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The Manifesto of 1958: a discourse on Confucian Rationalism

Alice Simionato
p. 125-138

Abstract

With the rapid proliferation of New Confucian studies since the mid 1980s, it has become an unquestioned dogma that one particular event at the beginning of 1958 marks a watershed in the movement’s development. This event is the publication of the Manifesto that Mou Zongsan 牟宗三, Tang Junyi 唐君毅, Xu Fuguan 徐復觀, and Zhang Junmai 张君劢 co-signed and published almost simultaneously in the two journals Minzhu pinglun 民評論 (Democratic Tribune) and Zaisheng 再生(National Renaissance) with the title 为中国文化敬告世界人士宣言─我们对中国学术研究及中国文化与世界文前途之共同认识 (Wei Zhongguo wenhua jinggao shijie renshi xuanyan –women dui Zhongguo xueshu yanjiu ji Zhongguo wenhua yu shijiewen qiantu zhi gongtong renshi; translated in English as A Manifesto on the Reappraisal of Chinese Culture – our Joint Understanding of the Sinological Study relating to World Cultural Outlook1). Scholars have interpreted the document as an emblematic expression of cultural conservatism, in reaction to the intellectual trend of 1920s best represented by the so-called Scienticist School (kexuejia 科学家). Concepts such as cultural identity and cultural conservatism, however, do not account for the philosophical richness articulated in the Manifesto, whose main purpose is to benefit Western intellectuals in ‘aiding them to appreciate Chinese culture’. In order to do so, the authors employ a strategic terminology, which allows them to build a consistent cross-cultural dialogue between Western and Chinese philosophy by means of an unprecedented discourse on Chinese Rationalism (Zhongguo xinxing zhi xue 中国心性之学). Interestingly, the latter is described by the authors as «the essence of Chinese Culture» and, beside its comparative value, it represents the most comprehensive configuration of Confucianism in the context of 20th century. Academic interest in Chinese Studies and Chinese Philosophy should take into account the articulation of Chinese Rationalism in the Manifesto of 1958 as representing a paradigm of post-comparative dialogue that exemplifies the underlying philosophical continuity beyond consistently different traditions of thought.

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Introduction

  • 2 Bresciani 2001: 37.
  • 3 Makeham 2003: 28.
  • 4 Hao 1976: 298.

1Despite its importance with regard to the development of Confucian tradition (particularly within 20th and 21st century Confucianism), the Manifesto of 1958 did not attract much academic interest. Two scholars, Umberto Bresciani and John Makeham, have briefly discussed the document as part of their studies on New Confucianism, providing two different perspectives on the Manifesto. In his Reinventing Confucianism (2001), Bresciani - as part of a general remarks on New Confucianism - states: «The leaders of the movement generally are mainly concerned with the issues raised by the impact of Western culture. Concerning their basic tenets in this respect, there is no better means of getting acquainted with them than reading the 1958 Manifesto».2 Bresciani clearly considers the document as the carta magna of New Confucians, which expresses the basic tenets of the movement. The belief that the document aims to present the basic tenets of a specific philosophical or cultural movement, however, is in contrast with the aim of the Manifesto as stated in its first section, namely, to bring about a better understanding of Chinese Culture for Western intellectuals in order to integrate it into a general world culture outlook. We should also consider that the term ‘New Confucianism’ in all of its variants (xiandai xin Ruxue 現代新儒學 dangdai xin Rujia 當代新儒家; dangdai xin Ruxue 當代新儒學; xiandai xin Rujia 現代新儒家) does not appear in the document, and there are no references to earlier twentieth-century Confucian scholars such as Xiong Shili and Liang Shuming who are considered to be the pioneers of the Confucian revival of that period. We can therefore state that the assumption of a consciously created movement on the basis of the discourse articulated by the four authors can be hypothesized, but it seems not to find supporting evidence in the Manifesto itself. A different perspective on the matter is the one adopted by Makeham, who talks about «the cultural conservatism» espoused in the document.3 Makeham here refers to the fact that the four scholars who co-signed the document were inclined to identify Chinese civilization and Chinese culture with one specific traditional trend, namely, Confucianism. Concepts such as cultural identity and cultural conservatism, however, are not enough to explain the philosophical richness articulated in the Manifesto and, as Hao Chang has noted, «Given [these scholars’] preoccupation with defining Chineseness, there remains the problem why people of New Confucian persuasion identify as they do with one set of cultural ideals among many within the Chinese cultural tradition»4.

2The few existing studies that I briefly mentioned above stress two main problems which seem to have prevented a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the Manifesto : 1) the Manifesto has never been studied as a document by itself. Instead, it has always been part of more general discussions on New Confucianism (Bresciani) or on 20th century Chinese conservative intellectual trends (Makeham); 2) as a consequence, scholars have not taken into account the innovative insights on Confucian tradition provided by document, to the risk of neglecting its philosophical richness.

3The first original aspect of the Manifesto is found in its preamble, where the authors articulate their reasons for issuing this twenty pages script:

  • 5 The translation I am currently working on is probably the first unabridged English translation of t (...)

The purpose of this article is primarily to benefit Western intellectuals in aiding them to appreciate Chinese culture. It took considerable time for translation from Chinese into English. This, together with conviction that any attempt to modify Westerner’ prejudices toward our culture should be based first on our true evaluation and self-examination, prompted us to publish it earlier in Chinese in the Democratic Critique and National Renaissance.5

  • 6 The Manifesto is divided in twelve sections: 1) Preamble (前言─我们发表此宣言之理由); 2) Three best-known motiv (...)
  • 7 M(e) 1962: 20.

4It is important to keep in mind the target of the document, namely, Western Intellectuals, in order to better contextualize and understand the authors’ purposes. Furthermore, it is important to consider that this is the first time for Confucian scholars to express concern about the reception of Confucian tradition in Western academia, at least in the way this is problematized in the Manifesto. In addition to this, what I consider to be the most interesting and innovative aspect of the script is found in section VI, entitled 中国心性之学的意义 (Zhongguo xinxing zhi xue de yiyi), which is rendered in English as «The import of the Chinese “Doctrine of Transcendental Mind” in Moral Practice».6 This section is devoted to a discussion on 心性之学, or «the learning of Moral Mind and Moral Reason»7. Interestingly, it is also translated by the authors as «Chinese Rationalism», and the latter appears to be the predominant translation throughout the section. The term “Rationalism”, however, is definitely not a typical feature of Confucian tradition: it is generally intended in reference to the European philosophical school that regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge. Sustaining that reality has in itself a inherently coherent structure, rationalism holds that reason can grasp the class of truths proper of such reality. Considering this, it is evident that the authors of the Manifesto have adopted a strategic terminology which, by means of conceptual translation, might have served as an effective way to operate a cross-cultural dialogue. Interestingly, Chinese Rationalism is articulated not only within Confucian tradition, but also by means of comparison with Western Rationalism – with specific reference to Baruch Spinoza’s thought.

5The aim of this paper is to provide the reader with a comprehensive analysis of this unprecedented discourse on Chinese Rationalism as articulated in the Manifesto. I shall start with a brief account of the notion of “Reason” within Confucian tradition in the first section, followed by an analysis of the articulation of “Rationalism” in the Manifesto. In the third section I shall consider the reasons behind the reference to Spinoza, concluding with some considerations on the authors strategic conceptual translation. The broader aim of the paper is to asses the fundamental importance of this document in understanding the developments of 20th and 21st century Confucianism by considering the articulation of Chinese Rationalism as representing a paradigm of cross-cultural dialogue for future studies in comparative philosophy.

The notion of “Reason” in Confucian thought

  • 8 Cua 2013: 631.
  • 9 Shu-hsien Liu reports that «In ancient Chinese philosophy, li was not a prominent idea, but it acqu (...)

6As stated earlier, Rationalism is usually associated with European and, more broadly, Western philosophy, rather than Confucian tradition. In order to better contextualize the discourse on Chinese Rationalism as articulated in the Manifesto, we shall first briefly explore the place of the notion of Reason in Confucian thought. The Chinese character at issue is li 理, generally translated as ‘principle’, ‘pattern’, or ‘reason’. Despite these conventional translations, however, I agree with Cua when he states that «because there is no literary English equivalent, one cannot assume that li has a single, easily comprehensible use in Chinese discourse».8 This notion became one of the most fundamental concepts in Confucianism during the Northern Song period (960-1126), and this is why Song-Ming Confucianism is often identified with 理学 lixue (the study of li).9 Zhu Xi is a fundamental figure in the development of this concept; he comments the phrase «extension of knowledge» (zhizhi 致知) in the Great Learning (Daxue 大学) as follows:

  • 10 Ivi: 632.

If we wish to extend our knowledge to the utmost, we must investigate exhaustively the li of things...It is only because we have not exhausted the li of all things that our knowledge is still incomplete.10

  • 11 I have reported Cua’s translation as in ibidem.
  • 12 Ivi: 633.
  • 13 Cua further states: «Since the two basic uses of li represent the exercise of reason in the generic (...)

7In his spectrum of meaning, it is interesting to consider that li can be used with both general and specific connotation. In Cheng Yi’s famous sentence 理一萬殊 (li yi wan shu; «li is one with diverse manifestations»11), for example, li is used in its general sense, while in the Zhu Xi’s citation reported above, li is used with specific connotation (shili 事理, «the li of things»). The use of li as a specific term is emphasized by the contrast between li and dao made by Zhu Xi himself in two terse sentences: 1) Dao is a holistic word ( daozi hongda 道字宏大); li is a word for details (lizi jingmi 理字精密); 2) Dao is a unifying term (tongming 通名), li is [a term referring to its] details.12 It is on the basis of this considerations that Cua states that «Zhu Xi’s remarks suggest that li is a generic term functionally equivalent to “reason”, which can be contextually specified either as a descriptive-explanatory term or as a normative term. This suggestion has partial support in the modern Chinese notion of liyou 理由, meaning reason, ground, or rationale».13

  • 14 As reported in Ivi: 364.
  • 15 Ivi: 366.
  • 16 Ivi: 635.

8Among 20th century Confucian scholars, Tang Junyi devoted great part of his work in studying the evolution of li, identifying six distinct but correlated meanings: wenli 文理, principle in cultural activities; mingli 明理, principle in logical reasoning and philosophical speculation; kongli 空理, principle of sunyata (emptiness); xingli 性理, principle of nature; shili 事理, principle of events or affair; wuli 物理, principle of physics or empirical sciences.14 Among these binomials, Liu considers that the li which Neo-Confucian philosophers talked about was precisely xingli as the paradigm of human nature, in contrast to the Taoist xuanli and the Buddhist kongli.15 Tang also considered the significance of li in the late nineteenth century, after the introduction of Western scientific thought and philosophy, reporting the Chinese translation of various Western concepts. Here, “reason” was translated as lixing 理性where xing is generally rendered as “human nature”.16

  • 17 Chang (different transliteration for Zhang) 1954b.
  • 18 Chang 1954a.

9With regard to the place of ‘reason’ within Chinese philosophy, Zhang (or Chang) Junmai’s contribution has been of particular interest. In 1954 (four years before the publication of the Manifesto, and two years before its drafting) he published two articles on the subject: Reason and Intuition in Chinese Philosophy17 and Is there no Epistemological Background for the Chinese Philosophy of Reason?18, in both of which he compares Greek and European philosophical traditions with Chinese thought. The comparative aspect of these articles is striking, and considering that they were published in English it is plausible to assume that Zhang paid particular attention to the public he was addressing, namely, Western scholars. In the first article, for example, he states:

  • 19 He further notices that «The meaning of the term li is rather ambiguous, aince it is used in two se (...)

Reason was forgotten in the medieval period in both China and Europe. But it has been revived with the modern period. When philosophy began to develop, Descartes in Europe initiated the movement by making “cogito” the starting point; and in China, several centuries earlier, Neo-Confucianism began its course with the discovery of li, “reason” by the Cheng brothers.19

  • 20 Chang 1954b: 130.

10Zhang, in discussing rationalism, does not limit his reference to Song-Ming Confucianism. In his Is there no Epistemological Background for Chinese Philosophy of Reason? he maintains that «Mencius was a rationalist and emphasized the function of mind and thought»20 and, in order to sustain this point, he quotes a passage from the Mengzi:

  • 21 Zhang Junmai’s translation of Mengzi, Book VI, Part I, Chapter XVII, as reported in ivi: 134-135.

Men’s mouth agree in cherishing the same taste, their ears agree in enjoying the same sounds, their eyes agree in recognizing the same beauty – shall their minds alone be without that which they similarly approve? What is it then by which they similarly approve? It is, I say, the principles of our constitution, the determination of righteousness.21

  • 22 Zhang makes an interesting comparison: «Mencius’ idea brings to mind the words of the British moral (...)

11Zhang emphasizes that the most important idea in this passage is that all men are conferred with universal agreement with regard to the principles of moral evaluation; this idea, as we shall see in the next section, will be the foundation of the discourse on Chinese Rationalism as articulated in the Manifesto f 1958, which emphasizes the centrality of moral principles within the logical structure of reality.22

Establishing Chinese Rationalism (中国心性之学)

12After having briefly assessed the place of ‘reason’ within Confucianism, we can now consider the discussion on Chinese Rationalism as articulated in section VI of the Manifesto, entitled 中国心性之学的意义, and rendered in English by the authors themselves as «The import of the Chinese ‘Doctrine of Transcendental Mind’ in Moral Practice». The section starts as follows:

  • 23 M(e) 1962:20 (emphasis mine). In the Chinese text this goes as follows: «我们从中国人对于道之宗教性信仰,便可转到论中国之心性 (...)

We may proceed to talk about Chinese Rationalism, or the learning of “Moral Mind and Moral Reason”. This was another phase of the so-called “Yi-Li” study, or the study of “Righteousness in terms of Reason”. It may be treated as a discourse on the origin of the fundamental principle of “What ought to be”.23

  • 24 Yao 200: 117.
  • 25 Ng 2011: 1.
  • 26 Cua 2013: 256.
  • 27 «当然的義理之本源».
  • 28 Cua 2013: 633.

13This opening passage is fundamental in understanding the section, as well as the document as a whole, but it is not of immediate comprehension. First of all, we find two different translations for the four characters 心性之学 , namely «Chinese Rationalism» and «the learning of “Moral Mind ( xin心) and Moral Reason (xing性)”». I shall explain later on how these two renderings of xinxing zhi xue are correlated and coherent with the authors’ goal in writing the Manifesto. This is also defined as a phase of the «Yi-Li (義理 ) study» or «Righteousness (yi) in terms of Reason (li)». Unfortunately the literature available does not offer a clear and unanimous explanation of yili zhi xue 義理之学 (the study of yili); Xinzhong Yao vaguely defines it as «the study of principle and philosophy»24, On-cho Ng speaks of «moral speculative philosophy»25, while Wilson translates it as «learning of Meaning and Principle»26. It is clear, however, that we find the same moral connotation attributed to ‘Mind and Reason’ in yi as ‘Righteousness’. The authors also associate xinxing zhi xue to the «fundamental principle of “What ought to be”27»; this idea recalls Zhu Xi’s explanatory remarks on the basic uses of li as «the norm for what a thing ought to be» (dangran zhi zhe 当然之者) and «the reason that a thing is what it is» (suoyiran zhi gu 所以然之故).28

  • 29 M(e) 1962: 20-21.
  • 30 Ivi: 21.
  • 31 The authors also relates Naturalism and Materialism to Communism dialectic, with particular referen (...)

14According to the authors of the Manifesto, Chinese Rationalism has been greatly misunderstood by «some Western sinologists»29, and therefore their goal is to bring about a better understanding of this doctrine by means of a comparative discourse with Western philosophical tradition. The learning of xinxing, they maintain, constitutes «the very nucleus of Chinese academic study. It is in this rationalism that we can find an explanation for the formula of “Conformity of Virtue between Heaven and Man [天人合德]”».30 The main source of misunderstanding in the reception of xinxing zhi xue by Western scholars, the authors state, derived from the biased perception of Jesuits missionaries who, in conformity with Christianity, believed in the embodiment of original sin within human nature. This notion was in contrast with the Confucian idea that human nature is innately good (xing shan 性善), therefore when Jesuits imported Song-Ming Confucianism in Europe, they interpreted it as a type of Western rationalism – substantially identical to naturalism or materialism.31 This is why Song-Ming Humanism (another English rendering for xinxing zhi xue) was not understood by European scholars and consequently compared with substantially different systems of thought, eventually leading to an even greater misunderstanding:

  • 32 Ivi: 23. In the Chinese text: «中国心性之学在今日所以又为人所误解之主要原因,则在于人恒只把此心性之学,当作西方传统哲学中之所谓理性的灵魂 Rational Soul (...)

One of the main causes still persisting today in misinterpreting Chinese Rationalism is that some philosophers constantly identified this learning with the Western traditional theory of Rational Soul, or a doctrine involving some sort of epistemology and metaphysics, or a sect of psychology. The Western religious viewpoint, handed down by the Jesuit missionaries who had from the start treated the Song-Ming rationalism as aesthetic naturalism, insists in its fanciful interpretation of Xin and Xing as identical with the human heart and nature in their natural status or condition. From that time to the present, the Chinese word Xing has always been translated by Western scholars as Nature.32

  • 33 Ibidem.

15After assessing what has prevented an accurate reception of the learning of ‘Moral Mind and Moral Reason’ in Western scholarship, the authors operate a conceptual comparison with the Western philosophical systems which, to a certain extent, appear to be identifiable with or similar to xinxing zhi xue. According to them, «The meaning of Nature as found in Greek Stoicism, in modern romantic literature and in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, bears as a rule some profound imports [importance] which may be analogous to the Chinese word Xing».33 We will briefly consider the reference to Spinoza in the following section.

  • 34 Ivi: 26.
  • 35 Ivi: 24.

16For now let us consider that, from the passages reported above, the authors seem to express two main concerns: 1) the Confucian doctrine of ‘Moral Mind and Moral Nature’ entails a holistic perspective on the immanent and the transcendental, which is put in contrast with the dualistic conception of the world resulted from the Western Christian heritage; 2) Chinese Rationalism emphasizes the centrality of moral principles within the logic structure of reality. This, in turn, is put in contrast with Western Rationalism, since «Its metaphysics or philosophy and science are treated only as a pure intellectual study of the objective world and has nothing to do with moral practice».34 What type of metaphysics, then, is conceived through Chinese Rationalism? And what is its relation to moral practice (道德实践 daode shijian)? The authors of the Manifesto answer these question quite clearly. According to them, the doctrine of xinxing is substantially similar to Kant’s «moral metaphysics» (道德的形上学 daode de xingshang xue), and serves as the basis for «moral practices in daily life, and also it is a metaphysics which must be testified by our moral practices».35 Here I shall make an important differentiation: while the literal translation of ‘moral metaphysics’ is faithful to the Chinese text of the Manifesto, it is not, in fact, with regard to Kant’s thought and discourse in the Metaphysics of Morals. While Kant’s work aimed to explain that moral principles are normative for rational reasons, Chinese Rationalism as articulated in the Manifesto entails a system of ‘moral metaphysics’ or, in other words, a type of metaphysics organized on the basis of moral principles conceived as first causes or a priori principles (unchanging things which are entirely non-empirical). It is interesting to see how the authors emphasize the idea of practice within moral theory, a core feature of Confucian tradition, which is further sustained by the constant reference to ‘Chinese Humanism’ (as a synonym of Chinese Rationalism) throughout the section.

17I mentioned at the beginning of this section that xinxing zhi xue 心性之学 is rendered with both ‘Chinese Rationalism’ and ‘Learning of Moral Mind and Moral reason’; this entails that, in the authors’ perspective, the two English translations are equally appropriate and functional. We can therefore deduce that there must be a sound correlation, or even interdependence, between rationalism and moral theory within Confucian thought as articulated in the Manifesto. On the basis of the formula ‘Conformity of Virtue between Heaven and Man ( tianren hede 天人合德)’, it is possible to find identity of reference between the moral principle embodied in the idea of virtue (de 德) unifying Heaven and Man, and the theory of innate goodness of human nature (xingshan lun 性善论). Human nature, or Xing is translated by the authors as ‘Moral Reason’ precisely because it is the locus of moral judgment with innate reference to goodness or, as Zhang has stated in his 1954 article previously mentioned, it is the attribute by means of which human beings can achieve universal agreement with regard to the principles of moral evaluation. In other words, the transcendental principle of Heaven, together with that of Man as an immanent entity, are described as unified by a moral theory which serves as the basis for the authors’ discourse on xinxing zhi xue.

18In the light of what considered above, Chinese Rationalism may be conceived as follows: 1) a type of rationalism based on the notion of Xing (‘human nature’), by means of which Man can grasp certain categories of truths which are proper of reality (also known as ‘a priori’ principles, or first causes); 2) the type of rationalism expressed by the doctrine of xinxing zhi xue is grounded on a moral metaphysics, that is, a metaphysics organized on the basis of moral principles as first causes.

The reference to Spinoza

  • 36 «The meaning of Nature as found in Greek Stoicism, in modern Romantic literature and in the philoso (...)
  • 37 Parkinson 2000: 227.
  • 38 Things is not intended in the sense of material things, but in the broader sense of beings in gener (...)
  • 39 Also generally referred to as immanent causality.
  • 40 Deleuze 1988.

19As previously mentioned, the Manifesto makes reference to the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. The reference has explanatory purposes with regard to the doctrine of Chinese Rationalism, and it is therefore fundamental to briefly consider what reasons could the authors have had in mind in order to make such reference.36 Let us consider the following plausible suggestions. The first and main point to be considered is to be found in Spinoza’s naturalism: in the Ethics, he explains that human beings should not be understood as something other than or apart from nature (which in the Spinozistic world is the one substance or God – Deus sive natura), but rather as part of it, in it, and even as it. For Spinoza, then, human beings are to be understood through the same dynamics governing the whole of reality. The latter is identified in the Ethics with perfection: «By perfection in general I shall, as I have said, understand reality; that is, the essence of each thing in so far as it exists and operates in a certain way».37 This conception has to be considered within the context of Spinoza’s monism and metaphysics: the one substance (God) expresses itself in its attributes and modes, so that, in a sense, everything is substance (though in a finite and determinate way in the case of particular things).38 We can notice a peculiar feature of the Ethics: a certain absolute immanence, which is clearly displayed in its conception of causality39 (according to which a cause implies its effect) and principle of sufficient reason (according to which there are no brute facts). It is also emphasized by Spinoza’s theory of parallelism, according to which mind and body are one and the same thing considered under different attributes. Monism and immanence both entail an important aspect of Spinoza’s thought: incommensurability does not find a place in reality and, when it does, it is because of a misunderstanding of reality itself. Incommensurability is therefore a sort of superstition. In this context, the well being and freedom of human beings lie in a fundamental understanding of a bigger picture in which they constantly live and interact. In this sense, Spinoza’s system has a very practical orientation (rightly emphasized by Deleuze).40

  • 41 With regard to this, the Manifesto could not employ Descartes philosophy for explanatory purposes b (...)
  • 42 Chengs in Feng 1953: 501.
  • 43 Importantly, a shared philosophical concern does not undermine in any way the specificity and diver (...)

20All this considered, we can understand why the authors of the Manifesto considered Spinoza’s rationalism, with particular reference to his notion of (human) nature, as similar to their articulation of Chinese Rationalism – or at least similar enough to make a comparison between the two systems for explanatory purposes. First of all, there is an underlying similarity between Song-Ming Confucianism and Spinoza’s thought in emphasizing understanding as the real epistemic access to the nature and order of reality (we have already mentioned in the previous sections the important notion of extending one’s knowledge – zhizhi 致知). Broadly speaking, both traditions seem to conceive understanding as a fundamental practice for human flourishing. Secondly, I think it is plausible that the authors of the Manifesto found important similarities between Spinoza’s theory of parallelism (of attributes) and the relationship between li (principle) and qi (material force); more specifically, it is possible that they considered li as comparable to the attribute of thought and qi as comparable to the attribute of extension.41 Spinoza’s notion of perfection (together with his principle of sufficient reason) also appears to be in line with the Cheng-Zhu’s notion of particular principles: «all principles are complete in themselves».42 Overall, we can state that there seems to be a shared concern for a systematization of the philosophical problem of the One and the Many in both Neo-Confucian tradition and Spinoza’s thought – at once systematizing notions of epistemic access and ontological dependence.43

Conclusion: Shaping meaning through conceptual translation

  • 44 M(e) 1962: 27.

21Section VI of the Manifesto is of fundamental importance both within and beyond the context of the document itself. With regard to the authors’ purpose in writing the document, – to bring about a more accurate understanding of Chinese Culture for Western scholars – the discourse on Chinese Rationalism appears to have a central role. This is clearly stated in the closing lines of the section: «In the absence of a true conception of the Chinese learning about the Moral Mind and Moral Nature, no one can really understand Chinese culture in its essential meaning (而不知不了解中国心性之学,即不了解中国之文化也)».44 In other words, the authors consider Chinese Rationalism as the nucleus of Chinese culture. This conception, of course, is disputable for a variety of reasons (the authors seem to have a narrow conception of Chinese Culture which is for a great part identified with Confucian tradition), and its truth or falsehood should not be addressed in this paper. Our aim was to consider the formulation of the philosophical position articulated in the Manifesto as a first step in the establishment of a dialogue between different yet related concepts of rationalism. Such dialogue shows us that the philosophical content of the document has a comparative value that should not be restricted to or undermined by claims of cultural appropriation and/or conservatism.

22Indeed, the four scholars were concerned about the status of Confucian tradition during the troubled historical context of the 1940s and 1950s. This, in turn, is probably the reason why the document was first published in Chinese. Apart from this, the authors were also (and mainly) explicitly concerned with the erroneous reception of Chinese thought among Western scholars, which appeared to be misunderstood as a type of naturalism or materialism. Thus, they tried to articulate a corrective view on the matter by means of an explanatory comparison with a specific stream of European Rationalism. All this considered, we can state that the Manifesto, with particular reference to section VI and its articulation of the doctrine of xinxing zhi xue 心性之学, it is of incredible interest not only for its philosophical richness, but also because it testifies an unprecedented will of establishing a cross-cultural dialogue on behalf of Confucian scholars. For these reasons, academic interests in global and comparative philosophy should take into account the articulation of Chinese Rationalism in the Manifesto of 1958 as representing a paradigm of post-comparative dialogue that exemplifies the underlying philosophical continuity beyond consistently different traditions of thought.

23Nanyang Technological University

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Bibliografia

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Note

1 Zhang 1962.

2 Bresciani 2001: 37.

3 Makeham 2003: 28.

4 Hao 1976: 298.

5 The translation I am currently working on is probably the first unabridged English translation of the Manifesto, published in the Taiwanese journal Chinese Culture. Jesús Solé-Farràs, however, was able to deduce the date of the mentioned issue through an opuscule entiteled A Symposium on Chinese Culture, published in Taiwan in 1964. As Farràs reports: «According to a note from the publisher of the opuscule – dated September of the same year, in New York – Cheng Qibao, this symposium was prepared specifically for discussion and study at the joint session of the Tenth Round Table Conference on Chinese American Cultural Relations and the Sixth Annual Conference of the American Association of Teachers of Chinese Language and Culture, which took place on 8 May 1964 at the University of Maryland. This document includes a brief summary – Appendix A – to the Manifesto’s English edition, beginning with a note stating: ‘Two years ago, a group of weel-known Chinese scholars led by Dr. Carson Chang and Prof. Tang Junyi, issued a Manifesto on the Reappraisal of Chinese Culture which has since attracted wide attention among the academic circles. It is a joint statement attempting to clarify what is the true nature of Chinese culture and its place in the new world order’» (Farràs 2014). However,the best-known English version of the document is an abridged translation made by Carson Chang himself, published as appendix to his The Development of Neo-Confucian Thought, in 1962. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to the English translation as M(e) and the Chinese text as M(c).

6 The Manifesto is divided in twelve sections: 1) Preamble (前言─我们发表此宣言之理由); 2) Three best-known motives of Westerners who pursue Chinese Studies and their shortcomings (世界人士研究中国学术文化之三种动机与道路及其缺点); 3) Affirmation of the spiritual life of Chinese history and culture (中国历史文化之精神生命之肯定) ; 4) Chinese philosophy and its relation to Chinese culture as differing from Western systems (中国哲学思想在中国文化中之地位及其与西方文化之不同); 5) The ethical, moral and religious spirit in Chinese Culture (中国文化之伦理道德与宗教精神); 6) The import of Chinese “Doctrine of transcendental mind” in moral practice (中国心性之学的意义); 7) Reasons governing durability of Chinese history and culture (中国历史文化所以长久之理由); 8) Development of Chinese culture in the natural sciences (中国文化之发展与科学); 9) Development of Chinese culture in national democratic reconstruction (中国文化之发展与民主建国); 10) Our understanding of China’s current political history (我们对中国现代政治史之认识); 11) Our expectation from Western culture and what the West should learn from the Oriental wisdom (我们对于西方文化之期望,及西方所应学习于东方之智慧者); 12) What we hope for the formation of a new world of academic thought (我们对于世界学术思想之期望).

7 M(e) 1962: 20.

8 Cua 2013: 631.

9 Shu-hsien Liu reports that «In ancient Chinese philosophy, li was not a prominent idea, but it acquired richer and richer meanings throughout its later history. In the Tang dynasty, Huayan Buddhism elevated it to a philosophical concept. In the Song dynasty, neo-Confucian philosophers transformed it into a Confucian idea» (ivi: 364).

10 Ivi: 632.

11 I have reported Cua’s translation as in ibidem.

12 Ivi: 633.

13 Cua further states: «Since the two basic uses of li represent the exercise of reason in the generic sense – that is, as a distinctive capacity of the human mind exemplified in such mental acts as thinking, deliberating, inferring, and judging – rendering li as a functional equivalent of “reason” is plausible» (Ivi: 634).

14 As reported in Ivi: 364.

15 Ivi: 366.

16 Ivi: 635.

17 Chang (different transliteration for Zhang) 1954b.

18 Chang 1954a.

19 He further notices that «The meaning of the term li is rather ambiguous, aince it is used in two senses: 1) rationality in, or of, the mind in the same sense as pure and practical reason in the philosophy of Kant are in, or of, the mind; and 2) rationality as the law of the physical and moral worlds, that is, rationality as the order of nature» (Cua 2013: 101).

20 Chang 1954b: 130.

21 Zhang Junmai’s translation of Mengzi, Book VI, Part I, Chapter XVII, as reported in ivi: 134-135.

22 Zhang makes an interesting comparison: «Mencius’ idea brings to mind the words of the British moralist J. Butler. “That which renders beings capable of moral government,” he remarked, “is their having a moral nature, and moral faculties of perception and of action… But additional to this, we have a capacity of reflecting upon actions and characters, and making them an object of our thought; and on doing this, we naturally and unavoidably approve some actions, under the peculiar view of their being virtuous and of good desert; and disapprove others, as viciousand of ill desert”. What Butler called ‘natural’ and ‘unavoidable’ and what Mencius denominated ‘similar’ is a universally acknowledge standard of this and that, and of right and wrong. This is also what Mencius meant by ‘determinations of righteousness’, or reason». Zhang 1962: 100.

23 M(e) 1962:20 (emphasis mine). In the Chinese text this goes as follows: «我们从中国人对于道之宗教性信仰,便可转到论中国之心性之学。此心性之学,是中国古所谓义理之学之又一方面,即论人之当然的义理之本源所在者。»

24 Yao 200: 117.

25 Ng 2011: 1.

26 Cua 2013: 256.

27 «当然的義理之本源».

28 Cua 2013: 633.

29 M(e) 1962: 20-21.

30 Ivi: 21.

31 The authors also relates Naturalism and Materialism to Communism dialectic, with particular reference to the idea that «existence determines consciousness» (后来共产主义讲存在决定意识,亦不喜欢心性。) in Ivi: 22.

32 Ivi: 23. In the Chinese text: «中国心性之学在今日所以又为人所误解之主要原因,则在于人恒只把此心性之学,当作西方传统哲学中之所谓理性的灵魂 Rational Soul 之理论,或认识论形上学之理论,或一种心理学看。而由耶稣会士下来的西方宗教家的观点,则因其初视宋明理学为无神论的自然主义,所以总想象其所谓人心人性皆人之自然的心自然的性。由他们直至今日,中国之性字总译为 Nature。».

33 Ibidem.

34 Ivi: 26.

35 Ivi: 24.

36 «The meaning of Nature as found in Greek Stoicism, in modern Romantic literature and in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, bears as a rule some profound imports which may be analogous with the Chinese word “Hsing”». Ivi: 23.

37 Parkinson 2000: 227.

38 Things is not intended in the sense of material things, but in the broader sense of beings in general.

39 Also generally referred to as immanent causality.

40 Deleuze 1988.

41 With regard to this, the Manifesto could not employ Descartes philosophy for explanatory purposes because of his incommensurability of substance. In this respect it is useful to look at Hansen’s project in grounding Chinese Philosophy in Chinese language in order to provide a comprehensive account of Chinese thought, in contrast to the common representation of fragmented schools of thought (Hansen 1992). Hansen puts in opposition Chinese philosophy with the “Indo-European tradition” (a lable to refer to both Western and Buddhist philosophy); the latter, differently from Chinese tradition, is characterized by a series of dychotomies (real/apparent, reason/passion and so on) which he claims to be alien to Chinese philosophy. If we accept Hansen’s conceptual map, though sometimes perhaps too generalized, we can see how Spinoza’s philosophy could be seen by the authors of the Manifesto as an exception to the Indo-European tradition.

42 Chengs in Feng 1953: 501.

43 Importantly, a shared philosophical concern does not undermine in any way the specificity and diversity of different philosophical traditions.

44 M(e) 1962: 27.

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Notizia bibliografica

Alice Simionato, « The Manifesto of 1958: a discourse on Confucian Rationalism », Rivista di estetica, 72 | 2019, 125-138.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Alice Simionato, « The Manifesto of 1958: a discourse on Confucian Rationalism », Rivista di estetica [Online], 72 | 2019, online dal 01 mars 2020, consultato il 30 octobre 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/estetica/6089 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/estetica.6089

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