (1011–1077), had already established a hierarchy of different epistemological methods. At the lowest rung of this hierarchy was the empirical method which, being the simplest, gave only superficial, specific recognitions; next came the method of consciousness, or the comprehension of external objects through reasoning, which provided a more profound, though still very incomplete knowledge; and finally, the method of structural understanding, which was the only one that enabled a genuine insight into the most profound, inner nature of objects. ԕⴞ㿰⢙ˈ㾻⢙ѻᖒˈԕᗳ㿰⢙ˈ㾻⢙ѻᛵˈԕ⨶㿰⢙ˈⴑ⢙ѻᙗ (Xingli da quan 1989. Shao yong X. 32a, 812) If we observe things with our eyes, we can only perceive their form. By applying the method of observation through reasoning, we can only comprehend their situation. Only by applying the method of structural observation can we exhaustively comprehend their nature.

Clearly, the structural nature of mind and recognition was already a long-established notion for the members of the Neo-Confucian School of Mind (ᗳᆨ). In fact, Lu Jiuyuan 䲨ҍ␥ (1139–1193), a forerunner of this idealist current, explicitly states: ᗳণ⨶ҏ. (Xia Zhentao 1986. 2, 157) The mind is structured.

Chapter Four


Zhu Xi ᵡ⟩ (1130–1200), the founder and chief exponent of the NeoConfucian realist current known as the School of Structure ( ⨶ ᆨ ), therefore claimed that mind (ᗳ), like the structural pattern (⨶), was allembracing and omnipresent. He distinguished, however, between the unconscious mind and a mind that also enables self-awareness (and thus, an awareness of others). The former is present a priori in all things: ཙлѻ⢙ˈ㠣ᗞ㠣㍠㘵ˈӖⲶᴹᗳˈਚᱟᴹ❑⸕㿪㲅⡮... ཙൠ㠚ᴹㆷ ❑ᗳѻᗳ. (Zhu Xi 2010. Xing li yi, 6) All things in the world, even the smallest, have consciousness (mind). However, such consciousness (mind) does not necessarily have the ability to be aware of what it perceives. Everything in the world has this kind of unaware consciousness (mind)28.

This is a consciousness that vivifies and ennobles everything that exists, and cannot be measured by human (or earthly) criteria. Heaven and Earth (i.e. the binary category that symbolizes the complementary relativity of being) create without being aware of their actions, while the saint (a man with awareness) consciously engages in non-action. ୿˖ཙൠѻᗳӖ䵸੖˛䚴ਚᱟ═❦❑⛪ ˛ᴠ˖ཙൠѻᗳнਟ䚃ᱟн 䵸ˈնнྲӪᙱൠᙍឞDŽԺᐍᴠ˖ཙൠ❑ᗳ㘼ᡀॆˈ㚆Ӫᴹᗳ㘼❑ ⛪ DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Li qi shang, 4) (The disciple asks): Is the mind of Heaven and Earth intelligent? Or is it indifferent and acts spontaneously (through non-action)? (Zhu Xi replies): We cannot say that the mind of Heaven and Earth is without intelligence. And yet it cannot be compared to the mind of human beings, which thinks and is concerned with earthly matters. Yi Chuan, for example, said: Heaven and Earth create and change (things) unconsciously, whereas the saint consciously engages in non-action.

Based upon this distinction between the unaware mind and a mind that is aware of itself and others, Zhu Xi goes on to demonstrate the connection between structure and mind: ᗳപᱟѫᇠᓅ᜿ˈ❦ᡰ䄲ѫᇠ㘵ˈণᱟ⨶ҏˈнᱟᗳཆࡕᴹㆷ⨶ˈ⨶ ཆࡕᴹㆷᗳDŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Li qi shang, 4) 28

Lit.: mind without mind

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


Thus, the mind is something that leads, but this leader is structured. There is no structure outside the mind and no mind outside structure.

Precisely because it is structured in this way, the unconscious mind always acts in accordance with the natural changes of being: фྲа㥹аᵘˈੁ䲭㲅‫ੁˈ⭏ׯ‬䲠㲅‫ׯ‬ោᛤˈԆᴹㆷྭᜑ ൘㻿 (Zhu Xi 2010. Xing li shang: 59) This holds true for each tiny blade of grass, as it does for every wooden trunk: when it tends towards (the pole of) yang, it creates (or: is being created), and when it tends towards (the pole of) yin, it starts to die. This implies good and evil.

As we noted earlier29, Zhu Xi’s theory of knowledge was based upon the structural recognition of both particulars (objects) and the basic features of the universe. The postulate regarding the structural compatibility of all specific patterns that define concrete objects with the basic paradigmatic pattern of the ontological structure of being, had already been formulated by his predecessors, the Cheng brothers30. This new insight gave the Neo-Confucians a way to connect and understand objects logically. The theorists of the School of Structure (Li xue ⨶ᆨ) could thus lay the foundations of a structural logic rooted in the systemic compatibility of particular entities within material, as well as ideal, reality. Since no existing structure was excluded from the basic paradigms that defined the system of all structures31, this structural logic could be applied towards the recognition of all objects within material and ideal reality, as well as the recognition of the basic axioms (Wang Zuoli and Li Yuanming 2001, 250) that defined all existence. ‫ׯ‬ᱟቡһк᯻ሻ‫ػ‬䚃⨶⑺ਸሷ৫,ᗇࡠк䶒ᾥ㲅Ӗਚа⨶. (Zhu Xi 2000, 137) This means that we can find in objects the specific structural patterns of their principles; then, after finding their extreme pole, we can incorporate them into a single structure.


See especially Chapter 3, Subtitle The Structural Compatibility of Being… See а⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I. Yi shu, 13). 31 See Ṭ⢙マ⨶䶎ᱟ㾱マⴑཙлѻ⢙նҾаһкマⴑަԆਟԕ于᧘. (Zhu Xi in: Wang Zuoli and Li Yuanming 2001, 250) 30


Chapter Four

The basic method of Zhu Xi’s theory of knowledge is the exploration of objects (ge wu Ṭ⢙) in order to attain perfect knowledge (zhi zhi 㠤 ⸕). This, of course, is also a feature of structural logic (He Yingcan 2001, 250). Ṭ⢙ᱟ⢙⢙кマ⨶ѻ⨶. (Zhu Xi 2010. Da xue II, 291) The exploration of objects is based upon a structure by which we explore all the structural patterns of particular things.

The exploration (or indexing) of reality must also be carried out in accordance with the structure of concepts or names (ming li ਽⨶). For Zhu Xi, this was an important cognitive-linguistic precondition that prevented disorder in human thought and communications. ࠑᴹ⢙ᴹᖒࡷᴹ਽, ᴹ਽ࡷᴹ⨶. ྲԕབྷ⛪ሿ, ԕ儈⛪л, ࡷ䀰н丶, 㠣 Ҿ≁❑ᡰ᧚᡻䏣ҏ. (He Yingcan 2001, 267) Everything that has an outward image, also has its concept (name). And because it has its concept (name), it must also have its structure. If we regard big as being small, or high as being low, the language is uneven and people have nothing to hold on to.

The School of Mind (Xin xue ᗳᆨ), which represented a sort of solipsistic counterpart to Zhu Xi’s realist School of Structure, focused in its epistemology upon the concept of innate knowledge (liang zhi 㢟⸕). This innate, a-priori knowledge constituted the very essence of the innate mind or the innate qualities of human nature (liang zhi 㢟⸕), which was likewise ordered a-priori in accordance with the structure of Heaven or the universe. ੮ᗳѻ㢟⸕ˈণᡰ䄲ཙ⨶DŽ(Wang Shouren 2010. Chuan xi lu zhong, 135 ) The innate knowledge in my mind is congruent with the so-called structure of the universe.

Thus, through the concept of innate knowledge Wang Shouren connected the structure of Heaven with the structure of innate human nature that was reflected in the mind. The values of good and evil, right and wrong were neatly inserted within the all-embracing circulation of the universal structure within the mind. In his view, knowledge was only

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


useful when it derived from the structural overlapping of the subjective mind with the objects of recognition. ཆᗳԕ≲⨶ˈ↔⸕㹼ѻᡰԕ⛪Ҽҏˈ≲⨶ᯬ੮ᗳˈ↔൓䮰⸕㹼ਸаѻ ᮉDŽ(Wang Shouren 2010. Chuan xi lu zhong, 133) When we search for structure outside of the mind, we find that knowledge and action are two different things. But if we search for it within our own mind, we will find the sacred teaching of the unity of knowledge and action.

His disciple, Qian Dehong 䥒ᗧ⍚ (1496–1574), also insisted on the connection between innate knowledge, and the structures of nature and mind, thereby pursuing the distinction between knowledge that arises out of the introspective meditation of the 'empty mind' and the recognition that derives from education, i.e. from the social-cultural formation of individuals. 㢟⸕ཙ⨶৏䶎Ҽ᜿ˈԕᗳѻ䵸㲋ᱝሏ㘼䀰ˈ䄲ѻ⸕ˈԕᗳѻ᮷⨶ọ᷀ 㘼䀰ˈ䄲ѻ⨶DŽ(Ming ru xue’an 1983. V1, XI, 233) The meaning of innate knowledge actually does not differ from that of cosmic structure. In terms of spiritual emptiness it can be called knowledge, and in terms of the refined structural order of mind, it can be called structure.

For Li Zhi ᵾ 䌴 (1527–1602) the controversial exponent of the solipsistic current of late Neo-Confucianism, a complete union of human mind and the all-embracing cosmic structure was only possible after obtaining enlightenment. In fact, even the most prominent theorists of the later Academy of the Eastern Forest ᶡ᷇ᴨ䲒 essentially agreed with his supposition as to the structural compatibility of mind and Nature, despite the fundamental theoretical differences that divided their new methodological paradigms from the holistically idealist positions of the School of Mind. One of the leaders of this new, realistic current, Gao Panlong 儈ᬰ喽 (1562–1626), wrote: Ӫᗳ᰾ਚᱟཙ⨶. (Ming ru xue’an 1983. V6, XI, LVIII, 1406) When the human mind is completely clear and bright, it is nothing other than cosmic structure.


Chapter Four

Like other Academy adepts, Gao also subscribed to Zhu Xi’s method, known as the “Exploration of Things”, and its connection with the basic structure of the universe. Within this theoretical template, he sought to elaborate the Neo-Confucian thesis on the multitude of diverse structural patterns that could always be amalgamated into the framework of the fundamental, all-embracing structure of being. マ⨶㘵ˈṬ⢙ҏˈ⸕ᵜ㘵⢙Ṭҏˈマ⨶ˈаᵜ㘼㩜↺ˈ㩜↺㘼аᵜDŽ (Ming ru xue’an 1983. V6, XI, LVIII, 1406) Exhaustive recognition of structure is exploring things. Recognizing the basis of things means exploring them and understanding their structure in an exhaustive manner. Every basis produces countless particulars, but all these particulars arise from the same basis.

In their epistemological writings, members of the Academy of the Eastern Forest generally criticized the solipsistic approaches of Buddhist and Daoist philosophy. Another leading figure of the Academy and proponent of its new methodologies, Gu Xiancheng 亗២ᡀ (1550–1612), pointed out that an individual’s mind was necessarily connected to the structure of their nature, an aspect which distinguished human beings from other living creatures. Regardless of the fact that all existing things are structured, the rational comprehension of these structures is reserved to human beings alone, due to the structure of their nature and mind. ੮݂ԕ⨶⛪ᙗˈ䟻∿ԕ㿪⛪ᙗˈ䃎⨶ࡷ❑н਼ˈࡷӪ㘼⿭⦨㥹ᵘ㘼⬖ ⸣аҏˈ䴆ⅢҼѻˈ㘼нਟᗇҏˈ䃎㿪ࡷᴹн਼⸓ˈᱟ᭵⬖⸣ᵚే❑ 㿪ˈ❦㘼ᇊ⮠Ѿ㥹ᵘѻ㿪ˈ㥹ᵘᵚే❑㿪ˈ❦㘼ᇊ⮠Ѿ⿭⦨ѻ㿪ˈ⿭ ⦨ᵚే❑㿪ˈ❦㘼ᇊ⮠ѾӪѻ㿪ˈ䴆Ⅲаѻˈ㘼нਟᗇҏDŽӺሷԕ❑ н਼㪇⛪ᙗѾˈԕᴹн਼㪇⛪ᙗѾ“DŽ(Ming ru xue’an 1983. V6, XI, LVIII, 1389) We Confucians regard the structure as nature. The Buddhists believe that nature is perception. When we speak about structure, we speak about something which is present equally in everything: human beings, animals, plants and stones. Even if we wished to divide it, this would not be possible. But when we speak about perception, this is different. Although we cannot claim that stones are completely without perception, their perception is different from that of plants. And although we cannot claim that plants are without perception, it is different from the perception possessed by animals. And although we cannot claim that animals are without perception, it is different from the perception possessed by human beings. Even if we wanted to unify these perceptions, it would not be

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


possible. Hence, what is nature, really? That which is equal for everything, or that which is different?

The structural conditioning of human perception was also later subscribed to by most of the relatively autochthonous32 Chinese thinkers. Wang Fuzhi ⦻ཛѻ (1619–1692), one of the few traditional Chinese philosophers who established a systematic and coherent epistemological system, argued that we cannot determine the structure of comprehension by ourselves. In his view, the process of comprehension was based upon the investigation and rational analysis of natural structures that define all that exists. The rational order of cognitive processes also corresponded to these structures. ަᒿѻҏˈӖ❑‫ݸ‬䁝ѻᇊ⨶ˈ㘼ᒿѻ൘ཙ㘵ণ⛪⨶DŽ(Wang Fuzhi 1975. III, 73) The order is not something that was pre-determined by defining its structure. Structure is the order, and is implicitly present in Nature.

In his criticism of the introspective methods of comprehension formulated by the idealist currents within Neo-Confucian philosophy, he argued for the recognition of this structure by means of the structural patterns present in the mind. 㙣ᴹ㚠ˈⴞᴹ᰾ˈ‫ޕ‬ཙлѻ㚢㢢㘼⹄ަ⨶㘵ˈӪѻ䚃ҏDŽ㚠ᗵ↧ᯬ㚢 㘼࿻䗘ˈ᰾ᗵ᫷ᯬ㢢㘼࿻Რˈᗳࠪᙍ㘼ᗇѻˈнᙍࡷнᗇDŽ䉸偰❦ᴹ 㚎ˈⷕ❦ᴹ㾻ˈᗳнᖵᙍˈ⍎⍎䕍䕍ˈྲѽᴌѻᗇ⛪⭏⸕ʽ᷌⡮ˈࡷ ཙлѻ⭏⸕ˈ❑㤕⿭⦨DŽ(Wang Fuzhi 1975. III, 860) Ears have the ability to hear and eyes the ability to see. Our human constitution tells us to enter the world of sounds and colors and explore their structures. If we want to investigate the sounds of this world, we must first perceive them through our hearing. If we want to investigate colors, we must first perceive them with our sight. Likewise, if we wish to understand anything, our mind must create thoughts. Why should any knowledge that has been obtained only through sudden, false hearing or from a fleeting vision without any reasoning, or from penetrating into indefinable depths, or from ardent flashes, belong to some innate 32

The phrase “relatively autochthonous” refers to Chinese philosophy before the impact of European and American thought. Given that Buddhist thought had already been sinicized more than 150 years before this encounter, its explicit and implicit influences can be considered as parts of the Chinese tradition of thought.


Chapter Four knowledge?! If this is so, then this innate knowledge is not even worthy of animals.

The compatibility of the structures of the internal and external worlds was even confirmed by Dai Zhen ᡤ䴷 (1724–1777), a leading realist philosopher of the 18th century, and one of the last representatives of an autochthonous Chinese epistemology: Ӫ⢙ਇᖒᯬཙൠˈ᭵ᚂ㠷ѻ⴨䙊DŽ⳸ཙൠѻ䯃ˈᴹ㚢ҏˈᴹ㢢ҏˈᴹ 㠝ҏˈᴹણҏˈ㠹㚢㢢㠝ણˈࡷᯬཙൠ䯃㘵❑ᡆ䚪⸓DŽཆ‫⴨ޗ‬䙊ˈަ 䮻ヺҏˈᱟ⛪㙣ⴞ啫ਓDŽ(Dai Zhen 1991. Mengzi ziyi, 157–8) The physical appearance of men and other beings arises from Heaven and earth and is therefore completely congruent with them. We are surrounded by sounds, colors, smells and tastes. They can be perceived by anyone in this world. What enables us to perceive them (and opens the circulation of mutual congruency) are our ears, eyes, nose and mouth.

Such structural networks are not only reflected in the senses, but also in the human mind. However, given Dai Zhen’s view that the world existed separately and independently of the mind, his concern here is not with the classical Chinese concept of holistic unity, but the structural connections between human subjectivity and the external world. ણ㠷㚢㢢ˈ൘⢙н൘ᡁˈ᧕㠷ᡁѻ㹰≓ˈ㜭䗘ѻ㘼ᚵ ѻDŽDŽDŽ⨶㗙 ൘һᛵѻọ࠶㑧᷀ˈ᧕ᯬᡁѻᗳ⸕ˈ㜭䗘ѻ㘼ᚵѻDŽ(Dai Zhen 1991. Mengzi ziyi, 155–6). Taste, sound and color are in things and not in us. However, by means of our blood and vital energy we are able to perceive and differentiate them, which is a source of pleasure […] The sense of structure, can be found in the structural order of reality. Through our reason (lit.: conscious knowledge) we can perceive and differentiate it, which is also pleasurable.

Here, we have translated the term xin zhi ᗳ⸕ (lit. “the knowledge of mind” or “conscious knowledge”) with the word “reason”, even though this term should be “reserved” for the character li ⨶ which throughout the Chinese tradition was generally understood as a structural pattern and structure. As we saw in our discussion on the difficulties of translation, the first sinologists33 often translated the concept li as a kind of reason, i.e. 33

The first European scholars to translate, analyze and interpret classical Chinese

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


logos, principle or law, an understanding which Western sinology has preserved to the present day. Such understandings have not only decisively influenced the Western perception of the basic nature of Chinese theoretical discourses and traditional Chinese philosophy in general, but through modernization processes have also impacted on the way in which modern Chinese scholars have viewed their “own” tradition of thought.

At the Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity: Li as Logos, Principle or Law? The fact that the character li ⨶, as a philosophical concept, has been translated into the Indo-European languages exclusively in the sense of an ideal principle, (natural) law or logos, is most certainly linked to certain methodological problems in the humanities. More specifically, it is related to the issue of the incommensurability of theoretical notions in the diversely structured discourses of heterogeneous cultural and linguistic environments (an issue which, of course, did not appear until the mid-20th century and therefore could not have been taken into account before then). Before analyzing the social and theoretical reasons for the distorted conceptual transformation of this notion––reasons which originate with the first contacts between Europe and China––we should first examine the various definitions of the character li ⨶, its semantic connotations and compounds (combinations with other characters) as they appear in a number of current Chinese dictionaries and encyclopedias34. In most cases, the semantic development of this character is presented chronologically i.e. from the earliest etymological connotations up to the present. Very schematically, and in order of importance, we can list the various semantic connotations and scopes as follows: 1.

Most of the reference works consulted refer to a semantic group that can be summarized by the central term wenli ㌻⨶ (fibrous, veinous, a grainy or speckled pattern, texture or covering tissue).

written sources in China, in the late 17th century, were Christian missionaries, and especially the Jesuits. 34 Among the reference works consulted were: 䗝⎧ к⎧䗝ᴨࠪ⡸⽮ 1999 (3 ℴ); ╒䃎བྷ䗝ި й㚟ᴨᓇ俉⑟࠶ᓇ к⎧䗝ᴨࠪ⡸⽮㚟ਸࠪ⡸ 俉⑟ 1987 (12 ℴ); ╒䃎བྷᆇި, ⒆े䗝ᴨࠪ⡸⽮; ഋᐍ䗝ᴨࠪ⡸⽮, ↖╒ 1956 (8 ℴ); ⮦ԓ ╒䃎䂎ި, к⎧䗝ᴨࠪ⡸⽮, к⎧ 2001; ⁉Ⓠ╒䃎䂎ި, ╒䃎བྷ䗝ިࠪ⡸⽮, (ᵡ Ჟᶮ㐘), к⎧ 2005; ⁉Ⓠ╒䃎䂎ި, ╒䃎བྷ䂎ިࠪ⡸⽮ (ᕥᴨየ), к⎧ 2000, etc.







7. 8. 9.

Chapter Four

There is a semantic scope of administration or institutional ordering (of economy, politics, society, etc). (㇑⨶, ⋫⨶). This ordering is also related to the compound wenli ᮷⨶ which refers to the ordering and (proper) structuring of texts. The character is also often used in word compounds that express other kinds of ordering, i.e. the proper management of property (⨶䋑), hairstyling (⨶䋑), blood pressure ( ⨶䋑), etc., or putting into order in the most general sense (ᮤ⨶). The term meaning theory (⨶䄆)35, in the sense of ordering or structuring longer abstract treatises, can also be included within this scope. The connotation of “attention” is also most probably connected with this semantic scope (i.e. order, ordering). This also generally includes an awareness of, or towards others and is expressed by various compounds e.g. licai ⨶ ⶜ (to pay attention) and lihui ⨶ ᴳ (to notice). The next most common meaning connected with the character li ⨶ is that of the natural sciences (⨶、); the character li is also used to denote some specific academic disciplines, such as geography (ൠ⨶) or physics (⢙⨶), where it signifies literally the (structural) laws of the earth and (physical) things, respectively. This semantic scope is thus already closely linked to the idea of (natural) law. The character li is also often applied in connection with the idea of law, in the sense of an ideal rule or principle (䚃⨶ ৏⨶), and reason (⨶⭡). This definition is also found in connotations of the term li ⨶ that refer to understanding or comprehension (⨶䀓), ratio or rationality (⨶ᙗ), reason, reasonableness or intellect (⨶Ც). In modern Chinese, terms for concepts or ideas are also often expressed by a compound that includes this character (⨶ᘥ). The substantive compound, consisting of the terms li ⨶ and xiang ᜣ (thinking, wanting, believing) signifies ideal. Some sources imply the compound tiaoli ọ⨶ which mainly refers to structure in the sense of systemic order or system. This is quite rare, however.

35 The meaning of the compound lilun ⨶䄆 (theory) is probably connected to the meaning of reasonableness or rationality which, however, also belongs to the common semantic spectrum of the character li ⨶ (see item 6.)

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


The semantic development of the character li ⨶ which generally denotes a structural pattern or structural order, was determined by multiple factors and is linked to discrepancies between discourses that appeared in the European intellectual tradition and those that were established within the context of specific Chinese thought. We should also recall that the pre-modern founders of the NeoConfucian renewal also often applied the term li ⨶ in the sense of reasonableness (you li ᴹ⨶) or understanding (lihui ⨶ᴳ): ᱟᮨ㘵ѻ䃚ˈӖⲶᴹ⨶. (Zhou Dunyi 2010. I, 8) Many such theories are also reasonable. 䙉䜭ᵚ⨶ᴳᗇ. (Zhu Xi 2010. Li qi shang, 26) All this, you still have not understood.

However, we should bear in mind here that such reason and such understanding were rooted in the idea of the amalgamation or comprehension of structure, which was seen as reasonable in itself. Because the basic cosmic structure of Chinese antiquity was already permeated by ethics, reason, as a fundamental attribute of structure, therefore represented the ratio decidendi, i.e. the basic criterion of all ethical laws. Given the fundamentally pragmatic nature of classical and traditional Chinese ethics (i.e. without metaphysical presuppositions), such ethics were necessarily determined by reason in the sense of a rational order which defined Nature and human relations, as well as the individual human mind. As our list of definitions shows, in modern Chinese, numerous compounds of the character li ⨶ are based upon different semantic connotations, in which the notion of structural order has disappeared or been obscured. One of the reasons for this shift in connotations is perhaps to be found in the numerous transformations of Chinese notions that occurred as a result of the cultural confrontation between China and the West. Various translations of this character which originated during this confrontation, thus not only influenced the understanding of Chinese thought by Western scholars, but may also have transformed and influenced the modern Chinese understanding of this notion and its connotations. The roots of such developments are to be found in the earliest encounters of Western missionaries with Chinese culture, and especially in their attempts to understand and transfer the Neo-Confucian theoretical


Chapter Four

heritage which, at that time, represented the main current of the still vital, although rapidly declining Chinese philosophical tradition. The onto-epistemological aspects of this current were based upon the binary category of li ⨶ and qi ≓. As we saw in our discussion of the specific features of Chinese philosophy, the mutual relation between the anti-poles that formed a binary category was always complementary, meaning that the opposition between them was not one of contradiction, since both poles were mutually dependent and correlative. In the JudeoChristian tradition, however, the dominant pattern was one of “logocentric” binarity which aimed at preserving one anti-pole, while eliminating the other. The post-structural theorist Jacques Derrida, the founder of ‘Deconstruction’, pointed out that we live in an intellectual tradition that tends to preserve the significant at the expense of the signifier, speech at the expense of writing, noumena at the expense of phenomena, Nature at the expense of culture, life at the expense of death and good at the expense of evil (Derrida 1994, 95–6, 1998, 35). In reflecting on the more profound implications of this tendency, we can, as Graham (1992, 65) points out, within a number of apparent oppositions in “Western” culture instead note a certain affinity among them, given that the majority of Western discourses are based upon the idea of a universal causality that is founded, in turn, on the tendency to eliminate one oppositional pole in order to preserve the other. Such an affinity can be found, for example, between Christianity’s beliefs regarding the immortality of the soul, and the tenets of traditional science (before the discovery of quantum mechanics). In their article on “Chinese philosophy” for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, David Hall and Roger Ames (1998, 1–2) listed some of the typical chains of binary patterns and compared them with one other. They discovered that the dominant Western tradition of thought usually treats one of the poles as being “transcendental”, i.e. in a way that enables it to exist independently of its oppositional pair, which instead does not have this possibility. Reasoning according to such patterns thus means being incapable of imagining the possibility of creation without a creator, reality without appearances or good without evil (Graham 1992, 65). It is not surprising, therefore, that scholars who approached Chinese philosophy in terms of the prevailing paradigms of the Euro-American intellectual tradition automatically interpreted complementary types of bi-polarity as a dualism based upon the dominance of one of the poles. Contrary to the immanent nature of the notion li, the conception of natural and other laws in the Euro-American tradition of thought is something which defines and, to a great extent, also determines all things

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


externally. The standard view on (natural) laws (Borstner 1995, 199) that was developed within this tradition, also generally implies domains of theories, reductions, illustrations, necessities, determinisms and (in recent decades) the sphere of probabilities. In fact, what underlies this tradition is the assumption that phenomena can be explained by laws. The standard view is rooted in the conviction that phenomena can be explained by describing them with sentences that are deductively derived from a multitude of sentences which imply laws […] The standard view also implies the thesis on determinism (probabilism) which presupposes the concept of law as the foundation for illustrating the modalities and necessities in the world (Borstner 1995, 199).

However, the concept of law in Western tradition is not always defined by necessity. As Borstner (Borstner 1995, 199) points out, natural laws within the deductive nomologic model do not imply an inherent necessity, but merely express a certain regularity or accuracy. The notion li ⨶, as it was developed in Chinese thought, likewise denotes a kind of structured regularity. But this regularity always determines (to a great degree) any kind of phenomena, because it represents the basic precondition of any existence and, as such, is necessary. An even more significant difference between the Western notion of (natural) law and the Chinese notion li ⨶, is that the latter is not merely a concept which denotes a multitude of permanent or variable regulations, but is based upon a unified and all-embracing structure which is concrete, primary and into which all partial structural patterns necessarily flow. Thus, a given particular cannot be refuted or replaced by another. This concept was formulated in extreme synthesis by the Cheng brothers: а⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. I, Yi shu, 13) The structure of every particular thing is simultaneously the structure of all that exists.

Li Gong ᵾຘ (1659–1746) also stressed the all-embracing order of this basic structure, arguing that it was precisely this fundamental order which was the precondition for the amalgamation of all heterogeneous structural patterns and their concretization within every particular thing. һᴹọ⨶ᴠ⨶ˈণ൘һѝDŽ(Li Gong in Xia Zhentao 1996, 400)


Chapter Four The systemic order of things is called principle (li). It is contained in things.

Zhu Xi likewise concluded that this all-embracing order was the precondition for the amalgamations and dissolutions of particular patterns: һ㠚ᴹབྷ㏡ˈӖᴹㇰⴞDŽᑨᆈབྷ㏡൘ᡁˈ㠣ᯬㇰⴞѻ䯃ˈ❑䶎↔ ⨶ DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. VIII, Xue er, 140) All things are parts of a great order that is minutely subdivided. This order is a norm which defines my existence and also the existence of all particularities. Nothing is without a structure (a structural pattern).

But we also find a similar problem in the translations of the notion li in the sense of a principle36, especially given that the concept of principle or axiom is commonly understood in terms of its effect(s) and not in terms of its antecedent causes. In Western thought, the notion of principle belongs to the sphere of metaphysics, which does not imply a direct comprehension of objects, but is rooted in transmitted recognitions (Gloy 2004, 112). As such, it presupposes an epistemic difference between the human mind and the objects of the external reality it perceives. The notion of principles was formulated in metaphysics precisely because metaphysics deals with indirect, reflected kinds of knowledge and, as such, it derives from actually present, particular and discrete entities. Its aim is to define, substantiate and explain the phenomena that originate in the concrete world, and it does this by means of general principles (Gloy 2004, 112). The Chinese term li, however, has never had such a function (not even in Neo-Confucianism). In fact, Zhu Xi argued that the all-embracing structure could not be comprehended by means of the deductive method, even though it defined all that exists, given that every single thing in the world represented the expression of some structural pattern. 㫻ཙлѻһˈⲶ䄲ѻ⢙ˈ㘼⢙ѻᡰ൘ˈ㧛нᴹ⨶DŽфྲ㥹ᵘ⿭⦨ˈ䴆 ᱟ㠣ᗞ㠣䌔ˈӖⲶᴹ⨶DŽ (Zhu Xi 2010. Daxue, 295) That which is in the world, is called things. All existing things have their structures. Every blade of grass, every tiny twig, all the birds and beasts have their structures, no matter how small and insignificant they are.


The word “principle” derives from the Latin term principium, which means beginning, commencement or origin.

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


But these structures (or structural patterns) certainly do not permit us to infer the structure of Nature: ཙлѻ⨶ˈ‫ښ‬ຎ┯ࡽˈ㙣ѻᡰ㚎ˈⴞѻᡰ㾻ˈ❑䶎⢙ҏˈ㤕ѻօ㘼マ ѻૹʽ丸⮦ሏѻᯬᗳˈ֯↔ᗳѻ⨶ᰒ᰾ˈ❦ᖼᯬ⢙ѻᡰ൘ᗎ㘼ሏѻˈ ࡷн㠣ᯬ≾☛⸓DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Daxue, 400) The structure of Nature cannot be comprehended by means of what is accumulated before us. What we see or hear are namely only things. These can only be investigated by means of our mind. Only if we clarify the structure of our mind and then try to find and investigate it in existing things, can we avoid being overwhelmed by them.

Hence, the connection between the external world and the human mind was not rooted in any formal, rational principles: 㠚ᇦ⸕ᗇ⢙ѻ⨶ྲ↔ˈࡷഐަ⨶ѻ㠚❦㘼៹ѻˈ‫ׯ‬㾻ਸ‫ޗ‬ཆѻ⨶DŽ (Zhu Xi 2010. Daxue, 295) The structure of things can be explored by following its intrinsic nature and by adapting ourselves to it. In this way, we will find the structure that connects our inwardness with the external world.

The principles which appear in Western discourses can be divided, very schematically, into the axiomatic and the systemic. The term li, as it was developed within ancient classical Chinese thought, can only be seen as corresponding to the latter. However, from at least the Song ᆻ (960– 1279) period onwards, the concept li was made to represent both, i.e. the reason for things “being” as they are, as well as the method that defines the ways by which they “become” what they are. ⮦≲ަᡰԕ❦㘵օ᭵DŽަᡰԕ❦㘵ˈ⨶ҏ DŽ⨶ྲ↔ˈപнਟ᱃ DŽ (Zhu Xi 2010. Daxue, 414) Here, we ask ourselves the reason why (something) is as it is. The reason that makes it what it is, is the structure. Thus, the structure is fixed and cannot be changed.

This view was also shared by Feng Youlan 俞৻㱝 (1895–1990), in his elaboration of the notion of structure: ᡰ䄲ᯩѻ⨶, ᰒᯩѻᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵, Ӗণа࠷ᯩᓅ⢙ѻᡰԕ❦ѻ⨶ҏ. ࠑ ᯩᓅ⢙ᗵᴹަᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵, ᗵⲶ‫➗׍‬ᯩ㘵ᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵. ↔ᯩѻᡰԕ⛪ᯩ,


Chapter Four ⛪ࠑᯩᓅ⢙ᡰⲶ‫➗׍‬㘼ഐԕᡀ⛪ᯩ㘵, ᰒᯩѻ⨶. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 558) That which is called the structure (li) of squareness, is what makes square objects square and, at the same time, what makes all square objects square. All things that are square must possess something by virtue of which they are square. They have to possess something in accordance with which they are square. What makes square things square, is the structure (li) of squareness.

While the traditional Chinese concept of structure was understood as being both universal and particular, of special significance in this ontological duality (or, if one prefers, totality) is the feature of compatibility, i.e. the structural connection or congruency between the universal and particulars 37 . In traditional Chinese onto-epistemological discourses, compatibility is precisely what makes any existence possible. In this connection, we can recall Dong Zhongshu’s 㪓Ԣ㡂 (179–104 BC) remarks concerning the harmonious mutual inter-connection of everything that exists: ཙ Ӫ ѻ 䳋 ˈ ਸ 㘼 ⛪ а ˈ ਼ 㘼 䙊 ⨶ . (Dong Zhongshu 2010. Shencha minghao, 1) The demarcation between men and nature vanishes in the unifying circulation within the structure.

This congruity is thus conditioned by free circulation (tong 䙊), which unifies various structural patterns within one single structure, including patterns of the external world and mind. In traditional Chinese theories of knowledge, this notion is considered as fundamental to any process of comprehension and, in fact, was often used as a synonym for understanding: 䙊↔ӄਕˈ᡽‫ڊ‬ᗇǍ㠤⸕൘Ṭ⢙ǎаਕDŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Daxue, 278) Only after understanding (tong) these five maxims, can we comprehend the meaning of the maxim ‘Ultimate knowledge comes from the exploration of things’.

37 See, for example, the quotation from the Cheng brothers above (Chapter 3): а ⢙ѻ⨶ণ㩜⢙ѻ⨶. (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi 1981. Yi shu, 13) (The structure of every single thing is simultaneously the structure of everything that exists).

The Structural Compatibility of Mind and the External World


As we have seen, in traditional Chinese theories of knowledge structural compatibility constitutes the potential that makes our perception and comprehension of the external world possible. The omnipresence of li means that the universe is structured and ordered. The same structural order, however, is also a characteristic feature of our mind and body (e.g. of our sensory organs). Our thoughts are thus able to follow this structural order (especially if we wish to gain any sort of genuine insight into the real nature of actuality). At this point, one could reasonably sustain that of the various attempts to transfer the meaning of the term li into the IndoEuropean languages, the ancient Greek term logos38 (e.g. Ladstaetter and Linhard 1983, 34) perhaps provides the best equivalent for what li actually expresses, since it represents a structure that is ordered in accordance with cosmic “rationality” 39 , which is also reflected in human reason. In the Fragments of Heraclitus, logos 40 denotes a fundamental law that was followed by every existing thing. Subsequently, Plato elaborated and abstracted the concept of logos, making it a succinct philosophical term signifying demonstration or explanation. In fact, in the dialogue Theaetetus (201d), it is also explicitly linked to epistemology, with the postulate that only that which can be explained or revealed within logos, can form an object of our comprehension. Instead, with Aristotle the notion of logos was applied mostly in the sense of a definition, while the Stoics understood it as a reasonable principle of the well-ordered universe, an immobile, unchanging origin from which all matter and events arose. In this sense, logos signified both causality and a continuity of action and awareness, a concept which would also be elaborated in early commentaries on the Gospel of St. John. As logos sprematikus it represents a maxim that is common to all rational beings (Aall 1968). However, as this brief survey shows, the notion of logos clearly fails to cover the full semantic scope of the term li, which in addition to ontological, epistemological and semantic connotations also implies a number of other meanings (scientific, metaphysical, artistic, cultural, medical etc). It is also important to bear in mind that the Chinese notion li ⨶ in no way denotes something static and eternal (as is the case with logos, in the sense of a primum signatum (see Derrida 1998, 31)), but a


Logos was also commonly used for translating the term dao 䚃. The origin of the notion ratio can be traced back to Greek antiquity where it appears as logos (ȜȩȖȠȢ) in the 5th Book of Euclid’s Elements. This notion was later translated as ratio in the sense of reason or reasonableness. 40 ȜȩȖȠȢ 39


Chapter Four

dynamic, continuously changing entity (yi ᱃) which forms the basis of traditional Chinese discourses. ཙ⨶䆺᱃❑マ DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Xinli yi, 68) The cosmic structure is continuously and endlessly changing.

This dynamic, changeable, formally undetermined structure li ⨶, or the “patterned regularity of existence” as David Hall and Roger Ames define it (1998, 7), is thus a concept which, both in terms of its basic attributes, as well as its overall meaning, clearly has no direct equivalent in any comparable notion found in any of the dominant discourses of the Western intellectual tradition.


As we have seen, structure in traditional Chinese worldview was not merely a formal organization of the given actuality, but also a systemic concretization of manifold relations. And it is precisely in their treatment and conceptualization of relations that contemporary Chinese theories of knowledge once again reveal their traditional contents. This is especially evident in the areas of epistemology and ontology, two levels which are interconnected in the Chinese tradition, making it difficult to make a precise, clear-cut demarcation between them. The former includes the structural approaches to reality and its recognition (whereby reality and its recognition are in a mutual, complementary relation) while the latter concerns the ontological foundations of reality and its recognition.

Renewal and Elaboration of a Traditional Structural Epistemology This kind of onto-epistemology based upon structure and the compatibility of structural patterns that underlie both human existence and human awareness, constituted a basic paradigm of the Chinese intellectual tradition. The main current of this structurally determined thought developed from the relatively simple analogical applications of binary complementarity in ancient China, to the structurally conditioned metatheory of language in the Chinese middle age, and finally to the pure theory of structure (⨶ᆨ)1 in the Neo-Confucian discourses of the Song and Ming dynasties. With the gradual decline and disaggregation of autochthonous Chinese thought beginning in the 16th century, the majority of Chinese theoreticians preferred to eschew this paradigm in order to 1

The Chinese name for the realist current of the Neo-Confucian philosophy has generally been translated into Indo-European languages as “The School of Principles”. In the present study we translate it as “The School of Structure”.


Chapter Five

investigate Euro-American thought instead, which they saw as offering more possible solutions for the critical situation in which Chinese society then found itself. This crisis was both internal and external in nature. From the 17th to the start of the 20th century, China was confronted with numerous problems linked to its internal social development 2 , problems which previously had been without serious consequences but which would become ever more critical and ineludible. To these were added external difficulties linked to the influx of Western capital which gradually relegated the country to the semi-colonial position of a backward, peripheral state, dependent on colonial troops and without the possibility of any autochthonous development or technological progress. This double threat posed by both internal and external factors was also reflected in the intellectual sphere, since the decay of Neo-Confucian doctrine was, in a sense, both “programmed” in advance because of its syncretistic nature, while simultaneously being accelerated by the arrival of the Western powers and their ideologies. Euro-American thought, which most Chinese intellectuals saw in terms of a form of knowledge that both underpinned the progress (especially technological) of Western countries, as well as offering the only viable solution to the critical situation in which China found itself was, at the same time, that selfsame knowledge that to a great extent was co-responsible for the decline of autochthonous, traditional Chinese society and culture. In terms of this confrontation with Western thought and ideologies which had entered China in the wake of Western capital, the Chinese intelligentsia initially found itself on the horns of a dilemma for if, on the one hand, it was striving for a renewed cultural and political independence and sovereignty for China, on the other, the effort to liberate itself from the yoke of foreign colonial powers implied the need for advanced and competitive technologies which, however, could only be acquired through the specific technical and scientific knowledge of those same powers. It thus became starkly evident that the traditional system of values and thought could no longer serve as the ideal framework for a social system that was being forced to adapt to modern conditions. Paradoxically, the hated Western usurpers also appeared as liberators, and the same Western imperialism and culture which the Chinese intellectuals blamed for the sudden, overwhelming crisis in which China found itself, also contained


For example, the explosive population growth which threatened the traditional balance of production and reproduction

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


elements that could show the downtrodden Chinese people the way to new prosperity. The confrontation between Chinese philosophers and Euro-American philosophy, was not merely the search for a fruitful syntheses between two different systems of thought and their respective intellectual histories, but a kind of “sinization” of European thought, and not so much in the sense of its modification, as the effort to find the most effective and comprehensive ways for introducing its specific methods, foundations and categorical apparatuses to a wider circle of Chinese intellectuals3 China’s contacts with the West in the domains of science, culture and philosophy were certainly not the result of a reciprocal intellectual curiosity between two equal and disinterested parties, but of political circumstances which, on the threshold of the 20th century, confronted China with the imperative and pressing need of mastering Western technology and its theoretical foundations and assumptions. Since most of the intellectuals of this period already possessed a solid, or even excellent knowledge of their own tradition before they began familiarizing themselves with Western thought, to a considerable extent this process meant integrating such thought into the frameworks of traditional Chinese worldviews. Generally speaking, Chinese philosophers of the 20th century sought a fruitful synthesis between the most influential Euro-American theories and traditional Chinese discourses. Only in this context, and carried out by philosophers who also had a very good knowledge of European, and especially German classical philosophy, is it possible to speak of new creative elaborations of the traditional concept of structure li. This modernized understanding of the ancient Chinese concept of structure, and its concomitant metaphysical and onto-epistemological theoretical adjustments and shifts, is exemplified in the works of two of the most influential Chinese philosophers of the 20th century who, each in their own way, followed the traditional structural worldview. In fact, what they have in common is that the concept of structure occupies the center of their philosophical systems. But before examining the work of these two modern theorists, we need to take a more detailed look at the subtle ways and methods by which the ancient Chinese structural worldview has insinuated itself into the modern syntheses of Chinese and Euro-American thought.


In this sense, China’s confrontation with the West can be compared with the sinization, integration and elaboration of Buddhist thought, which took place very gradually from the 2nd to the 6th centuries AD.


Chapter Five

The first significant revival of autochthonous Chinese thought did not take place before the start of the 20th century, with the birth of so-called Modern Confucianism (xin ruxue ᯠ݂ᆨ) and certain new theoretical developments in Chan ⾵ Buddhism. Although the Western notion of principle was generally translated with different compounds of the character li ⨶ (e.g. ৏⨶, 䚃⨶ etc.), Chinese philosophers during this period often maintained its traditional structural connotations. However, to contextualize these themes more fully, let us briefly examine some of the modern treatments of the traditional concept of structure, which was defined in a multitude of ways. Yan Fu ೤ ༽ (1854–1921), who is best known for his detailed expositions and translations of the chief works of British empiricism, and was also the first scholar to translate much of the specific terminology of the Western natural sciences, logic, epistemology and social sciences, placed the concept li ⨶ within the framework of natural laws which, in his view, had to be investigated scientifically in order to confirm their necessity (Yan Fu 1998, 85). His contemporary Wang Guowei ⦻഻㏝ (1877–1927) also elaborated the traditional concept of structure (li ⨶) in his own way, viewing it essentially as a rational structure of reason, a distinction which finds its conceptual basis in classical European philosophy. He thus considered it a comprehensive category, which included the level of causality (liyou ⨶⭡), as well as that of intellectual reason (lixing ⨶ ᙗ ) 4 . For Wang, the ancient Chinese concept li ⨶ comprised both these semantic levels, and he warned against deviating from the original simplicity of its basic semantic structure. The countless volumes, both in China and the West, which had been dedicated to this notion, and which proposed increasingly differentiated and complex elucidations of its meaning were, according to Wang, merely an exercise in redundancy, made possible by the fact that this was an abstract notion: ⨶ѻᾲᘥDŽDŽDŽަ൘ѝ഻ࡍн䙾䄲⢙ѻਟ࠶᷀㘼ᴹ㌫㎡㘵ˈ䕮䕹⴨ ُˈ䙲ᡀᵡᆀѻ⨶ণཚᾥ䃚ˈަ൘㾯⌻ᵜн䙾⨶⭡⨶ᙗҼ䃚ˈ䕮䕹⴨ ُˈࡽ㘵㹽⛪ᯟཊದ⍮ѻᆷᇉབྷ⨶䃚ˈᖼ㘵㹽⛪ᓧᗧԕ䱽ѻ䎵ᝏᛵⲴ ⨶ᙗ䃚ˈަ৫⨶ѻᵜ᜿പᐢ䚐⸓ˈ↔❑Ԇˈԕ⨶ѻа䃎⛪н㜭ⴤ㿰ѻ ᾲᘥˈ᭵ぞぞ䅜䃔ᗇ䱴↔㘼⭏ҏDŽ(Wang Guowei in Jiang Weiqiao 1932, 153)


Both terms are still used in this sense in modern Chinese.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


In China, the concept li at first only meant the structural order of things. Due to later semantic differentiations, it finally developed into Zhu Xi’s cosmological theory, in which structure was equated with the allembracing ultimate pole. In Western countries, there were originally two corresponding concepts: causality and reason. Due to later semantic differentiations, the former developed into the theory of an elementary cosmic principle, as advocated by the Stoics, and the latter into the Kantian notion of reason, which transcends the senses. (In both cases), the meaning of this concept departed from its original sense. The reason for this is quite simple: the concept li represents a linguistic notion which cannot be comprehended directly. It therefore led to numerous erroneous interpretations.

A rather traditional view of the concept li ⨶ can be found in Xiong Shili ➺ॱ࣋ (1885–1968), although his application of the term could easily be (and often was) translated by the word “principle”. Nonetheless, he clearly placed the classical Chinese distinction between the basic (cosmic) structure and manifold particular structural patterns at the heart of his approach: ഐ⛪а࠷ᆨ୿ᡰ⹄ウⲴ⨶, ਟ⮕䃚⛪Ҽ: аᴠ, 㠣аⲴ⨶. Ҽᴠ࠶↺Ⲵ⨶. 䙉㠣аⲴ⨶, ᱟ䙽⛪㩜ᴹⲴሖ億, 㘼нኜᯬ䜘࠶Ⲵ, ᱟ❑ᖒ⴨, ❑ᯩᡰ, ྭլᱟ❑ᡰᴹⲴ,..., ফ৸ᱟ❑ᡰнᴹⲴ, ަ࿉ྲ↔. 䙉⨶,㠣⦴㠣ᗞ, ᭵ ਽䀰ഠᯬ㺘⽪. ഐ⛪а࠷਽䀰Ⲵ㐓䎧, ᱟ੮Ӫ൘ሖ䳋⭏⍫ᯩ䶒, 㾱៹⭘ ааⲴሖ⢙. ഐ↔, ሽᯬа࠷⢙, н㜭нᴹ਽䀰... ᡁ‫⭘ف‬㺘⢙Ⲵ਽䀰ֶ 㺘䎵⢙Ⲵ⨶, 䙉ᱟཊ哬ഠ䴓Ⲵһ... ᡰԕ, ⦴ᆨкⲴ‫؞‬䗝, ᴰྭ⭘䚞䂞Ⲵ ᯩᔿ. (Xiong Shili 1992, 299–300) The methods of interrogating the structure, as applied by different disciplines, can be divided into two basic types: the first deals with the wholeness or unity of the all-embracing, absolute structure, and the second with the diversity of particular structures (structural patterns). The first kind of structure, i.e. the absolute one, embraces the substance of everything that exists; it cannot be divided into individual parts. This structure is formless and does not belong to any space. It appears to be without anything [...] but includes and embraces everything. This is the wonderful nature of this structure. It reaches the deepest level of darkest mystery and embraces the most elementary level of microcosmic particulars. Therefore, it is difficult to express in words or names, because the origins of all words and names were created by men and arise from the practical needs of their real lives. Hence, each individual thing has to have its name and a word by which it can be expressed [...] But, of course, it is very difficult to express a structure that transcends all things with words and names which were made to express things. Therefore, when dealing


Chapter Five with the hermeneutics of the most abstract, metaphysical concepts, it is better to use the method of latent interpretation.

He also seems to adopt the fundamental traditional approach when defining the epistemological function of structure: 㿰ሏ⨶ѻ䙊䋛㘼ว㉑ਟԕᗑ㑱. (Xiong Shili 1992, 357) By observing circulations within structures we can comprehend many of the tiniest parts of the variegated actuality.

For Jin Yuelin 䠁 ዣ 䵆 (1895–1984), reality was defined by links among various universals (‫)⴨ޡ‬, which formed the basic structure (li ⨶) that determined the dynamic process of the eternal coming into being and passing away of particulars. However, the precise moment in which a concrete particular came into being or ceased to exist, could not be completely defined or foreseen. Jin Yuelin named the coming into being and passing away of particulars “shi ऒ”, in the sense of a tendency. ‫Ⲵ⴨ޡ‬䰌㚟⛪⨶, ↺⴨Ⲵ⭏⓵⛪ऒ. (Jin Yuelin 1995, 315) The links among universals are structures, while the coming into being and passing away of particulars are tendencies.

While the structure (li ⨶) was necessary, tendencies (ऒ) could not be determined concretely. Jin Yuelin thus acknowledged both the necessity and contingency of all that exists. ‫ػ‬億ᓅ䆺अ, ⨶ᴹപ❦, ऒ❑ᗵ㠣. (Jin Yuelin 1995, 318) In the process of the change of particular things, principles are necessary, while tendencies are not determined.

Still, structure was not something eternal and absolute, since it could not exist in the “extreme emptiness”. ❑ᾥ⛪⨶ѻᵚ亟, ऒѻᵚⲬ. (Jin Yuelin 1995, 316) In the extreme emptiness (absence) structure had not yet appeared, and there were no tendencies.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


He also shared the traditional view that every continuous existence was conditioned by its congruency with the structure. а࠷нਸ⨶Ⲵ઼нᆼ㖾Ⲵһ⢙䜭㾱䙀╨␈⊠, 㘼а࠷ਸ⨶Ⲵ઼ᆼ㖾Ⲵ һ⢙䜭㾱䙀╨⨮ሖ. (Jin Yuelin 1995, 326–7) All incomplete things that are not in accordance with the structure have gradually been eliminated, while all perfect things which are congruent with the structure have gradually become complete.

The concept of structure also underlies his basic epistemological approach, by which a subject of comprehension that operates with images and concepts within the given actuality, can acquire a number of different judgements by applying sentences. Induction leads the subject to formulate general empirical judgements. If they are true, they represent links among universals, while also expressing the elementary structure (പ❦Ⲵ⨶), i.e. the foundation of objective reality. Even the Marxist philosopher, Feng Qi 俞ཱྀ (1915–1995), saw the process of perception and comprehension as an inter-relational network connecting the “nature of Nature” (ཙѻཙ), or things as such, into a coherent, structural order of facts and possibilities. This structural order revealed both the interconnections or interrelations between specific facts (or possibilities), as well as the principles incorporated in them. In such discourses, the structural worldview was expressed in the concept of a relational epistemology based upon the paradigm of a systemic connection among particular elements of (re)cognition. Structure was thus seen as a network that connected not only the subject and object of comprehension, but all the other links that constituted the process of recognition. None of these links was isolated or could exist alone. According to this epistemological paradigm, every existence was determined by the circulation (tong 䙊)5 among particular entities, which were part of the objective reality, as well as the subjective actuality.

The Relational Theory of Knowledge The naturalist epistemologies that prevailed in Western discourses were grounded in the presumed objective existence of the external world 5 In traditional Chinese philosophy, this term does not merely express circulation in a narrow sense, but also the integrity of all the particular entities that have been established because of it.


Chapter Five

(or objective reality) which, to a great extent, was independent of the subject of comprehension. In materialist worldviews, their mutual relation was defined by the primary position of the independent, existing object of comprehension. The opposing idealist and solipsist theories instead ascribed the primary position to the subject of comprehension, whose mind always defined and determined (and even created) the objects of comprehension. Traditional Chinese theories of knowledge mostly grew out of a completely different understanding of the world and of the role of human beings within it. We can call them relational or structural epistemologies, because the subject they refer to is the system or the structure of relations among particular entities that cannot exist outside of these relations. The relation as the basis, primary object and goal of any recognition manifests itself at all levels of the comprehension and transmission of existence. This relation is founded on a structurally conditioned connection between the human mind and the external world. However, because structure as such is composed of relations, no entity can be perceived, realized or comprehended in isolation from others. Not surprisingly, therefore, the relational aspect already permeates ancient Chinese differentiations which sought to establish a proper relation between names and actualities (਽ሖ), knowledge and action, or theory and praxis (⸕㹼). These patterns all concern interpersonal relations. In traditional China, such relations were always seen (at the axiological level) as being structurally connected with Nature, i.e., with the external world, which is not exclusively determined by the human will. Hence, the relational aspect as a core of comprehension was already evident in the specific structure of Chinese cosmology, expressed by the phrase the “holistic unity of men and Nature” (ཙӪਸа). This structure, composed of the complexity and integrity of relations in nature and society, thus represents a basic aspect of Chinese onto-epistemology. Due primarily to the influence of Buddhist thought, the ancient holistic approach to essence (億) and function (⭘) was later replaced by the subject (㜭) and object (ᡰ) of comprehension. This dual, categorical distinction that derived from traditional Indian thought would subsequently, in the 19th and especially the 20th century, aid Chinese philosophers in gaining a better understanding of Western theories of knowledge, which were based on an ontology of dividing substance from phenomena. (Rošker 2008, 313) In the first half of the 20th century, Chinese scholars had already attempted to re-establish the presumed unity of the subject and the object

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


of comprehension. Here, we need to mention Tan Sitong’s 㾳 ఓ ਼ elaboration of the concept of circulation, (䙊) which preconditions the interaction between the “external” reality and the reality as perceived by the human mind. Tan’s concept of circulation was defined by humanity (or inter-human mutuality, ren ӱ ), and by various other Neo-Confucian epistemological approaches6. While at the internal level, Tan’s circulation indicated a (merely) physiological connection between the sense organs, nervous system and brain, it was still preconditioned by the functioning of an (axiologically understood) relational framework. As we shall see later, a similar idea of circulation or decantation (⍱㹼) can also be found in Feng Youlan’s Modern Confucian unity of the mechanical and axiological aspects of cognizance, which he called the “Incorporation of the Way” (䚃億). In our discussion of epistemological panstructuralism later we shall also examine the work of Zhang Dongsun ᕥᶡ㫰, who affirmed that the relation between beings and actualities was not a one-dimensional connection between superficial phenomena and reality, which lay somewhere behind such phenomena. Instead, this relation was an integral circulation (“a relation of source and course”, yuanliu (Ⓚ⍱), like the roots and branches of a tree)7. The chief exponents of the Modern Confucian theory of knowledge, like Mou Zongsan ⢏ᇇй (1909–1995), generally tended to preserve the complementary understanding of both elements of comprehension. Mou tried to reproduce this by developing the concept of a “genuine”, i.e. objective subjectivity (Mou Zongsan 2003, V29, 75) The modern theoretician, Xia Zhentao ༿⬴䲦, instead produced a number of authentic and important theoretical approaches which could only be based on an authentic, comprehensive knowledge of classical Chinese epistemological discourses. Especially significant was his conviction that, according to the Chinese classics, the primary object of comprehension was not a specific entity (regardless of whether it was an

6 Cheng Hao 〻井 had already pointed out that if a person was not virtuous, he could not recognize his unity with Heaven (and with all that exists). Human virtue manifested itself in the harmony with Dao, seen as the highest principle of social ethics. Thus, the recognition of Heaven and the structure of the cosmos depended upon the recognition of men and the structure of society (Rošker 2008, 315). 7 With this metaphor Zhang, applied one of the traditional Chinese binary categories, that of roots and branches (ben ᵜ–mo ᵛ).


Chapter Five

entity of the “external” or “internal” world), but a relation8. In this respect, his theory stemmed from a profound critique of the Western philosophical tradition and its tendency towards abstract constructions of the world: ൘⨮ԓ, Ӫ‫Ⲵف‬㠸䏓઼⌘᜿࣋䎺ֶ䎺Პ‫ׯ‬ൠ⭡ሖ億䕹〫ࡠ䰌‫ײ‬. ❦㘼, ݈㇑㾯ᯩⲴ⮦ԓଢᆨ൘⹄ウ么ฏ઼ᙍ㏝ᯩᔿкⲬ⭏Ҷۣੁ, նӽ❦‫ڌ‬ ⮉൘ሽᯬц⭼Ⲵ䀓䟻к. ଢᆨᇦྲ᷌ᢺଢᆨਚⴻ֌ᱟេ㠚ᐡⲴᲪភֶ 䀓䟻ц⭼, 䛓ᱟ䴓ԕᗩᓅᗎᣭ䊑⦻഻ѝ䎠ֶࠪіⵏ↓䎠䙢⨮ሖц⭼Ⲵ. (Xia Zhentao 2000, 5) At the present time, attention is being increasingly diverted away from substance and directed toward relations. However, even though contemporary Western philosophy has shifted its areas of research and mode of thinking, it still remains limited to explanations of the world. Philosophers who view philosophy only as an explanation of the world from their own standpoint, will scarcely be able to abandon the Kingdom of Abstractions and enter into the real, actual world.

In the modern integration of traditional approaches with the philosophical currents of the 20th century, the overall process is generally based upon elaborations of the interactions between the subject and object of comprehension. In such models they are no longer seen as absolute, mutually exclusive entities, but as two interactive, complementary poles of correlative relations, which reveal the multi-layered structure of reality and of human comprehension9. Between them, there is a complex mean which does not belong a-priori to either pole, but has been created by their dynamic inter-relations with the physical (material) and spiritual (ideal) aspects of existence (Rošker 2008, 317). All that exists is thus involved in a process of constant, unending change, which constantly produces countless modifications of structural connections and, at the same time, the “essential” quality of particular entities10. Since the universe is made up entirely of relational connections, no independent, self-sufficient entity can exist. Everything that exists is


This extremely significant aspect of Chinese epistemology, which is also very pertinent to contemporary intercultural debates in this field, is examined in detail in the final section. 9 Here, we should recall Zhang Dongsun’s important supposition that the relation between these two poles is not a direct one. 10 As we shall see, Zhang Dongsun denied the notion of substance and its qualities; therefore, all these structures were empty

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


therefore (at least potentially) part of an all-connecting, all-embracing structure, which is neither material nor ideal in its essence. In today’s China, which continues to forge ahead at an incredible rate in order to become one of the political and economic superpowers of the 21st century, it would be difficult to find many theorists who feel the need to elaborate or further develop the traditional structural approaches to the perception, comprehension and interpretation of reality11. But this shift (or, in terms of classical Chinese discourses, renewal) from an epistemological focus on investigations (and explanations) of substance towards the comprehension and interpretation of relations, is of fundamental importance for the further development of contemporary Chinese philosophy, especially in the area of epistemological theory. The epistemological shift that during the last century was represented by the theory of panstructuralism (which was completely unknown outside China) offers a key element for the formative linking of contemporary Chinese theoretical aspirations with topical ideal elements from the classical Chinese tradition. In any case, exploring these new approaches would certainly open the way for the clarification of the epistemic foundations of the humanities and social sciences today, and at an international level. But before examining Zhang Dongsun’s system of structural epistemology, we must briefly examine the renewal of the traditional Chinese concept of structure (li), as elaborated by Feng Youlan in his confrontations with Euro-American thought.

Renewal of Structure in Modern Confucianism: Feng Youlan’s 俞৻㱝 (1895–1990) “New School of Structure” (ᯠ⨶ᆨ) Feng Youlan’s principal work, The New School of Structure (Xin Lixue ᗳ⨶ᆨ) 12 can be seen as an elaboration and modernization of a number of structurally determined Neo-Confucian theories, especially those found in the works of Cheng Yi 〻乔, Cheng Hao 〻井 and Zhu Xi ᵡ ⟩ , and for this reason focuses primarily upon the treatment and interpretation of the concept of structure (li ⨶). In the opening pages of this very influential work which would prove to be of paramount 11 As exceptions to this situation, we should mention Prof. Xia Zhentao ༿⬴䲦 (1939), Prof. Hu Jun 㜑䓽 (1951) and Prof. Zhang Yaonan ᕥ㘰ই (1963). 12 The title of this work also refers more generally to his philosophical system.

Chapter Five


importance for the further development of Chinese philosophy in the 20th century, the author states: ᵜᴨ਽⛪㕘⨶ᆨ. օԕ਽⛪㕘⨶ᆨ? ... ➗ᡁ‫⌅ⴻⲴف‬, ᆻ᰾ԕᖼᓅ䚃ᆨ, ᴹ⨶ᆨᗳᆨҼ⍮.ᡁ‫⨮ف‬൘ᡰ䅋ѻ㌫㎡, བྷ億кᱟ᢯᧕ᆻ᰾䚃ᆨѝѻ⨶ ᆨа⍮. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 544) The present work is entitled The New School of Structure (Principles). Why? […] As we all know, the theoretical teachings13 of the Song and Ming Dynasties later divided into two schools, the School of Principles and the School of Mind. The system presented herein can be seen essentially as a development and elaboration of the latter.

Despite Feng’s relatively coherent application of Neo-Confucian terminology, he redefined the central terms of this pre-modern Chinese philosophical system in the light of a formal, analytical system based upon a logical, metaphysical understanding of the nature of being. He indicated the main qualitative differences among the three levels of existence which, in his view, were completely distinct from one another (Pfister 2002, 170): - The level of concrete existing things (һ⢙), - The level of reality or actuality (ሖ䳋), - The level of truth and verity ( ⵏ 䳋 ) consisting of structure or structural patterns (li ⨶). Feng argued that the primary task of philosophy was to investigate the third level, that of truth and structure. He further concluded that truth and verity (zhenji ⵏ䳋) also implied entities that had not yet (or necessarily) been created or realized in the phenomenal reality, i.e. in the sphere of actuality (shiji ሖ䳋). For this reason, investigations, researches, analyses and interpretations of this level constituted the true aim of philosophy: ଢᆨਚሽᯬⵏ䳋ᴹᡰ㛟ᇊ, 㘼н⢩ࡕሽᯬሖ䳋ᴹᡰ㛟ᇊ. ⵏ䳋㠷ሖ䳋н ਼, ⵏ䳋ᱟᤷࠑਟᡀ⛪ᴹ㘵, Ӗਟ਽⛪ᵜ❦; ሖ䳋ᱟਚᴹһሖᓅᆈ൘㘵, Ӗਟ਽⛪㠚❦. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 549) Philosophy should only seek to define the truth; it must not concern itself with actuality. Truth and actuality are two different things: while the former embraces everything that can possibly exist, the latter refers only to concrete existing things. Hence, the first can be called originality, and the latter Nature.


Lit.: “the teachings of the Way”.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


Investigations on the level of actuality as such, did not belong to the domain of philosophy, but rather to that of the natural sciences. ࠑଢᆨѝѻ⍮ࡕᡆ䜘࠶ሽᯬሖ䳋ᴹᡰ㛟ᇊ㘵, ণ䘁ᯬ、ᆨ. ަሽᯬሖ䳋 ᡰ㛟ᇊ㘵᜸ཊ, ণ᜸䘁ᯬ、ᆨ. 、ᆨ㠷ଢᆨѻṩᵜн਼൘↔.ᡰԕᡁ‫ف‬ 䃚ଢᆨ㠷、ᆨѻн਼, ᱟぞ于ᓅн਼. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 550) All philosophers and all philosophical currents dealing with actuality are close to science. The more they deal with actuality, the closer they are to science. This is precisely the difference between science and philosophy. Therefore, I believe that the basic difference between science and philosophy is a difference of type (categories).

Feng’s Elaboration of the Neo-Confucian Concept of Structure: Li as Reason Feng’s innovative contributions to the concept of structure are most evident when considered in terms of his criticism of the “deficiencies” he found in the classical Neo-Confucian system. As opposed to Zhu Xi’s school, in which structure (li ⨶) was still defined as the primary pattern of immanent metaphysics, Feng stressed the strict separation between the sphere of metaphysics and that of (concrete, i.e. physical) actuality. Since Feng’s structure (li ⨶) was an exclusively logical concept, it could not exist in the sphere of concrete existing things as a materialized entity. In the classical Neo-Confucian view in which structures were seen as belonging to the sphere of concrete, materialized actuality, and conditioned by the coordinates of time and space, Feng saw a categorical mistake due to the inability to differentiate between metaphysics and ontology. Consequently, Neo-Confucians continued to focus too much attention on the nature and functions of principle 14 . By stripping away these cosmological claims, Feng offered a more circumscribed, logical account of principle that refined and clarified the metaphysical status of human nature, while also claiming to resolve the dualism inherent in neoConfucian discourses on the relation between principle and vital energy. Here, it is evident how Feng's attention to formal analytical logic, the methodological keystone of his philosophical system, constituted a major modern departure from traditional Principle Learning. (Pfister 2002, 177)


Pfister translates the concept li as “principle”.


Chapter Five

This clear-cut distinction between immanent and transcendent metaphysics also helps explain another, equally important difference between the Neo-Confucianism of the Song ᆻ Dynasty and Feng’s philosophical system. This difference is best exemplified in his embracing of historical materialism, a “conversion” which, however, was not due to the political pressures to which he was subjected after the founding of the PRC, given that he had argued in favor of Marxist methodology as early as 1936 (Pfister 2002, 178). Because he understood the structure li ⨶ as a logical maxim unburdened by time/space coordinates, this historically limited materialism in no way contradicted his historically undetermined metaphysics. For him, the processes of changing factual actuality had no connection whatsoever with the metaphysical state of principle and could therefore be interpreted and evaluated within the scope of materialist assumptions. This also explains why Feng, as opposed to many other, more orthodox Modern Confucians of the 20th Century, could also argue for modernization, including industrialization and the development of a free market economy. (Rošker 2008, 165)

Hence, at the fore of his philosophical system was a renewed and revised concept of structure (li ⨶), even though it was generally translated with the term “principle” by later Western commentators: Feng claimed that his logical account of the status of principle 15 was a modern correction and extension of previous descriptions of the concept in medieval Neo-Confucian teachings. It corrected a confusion between cosmological and metaphysical realms which Feng’s logical analysis of principle resolved and thus provided new ways of responding to a number of classical problems in that tradition. (Rošker 2008, 165)

For Feng, every existing thing ( һ ⢙ ) is composed of a certain substance (and also of a certain potential of energy), as well as structures or structural patterns, that cause this thing to be as it is. However, the structure not only makes possible the concrete manifestation (substantiation, and manifestation or incorporation) of a given thing, but also provides us with the conditions for the rational evaluation of things, occurrences and interactions according to their specific categories (lei 于) (Rošker 2008, 165).


Here, he refered to the concept li ⨶.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


аぞ, ণа于, ⢙, ᴹаぞ⢙ѻ⨶. аぞһᴹаぞһѻ⨶, аぞ䰌‫ײ‬ᴹа ぞ䰌‫ײ‬ѻ⨶. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 569) (Every) particular kind, i.e. (every) particular category of things is defined by the structure of this category. Each kind of occurrence (pursuit) is defined by the structure of this kind of occurrence (pursuit). And each kind of relation is also defined by the structure of this kind of relation.

Thus, a structure is not a thing, but is only latent (▋ᆈ) within things. As such, it represents an ontological postulate, which is metaphysically linked to the dimension of the totality of actuality, as well as to every particular thing within it. It therefore exceeds the dimension of actuality, which can be called “Nature”. ⨶, ᆻ݂Ӗち⛪ཙ⨶. ᡁ‫ف‬Ӗਟち⨶⛪ཙ⨶. ᡁ‫ف‬ԕк᮷䃚, ཙެᵜ❦㠚 ❦Ҽ㗙. ⨶ᱟᵜ❦㘼ᴹ, ᵜֶᐢᴹ; ᭵ᱟᵜ❦; ᭵ਟち⛪ཙ⨶. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 570) The Neo-Confucians of the Song Dynasty also called structure “the structure of Nature”. We too can use this term, for the concept of Nature contains two meanings, that of originality and that of naturalness (in the sense of something being as it is). The structure is original and primary, since it exists from the very beginning. Because it is primary, it can be called the Natural structure.

According to Feng, structure is the reason for the existence of properties that define existing things16. Structure or structural patterns (yili 㗙⨶) are what make each particular thing as it is, as well as what makes all things as they are. All things with a certain property necessarily imply something which dictates this property or makes it possible. They necessarily imply something in accordance with which this property can be established. Feng uses the example of squareness, arguing that the structure of squareness is that by which square things are square, and by which all square things are square. ᯩѻ⨶ = ᯩ㘵ᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵 (Feng Youlan 1999b, 558) The structure of squareness is that which makes square things square. 16

See Feng’s citation in Chapter 4: ᡰ䄲ᯩѻ⨶, ᰒᯩѻᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵 Ӗণа࠷ ᯩᓅ⢙ѻᡰԕ❦ѻ⨶ҏ ࠑᯩᓅ⢙ᗵᴹަᡰԕ⛪ᯩ㘵 ᗵⲶ‫➗׍‬ᯩ㘵ᡰԕ⛪ ᯩ㘵 ↔ᯩѻᡰԕ⛪ᯩ ⛪ࠑᯩᓅ⢙ᡰⲶ‫➗׍‬㘼ഐԕᡀ⛪ᯩ㘵 ᰒᯩѻ⨶ (Feng Youlan 1999b, 558)

Chapter Five


This affirmation can be reformulated as follows: x ѻ⨶ = x ѻᡰԕ⛪ x 㘵 The structure of (the property) x is that which makes all things with (the property) x, possess (the property) x.

Structure or any structural pattern that has been realized in actuality, represents the inner nature of every concrete thing: ⨶ѻሖ⨮ᯬ⢙㘵⛪ᙗ. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 559) The actualization of structure within things is their (inner) nature.

The structures (or structural patterns) that have not yet been realized in actuality, are merely real (zhen ⵏ), but not actual (shi ሖ). Structures or structural patterns (li) are thus a kind of code that defines the properties of things as well as their possibilities or potentials. Properties form kinds and are ordered in accordance with them. Therefore, all things that belong to a certain kind, possess a common property that defines this kind. This property that is thus shared by all things that belong to a certain kind, can appear separately from the thing (i.e. as such) as the object of our reasoning17. In this case, the object of our reasoning is the structure (li), i.e. the reason because of which all things of the same kind imply the very property by which this kind is defined18 . Feng stressed (Pfister 2002, 169) that his philosophy offered a new insight into Nature and the status of conceptual categories (lei 于). ᴹḀぞ⨶ਟᴹḀぞһ⢙ѻ于. ᡁ‫ف‬䃚ᆳਟᴹ, ഐ⛪ᆳнᗵᴹ. Ḁ⨶ਟԕ ਚᴹⵏ㘼❑ሖ. ྲަਚᴹⵏ㘼❑ሖ, ࡷަਟᴹѻḀぞһ⢙ѻ于, ਚᱟਟ ᴹᓅ, 㘼нᱟሖᴹᓅ (Feng Youlan 1999b, 561). If there is a certain structure, then the kind (category) of a certain thing can also exist. I say it can exist, because it does not exist necessarily. Some 17

Here, Feng refers to the Nominalist, Gongsun Long ‫ޜ‬ᆛ喽 (ca 284–259 BC), who examined this problem in his treatise The Separation of Consistency and Whiteness 䴒ีⲭ. 18 The property which is separated from the thing by which it is implied was named referent (zhi ᤷ). He defined the pure referent (㍄ⵏ䳋Ⲵᤷ) as hidden (zang 㯿), while the referent that is realized in actuality (ሖ䳋Ⲵᤷ) was denoted as the actual referent. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 559)

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


principles exist only in verity, and not in actuality. If a principle only exists in verity and not in actuality, the existence of the corresponding kind (category) is possible, but not necessary.

Thanks to this new logical distinction, which provides the basis for the correct evaluation of all structures ( ⨶ ), Feng’s system differs fundamentally from both empirical approaches and the scientific evaluation of the empirical qualities of things. But Feng also refuted the interpretation by which a property which is separated from things is merely an abstraction that can be arrived at through the deductive method, i.e. by generalizing a property observed in a multitude of concrete things. This position implies an equivalence between reality and actuality, in which: ⵏ䳋ণᱟሖ䳋, ሖ䳋ѻཆі❑ⵏ䳋 (Feng Youlan 1999b, 561) …reality is the same as actuality and outside of actuality there is no reality.

In fact, due to the clear distinction between these two spheres or levels, for Feng the structure was objectively present, existent. Thus, structure was not the same as recognition or the cognitive reflection of certain properties. This sort of knowledge of the structure constituted a concept (gainian ᾲᘥ), while structure in the sense of particular things “being a certain way” could not be considered as merely a concept. To illustrate this idea he uses the example of the number three which, he argued, exists on three different levels: 1. The level of concrete things Æ three tables, three rabbits, three bowls as concrete manifestations of the number three 2. The level of the number three as an abstract number 3. The reason by which something appears in a triple manner Æ the number three as objective reality or structure. This third level exists independently of the realization or nonrealization in the sphere of concrete actuality. According to Feng, mathematics can imply fixed patterns or paradigms precisely because of the existence of this third level. If it dealt only with concepts, its laws would be arbitrary (Feng Youlan 1999b, 561). Feng Youlan also addressed the question of the possible comprehension of the structure (of numbers or squareness), arguing that we can only perceive the conditions by which this comprehension is determined, together with its logical process, but none of the concrete contents of this possibility. Therefore we cannot know why (and in what manner) the structure li ⨶ can be comprehended.


Chapter Five

ྲ୿: ᡁ‫Ⲵف‬ᙍ,օԕ㜭⸕ 'й' ᡆ 'ᯩ'? ↔↓ྲ୿: ᡁ‫⵬Ⲵف‬, օԕ㜭㾻㌵ 㢢? ↔Ҽ୿乼, ਼анਟ䀓ㆄ. ᡁ‫ف‬പਟቡ⭏⨶ᆨᯩ䶒, ሷᡁ‫⵬Ⲵف‬ѻ㎀ Ώ֌а⹄ウ, ԕ⛪ྲ↔㎀Ώ, 䙷Ḁぞࡪ◰, ᡁ‫ف‬ণᴹ㌵㢢ѻᝏ㿪. ն↔н 䙾䃚᰾, ᡁ‫ف‬ᴹ㌵㢢ᝏ㿪ᱲᡰ䴰㾱ѻọԦ, ৺ަᡰ㏃䙾ѻ〻ᒿ. ն൘↔ ọԦѻл, ㏃↔〻ᒿѻᖼ, ᡁ‫ف‬օԕᴹ㌵㢢ѻᝏ㿪, ӽᵚ䃚᰾. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 560) Let us suppose someone asks: How can our thoughts know “three” or “squareness”? This is the same as asking: How can our eyes see the color red? There is no answer to such questions. Of course, we can from the viewpoint of biology investigate the structure of our eyes and discover that this structure enables us to perceive the color red when confronted with the corresponding stimulus. But this merely says something about conditions and processes which take place when we perceive the color red. It does not say anything about how––irrespective of these conditions and processes–– the color red is perceived.

In continuing with the example of the perception and comprehension of the color red, Feng goes on to explain the formation of concepts, affirming that at the same moment that we perceive the color red, we also comprehend it. In other words, we are not only aware that we have perceived something red, but also know that what we have perceived is of the color red. The fact that we can express judgments or statements to the effect that something is red demonstrates that we are familiar with the concept of red. This concept, however, cannot be equated with the reason for which red things are red. ↔㌵ѻᡰԕ⛪㌵㘵, ін൘ᡁ‫ف‬ᗳѝ, ᡁ‫ف‬ᗳѝᡰᴹ㘵, 䴆Ӗ⛪㌵ᓅ⢙ ᡰ‫➗׍‬, նнণ൘㌵ᓅ⢙ѝ, Ӗнণᱟ㌵ᓅ⢙. ഐ⛪‫֯ٷ‬ሖ䳋к❑㌵ᓅ ⢙, 䚴ਟᴹ㌵ѻᡰԕ⛪㌵㘵. ↔㌵ѻᡰԕ⛪㌵㘵, ণᱟ⨶. ᡁ‫ف‬ሽѻѻ⸕ 䆈, ণᱟᡁ‫ف‬ᡰᴹሽ㌵㢢ѻᾲᘥ. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 560) The reason for which red things are red, is not in our mind. While it is true that what is in our mind, is that in accordance with which red things are red, this is not something implied in red things nor in a red thing as such. For even if we assume that there are no red things in the actual world, that because of which red things are red would still exist. That because of which red things are red, is a structure (li). Our awareness of it, however, is the concept of red.

What, therefore, enables us to know of the existence of structure? To answer this question, Feng once again refers to the color red, reiterating

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


that while it is possible to recognize the biological and psychological conditions and processes which determine this perception, we cannot know why it is possible, i.e. we can comprehend the concept of structure (li), but not the structure itself. The true structure (zhen li ⵏ⨶) exists beyond the limited possibilities of our comprehension. After the concept of structure has been “properly” understood, it can be regarded as existing, not only in the sense of concrete “things”, but also in the sense of logical entities that can be metaphysically recognized by the mind (ᗳ). Structure (⨶) can thus transcend time and space as a logical, recognizable entity that is not (necessarily) linked to the dimension of actuality. Hence, specific structures 19 are connected to more complex entities that form the complete oneness of the ultimate extreme (ཚᾥ). ᡰᴹѻ⨶ѻ‫ޘ‬億, ᡁ‫ف‬Ӗਟԕѻ⛪а‫ޘ‬㘼ᙍѻ. ↔‫ޘ‬ণᱟཚᾥ. ᡰᴹ⵮ ⨶ѻ‫ޘ‬, ণᱟᡰᴹ⵮ᾥѻ‫ޘ‬, 㑭ᤜ⵮ᾥ, ᭵ᴠཚᾥ. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 574) The totality of all (particular) structures can also be understood as a complete oneness. This complete oneness is identical with the ultimate extreme. The wholeness of all connections of principles is identical to the wholeness of all connections of extremes and can therefore be summarized as the ultimate extreme.

Feng claimed (Feng Youlan 1999b, 574) that his suppositions belong to the sphere of pure objectivism (chun keguan lun ㍄ᇒ㿰䄆). In this framework, li is an absolute structure that belongs to the sphere of reality, which exists independently of our mind.

The Structural Pattern (㗙⨶) Structures which are more complex are composed of smaller patterns which are compatible with its fundamental constitution. The sameness or compatibility of structural patterns is a precondition for composing more and more complex structures with the same pattern, but also for the formation of circulation (tong 䙊 ) that represents an effect of this integration. Feng named this structural pattern yili 㗙⨶20. 19

That is, structures (li ⨶) that can be understood as being specific. In Neo-Confucian texts, this expression was mainly used to denote structural paradigms of righteousness (see for example Ӻກ‫ۿ‬儈儈൘кˈ㘼䁝ಘ⳯ᯬൠˈ ⭊❑㗙⨶DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Gui shen, 52)), whereas in pre-Qin philosophy (and in 20


Chapter Five 㗙⨶ਟԕ䃚ᱟ⨶ѻ㗙. 㗙⨶ਟ⏥䁡ཊࡕᓅ⨶. ↔⨶ᡰ⏥ѻ⨶, ণ↔⨶ѻ 㗙.↔⨶⏥䁡ཊ⨶, ণ↔⨶ᴹ䁡ཊ㗙. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 575) We can affirm that a structural pattern is the (principle of) righteousness implied in the structure. Each structural pattern can contain numerous other structures. The structure which is implied in another structure, is its structural pattern. And if a certain structure implies many smaller ones, then it implies many patterns21.

Feng tried to explain this pattern, which is a principle of both association and compatibility, using human beings as an example. In his view, basic human structure implies numerous partial patterns, such as the structural patterns of living beings, animals, reason, morality, and so forth. In keeping with his theoretical system, he divided structural patterns into original, actual and real ones (Feng Youlan 1999b, 575). All these patterns correspond to parallel patterns of existence. Regardless of the concrete level at which a particular pattern is situated, it always represents the basic paradigm which, thanks to the same internal constitution, enables simpler structures to be integrated with more complex ones.

Structure and Creativity (⨶≓), the Integrity of all Structures (ཚᾥ) and the Incorporation of the Way (䚃億) As with the Neo-Confucian thought of the Song ᆻ Dynasty, at the core of Feng’s philosophical system there is not only the concept of principle ( ⨶ ), but also its inseparable polar opposite, the concept of creativity (≓). Feng thus viewed every single thing and every single state (occurrence) as a complex entity, composed of one or more structures li ⨶ and the corresponding principle of creativity qi ≓. The latter also includes the dimension of substantiality, which enables something to concretely materialize itself, that is, to manifest itself as an actual, tangible thing. ᴹ⨶ᗵᴹ≓. ᡁ‫⭘ُف‬䙉ਕ䂡ᡰ㾱䃚ᓅ᜿ᙍᱟ, ᴹሖ⨮ᓅ⨶, ᗵᴹሖ⨮ ⨶ᓅ≓. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 593) Feng Youlan’s works) it signified a pattern. 21 The Chinese character yi 㗙 which is commonly associated with justice or righteousness, implies many other connotations: the meaning “pattern” probably arose from the semantic scope that implies “relationship, affiliation, bond, association, reproduction, connection” etc. All these notions also pertain to various meanings of the character yi 㗙.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


If there is a structure (li), there must also be creativity (qi). This means that as soon as there is an actualized structure, there must also be creativity that enables the principle to be realized.

Li and qi are not seen as concrete things, but as objective potentials within the dimension of verity (ⵏ䳋) and actuality (ሖ䳋). ᡁ‫ف‬н㜭䃚≓ᱟ⭊哬... ≓інᱟ⭊哬. ᡰԕ≓ᱟ❑਽, Ӗち⛪❑ᾥ. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 594) We cannot say what creativity really is. It is nothing. Therefore, it has no name and can be denoted as the extreme absence.

In Feng’s philosophy, qi ≓ has a twofold connotation. In the first instance, which is relative, the expression qi ≓ refers to substantial matter, of which every concrete existing thing or situation is composed. Instead, the second, which is absolute, has a much broader sense and refers mainly to vital energy or, more specifically, to the ultimate (concrete) reason or elementary potential, which preconditions any form of existence. ਚᱟа࠷һ⢙ᡰԕ㜭ᆈ൘㘵, 㘼ަᵜ䓛, ࡷਚᱟаਟ㜭ᓅᆈ൘. ഐ⛪ᆳ ਚᱟаਟ㜭ᓅᆈ൘, ᡰԕᡁ‫ف‬н㜭୿: ⭊哬ᱟ ᆳᡰԕ㜭ᆈ൘㘵. 䙉ቡᱟ ᯠ⨶ᆨѝᡰ䄲ⵏ‫ݳ‬ѻ≓. ≓ᴠⵏ‫ݳ‬, ቡᱟ㺘⽪, ↔ᡰ䄲≓, ᱟቡަ㎅ሽ᜿ 㗙䃚. ᡁ‫ف‬䃚≓, 䜭ᱟቡ㎅ሽᓅ᜿㗙䃚. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 594) It is the reason by which things can exist. As such, it is thus only the possibility of existence. Since it is only the possibility of existence, we can no longer ask what makes its own existence possible. Thus, it is that same original and genuine creativity, as was understood by the New School of Structure. However, original and genuine qi is only an expression. The word qi refers to the level of its absoluteness. When we speak of (the concept of) qi, we must therefore always bear in mind this absolute level.

Feng, who consistently applied Neo-Confucian terminology, denoted the totality of all principles the “ultimate extreme” (ཚᾥ), while the totality of all transformations of things into and out of the sphere of existence he called the “Incorporation of the Way” (䚃億). Hence, actual existence was seen as a stream, which leads from the extreme absence to the ultimate extreme. The unity of all streams he also denoted as the “Incorporation of the Way”, which signified the ordered progress from extreme absence (wuji ❑ᾥ) to the ultimate extreme (Taiji ཚᾥ). The concepts of structure (li) and creativity (qi) were derived from the rational


Chapter Five

analysis of actualities, while the ‘Incorporation of the Way’ was a concept obtained through the rational syntheses of actuality. A similar concept was that of the “Great Perfection” (བྷ‫)ޘ‬, by which he meant the comprehension of the totality of the philosophical cosmos, which included its dimensions of verity, actuality and concrete reality. Of course, all these concepts are abstract, and thus do not exist in the concrete actuality. ൘ᗳ⨶ᆨⲴᖒкᆨⲴ㌫㎡ѝ, ᴹഋ‫ػ‬ѫ㾱ᓅ㿰ᘥ, ቡᱟ⨶, ≓, 䚃億, ৺ བྷ‫ޘ‬. (Feng Youlan 1999b, 591) The metaphysical system of the New school of Principles includes four main concepts. These are the concepts of principle, substantiality, the Incorporation of the Way and the Great Perfection.

As we have seen, structure (⨶) is also the metaphysical precondition for the existence of concrete things, because it is latently (▋ᆈ) present (ᴹ) within them as a metaphysical pattern or ontological foundation that conditions in a primary way the existence of all concrete, factual things. This all-embracing process, by which things, connected to their structures, flow in and out of actuality, Feng called the “Incorporation of the Way” (䚃億) (Feng Youlan 1999a, 598). The “Incorporation of the Way” is unimaginable and inexpressible, because it is the stream of everything. According to Feng, language and thought are also a kind of stream. The “Incorporation of the Way” as a part of language and thought does not include this stream. Since it does not include it, it cannot be regarded as the stream of everything (Feng Youlan 1999b, 598). In the scope of actuality and reality, the wholeness of the dimension of actuality, including its metaphysical basis (structure li ⨶)22 manifests itself in the “Great Perfection” (བྷ‫ ޘ‬, which is that extreme vastness beyond which there is nothing. In Feng’s view, the “Great Perfection” is similar to the term “cosmos” as applied in Western philosophy (Feng Youlan 1999b, 598), and includes both reality and actuality. Feng can be considered a philosophical realist (Pfister 2002, 170–1) because even though he ascribed the highest ontological status to structure, he also gave a supreme epistemological value to the recognition of it. A system constructed upon these structures was thus the “most philosophical” of philosophies. Feng’s interpretation of the Neo-Confucian notion of structure represents a novelty, especially with respect to its relation with actuality. 22

... and including the thinker, who is thinking his thoughts (Pfister 2002, 170).

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


This new attempt to elaborate and modernize the concept li can be seen as constituting his specific method for establishing a new concept of metaphysics through traditional Chinese philosophy.

Zhang Dongsun’s ᕥᶡ㫰 (1886–1973) Epistemological Panstructuralism (㤳ᷦΏѫ㗙) In terms of the scope and themes we have set for ourselves in the present study, Zhang Dongsun is probably the philosopher who has provided us with the most significant body of modern theoretical work. He was one of a handful of theorists who succeeded in connecting the topical trends of Euro-American theory of the first half of the 20th century with the precious heritage of specific structural approaches to comprehension that had been developed within traditional Chinese thought. The period in which Zhang Dongsun elaborated his system was one of the most turbulent in modern Chinese intellectual and political history and, in keeping with the priorities and imperatives of his time, his work can be seen as the search for a synthesis between his own tradition and the most significant and relevant approaches of traditional and modern EuroAmerican thought. As a theorist, Zhang assimilated the most Western thought, established the most comprehensive and well-coordinated theoretical system, and exerted the greatest influence among Western oriented Chinese philosophers. (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 66). At the core of his philosophical system is pluralistic epistemology, which he derived from a revised version of Kantian philosophy. To justify such an epistemology, he proposed a new cosmology: panstructuralism (fanjiagouzhuyi ⌋ᷦΏѫ㗙).

An important assumption in his theory of knowledge is the neo-realist view that the external world exists independently of our consciousness, and that there is no exact correlation between external phenomena and our comprehension of such phenomena. However, the external cause of our sensation is not a substance, but the order or structure of the external world. What is transmitted to us through our sensory impressions is a modification of this external order. This means, for example, that the Theory of Relativity is important only in terms of recognizing structural laws, and not in terms of recognizing any new essences in Nature or the cosmos. (Rošker 2008, 232–54) Plural epistemology argues that sense impressions are a form of nonbeing; as such, they are without a position in the ontological sense, i.e.


Chapter Five

they do not possess an “ontological statute”. All beings exist in a process of constant change that manifests itself in a never-ending modification of structural connections, and the development and decline of the qualities of the “essence” of particular entities (Rošker 2008, 232–54). In Zhang’s view, our mind can only recognize certain aspects of these manifest changes. But this refers not only to the level of our perception and comprehension, for the structured order of relations is all that really exists in the cosmos. The relation between the external world and our subjectivity is interactive and correlative. Combining the Buddhist idea of non-substance with a theory of evolution, Zhang argued that the structures of the universe, although empty, are constantly evolving, such that new kinds of structures may emerge due to changes in the combination of various structures. (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 65) Other important areas of Zhang’s theoretical investigations include his efforts to elaborate the dialectical dimension of Aristotelian logic, connect logic, language and methods of disputation, and determine the principles and formal elements of the logic of linguistic pragmatism. His investigations into the influence of Chinese language on the development of Chinese philosophy constitute a very innovative and influential area of his work. He was the first philosopher who identified correlative thinking as a primary characteristic of Chinese philosophy and analogical argumentation as a specifically Chinese mode of inference (Rošker 2008, 258). His theoretical system belongs to the category of so-called “structural epistemologies” (Psillos 2001, 13), which are based on the presupposition that all we can recognize of the external world is the structure of the external order (tiaoli ọֻ). At first glance, we could place him among the defenders of an epistemology of structural realism, which postulates an objective reality that exists independently of our mind, and structure as a basic element of our existence and comprehension: Structural Realism (SR) is meant to be a substantive philosophical position concerning what there is in the world and what can be known about it. It is realist because it typically asserts the existence of a mind and an independent world, and it is structural because what is knowable of the world is said to be its structure only. The basic thesis is that we can only acquire knowledge regarding the structural features of the world. (Psillos 2001, 13)

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


Pluralist Epistemology and the Absence of Substance Despite his consuming interest in modern Western philosophical discourses, Zhang remained essentially loyal to the Chinese tradition of thought; in fact, his philosophy cannot be classified as belonging to any of the Western categories, which are defined by a rigorous demarcation between the realist and solipsist (or idealist) worldviews. As we have just described, the core and basis of Zhang’s philosophic system was so-called pluralist epistemology, while the new cosmology founded upon the structural overlapping of ontological and epistemological suppositions he called Panstructuralism (㤳ᷦΏѫ㗙). A fundamental assumption of his theory of knowledge – which owes much to Kant’s philosophy and his definition of the ‘thing as such’ (Ding an sich, wu zi shen ⢙㠚䓛, benran wu ᵜ❦⢙)––is the neo-realist view that the external world exists independently of our mind, and that there is no exact correlation between external phenomena and our comprehension of them. Consequently, we are unable to perceive these phenomena as they really are. Zhang therefore divided reality into the “original state of things (⢙Ⲵᵜ⴨)” and “things for us (ᡁ‫ف‬ᡰ䄲⢙)”. (Liu Wenying 2002, Part 2, 866) ᡁ‫ف‬Პ䙊ᡰ䄲⢙,ণᱟᡁ‫ف‬ᡰⴻ㾻Ⲵᱟ乿㢢, ᡰ䀨᪨Ⲵᱟᖒ⁓.䙉Ӌ䜭ᱟ ⢙Ⲵ 'ᙗ䌚'. ਟ㾻䴒Ҷᙗ䌚ቡ⋂ᴹᡰ䄲⢙. (Zhang Dongsun 1929, 23–4) What we commonly call “a thing” is a color that we see, and a form that we touch. These are the “qualities” of a thing. If we do not consider the qualities, then /for us/ there are no things.

We can find similar views in the classical Chinese tradition, especially among the late Mohists ໘ᇦ, but also in certain exponents of classical Confucianism, such as Xunzi 㥰ᆀ. However, in order to explain his own view of the cosmic order and its relation to our mind, Zhang Dongsun often used examples drawn from the discoveries of early 20th century physics, such as the difference between our perception of color and its “actual” substance, or light waves. He argued that color differed from light waves, for while color was the result of the interaction between waves and our senses, waves belonged to the “objective” qualities of being. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 166) As noted, Zhang Dongsun claimed that the external cause of our perception was not a substance. But contrary to Western structural epistemologists, Zhang stressed that things as such also did not possess


Chapter Five

any substance. In interpreting the fundamental structure of reality, he drew on recent Western scientific discoveries regarding the basic structure of atoms, pointing out that this structure transcended any categorical division between the material or physical, and the immaterial electromagnetic waves. In his radical critique of the concept of substance, which in his view was only an illusory construct of the human mind, Zhang denied the real existence not only of the smallest particles of matter, but also of quantums, electrons and even electromagnetic waves. Having denied the independent existence of sensory impressions in psychology, he thus also refuted the existence of atoms in physics, both as substance and as electrons and wave particles: ❦㘼䙉Ӌਚਟ㿆⛪ 㺘⽪ཆ⭼ᴹ৏ᆀᙗ㘼ᐢDŽ丸⸕ᡰ䄲 ৏ᆀᙗਚᱟ൘ Ώ䙐 (structure) кᴹ '৏ᆀⲴ' ᙗ䌚㘼ᐢDŽ і䶎䃚ཆ⭼⺞ᴹ৏ᆀަ⢙DŽ нն⋂ᴹ৏ᆀ,іфӖ⋂ᴹ䴫ᆀ,⋂ᴹ⌒ᆀDŽᡰᴹⲴਚᱟཆ⭼ⲴΏ䙐к ᴹ࠶⛪㤕ᒢ௞սⲴਟ㜭ᙗҶ㖧Ҷ. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 168–9) In my view, all this merely expresses the atomizing of external reality, and not the actual existence of atoms as real things. Not only are there no atoms, but there are no electrons or wave particles either. All this merely means that the structure has the possibility of forming certain entities.

Based on this radical assumption, Zhang Dongsun developed his view that time and space were also a kind of structure, and not a form of substantial entities. (Liu Wenying 2002, Part 2, 867)

Plurality of Comprehension Given that, in Zhang’s view, external reality is defined by the absence of any substance (ሖ億), its existence manifests itself only through the structural relations (ᷦΏ䰌‫ )ײ‬that form the external order or the external structure ( ọ ⨶ ). The human mind can therefore perceive only some aspects or elements of this external order (Rošker 2010, 243). Zhang defined these elements as the categories of atomicity (৏ᆀᙗ), continuity ( 䙓 㒼 ᙗ ) and creativity ( 䆺 ᙗ ), understood as manifestations of the external order which are present not only in the physicality of inanimate matter, but also in living organisms. However, even the totality of this external structure is not completely natural and objective, but is dependent upon our cognitive processes (see Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 171). This means that all external structures are manifested in our mind, which (re)establishes them in the process of forming structural patterns of thought

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


and comprehension. Nonetheless, this theory is not solipsistic, since for Zhang the external reality was not an exclusive product of our recognition. On the contrary, the relation between our mind and the external world was interactive and correlative (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 171). In his view, the universe does not possess any essence; it is only a structure. Its constitution is not entirely natural, but inextricably linked with the function of our recognition. Without recognition we could get a glimpse of the original image of this structure, but still not completely apprehend its essence. Therefore, the cosmos is a structure (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 218) Zhang Dongsun called his theory “pluralistic”, because the various elements that enable comprehension and reasoning were mutually exclusive and irreducible (❑䚴‫ݳ‬ᙗ), i.e. no one of them could be reduced to any of the others. These basic elements for the comprehension of reality and its external order (ọ⨶), which correlates with the mind through sensory perception (ⴤ㿰 ᝏ㿪) and sensations (ᝏ⴨), were a-priori transcendental forms (Ṭᔿ) and logical postulates (䁝Ⓠ); these in turn were divided into categories ( ㇴ ⮷ ), relations with semantic logical implications ( ⴨ ⏥ Ⲵ 䰌 ‫) ײ‬, and concepts and ideas ( ᾲ ᘥ ). Zhang illustrated the structure of the process of comprehension with the following scheme: Actual external reality Æ ⵏཆ⢙ Æ

External order Å Æ

Concepts Å


ọ⨶ ᾲᘥ ÅÆ ÅÆ

And their proofs Å Æ ԕ৺ަ 䅹᰾ ÅÆ

Postulates Å



Transce ndental forms Å Æ Ṭᔿ ÅÆ

The real inner self Å ⵏ‫ޗ‬ᡁ Å

Table 5.2: The Structure of the Comprehension Process (see Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 281) The fact that our classification of things is subjectively determined does not mean they are completely arbitrary. Because we de-compose reality based on certain, objective elements, the liberty of our classifications is limited 23 . Although our classifications thus arise primarily from our relation with objects or with the applicability of those objects, our relations to, or applications of them, cannot be separated from their specific features. And while concepts as classification signs are thus 23

For example, we cannot classify a mule as a carnivore (Jiang Xinyang 2002, 62).


Chapter Five

subjective, Zhang did not entirely exclude their correlation with the external world (Rošker 2008, 252). Furthermore, because the absolute recognition of subject and object is impossible, the process of comprehension is necessarily relative. Hence, for Zhang, the central task of epistemology was the analysis of the intermediary space situated between the subject and object of recognition. He described this space as “semi-transparent (ॺ䘿᰾Ⲵ)” and compared the process of comprehension to a ray of light focused upon an object by the subject of recognition, but with this ray of light having to pass through multicolored layers of glass (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 213). In fact, Zhang’s structure of external world represented a concretization of manifold relations which preconditioned our perception of it. However, structural relations as the link that connects our mind with external reality, was not exclusively Zhang Dongsun’s idea, but derived from traditional Chinese epistemology. In any case, this reorientation (or, from the perspective of classical Chinese discourses, renewed orientation) of epistemological attention away from investigating (and explaining) substance towards a comprehension and interpretation of relations, would definitely prove crucial for the further development of contemporary Chinese theories of knowledge and their formative links to specific elements of traditional Chinese thought (Xia Zhentao 2000, 5)

A Structural Approach between Realism and Solipsism Despite the fact that Zhang chose to repudiate the Western idea of substance in favor of a new epistemology which combined his own theories with certain basic concepts of classical Chinese thought, in China he is still considered primarily as a theorist who adopted Western thought and introduced it in a coherent fashion into his own language and culture. As we noted in our introduction to his philosophical system, Zhang certainly belonged to modern Chinese thinkers who assimilated the most Western thought, established the most comprehensive and wellcoordinated system, and exerted the greatest influence among the Westernoriented Chinese philosophers. (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 66). We can assume that the basic inspiration for Zhang Dongsun’s panstructural theory of knowledge derived directly from his expertise in Western epistemological discourses which, during this period, were exerting a decisive influence on the search for new paradigms for the perception, comprehension and interpretation of reality. We must therefore correct Zhang Yaonan’s evaluation of panstructuralism, which we alluded to in the introduction to this study, in which he claims that this system was

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


a pioneering achievement in the field of international structuralism, and that Zhang Dongsun had explored structuralist methods in ontology and in the theory of knowledge “almost forty years before the appearance of Western ‘structuralism’, which then became one of the leading discourses in Europe and America 24 ”. Obviously, structuralism in the sense of an integral and substantial paradigm of academic research and an independent branch of Euro-American discourse did not appear in a significant way until the latter half of the 20th century, but a structural approach to comprehension had certainly been developed in Western philosophical systems nearly a half century earlier, especially in the theories of the British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1918, 1919). Although Zhang Dongsun acknowledged that his (pan)structural epistemology was partly derived from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant25, 24

20 ц㌰ 20 ᒤԓ, ᕥᶡᆛ‫( ⭏ݸ‬1902–1973) ᨀࠪҶаぞԆちѻ⛪ 'ᷦΏ䄆' (Theory of structure) Ⲵ '㎀Ώѫ㗙' (structuralism) ᆷᇉ㿰, і൘ԕᖼ 20 ᒤ䯃н ᯧᆼழ, ֯ަᡀ⛪ Ԇ ᵜӪ㍲⭏н予᭮ỴⲴᒮ‫ػ‬สᵜ㿰ᘥѻа. ቡᱲ䯃к䃚, 䙉 а ᆷ ᇉ㿰Ⲵ↓ᔿᖒᡀ㾱∄㾯ᯩ '㎀Ώѫ㗙' 付㹼ↀ㖾 (20 ц㌰ 60 ᒤԓ) ᰙࠪሷ 䙢 40 ᒤ; ቡ‫ޗ‬ᇩк䃚, 䙉аᆷᇉ㿰ᆼ‫ޘ‬᭩䆺ҶҼॱц㌰ ѝ഻ ଢᆨᇦⲴപᴹᙍ ㏝ᯩᔿ, 䮻ҶҼॱц㌰ѝ഻ଢᆨ '䶎ᵜ 億䄆ॆ' Ⲵ‫⋣ݸ‬. (Zhang Yaonan 2000, 143) In the 1920s, Zhang Dongsun (1902–1973) established a cosmological structuralism, which he called the “Theory of Structure”. Over the next twenty years, he continued to elaborate this theory as one of his basic paradigms, and would not abandon it until the end of his life. We should point out that this theory was elaborated almost forty years before the appearance of Western “structuralism”, which then became one of the leading discourses in Europe and America. In its content, this cosmology completely changed the previous mode of thinking of 20th Century Chinese philosophers and was a precursor for the new “deontological” approaches of Chinese philosophy. 25 ᡁѫᕥᝏ㿪н㜭㎖ᡁ‫ف‬ԕọ⨶Ⲵ⸕䆈,䙉䴆䐏ᓧᗧ⴨਼,նọ⨶ফн㜭ᆼ‫ޘ‬ ᱟᗳⲴ㏌ਸ㜭࣋ᡰ⭒,䙉৸઼ᓧᗧн਼Ҷ.ഐ↔ᡁ᢯䂽ཆ⭼ᴹަọ⨶;‫(⭼ޗ‬ণᗳ) Ӗᴹަ・⌅;‫⌅・Ⲵ⭼ޗ‬৸࠶‫ޙ‬ぞ,а⛪ⴤ㿰кⲴ‫ݸ‬傇ᯩᔿ,а⛪ᙍ㏝кⲴ‫ݸ‬傇 ᯩᔿ.(䙉а唎㠷ᓧᗧ⴨լ). 㠣ᯬᝏ㿪,ࡷнᱟⵏ↓Ⲵ'ᆈ൘㘵'.ᡰԕᡁ↔䃚ᴹᒮ‫ػ‬ ᯩ䶒, ഐ਽ѻᴠཊ‫ݳ‬䄆. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 165) I believe that we cannot obtain regulated (structured) recognition through sensory perception––in this respect, I agree with Kant. On the other hand, this regulation (structuredness) can not arise entirely from the synthetic ability of our mind––in this respect, I disagree with Kant. Therefore, I acknowledge that the external world is ordered and that our inwardness (i.e. our mind) also functions in accordance with particular laws. This regulated constitution of our inwardness can also be divided into two kinds: the first can be called the a-priori form of direct sensory


Chapter Five

he almost never mentioned Russell’s philosophy, even though he must have been quite familiar with his work, since he had accompanied the British philosopher on his lecture tour in China in 1920–21 (see Russell 2000). In addition to the influence of Western philosophy, and despite the differences between the two structural epistemologies which we indicated schematically in the previous chapters, in Zhang Dongsun’s panstructuralism we can also clearly detect the influence of both chan Buddhism 26 and the autochthonous, classical philosophy 27 of ancient China. As we have seen, in Zhang’s epistemology the external cause of our sensation is not a substance, but the structural order of the external world. What is transmitted to us through our sensory impressions is a modification of this external order (Jiang Xinyang 2002, 59). Russell had proposed a similar idea (1919) in his Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy: Against the then dominant claims that only the phenomena (“the world of percepts”) can be known and that, even if they exist, their “objective counterparts” are unknowable, Russell (1919, 61) suggested that “the objective counterparts” would form a world having the same structure as the phenomenal world, [a fact which would allow us] to infer from the phenomena the truth of all propositions that can be formulated in abstract terms and which are known to be true of the phenomena. (Psillos 2001, 14)

But while, based on this supposition, Russell concluded that the recognition of external objects could allow us to infer the reality of all propositions that can be expressed on this abstract level, Zhang cautioned that this problem could not be solved so easily, since everything that was transmitted to us through our sense-conditioned impressions was a

perception, and the second the a-priori form of cognition. /Here, again, my view is similar to Kant’s/. However, the sensations are not identical with “existing beings”. Since my theory arose from many different aspects, I have named it a “pluralistic” theory. See also Jiang Xinyan: “His pluralism is derived from a revised version of Kantian philosophy. To justify such an epistemology, he proposed a cosmology: panstructuralism.” (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 58) 26 “As a youth, it was Buddhist scriptures such as Leng Yan Jing and Da Cheng Qi Xin Lun that led him to be interested in philosophy. Although he criticized Buddhism later on, he seemed always to have accepted Buddhist cosmology, especially certain ideas from the Great Vehicle School (Mahayana, dacheng).” (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 63) 27 Nonetheless, Zhang still managed to remain rooted in his own tradition. In his youth, he had obtained a very solid classical Chinese education (Rošker 2008, 301)

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


modification of this external structural order. Therefore, because objects cannot be recognized in a one-dimensional way, we are incapable of comprehending the internal nature (or essence) of the external reality, but can only recognize its relations, which form a relatively fixed structure. And this impossibility of recognizing the substance of external objects is due not only to the limits of our sense organs, but also to the fact that these objects as such, even though they exist objectively, do not possess any substance. 㤕ᡁ‫ف‬᳛‫ٷ‬ᇊ⢙䌚ᒦ❑ ‫ޗ‬ᙗ, 㘼ਚᱟᷦΏ, ࡷᡁ‫ف‬ᐢਟ䄲⸕䚃ཆ⢙Ҷ. (Zhang Dongsun 1929, 32) If we assume that the qualities of things do not possess any inner nature (essence), and that things only exist as a structure, we have already recognized the external reality.

In this respect, Zhang’s epistemology differs considerably from Russell’s (1919) system, which only presumes the possibility of “inferences” leading from the structure of the phenomenal world to the structure of objective reality. It does, however, resemble Russell’s later, more elaborated thesis (1929) on the objective nature of conceptions within the mind. By 1921, Russell had assigned the role of logical atoms to events, the more neutral, neither definitely physical nor definitely mental elements, that fitted nicely with his newly discovered affection for neutral monism. Moreover, he had assigned the role of the objects of direct recognition to percepts, or those events that occurred within one's head. (Votsist 2003, 879)

But Russell’s structural theory of perception, which he introduced in his book The Analysis of Matter (1927), remains focused upon logical inferences as the only possible link between objective reality and consciousness. In this work, he advocates a causal theory of perception, asserting that even though it is reasonable to presuppose the existence of causes (entities) outside our mind, we still cannot expect proofs for the supposition that things perceived by us are necessarily produced by external causes. And while we can directly recognize the inner nature or quality (the first order of properties and relations) of the objects perceived, this in no way means that the same holds true for the entities of external reality. Zhang Dongsun pursued a similar line of reasoning, claiming that


Chapter Five

the contents of our comprehension did not correspond to the actual state of the objects of recognition. 丸⸕ᡁ‫ف‬ᡰᴹⲴᝏ㿪䜭нᱟཆ⭼ᆈ൘Ⲵ.ᡰԕᡁ‫ف‬㎅ሽ❑⌅⸕䚃ཆ⭼ Ⲵ'‫ޗ‬ᇩ' . (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 171) We should know that none of our sensations exist in the external world. Therefore, it is absolutely impossible for us to recognize the “content” of the external world.

Both philosophers also shared the view that the spheres of reality and phenomena are ordered by the same structure. Russell (1919, 61) suggested that “the objective counterparts would form a world having the same structure as the phenomenal world” (Psillos 2001, 14). In this context, Zhang Dongsun sustained the hypothesis of the structural compatibility of both systems: ഐ↔ᡁ᢯䂽ཆ⭼ᴹަọ⨶;緉⏺(ণᗳ)Ӗᴹަ・⌅. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 165) Therefore, I acknowledge that the external world is ordered and that our inwardness (i.e. our mind) also functions in accordance with particular laws28.

An essential difference with Russell’s system can be found in the method of recognition. As we have seen, based on the supposition that we are unable to recognize the inner nature of reality, Russell concluded that inferences were the only possible method of obtaining any knowledge about it. The only way we can attain knowledge of the latter 29 is by drawing inferences from our perceptions. Assuming that similar causes (i.e. events) have similar effects (i.e. percepts)––a roughly one-to-one correspondence between stimulus and percept––Russell argues that relations between effects mirror relations between causes. (Votsis 2003, 880)

Zhang’s understanding of consciousness is, instead, much more multilayered, thus allowing for more dimensions in the perception and comprehension of reality: 28

As explained in previous chapters, structural compatibility was an essential feature of classical Chinese relational epistemology. 29 Here, Russell refers to the objective reality.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


‫⌅・Ⲵ⭼ޗ‬৸࠶‫ޙ‬ぞ,а⛪ⴤ㿰кⲴ‫ݸ‬傇ᯩᔿ,а⛪ᙍ㏝кⲴ‫ݸ‬傇ᯩᔿ... 㠣ᯬᝏ㿪,ࡷнᱟⵏ↓Ⲵ'ᆈ൘㘵'. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 165) This regulated constitution of our inwardness can also be divided into two kinds: the first can be called the a-priori form of direct sensory perception, and the second the a-priori form of cognition…. However, the sensations are not identical with “existing beings”.

One reason for our inability to recognize the essence of external things “as such” is thus to be found in the very nature of their existence. For Zhang, who did not acknowledge the existence of substance, reality was a process of constant change that manifested itself in the inter-relations of particular entities. Although in his pluralistic epistemology he rejected “substance”, he still considered the dualistic theories of idealism and materialism to be completely wrong. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 214). While elements of both approaches can be found in Zhang Dongsun’s model, it cannot be identified with either one of them. As he explicitly stated (Zhang Dongsun 1995b, 214), his system was not solipsistic and did not even differentiate between matter and idea or substance and phenomena. Yet, in his view, both existed objectively. This is where Zhang’s epistemology differs in a fundamental and radical way from Chan Buddhism. Taken as a whole, (Neo)-Confucian epistemology also differs in various ways from panstructuralist approaches: while the former was based upon structural relations that were fixed and unchangeable, always tending towards the “proper” (zheng ↓), Zhang’s panstructuralism gives much greater priority to movement and change. In effect, he implemented the static regularity of the Neo-Confucian constructs through a new, dynamic, interferential structure of continuous, indefinable and never completely understandable amalgamations and dispersions of imagined, phenomenal and actual worlds. In this respect, his approaches recall classical Chinese (especially Daoist and Chan-Buddhist) cosmologies, as well as certain recent Western ontological systems based on Quantum Theory or the Theory of Relativity, which assume that time and space are not absolute and unchangeable. This is why his constitution of time and space is also structural. In any case, in so doing, Zhang avoided the dilemma of a complete structural identity between the external world and the human mind. As the Greek philosopher, Stathis Psillos, notes in his study on Russell’s epistemological approaches: Precisely because Russell does not have the converse principle, he speaks of a “roughly one-to-one relation”. Yet he failed to justify why this should


Chapter Five be so. (For example, why cannot the same stimuli produce different perceptions at different times?) Further, does it make sense to speak of a “roughly one-to-one relation”? Either it is or it is not one-to-one. If it is, we have structure-transference. But if not, then we do not. (Psillos 2001, 15)

Here, Zhang Dongsun suppositions recall certain approaches of socalled eliminative structural realism (Psillos 2001, 22), which assumes that all we can perceive is structure. But this approach has led Western theorists to metaphysical explanations for the ontological foundations of structure (Psillos 2001, 22), based upon the thesis that structure is primary and ontologically subsistent (Ladymann 1998, 420). This thesis is still the subject of intense theoretical debates: Note that if structures “carry the ontological weight” (French 1999, 204), we can only view the identity of structures as being ontologically primitive (since the notion of isomorphism requires different domains of individuals which are paired-off). But I am not sure whether we can even make sense of this primitive structural identity. (Psillos 2001, 22–3)

Zhang Dongsun tried to circumvent this dilemma by postulating dynamics and changeability (in time and space) as essential characteristics of his comprehension of structure. Here we can also detect the influence of certain fundamental assumptions of classical Chinese philosophy, in which all that exists manifests itself in continuous alterations of structural connections in the formation and expiration of particular existing entities, as well as the quality of their “essence”. However, Zhang affirmed that our mind can only recognize certain aspects of these manifest changes. All structures are empty, for they possess neither substance, nor its qualities. The level of material being (⢙) is thus a merely physical substantial phenomenality which cannot be equated with material substance but, at best, with structural relations and the physical laws which determine its existence. Here, one might be tempted to compare him with the radical ontological realists who claim that structure is ontologically primary because objects as such do not exist (Psillos 2006, 561). But Zhang’s views differ substantially from such positions as well, for in his system objects do objectively exist, even though their status is not a material (physical) one in the traditional Western sense of the word. Instead, for Zhang, “matter” is a general concept covering a total domain of many specific concepts that refer to physical properties. Hence, there is no “matter” as such, which corresponds to our concept of this term. In his discussion of matter, Zhang Dongsun argues that matter is not the color, smell, sound or dimensions

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


that we perceive through our senses, because these tend to be subjective. By “matter” he intends an object's volume, density, velocity, etc.. Matter thus becomes a series of physics formulas and, ultimately, there are only physical laws, but no matter. (Jiang Xinyan 2002, 64). Zhang even suggested that we should replace the term “matter” with “physical laws”, “life” with “biological principles” and “mind” with “psychology”. In other words, terms for substance as bearers of attributes should be replaced by terms for structures or orders (Rošker 2008, 237). The structure of the external world was thus formed by relations between objective, existing, non-substantial entities. This concept of relation as a crucial feature of structure has also been stressed by many modern Western theorists: Newman correctly points out “that it is meaningless to speak of the structure of a mere collection of things, not provided with a set of relations” and thus “the only important statements about structure are those concerned with the structure’s make-up ...” (Votsis 2003, 882) But what exactly did Russelll mean by “structure” when he said that we can infer the structure of the external world from the structure of our perceptions? Discussions on “structure” or “relation-number” (Russell uses these concepts interchangeably) are invariably discussions on the structure of a relation or of a system of relations (this latter notion signifying one or more relations defined over a single domain (Votsis 2003, 880)

But what is also important in the context of Zhang’s philosophy, are the dynamics of these structural relations that unite with one another and separate again in countless ways and on countless different levels. He compares this to cosmic emptiness, which, as in the Buddhist view, cannot be equated with “nothingness”, but only with the absence of a substance, an unchangeable nature, or a self-contained, self-sufficient being. Since the cosmos is composed exclusively of relational connections, it does not imply any independent, autonomous entity. This is also one of the main reasons why the existence of substance is impossible: the world is a series of functional relations. In Buddhist cosmology, the world, which is void in itself, is a universal, eternal and unchangeable law of causal relations (ഐ 㐓). Zhang Dongsun equated this law with the real objectivity of being (Jiang Xinyang 2002, 65). The structural systems that were developed in Western philosophy during this period were based upon the supposition that we cannot recognize the real nature of (objects in) the external reality. This supposition was shared by Zhang Dongsun, but in contrast to Russell’s hypothesis, his theory of comprehension is not rooted in the method of


Chapter Five

inference, which can only lead us to a recognition of the structural order of the external world. Russell argues that relations between effects mirror relations between causes. Thus, from the structure of our perceptions we can “infer a great deal as to the structure of the physical world, but not as to its intrinsic character” ([1927] 1992, 400). At most, what can be known is the logical form or structure, i.e., the second or higher-order properties and relations, of events in the external world. (Votsis 2003, 880)

Zhang affirms that there must be some reason for the changes we perceive, and that this reason is to be found precisely in the factual structural changes of the external reality, which are consciously comprehended as structural changes by the correlation of the external order with the laws of the mind. This also holds true in the opposite sense: each change in our consciousness is structurally conditioned and has likewise been expressed in structural changes of the external order. In this respect, Zhang’s assumptions were founded upon the interdependence, corelativity and interactivity of the inner and external worlds. Furthermore, the Chinese theorist never considered atomicity, continuity and creativity as elements which belonged exclusively to the external order; rather, he saw these structural qualities as a kind of bridge, linking the external and the inner sphere. (Zhang Dongsun 1995b /7/, 170–1) Zhang Dongsun clearly proceeded not only from modern European (especially Kantian) philosophy, but also from certain specific foundations of the Chinese tradition of thought. In addition to the structural compatibility of the external world and the mind, which can already be found in ancient Chinese epistemology, his work was also greatly influenced by Chan Buddhism, which was defined by the concepts of the emptiness of all phenomena, and their illusory, transitory nature that not only included external actuality, but the Self and its identity. Thus, one of the basic differences between Western structural realism (Psillos 2001, 513) and Zhang Dongsun’s panstructural system is the latter’s view that not only is structure all we can recognize, but that the external world includes no substantial objects. Consequently, the world is situated within a non-substantial structure that is (in a strictly physical sense) empty, since it exists as continuous change. A logical consequence of the epistemological structural realism of the Western type is the assumption that the reality of what is not empirically perceivable can be inferred from the actuality of the empiric world. Russell, for example, claimed that in terms of the knowability of the objective external world, given that phenomena and substance shared a

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


common structure, it was not only possible, but also legitimate to infer the latter from the former. Russell (1919, 61) suggested that the objective counterparts formed a world having the same structure as the phenomenal world, (a fact which would allow us) to infer from phenomena the truth of all propositions that could be stated in abstract terms and which were known to be true of phenomena. (Psillos 2001, 514)

As we saw in our discussion of the Chinese analogical model (Chapter 1), traditional Chinese analogical inferences were, from the time of the most ancient disputes, defined by semantic connotations which could place in question the very nature of the formal inferences that have dominated traditional European logic. We must also bear in mind that Zhang’s panstructuralism rested upon the structural compatibility, but not the structural identity of the external and internal world. In his view, it was precisely the structure of comprehension which was much more complex, and it was only for the sake of facilitating his exposition that he maintained the schematic division between the subject and object of comprehension. As is well known, both poles are seen by naturalistic epistemologies as defining the process of comprehension and the theoretical mode of its framework. Zhang, however, posited the existence of vital connections between the subject (with its empirical mechanisms), on the one hand, and the objective sphere of the empirically (or rationally) unseizable world, on the other30. In this context, he was definitely guided by certain, specific implications of traditional Chinese concepts of knowledge or cognizance that are rooted in a model of structural relations, relations which are essentially not grounded upon a formal equivalence but, at most, upon the compatibility of the structures they are forming. Therefore, they cannot be seized by formal, but only through semantic inferences. With respect to the methods of comprehension, Zhang was following the traditional Chinese concept of qualitative knowledge as it had already been defined by his contemporary Xiong Shili ➺ॱ࣋ (1885–1968) who, 30 忁ᾳᷕ攻㘖忂Ṣ娵䁢㰺㚱㜙大⬀⛐, ⌛⤥⁷㗗䨢䘬. ㇨ẍ傥䞍冯㇨䞍⼿ẍ䚜 ㍍䘤䓇斄Ὢ. ㆹ⇯ẍ䁢⛐忁ᾳᷕ攻 ℏ⌣㚱姙⣂㜙大, ㎃妨ᷳ, ⌛㗗墯暄䘬. (Zhang Dongsun 1995, 213) People commonly think that there is nothing between these two poles that between them there is only empty space. This would mean that the subject and object of recognition were in direct relation with each other. But I believe that there are many things between them, that this “middle” in other words, is very complex.


Chapter Five

based upon a solid command of Confucian and Daoist approaches, denoted it as a qualitative understanding (xing zhi ᙗᲪ): ᙗᲪ㘵, ণᱟⵏⲴ㠚ᐡⲴ㿪ᛏ. ↔ѝⵏⲴ㠚ᐡа䂎, ণ⛪ᵜ億...ণ↔ᵜ 億, ԕަ⛪੮Ӫᡰԕ⭏ѻ⨶㘼䀰, ࡷӖ਽ⵏⲴ㠚ᐡ. ণ↔ⵏᐡ, ൘䟿䄆ѝ 䃚᰾㿪ᛏ, ণᡰ䄲ᙗᲪ... 䙉ぞ㿪ᛏ䴆н䴒ᝏᇈ㏃傇, 㾱ᱟн┟ᯬᝏᇈ㏃ 傇㘼ᚂ㠚൘䴒㌫Ⲵ. (Xiong Shili 1992, 249) Qualitative understanding is awareness of Self. The real Self in this sense can be called substance [...] From the viewpoint of the structure which enables us to live, it could also be denoted as the Real Self.31 In the domain of quantitative methodologies, this Real Self is explained by consciousness and is also called qualitative understanding. Although this kind of consciousness is not separated from sensory experiences, it is not limited to such experience; moreover, it always exists independently, outside of all systems.

The second type of comprehension, which also includes inferences (among other elements) and functions as a qualitative understanding or habituated mind, was called quantitative knowledge (liangzhi 䟿Ც)32 by Xiong Shili. This mode of quantitative understanding, which represented the basis of scientific comprehension for Xiong (Rošker 2008, 221–3), likewise implied inferring from fixed, eternally “valid” assumptions. But the concept of qualitative understanding as described by Xiong and which is rooted in realistic currents within Confucian philosophy 33 cannot be equated with many other traditions of Confucian thought as developed in the solipsistic discourses of later Daoism and the Confucian School of Mind (xin xue ᗳᆨ). For the latter, in fact, the external world had no objective existence, but was merely represented through numerous transformations within our mind. In essence, Zhang Dongsun’s panstructuralism also belongs to the qualitative modes of understanding. Since it proceeds from the nonsubstantiality and continuous changing of all mutually connected structural 31

Another possible translation of this term is “the True Self”. Due to their identical pronunciation, we should not confuse Xiong’s term liangzhi 䟿Ც, or quantitative understanding, with the Neo-Confucian term liang zhi 㢟⸕, which means innate knowledge). 33 In this context, Neo-Confucian theories of knowledge are especially valuable, especially when based on the binary category connecting the exploration of things (gewu Ṭ⢙) with perfect or ultimate knowledge (zhi zhi 㠣⸕). 32

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


patterns, the correlations between them are also non-substantial and not completely accessible through logic. None of these correlations can be said to have the statute of a rigid premise from which valid inferences can be drawn. Nonetheless, these correlations are the (only) possible connection between the Self and the Other. Knowledge is thus also a relation, for its formation has a strong impact upon these two poles of existence and comprehension. Since the structural connection between them is compatible with the structural connection between language and meaning (䀰᜿), knowledge can be semantically transmitted. Contemporary Confucian discourses often try to fill the gap between these two levels of existence by endowing it with values; Zhang Dongsun, however, was not particularly concerned with the ethical consequences of his epistemological model. While classical Chinese philosophy was chronically obsessed with ethical issues, Zhang’s philosophy bears the clear imprint of fundamental classical Chinese paradigms. His view of the process of comprehension is based upon the traditional Chinese worldview that presupposes structural interferences34 between the mental and actual worlds. He believed these worlds to be equally part of the continuous amalgamations and dispersions of various mutually (un)adjusted structural patterns by which actuality is formed. In this context, time and space are merely functions of each other. While the latter is characterized by constellations of spatial forms that, in varying from instant to instant, form the geometrical space, time (in the form of continuity) is incorporated in us by sudden, momentary sparks of awareness. While even this continuity was fictitious and transitory for Zhang, due to its semantic implications it still had a sufficient duration to become the only effective link between the mind and the external world.

Modern Methods of Intercultural Inquiry: is Structure an Issue? The structural onto-epistemology which constitutes a characteristic feature of traditional Chinese intellectual discourses has only recently been rediscovered and explored in a systematic way by both Western sinological research and contemporary Chinese scholars. But given that Chinese structuralism offers viable methods for analyzing phenomena which are mainly characterized by pairings of the elemental structures of phenomena in a system of binary oppositions, it can also be seen as an 34

In Chinese tradition, such interferences were conditioned by circulation (tong 䙊).


Chapter Five

alternative to modernist alienation and despair. Especially valuable in this regard is the distinctive methodological claim of such approaches, by which the individual units of any system have meaning only in terms of their relations to one another, a claim which is also central to Western structuralist theories. Hence, the renewed exploration of the specific approaches connected to the traditional Chinese structural paradigm and its underlying methodology could certainly prove to be an effective means for establishing new theoretical agendas, not only with respect to innovations in the field of comparative philosophy at the international level, but also with respect of new trends in modern Chinese theory. Contemporary China finds itself confronted with specific issues of modernization within a framework of new, globally structured economic and political trends. These issues naturally offer an opportunity for rethinking traditional concepts, methodologies and even values: the requirements of the new era, which has been determined by changes in basic social conditions, make such a revaluation imperative. Thus, in today’s China, certain central concepts of the new, globalized society will find their way into new political contexts. This revaluation is the most important precondition for a consolidation of new ideologies capable of creating a political basis for the changing society and its new economy. But the mere application of abstract terms and methods which are the result of specific (Western) historical processes and their related typical social organizations and structures, may prove to be a misleading and even dangerous mechanism. In current research, the debate on the epistemic dimensions of classical and contemporary Chinese texts and their role in the framework of traditional and modern Chinese thought has been developing, with growing success, under the aegis of rediscovering and applying specific traditional Chinese methodological approaches and categories. This continuation of the Chinese tradition was already evident in the philosophical works of Feng Youlan and Jin Yuelin 䠁ዣ䵆 (1895–1984), as well as in that of many other modern scholars, especially within Modern Confucianism. For most of these theorists, the renewal of Chinese thought was always connected with investigations into philosophical methodology. Mou Zongsan’s theory of mental intuition, for instance, provides a clear example of such efforts (see Gong Huanan 2002, 42), while with Zhang Dainian ᕥԓᒤ (1909–2004), this continuity finally became a conscious, self-aware methodology. In fact, Zhang stressed that, when researching the history of Chinese philosophy, knowing and understanding the original meanings of Chinese philosophical categories and concepts is an imperative, for only on this basis will we be able to

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


have a proper perception (i.e. in a relative sense) of the ideas of individual philosophers. But not only, for we must also have a knowledge of the processes of the modification of these categories and concepts, without which we cannot hope to gain a more profound understanding of the developmental processes of Chinese philosophy (Zhang Dainian 2003, 130). Thus, as opposed to most other modern Chinese scholars, Zhang Dainian was not only assiduously preserving the special characteristics of traditional Chinese thought but, more importantly, was also preserving and continuing traditional methodological principles. His work represents one of the first genuine syntheses of the continuations of traditional philosophy. (Hu Weixi 2002, 230) When dealing with traditional Chinese philosophy, we must also bear in mind its pragmatic nature. In fact, it is no accident that for the first Chinese scholars who attempted to understand and introduce Western philosophy, modern American pragmatism provided one of the most important links to their own intellectual tradition. Pragmatism’s influence can be explained, in part, by the real needs of Chinese society, which was engaged in a painful transition as it entered the modern age. But the essence of pragmatism (when freed of its rigid methodological criteria) was also a discourse which, given its completely concrete, practical and pragmatic orientation, was closest to the Confucian view of society and the world. The Chinese were already familiar with the linking of theory with practice, which had been fundamental to the philosophy of pragmatism at least since the founding of the “School of Practical Learning (Xi zhai 㘂啻)”, during the Qing ␵ Dynasty. The epistemological roots of such approaches, which found their clearest expression in the neo-realist systems of modern Chinese theories, reached back even further into the past. The linkage between theory and practice, which would later constitute one of the central interpretative patterns of sinicized Marxism, already formed the core of Neo-Confucian epistemologies, which were based on the unity of knowledge (⸕) and action (㹼). The current of new pragmatism, which we find in the works of Hu Shi 㜑䚙 (1891–1962) and Feng Youlan, basically tried to create a scientific methodology and system of classification that could be applied to traditional Chinese philosophical discourses. The results of this theoretical work were intended to replace the former philosophical mysticism and establish a systematic, logically consistent and verifiable formal framework that could include classical Chinese systems of thought, founded on the principle of immanent metaphysics. Even more importantly for the “New intellectuals” of that time, was a “scientification” of traditional discourses, in the sense of establishing a


Chapter Five

logic-grounded methodology for contemporary theories. For these new theorists, scientific epistemological approaches had to completely supplant previous methods for the intuition, introspection and experience of innate aspects of consciousness. However, most of the pioneers of Modern Confucian thought opposed this tendency. Xiong Shili ➺ॱ࣋ (1885– 1968), for example, argued that philosophy differed from science, both with respect to its contents as well as its methodology or, to use his terms, its essence (億) and function (⭘). While the former dealt with formal and mechanical approaches (as well as with effective applications) to reality, the latter provided the basic ethical criteria that defined any research. According to Xiong, a completely formalized epistemology of science could not provide a “yardstick” for judging or evaluating social reality. The efforts to find appropriate ways to apply new research methods in the field of Chinese intellectual history continue to constitute an important area of debate in contemporary Chinese theory. In recent years, the Chinese-speaking world has produced a plethora of books and articles that deal with the problems of applying Western methods of inquiry to questions connected with specific elements of the Chinese tradition. In their investigations of traditional theoretical and methodological paradigms, many contemporary scholars are currently trying to integrate them with contemporary theoretical currents, in some cases by focusing upon the traditional, structurally determined worldview. Zhang Yaonan ᕥ 㘰ই, for example, is seeking to establish his own system, based on Zhang Dongsun’s theories. Following his predecessor’s panstructuralism and its “deontologization” of epistemology, he is seeking to transcend (ᢃ䙊) the demarcations of Cartesian dualistic concepts and, consequently, those separating the various philosophical disciplines. By completing and applying Zhang’s methodology, he is working to establish a new structural paradigm that would integrate methods of modern logic with specific holistic assumptions of the ancient Chinese tradition, thereby creating a theoretical space for intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogues and contributing towards the solution of one of today’s most urgent problems. In spite of such theoretical tendencies, traditional Chinese theories of structure have yet to be systematically and substantially investigated by any modern Chinese scholar. An explanation for this deficiency may be the fact that these theories are based upon a paradigm which is difficult to rediscover solely through the perspective of modern approaches that are rooted in misleading traditional interpretations and translations of the concept li ⨶ . It should not surprise us, therefore, that some modern theoreticians are also trying to investigate deeper levels of philosophical

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


transmission, linked to discourses which are structured differently due to cultural or traditional factors. In his book ѝ഻ଢᆨⲴᯩ⌅䄆୿乼 (The Methodological Problems of Chinese Philosophy), one of the leading Chinese theoreticians in the area of intercultural methodology and the comparative theory of science, Feng Yaoming 俞 㘰 ᰾ (from Hong Kong) presumes a certain degree of incommensurability between the methodological systems of the so-called Western and East-Asian traditions. He argues that this phenomenon is related to the incommensurability of belief networks (ؑᘥ㏡㎑ѻнਟ䙊 㓖ᙗ), and thus to the impossibility of transforming certain concepts (ᾲᘥ ѻнਟ䕹〫ᙗ = non-inter-translatability) from one socio-cultural context into another. He concludes that, logically, this result in a certain impossibility in terms of making comparisons among different methodological systems. However, these problems are not limited only to theories or methods that arise from different cultural traditions, but also occur when dealing with researches or theories originating within the same language or tradition. In fact, it is a universal problem which has been discussed by numerous Western theorists (Kuhn, Quin, Lakatos, Feyerabend, etc). To illustrate this argument, Feng cites the well known example of the comparison between the theories of Einstein and Newton, pointing out that they represent two different networks of principles, i.e. two different paradigms. Although both theories can be expressed in English and imply many of the same words or terms, it cannot be said that these words denote the same objects in both theories. Within different paradigmatic networks, the meaning of these identical words can therefore differ, since the network transfers and modifies their semantic connotations. Thus, certain notions applied in one network cannot be used to express those same notions in the other (Feng Yaoming 1989, 291–2). With respect to the issue of differing traditions, he instead compares the various pans used for preparing food in diverse cultures: while the Chinese generally use frying pans with a round bottom, Europeans and Americans traditionally prefer frying pans with a flat bottom. The same kinds of food can be fried in both types of pans. But when the same food is fried in both types of pans, some qualities remain the same, while other qualities change considerably. For example, if we fry eggs in both kinds of pans, this confirms a property common to both. But the functions, possibilities and limitations of both pans used for frying the same eggs may differ, and these differences produce eggs of different color, form, taste and consistency, depending on whether they are fried in the round or flat-bottomed pans (Feng Yaoming 1989, 299)


Chapter Five

In this example, the round or flat-bottomed pans represent different referential frames, i.e. different theoretical systems. According to Feng, just as frying the same food in different pans produces different qualities, so to different referential frames can lead to different descriptions and interpretations of the same objective reality. The different functional possibilities and limitations of both types of pans express the variable features of diverse referential frames, and their specific shortcomings and advantages. In this regard, he proposed a method which he called conceptual relativism. Despite the relativism in which it was rooted, Feng claimed that this model remained objective, since it could transcend the limitations of subjective criteria: We cannot claim that there is only one single kind of pan in which food can be fried. Likewise, we cannot say that there is only one single referential frame which should be used as the only possible correct way to describe and explain the objective reality. It is precisely at this juncture that we can introduce the thesis as to the non-absoluteness of conceptual relativism. But, on the other hand, we cannot claim that food can be fried in all possible cooking-ware, just as we cannot say that every referential frame can be used to describe and explain the objective reality. This is the basis for the thesis of the non-subjectivity of conceptual relativism. However, we may discover that food which has been fried in a certain type of pan is better than that which has been fried in other types of pans […] Hence, we can also claim that some referential frames are more suitable for describing and explaining the objective reality than others. Or, in other words, that descriptions and explanations of the objective reality using some referential frames come closer to the truth than those based on certain other referential frames. Therefore, conceptual relativism is based on a competition between the evolutionary development of referential frames and their theories. (Feng Yaoming 1989, 300)

However, Feng Yaoming still had to admit that a description or explanation of reality is never identical to the reality itself, given that every referential frame is based on subjective constructs (Feng Yaoming 1989, 290). That said, a “free competition” among such frames (here, he uses the example of a football game) (Feng Yaoming 1989, 301) ought to increase the level of applicability by choosing those frames which allow for a more complex and objective description of reality. As regards the problem of translating and transforming certain concepts linked to specific referential frames from one socio-cultural context to another, he argued for the application of analytical methods which, even if they could not eliminate this problem entirely, they could at least help solve it in most cases. And because his model derived from his mastery of Western

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


theoretical methodology, he ultimately argued for the superiority of logical analysis, even when dealing with objects rooted in non-Western sociocultural traditions. In his view, the analytical method or a logical position was never restricted by a particular culture or tradition, or by national boundaries. On the contrary, they could be applied quite effectively anywhere (Feng Yaoming 1989, 303). This essentially neo-liberal model clearly presupposes the existence of a reality that is “objective”, in the sense that it in no way depends upon the existence of any political or socio-cultural context. Therefore, there is no need to deal with the question of the valuation criteria which determine the selection (choice) of referential frames which are considered to be “more suitable” than others. Such models have no need to view texts as systems of interrelated signs, or to discover and make manifest their hidden logic. The textual analyses of traditional Chinese intellectual discourses should thus be requited to pay close attention to the socio-political contexts that have (among others) manifested themselves in the structure of their language. The linguistic structure of languages can be expressed and explored at several different levels. The more elements which consolidate and preserve a certain linguistic community we know, the more multilayered is our insight into the various possibilities of linguistic (and also non-linguistic) expression applied by or within this community. In following the structural approach, it becomes obvious that every meaning is produced and reproduced within a culture through various practices, phenomena and activities that serve as systems of signification. The common feature of such positions is the belief that human phenomena are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract structure. Thus, superficially diverse sets of myth, works of art or practices of marriage might be revealed as sharing the same pattern. Another interesting precept which is rooted in early medieval, but also clearly present in NeoConfucian discourses is the fact that because we perceive the world through language, we cannot separate the contents of our mind into words and wordless concepts. This view is related to questions concerning the manner in which linguistic metaphors structure human thought, which have also often been treated by contemporary Chinese scholars, especially by those who are interested in intercultural methodology or comparative philosophy. The modern Chinese theoretician Zhao Dingyang 䏉ᇊ䲭, for example, in his essay 䃎 䀰 㠷 䃎 䀰 ѻ ཆ (Language and What Lies Beyond It) emphasizes that the mental construct of a world is not identical to that


Chapter Five

world; it is not even necessarily identical to anything else that that world is not. In his critique of the logic of Western interpretative patterns, he raises the following question: if it were possible to prescribe what our world is, would the existence of mental images which surpass this world still be possible? For Zhao, such reasoning is inherently contradictory, for the limits of our mental images of the world are a kind of wall, and it is not possible to know whether anything lies beyond that wall. Even if we could climb over that wall, all that we could perceive beyond it would again become a part of our world at the very instant of that perception. On the other hand, if it is impossible to climb that wall, then even if things exist beyond it, they can never become a part of our world. And even if we rationally assume that something exists beyond the wall (either as a possibility or as an actuality), this always remains merely a matter of belief. And if all we have is this belief (conviction, certainty), then we can very easily be misled into misconceptions, by mistaking the existence of this belief (conviction, certainty) with the actual existence of what this belief refers to. Obviously, the theorem to have a belief (conviction, certainty) x is not identical with the theorem x is y. The truth and value of the first has absolutely no bearing on the truth and value of the second (Zhao 1995, 80). Zhao Dingyang therefore concludes that things beyond our world cannot be real for us, because they cannot be proven (Zhao 1995, 80). However, a provable world does not satisfy certain basic human needs. Even if the world of science underlies and guarantees the sort of life we are living, there is always the desire to surpass this world and get a glimpse of what lies beyond its limits. As Zhao observes, we are simply not satisfied with being confined to language (Zhao 1995, 76). Furthermore, he also seems to suggest that different languages discover and impart reality in different ways (Zhao 1995, 76); thus, each imparting of a sensory experience is inevitably limited, because the structures of experience and language only partly coincide with each other (Zhao 1995, 78). Ultimately, the problem is language as a method of expression. When it exercises this function, language is rational because it creates objects that are appropriate for its logical makeup. But if language cannot surpass itself, in the sense of describing that which it cannot describe, is any expression possible beyond the limits of linguistic tools? Zhao does not preclude the possibility of a form of total communication and understanding which is not linguistic in nature, but rather pertains to meaning. The expression of meaning can be either linguistic or non-linguistic and, in terms of the latter, in particular

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


something he designates (but never defines in detail) as “Art”. History, he declares, has proven countless times the existence of such expressive possibilities. Even though Art represents and prescribes nothing, and offers no explanations, it nevertheless provokes a kind of “activation of experience” within us. Further, it provides a certain concrete form within which such activation can be implemented. This form of expression is called “geometrical space”. Experience therefore structures itself through this form of geometrical space. This form is what causes something to be experienced in a certain manner and not in any other. Such experience cannot be equated with the process of a materialized or purely sensory perception. Instead, it has a form, and therefore represents the process of self-awareness through meaning. Since geometrical space is objective (like the rules and logic of language) and not subjective, its meanings are not random and individual (private), but rather specific and inter-subjective (Zhao 1995, 78). Irrespective of the questions that arise when we reflect on such statements (e.g. what is language? what is Art? how do they differ in their internal structures? etc.), this argument contains a clearly expressed assumption of objectivity which makes it possible to establish the axiological criteria necessary in order to distinguish, for example, “true art” from “dilettante art” or “telling the truth” from “bullshitting”. The issues related to communication form the core of methodological problems not only within the context of the general theory of science, but even moreso within that of intercultural research. In fact, it behooves us to determine whether such “objectivity”, which would enable us to “communicate clearly”, is actually possible. “Objective criteria”, such as those dictated by modern intercultural ideologies, generally lead to patronizing discourses (especially when “well-intentioned”) when they are applied to a so-called “foreign” cultural reality. Here, it might be useful to recall the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi and his parable of the bird of paradise. фྣ⦘н㚎䛚˛᱄㘵⎧匕→ᯬ冟䛺ˈ冟‫ן‬ᗑ㘼䀤ѻᯬᔏˈཿҍ並ԕ⛪ ′ˈާཚ⢒ԕ⛪ழDŽ匕ѳⵙ㿆ឲᛢˈнᮒ伏а㠐ˈнᮒ伢аᶟˈйᰕ 㘼↫DŽ↔ԕᐡ伺伺匕ҏˈ䶎ԕ匕伺伺匕ҏDŽཛԕ匕伺伺匕㘵ˈᇌṆѻ ␡᷇ˈ䙺ѻ໷䲨ˈ⎞ѻ⊏⒆ˈ伏ѻ刽剧ˈ䳘㹼ࡇ㘼→ˈင㳷㘼㲅DŽᖬ ୟӪ䀰ѻᜑ㚎ˈྊԕཛ䅺䅺⛪Ѿʽ૨⊐ǃҍ並ѻ′ˈᕥѻ⍎ᓝѻ䟾ˈ 匕㚎ѻ㘼伋ˈ⦨㚎ѻ㘼䎠ˈ冊㚎ѻ㘼л‫ˈޕ‬Ӫং㚎ѻˈ⴨㠷䚴㘼㿰 ѻDŽ冊㲅≤㘼⭏ˈӪ㲅≤㘼↫ˈ᭵ᗵ⴨㠷⮠ˈަྭᜑ᭵⮠ҏDŽ᭵‫ݸ‬㚆 наަ㜭ˈн਼ަһDŽ਽→ᯬሖˈ㗙䁝ᯬ䚙ˈᱟѻ䄲ọ䚄㘼⾿ᤱ. (Zhuangzi 2010. Zhi le, 5)


Chapter Five Have you not heard this? Once upon a time, a sea-bird arrived in the state of Lu. The Marquis went out to see it and brought it to the ancestral temple, where he prepared a rich banquet for it. The music of Jiu-shao symphonies was performed for it; an ox, a sheep, and a pig were killed to supply the food. The bird, however, looked at everything with no interest, and became very depressed. It did not want to taste a single morsel of food, nor drink a single cup. After three days it died. The Marquis had tried to feed the bird with what he wanted for himself, and not with food suitable for a bird. If he had fed the bird as birds ought to be fed, he would have let it perch in deep forests, or roam over sandy plains. Birds love to float on rivers and lakes and to feed on eels and small fish. They love to fly in regular order and then stop and be free and at ease in their resting-places. It distressed the bird to hear men speak; what did it care for all the noise and fuss being made about it? If the music of the greatest symphonies were performed in the wilds of Dongting lake, the birds would fly away. All the wild creatures would run off when they heard it, and the fish would dive to the bottom of the lake. When human beings heard it, however, they would gather together, full of joy. Fish live in water, but human beings perish in it. They have different constitutions, and therefore what they like and dislike is also different. Thus, the ancient sages did not require the same abilities from all people, nor did they demand the same performances from them. They denoted things in accordance with their actualities, and gave their assent where it was appropriate. This is what was called the method of reaching the (structural order) and of sustainable success.

This parable signifies that we cannot simply judge on our own and conclude that what is best for ourselves, is also best for others. According to Zhuangzi, if we desire the well-being of everything that exists, we must first accept the fact that we are all different. Only if we accept the fact that we all live in different worlds, can we create the close mutual bonds that make communicating with one another possible. Forming such bonds and establishing such communication proves, in turn, that we all live in a single, unified world. Hence, inter-subjective (and inter-cultural) understanding is not conditioned by the criteria of objectivity (with a consensus on names) but by the thing itself, i.e. by understanding and its context. The dynamics of being existing between our intimate, personal world and the confused, continuous merging of all individual worlds into a single world, permeates our existence and situates us in “time and space”. In this context, communication is no longer just a tool for disseminating values, but is also a means for their preservation and reproduction. The question is not so much one of encouraging cultural unification, or transcending culturally determined misunderstandings in order to create a new, more substantial mutual understanding, as avoiding the risk of cultural uniformity, with the potential cancellation of individual cultural

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


identities which are considered “less rational” or “redundant” by prevailing modern approaches. Clearly, cultural identity is of the utmost importance for creating autonomous individuals, which are, in turn, essential to any sort of free humanity. In any case, detailed, in-depth studies of the semantic and morphological functions of the linguistic structures of classical philosophical texts can reveal important structural aspects which might prove extremely valuable in current interdisciplinary debates in the areas of epistemology, ontology, analytical methodology, categorical heuristics and the philosophy of language. The study of language structures can provide an important “lens” through which to view and understand cultural and social structures. According to Hans Lenk, such studies may one day produce important alternatives to the methodological “imperialism of Cartesian dualisms” (Lenk 1995, 4). For this reason, it is also important to avoid over-valuing the significance of the grammatical division between subject and object, which manifests itself as a division between facts and values on the epistemological level, and reality and phenomena on the ontological level. Such artificial demarcations are certainly much more difficult to find in the traditional Chinese structural paradigm, where different languages, habits and intellectual traditions are seen as systems of patterns and analyzed in terms of the structural relations among their components35. As we have seen, central to this approach is the notion that binary oppositions reveal the unconscious logic or “order” of a system, in which the basic elements of the underlying structure remain more or less the same, but the relations among them change. Thus, how individuals behave may be the result of how the overall circumstances (structures) in which they operate permit them to behave. In Confucian discourses, especially, these structures are seen as the norms, conventions, and restraints upon which human behavior is based. This explains why the structure of a system or organization is more important for the Confucians than the individual existence of its members. Instead, for the Daoist philosophers, the regular 35

It is one thing to recognize that a one-to-one correspondence between signifier and signified cannot be rationally established in a way which will make sense in a cross-cultural context. Each given culture will formulate the world according to different structures of meaning. But since the world is apprehended through a system of linguistic terms, it is very easy to arrive at a situation where the relation of a given society with the world has been reduced to one of the society with itself, i.e. to a closed auto-referential system of terms. And while this certainly makes the worldview of that society intelligible, it does not necessarily make it comprehensible (Structuralism 2011, 9)


Chapter Five

coexistence of two features which are normally found at opposite ends of the cognitive spectrum, a concern for the multiplicity of phenomena and an emphasis on fundamentals, characterize them as thinkers who are sensitive to the attraction of appearances, despite their fundamental conviction that value lies in immanence and not in manifestation. This also explains why their methods for exploring the “deeps” of reality, automatically imply convincing descriptions of the surface. Underpinning their philosophy is the epistemological supposition that the human mind organizes its apprehension of the world into dyadic structures, so that any given word or concept “makes sense” only in terms of its contraposition to its opposite 36 . The existence of binary categories, which represent a central methodological tool in such approaches, has been generally recognized as a specific methodological feature of traditional reasoning by many contemporary Chinese theoreticians. Most authors have denoted them as “categories of binary oppositions” (ሽ・ㇴ⮷) that operate in a mutually complementary relation (ӂ㺕‫ޣ‬㌫), though some have also expressed this notion with the symbol of the most general binary category, i.e. the yinyang 䲠䲭 pattern. As Huang Yushun notes: ަᇎᮤњѝഭଢᆖҏਟԕᖂ㓖Ѫ䱤䱣䰞仈DŽѝഭଢᆖࠐѾᡰᴹ䟽㾱㤳 ⮤ˈ䜭ᱟа⿽“Ҽ‫ݳ‬аփ”Ⲵ‫ޣ‬㌫㤳⮤ˈ䘉⿽Ҽ‫ݳ‬аփⲴ‫ޣ‬㌫...㊫լⲴ 䇪䘠ˈᡁԜਟԕࡇѮᰐᮠˈѮࠑᵜᵛǃփ⭘ǃ䚃ಘǃཙൠǃклǃੋ 㠓ǃ⡦ᆀǃཛྷǃᴻ৻ǃ䓛ᗳǃ⸕㹼ǃᙗᛵㅹㅹ. (Huang Yushun 2011, 1) In fact, all of Chinese philosophy can be reduced to the yinyang problem. Almost all the important categories of Chinese philosophy are kinds of categories of relations, based on “integral duality” [...] Countless examples can be found in academic discourses, e.g. root and top, essence and function, Way and capacity, heaven and earth, above and below, ruler and subject, father and child, husband and wife, body and mind, knowledge and praxis, nature and condition etc.

Huang Yushun 哳⦹丶 also detects a connection between complementary operating binary patterns and the corresponding methods of reasoning: 36

This supposition was clearly introduced by Laozi 㘱ᆀ in the 2nd chapter of his 䚃ᗧ㏃, in which he asserts that ཙлⲶ⸕㖾ѻ⛪㖾ˈᯟᜑᐢDŽⲶ⸕ழѻ⛪ழˈ ᯟнழᐢ (Laozi 2010, 2) (Everybody in this world knows that what makes beautiful things beautiful, is (the idea of) ugliness. Everybody in this world knows that what makes skillful (people) skillful, is (the idea of) what the lack of skill is.

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension


...Ӿަᖒᔿᯩ䶒ᶕⴻˈࡉᱟа⿽“㔃ᶴᙍ㔤”ᯩ⌅DŽᖃӺӪ㊫䶒Ѥ⵰䇨 䇨ཊཊ㍗䘛Ⲵц⭼ᙗǃ‫⨳ޘ‬ᙗ䰞仈ˈԕѝഭ⭏ભ㔃ᶴଢᆖᡆ䇨㜭ཏ㔉 ᡁԜԕ⴨ᖃⲴ੟⽪DŽㆄṸቡᱟ˖ཊ‫ݳ‬аփˈ‫ޡ‬ᆈӂ㺕. (Huang Yushun 2011, 2) … with respect to their form they represent a method of “structural thought”. At a time when humanity is facing very pressing problems concerning the nature of the world and globalization, a philosophy based upon the Chinese structure of life may offer us new inspiration. The answer to such questions lies in the integrity of plurality and in the mutual complementarity of our common existence.

Huang Yushun is thus one of the very few contemporary Chinese scholars who looks explicitly to the structural nature of traditional Chinese thought. In his view, the Chinese structural paradigm is defined by its organic and dynamic nature: ⭏ᆈ䰞仈≨䘌ᱟӪᡰ䶒ѤⲴᴰส⹰Ⲵ䰞仈ˈ㘼⭏ᆈ䰞仈Ⲵ䀓ߣ‫׍‬䎆Ҿ Ḁ⿽ਸ⨶Ⲵ⭏ᆈ㔃ᶴDŽ䘉⿽⭏ᆈ㔃ᶴփ⧠൘к䘠йབྷ‫ޣ‬㌫ѝ˖ཙӪ㔃 ᶴ˄Ӫо㠚❦⭼Ⲵ‫ޣ‬㌫㔃ᶴ˅ˈӪᐡ㔃ᶴ˄ӪоӪⲴ‫ޣ‬㌫㔃ᶴ˅ˈ䓛 ᗳ㔃ᶴ˄㚹փоᗳ⚥Ⲵ‫ޣ‬㌫㔃ᶴ˅DŽ䘉Ӌ↓ᱟѝഭଢᆖⲴสᵜ䈮仈ˈ ഐ Ѫ ൘ ᡁ ⴻ ᶕ ˈ ѝ ഭ ଢ ᆖ ቡ ᱟ а ⿽ “ ⭏ ભ 㔃 ᶴ ѫ ѹ ଢ ᆖ ”. (Huang Yushun 2011, 3) The problem of life and survival has always been a basic problem for human beings. The solution to this problem depends upon a reasonable vital structure. This vital structure manifests itself on three basic levels: the structure of nature and men, the structure of inter-human relations, and the structure of body and mind. These are precisely the central questions of Chinese philosophy. Hence, in my view, Chinese philosophy is a kind of “vital structuralist philosophy”.

In this regard, the traditional Chinese structural worldview definitely resembles Western functionalist discourses, though their methodology is more developed, given that their model is an organism rather than a machine or construct. Huang Yushun has also analyzed the notion li ⨶ in its function of expressing structure, even if only superficially and partially: 〻ᵡ⨶ᆖ‫ޘ‬䶒ᙫ㔃Ҷ‫⭏Ⲵࡽݸ‬ભ㔃ᶴѫѹଢᆖˈަṨᗳ㤳⮤“⨶”ᡆ㘵 “ཙ⨶”ˈᇎণӱѹ⽬ᲪⲴՖ⨶㿴㤳ˈᵜ䍘кᱟ‫ޣ‬Ҿ㗔փ⭏ᆈ㔃ᶴⲴᴤ ㋮㓶ǃᴤѕᇶⲴ޽ᓖᾲᤜ˗㘼䱶⦻ᗳᆖⲴ“ᗳণ⨶”ˈࡉᱟሩ㗔փ⭏ᆈ


Chapter Five 㔃ᶴⲴਖཆа⿽ᯠⲴᾲᤜˈᦒਕ䈍䈤ˈᆳᱟԕњփᗳ⚥ᆈ൘䘿ᱮࠪᶕ Ⲵ㗔փ⭏ભᆈ൘ (Huang Yushun 2011, 3). The School of structure established by the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi, summarized previous philosophies of vital structuralism. Its central category was “li” or “the li of Nature”. Actually, this was an ethical category which, in essence, represented the most meticulous and strictest generalization of the structure of community life. In other words, it represented the manifestation of general being through individual being.

For Huang, structure as a basic mode of traditional Chinese thought is also important in terms of a future dialogue between Chinese and Western thought. He notes that the methodology of the social sciences and the humanities, as developed by Western theoretical discourses, provides universally valid criteria and principles for humanistic and social studies worldwide. Like the English language, which in recent decades has become virtually the sole recognized means of communication around the world, such a standardised methodology also provides us with a basis for understanding in academic discourses. Huang points out, however, that a consequence of such an exclusive focus upon the paradigmatic and postulatory foundations of these methodologies, is the exclusion of categorical patterns which belong to differently structured methodological systems. ѝഭଢᆖᰒާᴹ㾯ᯩଢᆖѝ኎ҾӪ᮷ѫѹᙍ▞Ⲵ⭏ભଢᆖⲴ⭏ભ‫ޣ‬ ᘰˈ৸ާᴹ㾯ᯩଢᆖѝ኎Ҿ、ᆖѫѹᙍ▞Ⲵ㔃ᶴѫѹⲴ㔃ᶴᯩ⌅˗ᰒ нཡѪ֌Ѫа⿽ⵏ↓ⲴьᯩଢᆖⲴ≁᯿⢩䍘ˈ৸㮤⏥⵰ѠᇼⲴਟԕѪ ᖃӺц⭼ᡰ࡙⭘Ⲵ㋮⾎䍴Ⓚ (Huang Yushun 2011, 4). Chinese philosophy implies both the Western concern for life which pertains to the humanities, but also the structural method as developed by Western natural sciences. And yet it has not lost its genuine Eastern characteristics; thus, it still contains valuable cognitive resources which the contemporary world can use to its advantage.

Researching the structural mode of comprehension thus represents one of today’s main philosophical tasks: ࣚ࣋᧒㍒Ӫ㊫⭏ᆈⲴਸ⨶㔃ᶴˈ䘉ቡᱟᖃӺଢᆖᇦˈቔަᱟѝഭଢᆖ ᇦⲴԫ䟽䚃䘌Ⲵᰦԓ֯ભ (Huang Yushun 2011, 4).

Chinese Modernity and the Structural Approach to Comprehension Intensive investigation into the reasonable structure of human life is therefore a responsible and long-term topical mission for all contemporary philosophers, and especially for Chinese philosophers.



Although the present study concludes with an introduction to Zhang Dongsun’s structural philosophical system, my investigations into the structural paradigm of Chinese philosophy (especially those parts related to ontology and/or the theory of knowledge) actually began with him. The concept of structure in Chinese epistemology came to my attention some years ago when I was doing research in this area and happened to run across his extremely interesting book from 1934 entitled Epistemology (Renshi lun 䂽 䆈 䄆 ). In his “panstructural” system he built on the assumption that everything we can recognize or know is only a relational structure of the external world. However, this assumption was not only epistemological, but also bore on Zhang Dongsun’s ontology, for the external world, the existence of which was certainly acknowledged by the author, is also structurally determined. Consequently, for Zhang, nothing that exists is substantial in the sense of a definable (and thus, determinable) entity, but can only exist in its incessant changeable structural relations with other entities. Building on this basic framework, Zhang Dongsun established a felicitous and fascinating, though never quite completed1 system, which elaborated the basic principle of classical Chinese epistemology, by which the fundamental precondition of human perception and comprehension of the external world was the structural compatibility of that same external world and the human mind. This essentially quite simple principle 1

In the 1920’s and ‘30’s, when he began to project his philosophical system, Zhang was a prolific writer. Later, he taught philosophy for a time at the Peking University (Beijing daxue ेӜབྷᆨ ). But with the increasing political control over intellectuals, in 1958, soon after the start of the anti-rightist movement (fan you pai ৽ਣ⍮), he was prohibited from teaching and forced to work as a street sweeper for the same university. At the start of the Cultural Revolution he was imprisoned in one of the most infamous “reeducation” camps in China, where he would die due to the hardships and physical and mental abuse he suffered. He was therefore never able to complete his epistemological theory (Rošker 2008, 31).



becomes very clear when we consider the original meaning of the Chinese character li ⨶ and its later semantic connotations. Subsequent developments of the Chinese intellectual tradition must likewise be understood as being rooted in the basic meaning of the structural order. Because this notion represents one of the central concepts of Chinese philosophy, we can assume that the philosophy which derives from it is structuralist in essence. This assumption concurs with certain specific features of Chinese culture, in which the concept of the individual was never attributed the function of the highest axiological criterion, but only acquired value within the framework of a correlative relation with society2. In summarizing schematically its ideological and socio-political paradigms, we can conclude that traditional (as well as, to a great extent, contemporary) Chinese social ideologies were based upon binary structured relational connections among all the objects and subjects of the natural and social actuality3. In this context, no entity can exist separately from others, and therefore cannot be treated as a discrete, autonomous unit. Based on this binary-relational worldview, every being is defined by these reciprocal effects and its mutual relations with everything that apparently exists outside of it. The Self and the Other are thus equal parts of the same whole, which is not indivisible, disordered or static. In fact, the holistic unity of being, which in the immanent constitution of the Chinese tradition connects human beings with the cosmos (tian ren heyi ཙ Ӫਸа), exists only in the constant, unending change (yi ᱃) of the binary-determined, structural correlations which, by means of the circulation (tong 䙊) in the structural interference, form initially simple, and then ever more complex structural patterns (yili 㗙⨶). With respect to the notion of structure, despite their dominant ideological position, Confucian discourses did not constitute a unique and decisive paradigm of philosophical thought. The notion li ⨶ was also understood as structure by most exponents of the Daoist tradition, and especially by the classical philosopher Zhuangzi 㦺ᆀ. In the classical Daoist tradition, this structure was seen as an all-embracing, dynamic whole in which the multitudinous particular and unique structural patterns were amalgamated into larger and increasingly complex ones, which then dissolved again into simpler, ever more individualized and hence more 2

For an example of the evaluation of society as a system of relations in comparison with the individual see the results of an intercultural comparative research in Rošker 1997, 98. 3 Here, we can recall the Five (modes) of Human Relations (ӄٛ) as described by Confucius (Lunyu 2010. Zilu, 3).

Here a Structure, There a Structure


“real” patterns. Where the Confucian and Daoist insight into the structural conditionality of being mainly differed, was in the divergent ontological and, thus, axiological and epistemological methods which they applied to this fundamental concept. The “Confucian” structure was completely determined by the ethical–– and thus morally binding––idea of “properness” (zheng ↓) which, as a higher form of regulation, dictated the proper modes of being for all things: from the birth and death of all creatures, to the eternal, always identical changing of the seasons, to the alternating periods of war and peace, prosperity and famine. Confucian structure thus had a primarily normative function, in which the adaptation to structure (he li ਸ⨶)4 was a fateful (ming ભ) imperative. Those who did not adapt to or live their lives in harmony with structure, represented a sort of “redundant” pattern which inevitably led individuals into decadence and society into chaos. Such patterns (of conduct, life, existence) lost touch with circulation (tong 䙊), which formed the basis of structural interference, i.e. the circulation between structures and structural patterns (tong li 䙊⨶). The structures of such patterns were therefore “blocked (sai li ຎ⨶)”, “lost (shi li ཡ⨶)” or “broken (jian li ⑋⨶)”. While the state-friendly Confucians thus wracked their brains as to the most effective way to convince the people of the need to adapt (and, in the light of “proper” moral solicitations, also of subordinating themselves) to structure, the Daoists once again preferred a “softer” and, in their continuous relativization of existence, “more tolerant” approach. For them, adapting to structure was like adapting to dao, something natural, in which one could be unified with the innocence of being through simplicity. The principle of non-action (wu wei ❑⛪), which in Daoism is the basic precondition for such insight, can thus lead in a sudden and (virtually) unpremeditated amalgamation with structure and, simultaneously, with the Way (dao 䚃)5.


These two words from ancient Chinese form a single compound in modern Chinese, meaning “rational” or “reasonable”. This compound had already been applied in a similar way during the Song Dynasty, e.g. ╒儈ᑍ‫ڊ‬һˈӖᴹਸ⨶㲅. (Zhu Xi 2010. Da xue V, 412) “The emperor Gao from the Han Dynasty was also often right” (lit. “...also often adapted himself to the structure”). 5 The history of the semantic and philosophical interpretations of the relation between dao (the Way) and li (structure) was described in detail in Chapter 3, Ontological Foundations.



Not surprisingly, Confucian and Daoist views on structure and its “cultural” pattern, i.e. the ideal order of human society (wen li ᮷⨶), diverge most clearly with respect to their ethical connotations. While for Confucians the structure of all structures (zhenli ⵏ⨶6) was primarily the all-embracing (and thus, also the ethical) norm, for Daoists it was merely the actuality of the here and now, which still left individuals (and their groupings or collectivities) free to decide whether they wished to adapt or not. In the Chinese intellectual tradition, the various aspects of structural reasoning concerning reality were mutually interwoven, not only in ontological and ethical discourses, but also in the field of epistemology, with respect to language and meaning. Classical Chinese structural semantics, the germs of which can be found in the works of the Late Mohists and the Nominalists, flourished during early medieval China, attaining a significant level of development in Neo-Daoist discourses7 as a structure of concepts or names (ming li ਽⨶). Within these contexts, the structure of concepts became the focus of philosophical inquiry, especially with regard to the problem of the binary understanding of the relation between language and meaning (yan yi 䀰᜿). The structure of human emotion and its relation with the structure of music, especially in terms of its social functions in the framework of Confucian doctrine, was a topic which received particular attention in the philosophical treatises of this period. The Confucian view on the significance and possible threat of structural semantics was not formulated until the renewal of classical Confucianism and its transformation into a state doctrine. Given the general aims of this new ideology, the spiritual fathers of this renewal8 were especially interested in those understandings of names or concepts (ming ਽) which were suitable for unification and could thus serve as basic criteria for the “proper (zheng ↓)” order. They therefore recommended amalgamations with a structure that was seen as the central and omnipresent regulation (norm) of existence. Names or concepts thus had to be unified, because in the linguistically reflected and determinable unification of all phenomena they saw the only reasonable possibility of 6

Lit.: The real structure, the true structure or the structure of reality. In modern Chinese, this term means “the truth”. 7 Especially by exponents of the Pure Conversations (Qing tan ␵䃷) group and the School of Mystery (Xuan xue ⦴ᆨ). 8 The political philosopher Dong Zhongshu Dong Zhongshuja 㪓Ԣ㡂 (179–104 BC).

Here a Structure, There a Structure


inter-human communication and collective being. Consequently, their system of linguistic comprehension was based on the proto-Legalist and Legalist discourses on the relation between concepts and actuality (ming shi ਽ሖ). The classical Daoists naturally took a completely different stance, also with respect to the relation between comprehension and communication. In their view, actuality and our perception of it were also structured, though not in a “properly regulated” (i.e. in a neat, self-evident) way. Their concept of the structure of the “external” world, meaning the structure of the universe (tian li ཙ⨶), was thus much freer and less regulated than in the Confucian view. Daoist philosophers ascribed to human beings (whom they viewed as being essentially thrust into the world of phenomena) the freedom to choose their own way of life, as well as the responsibility for the consequences of their autonomous decisions. As opposed to the Confucians, these decisions were in no way based upon the loss of being connected with the structure. Zhuangzi and his contemporaries were not burdened with questions of “proper” language, but attributed to every individual, regardless of their convictions, the ability to make autonomous decisions on what to think, hear or say. In Daoist (and Neo-Daoist) discourses, the structure of language and its cognitive and linguistic concepts (ming li ਽ ⨶ ) could be applied to individual meanings (yi ᜿). The decision as to what a person thought or said, and how they wished to be understood, was therefore always their own. The same was also true for how they wished to comprehend what they perceived. Even the possibility of gaining insight into the structure that determined this perception was likewise a matter of personal choice. And by so doing, they deftly avoided the (Western) dilemma of deciding whether the structure of mind conditions language, or vice versa. While there can be no doubting the existence of mental structures correlating with linguistic structures, the generative relationship between linguistic and mental structures is a difference of profound significance. There are no better words to describe this dichotomy than materialism and idealism: are social structures the source of structures exhibited in language and internalized in thinking, or are linguistic structures manifestations of underlying mental structures in turn manifested in social structures? Each implies an opposite line of investigation (Structuralism 2011, 3). Like the Daoists, most of the other main philosophical currents in Chinese intellectual history did not trouble themselves with seeking solutions to such redundant questions. Because their mode of thought was



based upon the binary structured principle of complementarity, the relation between language and mind was clearly also a correlative one. Since both Confucian and Daoist thought tended towards a strong affirmation of life, the structure of the universe was never as empty as the one that defined the Chinese transformations and elaborations of Buddhist thought (kong li オ ⨶ ) 9 . The Buddhist concept of depletion (of the structure) ended in Nirvana, whereas the way towards it was paved by countless “illusory” structures. These referred not only to the phenomenal world, but also to the world that included all particular entities, which were trapped in countless constellations of the subject (㜭) and object (ᡰ) of comprehension. Here, we should bear in mind that before the influence of Buddhist philosophy, and therefore prior to the earliest philosophical reflections on the structure of the universe (ཙ⨶), there was no clear distinction between the sphere of concrete perceivable phenomena, and the domain which lay beyond the reach of our limited senses. But even after these two spheres were clearly separated in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, Chinese philosophers still managed to preserve this unity, primarily due to the specific features of correlative methodology which cannot be equated with dualisms of the Cartesian type 10 . In the Neo-Confucian thought of the Song ᆻ Dynasty, the spheres that divided what was “above” from what was “below the form (phenomena)” ( ᖒ 㘼 к , ᖒ 㘼 л 11 ) were again arranged in an orderly system of mutual interactions which, together with everything else, had already been safely ensconced in the bosom of the common structure. Structure as such was also the object of Neo-Confucian investigations, where it was situated in a binary categorical connection with creativity (qi ≓), and with free circulation (tong 䙊) permitting the flow. The domain of all things comprised within the so-called “above or supra-phenomenal” sphere, i.e. those entities which were beyond the reach of our empirical perception, and the domain of the “below or netherphenomenal” sphere, which included human beings, were thus unified once again (Happy Ending!). In this unity, however, the two spheres were certainly not unified in the sense of their equivalency or identity, since this unity guaranteed (while also being conditioned by) the integrity, and thus 9

See Chapter 3, The Empty Structure of Chinese Buddhism. See Chapter 1 The Principale of Complementarity and Chinese Analogy, and Chapter 3, Structure and Creativity. 11 These notions can already be found in the Book of Changes (Yi jing ᱃㏃), (Zhou yi 2010. Yi jing, Xi ci I, 12) 10

Here a Structure, There a Structure


the uniqueness of each single phenomenon. The aforesaid unity was composed of a multitude of binary relations or connections among all its parts (in Confucian doctrine, these relations were fairly fixed, while in Daoist and Buddhist discourses they changed continuously). In the framework of correlative methodologies, these relations are always correlative and reciprocal, which means that each of the entities that forms a certain relation refers simultaneously to itself and to the Other, in terms of constant reciprocal influence. The principle of complementarity unifies the pairs of mutually conditioning and complementary entities which express a certain binary category, into a basic structural unity or pattern (yili 㗙 ⨶ ) of existence. When given another “name” (i.e. when conceptualized in a different way) this pattern can then form one pole of a new binary category12 . In this way, basic units were amalgamated into more and more complex ones, until they reached that extremity which is infinity (tai ji ཚᾥ), which signifies both the end and the beginning, and is also the most general name for the structure13 of everything that exists. The model of qualitative understanding, as it was defined by the NeoConfucians, naturally also implied many elements of Buddhist (especially Chan ⿚ Buddhist) and Daoist epistemologies. Similar to Zhang Dongsun’s model, Chan Buddhist epistemological systems were likewise based upon the assumption of the subject and object of comprehension14. Of course, in Chan Buddhism the poles which form this structure of understanding are seen as essentially illusory, but this does not mean that they do not exist. As parts of the countless patterns of actuality they remain imprinted in the human mind as the two basic patterns of the structure of our identity which,15 however, is also illusory. Once we have gained this awareness as to the illusory nature of identity, we can follow this structure and adapt to it, even though this means diverging from the spiritual development that occurs through the depletion of this structure (kong li オ⨶). 12

Credit for the creation of the semantic shift without which the Neo-Confucian theoretical elaborations would not have been possible, must be given to the ancient Mohist school, and especially to the philosophers of Pure Conversations and the School of Mystery from the Wei Jin era. 13 ཚᾥਚᱟཙൠ㩜⢙ѻ⨶DŽ(Zhu Xi 2010. Li qi shang, 1) Taiji (the ultimate extreme) is nothing other than the structure of heaven, earth and all that exists. 14 In the terminology of sinicised Buddhism, these notions were called neng zhi 㜭 ⸕ and suo zhi ᡰ⸕ (lit.: the potential, and the space of knowing). 15 The reference here is to the structure of the concept of Real Self in Xiong Shili’s philosophy.



When the Neo-Confucians adopted the Buddhist methodological pattern which defined the existence of the subject and the object of comprehension, they set aside its original attribute of being illusory. By focusing on the actuality of these two opposite poles, the Neo-Confucian theorists were able to integrate them with numerous classical Chinese methodological elements, which were clearly evident in the strict application of binary categories and the principle of complementarity. This principle also defined the immanent nature of the structure, which was seen both as an entity that existed in actuality, and as a method for comprehending this actuality. This is another specific feature of traditional Chinese structuralism which differs from structuralist positions developed in Western traditions of thought: The term social structure has nothing to do with empirical reality but refers to models which are set up after it. Social structure cannot be reduced to the ensemble of the social relations to be described in a given society. It is rather a method to be applied to any kind of social studies, similar to the structural analysis current in other disciplines (Structuralism 2011, 4) All these influences and manifold interpretations of the structure, of structural patterns and structural order have been preserved in Chinese philosophy until the present day, even if in a more or less latent and transformed manner. In the previous chapter, we focused upon the structural systems of Feng Youlan and Zhang Dongsun. But a number of other modern and contemporary Chinese philosophers have also proposed different structural approaches in epistemology, 16 which are likewise rooted in the traditional discourses of various philosophical schools and currents. What distinguishes these theories are primarily their specific ideological and axiological (especially moral–ethical) tendencies. However, because these tendencies have to a great extent also influenced the methodologies and even the contents of certain of these philosophical works, we must ask ourselves whether the notion li ⨶, which is the main focus of the present study, should be referred to as a concept, or a category. The difference between concepts and categories in the framework of traditional Chinese thought was clearly defined by Zhang Dainian ᕥ ዡ ᒤ (1909–2004) in his Introduction to the Methodology of the History of Chinese Philosophy (ѝ഻ଢᆨਢᯩ⌅䄆Ⲭ ࠑ, 2003):


E.g. Mou Zongsan ⢏ᇇй(1909–1995), Xia Zhentao ༿⬴䲦 (*1934) and Zhang Yaonan ᕥ㘰ই (*1963)

Here a Structure, There a Structure


七᜸ '৏䚃' ᴹ㲋սᇊ਽ѻ䃚. '৏䚃' Ӂ: 'ӱ㠷㗙⛪ᇊ਽, 䚃㠷ᗧ⛪㲋ս'. ᡰ䄲㲋սণᱟオṬᆀ, ਟԕ␫ кн਼Ⲵ‫ޗ‬ᇩ. ݂ᇦ, 䚃ᇦ, ֋ᮉ䜭䅋䚃, 㘼ަᡰ䄲䚃, ᖬ↔᜿ 㗙н਼, ᡰԕち⛪㲋ս. 㠣ᯬӱ㗙, ࡷᴹ⻪ᇊⲴ‫ޗ‬ ⏥. ݂ᇦᇓ ᨊӱ㗙, 䚃ᇦ৽ሽӱ㗙, нਟ㜭ᨀࠪਖཆаぞӱ㗙, ᡰԕӱ 㗙 ᱟᇊ਽. 七᜸ᡰ䄲㲋ս, ∄䔳᧕䘁ᯬ䘁ԓᡰ䄲ㇴ⮷. (Zhang Dainian 2003, 118) In his work, The Origin of the Way (The Origin of Dao), Han Yu developed a theory of categories “xuwei” and concepts “dingming”. In the same work, he wrote: “Humanity and justice are concepts, while Dao and virtue are categories”. A so-called category is an empty shelf, which can be filled with various contents. Confucians, Daoists and Buddhists all spoke about Dao, but Dao meant something different for each of these systems of thought; therefore, this term refers to a category (xuwei). On the other hand, the terms humanity (ren) and justice (yi) do have precise, fixed, inherent meanings. While Confucians professed humanity and justice, Daoists opposed them. They did not advocate any other form of humanity or justice. Hence, the terms humanity and justice are concepts (dingming). The meaning of Han Yu’s term “xuwei” is very close to the Western term “category”.

He also justified this distinction based on the etymology of the Chinese translation of the Western term “category”: ㇴ⮷ᱟ䆟਽, 㘼ㇴ⮷ҼᆇⓀᯬ 'ቊᴨ' Ⲵ '⍚㤳' ㇷ, ᡰ䄲 '⍚㤳ҍ⮷'. 㤳㘵 ৏ࡷ, ⮷䙉于ࡕ. ㇴ⮷ণᱟһ⢙Ⲵสᵜ于ࡕ. ⭘ㇴ⮷ Ҽᆇ㘫䆟㾯ᯩ'ᾧ⢩ Ṭ䟼', ⴻֶ䚴ᱟ䚙࠷Ⲵ (Zhang Dainian 2003, 118–9). The expression “category” (fanchou) is a foreign word. It is a compound of two words taken from the essay “The Great Plan” from the book Shang Shu. This essay is divided into “nine sections” (chou) of the universal “plan” (fan). Here, the word “fan” means a principle, and the word “chou” means “kind”. The compound word ‘fanchou’ means principal kinds (or the principles of sorting). The use of this compound word as a translation of the Western term “category” thus seems quite appropriate.

However, the distinction between the notions of category and concept as sustained by Zhang Dainian is, at least in the context of Chinese tradition, often much less clear-cut than may appear at first glance. The word dao 䚃 (originally: the Way), which Zhang defines as a category, is certainly subject to different essential interpretations depending on the philosophical school or tradition in which it occurs. Nonetheless, it still represents one of the basic epistemic paradigms underlying the specific



theoretical methodology as developed within the classical Chinese intellectual tradition. Traditional interpretations of terms such as humanity (ren ӱ) or righteousness (yi 㗙), which were also defined as concepts by Zhang Dainian17, are likewise often divergent. And this holds true not only for those schools of thought which rejected or opposed the dominant Confucian discourse, but most especially for Confucian thought itself. In the present study, we have followed the assumption that the notion dao 䚃 represents one of the basic concepts in traditional Chinese philosophy. Even though it appears with different semantic connotations18 (which can, as such, function as categories) depending on the philosophical current or historical context, all these connotations share the common meaning of being the “proper (zheng ↓)”, “wise (zhi Ც)” or “transparent (ming ᰾)” course through the selva oscura of being. Even the most nihilistic and subversive traditional scholars did not refute or reject these basic understandings of the Way. But the methods by which one adjusts to the Way certainly pertain to different categories, such as that of proper names or concepts (zhengming ↓਽), or of right and wrong (shifei ᱟ 䶎 ). Furthermore, the term dao 䚃 is a concept with a paradigmatic function, given that: - it has been observed and examined in all discourses; - determines the mode of dealing with questions that arise with respect to a given theme; - determines the method for establishing such questions; - determines the mode of their interpretation (see: Kuhn 1998, 38–55). As a basic paradigm of Chinese philosophy (Rošker 2009, 225–37), the term dao 䚃 is a concept which decisively defines prevailing thought patterns. At the same time, it reflects the general consensus regarding suppositions and images which enable us to formulate solutions for a wide range of philosophical problems (Rošker 2009, 155–60). But if this is so, then it places sinologists in the difficult role of being interpreters, given that our expositions of Chinese philosophy should be defined by methods which transcend the incommensurability of divergent, culturally conditioned meanings. The theory of the concept dao 䚃 as it


The compound which implies both of the above-mentioned notions (renyi ӱ㗙 ) signifies (Confucian) morality in classical Chinese. 18 Hence, different connotations of the notion dao 䚃 appear as the fundamental social way (ren dao Ӫ䚃) in Confucian, and as the basic cosmological principle (tian dao ཙ䚃) in Daoist discourses.

Here a Structure, There a Structure


appears in the function of a paradigmatic framework for all investigations, thus defines the meaning of every single term applied within it. A paradigm can be made our own only after accepting the theory upon which it rests, and patterns of models and explanations which offer us the criteria for comparing the given examples with new examples of theory application. According to Kuhn, we can learn to apply a certain theory in the same way we learn a foreign language, i.e. based upon certain patterns, which can be gradually expanded and alternated, until we have finally “mastered” the language (Ule 1998, 195).

The traditional Chinese structural paradigm which was developed by means of diverse connotations of the term li ⨶, in Chinese philosophy most certainly pertained to basic aspects of investigating the world and the position of human beings within it. Like dao 䚃, the term li ⨶ is a concept which also implies multifarious semantic connotations and interpretations. These differences notwithstanding, it still represents a mode (or method) by which we can gain a basic insight into the nature of being, in all of its ontological, ethical and epistemological aspects. The discourses of the specifically Chinese philosophical tradition certainly cannot be made to fit completely into the system of categories of the various philosophical disciplines as we find in the European tradition. On the other hand, it appears as undeniable that traditional Chinese philosophers generally interpreted the specific concrete objects of investigation in terms of certain theories, even if the definition of “theory” does not coincide perfectly with that found in Euro-American discourses. The theory of structure as it was developed in the Chinese intellectual tradition was rooted in the concept li ⨶ which denoted both a fundamental framework (or network) and the basic nature of all that exists. It provided an insight into reality which can be described within the scope of the conceptual design of the term li ⨶ and which, at the same time, represents its fundamental presupposition. The common acceptance of this structural theory thus enabled human beings to establish certain prognoses and instructions for concrete (either individual or political) modes of action and behavior. We can conclude, therefore, that at the core of the theory of li ⨶ there is a structural model of reality which implies its ontological, epistemological and, last but not least, axiological aspects. The indivisibility of all these aspects thus constitutes the distinguishing characteristic of traditional Chinese discourses, by which such aspects were defined throughout the entire history of traditional thought. The methodological network which determined traditional Chinese philosophy



was rooted less in its contents, than in its axiological suppositions (although, regrettably, in both contemporary Chinese philosophy and Western sinology, contents and values are still often confused and misapplied). While in the Chinese intellectual tradition, the function of concepts was assumed by certain elementary forms of content that were applied within the various schools or traditions, they merely formed a scope of models and methods which were common to anyone using the Chinese language and script. In fact, axiological suppositions were the crucial elements that defined the divergences among different philosophical treatises19. In this sense, specific contents were transferable and replaceable, that is, they were merely different individualized and ideologized variables within the system of exploring and comprehending the world. What was commonly accepted beyond these variables as an unquestionable fundamental basis of being and philosophizing, were the paradigmatic concepts, which definitely included dao 䚃 and li ⨶. The development and dimensions of the traditional Chinese concept li ⨶, which form the subject of the present study, demonstrate that it denotes both structure and the patterns of correlation which serve as an ontoepistemological basis for human existence and reasoning. It is, in fact, an organic network of being which implies, in its ceaseless dynamics, both the world as recognized and co-created by human beings, as well as the world which remains beyond the reach of the human mind. The investigative theories deriving from this paradigm are always defined by correlations. Hence, although the existence of the structure in the sense of the concept li ⨶ is not conditioned by any object, it is still rooted in the mutual correlations among all entities. This principle of correlativity manifests itself not only in mutual relations between particular entities (as can be found in the subject and object of comprehension, or in the external and internal worlds), but in the very structure of being as such. Furthermore, structural interference, which arises due to the possibility of circulation (tong 䙊), is one of the basic attributes of the concept li ⨶. This dynamic feature enables the structure to constantly assimilate various partial patterns (yili 㗙⨶), which have been formed through their mutual amalgamations and dispersions. The free circulation that makes such interactions possible, represents the compatibility of correlations which 19

This is precisely why Chinese philosophy has, to a great extent, developed as a philosophy of language, in terms of its semantic shadings and communicative functions. From this standpoint, human thoughts can only be expressed within the structure of language and meaning (yan yi 䀰 ᜿ ), which, in their mutual connection, form a simple but effective system.

Here a Structure, There a Structure


can, when viewed from the perspective of human perception, belong to completely different spheres of forms and modes of being. A parallel, binary-patterned, structural model can also be found in the prevailing classical Chinese methods of reasoning. The analogous mode of conceptualizing reality not only makes the connections among different objects of inquiry possible, but also semantically determines the methods of such inquiry. This helps explain why traditional Chinese thought did not develop strict demarcations between the different methods or disciplines applied. However, this structural linking feature of traditional Chinese thought not only manifested itself in the methods of inquiry, but also had crucial consequences with respect to the methods of classification and categorization. It is not surprising therefore, that in the vast body and the many different approaches of the traditional Chinese investigations of the world we cannot find disciplines like logic, epistemology, phenomenology or ontology, even though logical, epistemological, phenomenological and ontological issues can be found in the works of many Chinese thinkers. Instead, the methodological demarcation line which marked the differences among all these approaches was to be found in the axiologically differentiated applications of concepts and categories. As we noted earlier, in this context, reality, verity and actuality are also determined by means of binary oppositions. Although in Chinese theories of knowledge, the distinction between these categories has often been blurred, they are defined by different insights into the patterns of comprehension, as well as into the methods of concrete problem solving. Thus, in the Chinese tradition, the methods of structurally determined comprehension have commonly been defined by the tendency to integrate knowledge and action (zhi xing ⸕㹼). The correlation between these two poles of understanding also constitutes part of the structure, which is characterized by the potential of compatibility. It is precisely in this close relation between the theoretical paradigms and their direct application, towards which the Chinese intellectual tradition has tended through its structural paradigm, that its valuable contribution to different contemporary modes of understanding the world is to be found, and not only those produced by Chinese theorists, but in all other intellectual traditions as well. It can, in fact, help us view the world primarily as a network of abstract and actual relations. In any case, exploring the methodological assumptions of worldviews that enable us to integrate theory and practice, certainly constitutes one of the most relevant and urgent challenges for the humanities today. The structural mode of understanding offers new ways to confront these challenges. At the same time, it highlights the inadequacy of current,



dominant approaches regarding the most topical attempts to link quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The attentive evaluation of this model could help us to establish new, more appropriate research methods, not only in the area of Chinese thought, but also in the vast domain of general academic inquiry.


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ኟ Xia 2100–1600 BC ၟShang 1600–1066 BC ࿘ Zhou 1066–256 BC す࿘ Western Zhou 1066–771 BC ᷄࿘ Eastern Zhou 770–256 BC ᫓⛅ Chun Qiu (Spring–Autumn) 770–476 BC ㇀ᅜ Zhan Guo (Warring States) 475–221 BC ⛙ Qin 221–206 BC 㯱 Han 206 BC–220 す㯱 Western Han 206 BC–23 AD ᷄㯱 Eastern Han 25–220 ୕ᅜ San Guo (Three Kingdoms) 㨯 Wei 220–265 ⻎ Shu 221–263 ྻ Wu 222–280 す᫴ Western Jin 265–316 ᷄᫴ Eastern Jin 317–420 ༑භᅜ Sixteen States 304–439 ༡໭ᮅ Northern and Southern Dynasties ༡ᮅ Southern Dynasties Ᏽ Song 420–479 滸Qi 479–502 ᱱ Liang 502–557 旰 Chen 557–589 ໭ᮅ Northern Dynasties


Chronological Table of Chinese Dynasties

໭㨯 Northern Wei 386–534 ᷄㨯 Eastern Wei 534–550 ໭滸 Northern Qi 550–577 す㨯 Western Wei 535–557 ໭࿘ Northern Zhou 557–581 㝳 Sui 581–618 ၈ Tang 618–907 ஬௦༑ᅜ Five Dynasties and Ten States ྡྷᱱ Late Liang 907–923 ྡྷ၈ Late Tang 923–936 ྡྷ᫴ Late Jin 936–946 ྡྷ㯱 Late Han 947–950 ྡྷ࿘ Late Zhou 951–960 ༑ᅜ Ten States 902–979 Ᏽ Song 960–1279 ໭Ᏽ Northern Song 960–1127 ༡Ᏽ Southern Song 1127–1279 彥 Liao 916–1125 すኟ Western Xia 1032–1227 㔠 Jin 1115–1234 ඖ Yuan 1271–1368 ᫂ Ming 1368–1644 Ύ Qing 1644–1911


Ames, Roger T., 12, 142, 148, 209 Avatamsaka (see Huayan zong), 82 Bauer, Wolfgang, 39, 102, 207 Benmo 㛔㛓 (binary category roots and top), 5, 9, 11, 19, 20, 28, 30, 35, 34, 37, 39, 49, 52, 55, 68, 76, 81, 88, 97, 105, 107, 108, 101, 116, 128, 138, 140, 141, 143, 144, 150, 151, 153, 155, 156, 167, 169, 173, 180, 182, 186, 187, 188, 189, 193, 194, 196, 195, 196, 202, 214 benran wu 㛔䃞䈑 (things as such, Ding an sich), 169 binarity, 12, 99, 141 binary categories, 9, 10, 12, 115, 116, 117, 126, 150, 197, 201 chan (Buddhism) 䤭⬿, 175 Cheng Hao 䦳 栍 (1032–1085), 53, 70, 81, 89, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 103, 104, 105, 127, 131, 143, 146, 149, 153 Cheng weishi lun ㆸⓗ嬀婾 (Completion of Pure Recognition), 86 Cheng Yi 柌 (1033–1107), 53, 70, 89, 90, 91, 92, 95, 103, 104, 105, 131, 143, 146, 153 chuangbianxing ∝嬲⿏ (creativity), 43, 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 113, 116, 164, 165, 171, 182, 200 chun keguan lun 䲼⭊奨婾 (pure objectivism), 162 complementarity, 9, 10, 12, 91, 141, 198, 199, 200, 201

concept, 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 24, 25, 26, 39, 40, 42, 45, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55, 61, 62, 66, 67, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, 107, 109, 110, 97, 101, 116, 117, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 128, 132, 133, 137, 138, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 143, 144, 145, 147, 148, 149, 150, 152, 153, 155, 156, 157, 160, 161, 163, 165, 166, 170, 180, 183, 184, 189, 197, 193, 194, 195, 198, 199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 207 Confucius ⫼⣓⫸(551–479 B.C.), 22, 23, 24, 25, 41, 42, 65, 66, 194, 213 correlativity, correlative thought, 207 Cui Qingtian Ⲽ㶭䓘 (contemporary scholar), 26, 34, 35, 75, 207, 210, 213, 217 Dai Zhen ㇜暯 (1724–1777), 136, 137, 208 Dao 忻 (the Way), 10, 44, 49, 50, 51, 52, 59, 60, 61, 64, 70, 77, 78, 103, 104, 105, 107, 108, 98, 99, 103, 120, 147, 149, 196, 203, 204, 205, 207 Deng Xi 惏 㜸 (sixth century B.C.), 73 Dong Zhongshu 吋ẚ冺 (179–104 B.C.), 35, 47, 62, 63, 73, 74, 146, 197 dualism, dualisms, 12, 13, 14, 97, 98, 99, 142, 155, 196, 199

230 duality, 7, 11, 110, 146, 198 duoyuan renshilun ⣂⃫娵嬀婾 (Pluralist epistemology), iv fanchou 䭬䔯 (category, categories), 2, 15, 36, 52, 54, 72, 76, 96, 97, 102, 108, 110, 102, 115, 130, 141, 144, 154, 157, 159, 168, 169, 171, 184, 187, 197, 198, 199, 200, 202, 203, 204, 205, 208 Faxiang zong 㱽䚠⬿, MadhyamayƗna, 82 Feng Qi 楖⣹ (1915–1995), 147 Feng Youlan 楖⍳嗕 (1895–1990), iv, 90, 146, 150, 152, 153, 154, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 187, 188, 202, 214 gainian 㤪⾝ (concept, idea), 72, 160 ganjue デ奢 (perception), 1, 2, 3, 4, 14, 17, 33, 36, 39, 70, 73, 81, 87, 88, 92, 94, 98, 97, 100, 101, 106, 115, 122, 124, 125, 126, 135, 138, 147, 152, 161, 168, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 176, 178, 187, 193, 194, 193, 198, 200, 207 ganxiang デ䚠 (sensation), 88, 167, 175 Gao Panlong 檀㒨漵 (1562–1626), 134 ge wu 㟤䈑 (exploration of things, indexation), 132, 147, 184 geshi 㟤⺷ (transcendental forms), 171 Graham, A.C., 12, 39, 40, 98, 99, 142, 209 Gu Xiancheng 栏ㅚㆸ (1550–1612), 135 Guan Zhong 䭉ẚ (725–645 B.C.), 46, 50, 56, 57, 58, 59, 67, 71, 98, 99, 120 Guo Xiang 悕尉 (190/?/–249), 78

Index Hall, David L., 12, 142, 148, 209 Han Fei 杻朆 (280–233 B.C.), 40, 42, 43, 51, 120, 210 Harbsmeier, Christoph, 40, 50, 210 he li ⎰䎮 (adjusting or corresponding to the structure), 195 He Yan ỽ⭜ (190/?/–249), 78 he ␴ (harmony, reconciliation), 7, 49, 58, 104, 109, 115, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 149, 195 holism, 11, 55, 107 Hou qi Mo jia ⼴㛇⡐⭞ (later Mohists, Neo-Mohists), 21, 28, 29 Hu Shi 傉怑 (1891–1962), 18, 19, 188 Huayan zong 厗♜⬿, Avatamsaka, 82 Hui Shi よ㕥(c. 370–310 B.C.), 30 immanence, 9, 197 Ji Kang ⳯⹟ (221–262), iii, 100, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 207 jiagou guanxi 㝞㥳斄Ὢ (structural relations), 59, 171, 172, 178, 180, 181, 183, 196, 193 jiagou 㝞㥳 (structure, construct), 37, 38, 49, 170, 193, 199 Jiang Qing 㰇曺 (1914–1991), 104 Kant, Immanuel (1724–1804), 174 lei 栆 (kind), 25, 28, 32, 157, 159 Li Gong 㛶⠐ (1659–1746), 38, 53, 54, 143, 212 Li ji 䥖姀(see Book of Ritual), 24, 26, 41, 42, 51, 57, 58, 68, 69, 93, 96, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 108, 212 li xue 䎮⬠ (The School of Structure), 88, 142 Li Zhi 㛶岬 (1527–1602), 134

Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li 䎮) liang zhi 列䞍 (innate knowledge, inborn knowledge), 93, 133, 134, 136, 184 liangzhi 慷㘢 (quantitative knowledge, quantitative understanding), 184 lianxuxing 忋临⿏ (continuity), 148, 171, 182, 186, 187 liqi 䎮㯋 (binary category structure and creativeness), 11, 116 liuxing 㳩埴 (decantation, circulation), 101, 133, 137, 146, 148, 149, 150, 162, 185, 194, 196, 200, 207 liwen zhi li 䥖㔯ᷳ䎮 (structural pattern, implied in rituality and culture), 1, 7, 8, 12, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, 48, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 67, 82, 90, 91, 93, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 107, 108, 109, 98, 100, 101, 103, 105, 109, 110, 112, 113, 127, 128, 129, 132, 134, 136, 137, 140, 143, 144, 145, 147, 141, 145, 146, 154, 156, 157, 158, 162, 163, 171, 185, 194, 195, 196, 202 Lü Buwei ⏪ᶵ杳 (291?–235 B.C.), 22 Lu Jiuyuan 映ḅ㶝 (1139–1193), 129 Lü shi Chunqiu ⏪㮷㗍䥳 (Confucius’ Annals of Spring and Autumn), 22 luan Ḫ (chaos, disorder, confusion), 13, 32, 46, 48, 52, 56, 58, 59, 60, 63, 65, 72, 103, 117, 132, 156, 196 Lunyu 婾婆 (Confucius’ Analects), 22, 23, 24, 194, 213 Mencius (Mengzi ⬇⫸) (372–289 B.C.), 22, 25, 65, 66, 101, 97, 213


Mengzi (⬇⫸, see Mencij) (372– 289 B.C.), 22, 24, 25, 66, 92, 101, 97, 137, 213 xing’er shang ⼊侴ᶲ (above the forms, 104, 110 ming jia ⎵⭞ (School of Names, the Nominalists), 4, 62 ming ⎵ (name, concept), ii, iii, 4, 28, 29, 32, 59, 61, 62, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, 78, 81, 99, 100, 113, 115, 117, 132, 141, 146, 164, 195, 197, 198, 200, 204 ming ␥ (faith, decree), ii, iii, 4, 28, 32, 59, 61, 62, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, 78, 81, 100, 113, 115, 132, 195, 197, 198, 204 mingli ⎵䎮 (the structure of names, the structure of concepts), ii, 70, 72, 75, 77, 79, 80, 81, 83, 90, 132, 197, 198 mingshi ⎵⮎ (binary category name /concept/ and actuality), 4, 11, 116, 198 Mo jia ⡐⭞ (the Mohist School, the Mohists), 20, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 71, 72, 74, 77, 79, 116, 169, 197 mo Ἴ (type of Chinese analogism), 5, 9, 19, 20, 28, 30, 35, 34, 37, 39, 49, 52, 68, 76, 81, 88, 97, 105, 107, 108, 101, 128, 138, 140, 141, 142, 144, 150, 151, 153, 155, 156, 167, 169, 173, 180, 182, 186, 187, 188, 189, 193, 194, 196, 195, 196, 202, 214 Mou Zongsan 䈇⬿ᶱ (1909–1995), 150, 187, 202, 214 Mozi ⡐⫸ (Master Mo), 21, 22, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 39, 71, 72, 80 names (concepts) and actualities (see mingshi), 4, 29, 30, 32, 35, 41, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 106, 132, 146, 149, 196, 197, 204

232 Ouyang Jian 㫸春⺢ (249–282), 77 pan-structuralism, 175 pi 彇 (type of Chinese analogism), 20, 24 Li 䎮 (structure, to structure, order, to order, ii, iii, iv, 9, 19, 24, 26, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 74, 75, 76, 78, 80, 81, 82, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 102, 103, 104, 105, 107, 108, 98, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 108, 120, 126, 128, 130, 131, 132, 134, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 158, 160, 161, 162, 164, 165, 166, 189, 199, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201, 202, 205, 206, 207, 212, 213, 214, 216 qi 㯋 (creativeness), iii, 9, 26, 68, 89, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 107, 130, 140, 141, 164, 165, 200, 201 Qian Dehong 拊⽟㳒 (1496–1574), 133 ren yu Ṣ㫚 (human desire), 54, 59, 127 ren ṩ (humanity, mutuality), 10, 24, 46, 48, 57, 61, 94, 95, 149, 196, 198, 203, 204 Russell, Bertrand (1872–1970), 22, 31, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 215 Shao Yong 恝晵 (1011–1077), 129 sheng 䓇 (live, the living, birth, to give birth), 87, 108, 110, 119, 141, 184, 195 shezhun 姕㸾 (logical postulates), 171 shi li ⣙䎮 (the lost structure, to lose /contact with/ the structure, 196

Index shiji ⮎晃 (actuality, concrete reality), 7, 11, 29, 44, 60, 68, 72, 73, 79, 84, 95, 115, 116, 117, 118, 121, 122, 123, 126, 147, 141, 146, 147, 148, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 162, 164, 165, 166, 182, 185, 193, 194, 196, 198, 201, 202, 208 shiti ⮎橼 (substance), 10, 11, 13, 14, 94, 101, 107, 146, 149, 151, 152, 156, 167, 168, 170, 171, 173, 175, 176, 178, 180, 181, 182, 184 synthesis, 12, 143, 167 tai ji ⣒㤝 (the ultimate pole, the ultimate extreme, infinity, the integrity of all structures), 145, 200 Tan Jiepu 嬂ㆺ䓓 (contemporary scholar), 18 Tang Junyi Ⓒ⏃㭭 (contemporary scholar), 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 93, 94, 95, 105, 128 The Book of Changes (see Yi jing 㖻 䴻, Zhou yi ␐㖻), 27, 218 thesis and antithesis, 12, 19 tian ren heyi ⣑Ṣ⎰ᶨ (the unity of men and nature, holism), 194 Tiantai zong ⣑⎘⬿, 82 tiaoli 㡅䎮 (the /external/ order), 38, 39, 140, 168 tiyong 橼䓐 (binary category substance /incorporation/ and function), 11, 116 tong 忂 (circulation), 29, 68, 101, 146, 147, 148, 162, 185, 194, 196, 200, 207 Tui ㍐ (type of Chinese analogism), 20 tuilei ㍐栆 (analogical inferences), 28 Wang Bi 䌳⻤ (226–249), 52, 75, 76, 78, 100, 216

Traditional Chinese Philosophy and the Paradigm of Structure (Li 䎮) Wang Fengyang 䌳桐春 (contemporary scholar), 52 Wang Fuzhi 䌳⣓ᷳ (1619 -1692), 135, 136 Wang Shouren 䌳⬰ṩ (1472–1529), 54, 93, 133 Wang Yangming 䌳春㖶 (1472– 1529) (see Wang Shouren 䌳⬰ ṩ), 54, 93 wenli 㔯䎮 (the structure of essays, the structure of society and culture), 64, 139 wu wei 䃉䁢 (non-action), 121, 196 wu zi shen 䈑冒幓 (things as such, Ding an sich), 169 wu 䈑 (objects, things), 52, 69, 77, 81, 83, 84, 121, 169, 196 wude benxiang 䈑䘬㛔䚠 (original state of things), 169 Xin xue ⽫⬠ (The School of Mind), 93, 132 xin zhi ⽫䞍 (reason, the knowledge of mind or conscious knowledge), 137 xin ⽫ (heart, mind, consciousness), 97, 137, 144, 185 xing zhi ⿏㘢 (qualitative understanding), 183, 184, 201 xing ⿏ (human or inner nature), 49, 65, 69, 94, 120, 183 xing’er xia ⼊侴ᶳ (below the forms, the phenomenal world, actuality), 104 xingli xue ⿏䎮⬠ (the School of Nature and Structure), 89 xingli ⿏䎮 (nature and structure, the structure of /human/ nature), ii, 88, 89, 92, 93, 128 Xiong Shili 䄲⋩≃(1885–1968), 145, 146, 183, 184, 188, 201, 217 Xuan xue 䌬⬠ (The School of Mystery), 75, 197


Xue Er ⬠侴 (Confucius’ disciple, also a Chapter in the Analects), 23 Xunzi 勨⫸ (ca. 230–310 B.C.), 22, 26, 27, 32, 40, 41, 46, 56, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 71, 80, 92, 100, 169, 217 yanyi 妨シ (binary category words /language/ and meaning), 4, 197, 206 Yi jing 㖻䴻 (The Book of Changes), 27, 45, 199 yi シ (meaning), 29, 45, 48, 61, 63, 67, 76, 105, 108, 130, 148, 163, 194, 198, 200, 203, 204, 218 yili 佑䎮 (structural pattern), 76, 90, 158, 162, 195, 200, 207 yinyang 昘春 (binary category the sunny and the shady side), 11, 13, 14, 44, 47, 48, 63, 91, 102, 103, 104, 108, 99, 116, 131, 198 yuan ⃫ (elements /of perception and comprehension), 20, 52 yuan ㎜ (type of Chinese analogism), 20, 52 yuan 䶋 (see yinyuan ⚈䶋), 20, 52 yuanliu 㸸㳩 (integral /organic/ circulation), 150 Yue ji 㦪姀 (On Music /Chapter from The Book of Ritual), 57, 58, 68, 69, 96, 101, 102, 103, 104 Zhang Binglin 䪈䁛湇 (1869–1936), 18 Zhang Dainian ⻝ⱙ⸜炷19092004炸, 1, 72, 75, 187, 202, 203, 204 Zhang Dongsun ⻝㜙周 (1886– 1973), iv, 5, 6, 19, 150, 151, 152, 166, 167, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 185, 189, 193, 201, 202, 211, 218

234 Zhang Yaonan ⻝侨⋿ (contemporary scholar), 5, 152, 173, 174, 189, 202 Zhang Zai ⻝庱 (1020–1077), 58, 59, 96, 97, 98, 101, 102, 103, 216 zheng ming lun 㬋⎵婾 (rectification of names), 74 zheng ming 㬋⎵ (correct names, the rectification of names), 15 zhenli 䛇䎮 (true /real/ structure, the truth), 196 zhi xing 䞍埴 (binary category knowl edge and action, theory and praxis), 208 zhi zhi 农䞍 (ultimate, perfect knowledge), 132, 185 zhiguan 䚜奨 (perception), 1, 2, 3, 4, 14, 17, 33, 36, 39, 70, 73, 81, 87, 88, 92, 94, 98, 97, 100, 101, 106, 115, 122, 124, 125, 126, 135,

Index 138, 147, 152, 161, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 176, 178, 187, 193, 194, 193, 198, 200, 207 Zhou Dunyi ␐㔎柌 (1017–1073), 44, 47, 49, 57, 89, 96, 102, 140, 218 Zhou Yi ␐㖻 (The Zhou Book of Changes), 22, 27, 46, 216 Zhu Xi 㛙䅡 (1130–1200), 14, 53, 89, 92, 96, 97, 101, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 129, 130, 131, 132, 134, 140, 144, 145, 147, 148, 145, 153, 155, 163, 199, 195, 201, 219 Zhuangzi 匲⫸ (c. 380–300 B.C.), 13, 26, 41, 44, 48, 49, 55, 59, 60, 61, 99, 105, 120, 127, 194, 195, 198, 212, 219