Interpreting across Boundaries

Interpreting across Boundaries: New Essays in Comparative Philosophy

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 328
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    Interpreting across Boundaries
    Book Description:

    This volume is a "state-of-the-art" assessment of comparative philosophy written by some of the leading practitioners of the field. While its primary focus is on gaining methodological clarity regarding the comparative enterprise of "interpreting across boundaries," the book also contains new substantive essays on Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and European thought. The contributors are Roger T. Ames, William Theodore de Bary, Wingy2Dtsit Chan, A. S. Cua, Eliot Deutsch, Charles Hartshorne, Daya Krishna, Gerald James Larson, Sengaku Mayeda, Hajime Nakamura, Raimundo Panikkar, Karl H. Potter, Henry Rosemont, Jr., Ben-Ami Scharfstein, Ninian Smart, Fritz Staal, and Frederick J. Streng.

    Comparative or cross-cultural philosophy can be seen as a relative newcomer to the field of philosophy. It has its antecedents in the emergence of comparative studies in nineteenth-century European intellectual history, as well as in the sequence of East-West Philosophers' Conferences at the University of Hawaii, which began in 1939. This book will prove to be of great significance in helping to define a field that is only now becoming fully self-conscious, methodologically and substantively, about its role and function in the larger enterprises of philosophy and comparative studies.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5927-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
    Gerald James Larson and Eliot Deutsch
  4. Introduction: The “Age-Old Distinction Between the Same and the Other”
    (pp. 3-18)

    I draw the title for my introductory remarks to this volume from the opening passage of Michel Foucault’sThe Order of Things. Says Foucault,

    This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—ourthought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our...

  5. Metaphor as Key to Understanding the Thought of Other Speech Communities
    (pp. 19-35)

    All sorts of people are continually attempting to interpret across boundaries. Whenever we go abroad we perforce get engaged in the enterprise. But likewise, we do so whenever we speculate on what an author we are reading meant. For that matter, we do so whenever we engage in conversation with one another, for the boundaries between what I intend and what you understand are just as much boundaries as the cultural and historical ones. And just as we know what it is to get clearer about what our neighbor is saying just now, we know what it is to get...

  6. Against Relativism
    (pp. 36-70)

    Arguments for relativism in one form or another are at least as old as Protagoras and Zhuang Zi, and the roots of contemporary conceptual relativism can be traced—retrospectively at least—to the writings of Hume and Kant.¹ In the twentieth century relativistic theses first rose to scholarly prominence with the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity, the claim that what and how we see the world is determined for us by the overt and covert structures of our native language.² This view leads naturally to a concept of ontological relativity, as seen clearly in the works of Quine,³ and...

  7. Comparative Philosophy: What It Is and What It Ought to Be
    (pp. 71-83)

    All comparative studies imply simultaneously an identity and a difference, a situation that is replete with intellectual difficulties, which give rise to interminable disputes regarding whether we are talking about the same thing or different things. One may cut the Gordian knot by deciding either way, but the situation would reappear again as it is bound up with the comparative perspective itself and not with any particular example of it. One wonders how long we shall go on “naming,” for the process is unending and ultimately “everything is what it is, and not another thing.” Or, if we do not...

  8. The Contextual Fallacy
    (pp. 84-97)

    The fallacy that I propose to analyze consists of a misplaced emphasis on context, on the attempt to understand something in the light of a presumably unique, original perspective or context, in the absence of which everything is taken to be misunderstood. Yet the very attempt to understand something in particular requires us to detach it at least somewhat from whatever background we find it in, to turn it over in our minds, and to relate it to our present interests. We may at moments enjoy the fantasy of living in the thoughts of someone long dead; but if we...

  9. Śaṅkara, Nāgārjuna, and Fa Tsang, with Some Western Analogues
    (pp. 98-115)

    In the past two decades American thought has made some progress toward a global perspective. By American thought I do not refer to the way the vast majority of Americans think. Ours is still a narrowly western-oriented population. The big, powerful countries are not, alas, as enlightened as the best of the smaller countries. Bigness favors smugness and collective conceit. But thanks to the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, also to the Center for Process Studies, we are making some progress away from our western provincialism.

    How does one interpret across cultural boundaries? Being multilingual certainly helps. In many...

  10. What Is Comparative Philosophy Comparing?
    (pp. 116-136)

    Comparative studies are still fashionable today because they belong to the thrust toward universahzation characteristic of western culture. The West not being able any longer to dominate other peoples politically, it tries to maintain—most of the time unconsciously—a certain control by striving toward a global picture of the world by means of comparative studies. Yet, this very thrust toward homogenization and “global thinking” may boomerang into decentralization and pluralism once the wisdom of other cultures becomes better known. Paradoxically enough, comparative philosophy, which has an inbuilt trend to overcome the plurality of cosmo-visions, may end by legitimizing mutually...

  11. The Meaning of the Terms ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Religion’ in Various Traditions
    (pp. 137-151)

    What is meant by the term ‘philosophy’? It is difficult, if not impossible, to give a definition of it, and it is clear that no one definition would be unanimously adopted by everybody. The fifteenth edition of theEncyclopaedia Britannica(the socalledBritannica III, published in 1974) has given up the attempt to define or formulate what philosophy is. There is no entry entitled “philosophy,” so there is neither a definition nor an explanation of the term. Instead, there is a long article entitled “History of Western Philosophy.” (There are also entries entitled “Chinese Philosophy,” “Japanese Philosophy,” “Indian Philosophy,” and...

  12. Mechanisms of Self-Deception and True Awareness According to C. G. Jung and the Eight-Thousand-Line Perfection of Wisdom Sutra
    (pp. 152-164)

    Cross-cultural studies in comparative philosophy are both intellectually exciting and fraught with problems. They are exciting in that they seek to locate and elucidate perennial problems in human self-awareness and in the understanding of one’s social and physical environment. Comparisons can provide heuristic devices for probing different cultural imagery and definitions, and for constructing analytic tools for examining the coherence and assumptions found in general claims about human experience. By specifying similarities and differences one can clarify issues that may provide the basis for new constructive formulations of recurrent human efforts at understanding and life enhancement. At their best they...

  13. Knowledge and the Tradition Text in Indian Philosophy
    (pp. 165-173)

    It is not uncommon, among western philosophers who are not at the same time Indologists, Sinologists, or Buddhologists but who nevertheless have some interest in Asian thought, to engage that thought as if it had been put forward by contemporaries in their own cultural milieu. Arguments are lifted out of the forms in which they are (presumed only to have been) presented, not embedded, and are then dealt with in straightforward truth-value terms. The unspoken assumption is that philosophers everywhere have addressed the same basic problems, adhere (or at least ought to adhere) to the same standards of what constitutes...

  14. The Analogy of Meaning and the Tasks of Comparative Philosophy
    (pp. 174-183)

    One of the convenient aspects of the Indian, or more generally South Asian, philosophical tradition is that it is typically organized into systems. These are, of course, often referred to as thedarśanas. But it is important here for us not to be misled by some older and some more modern classifications—to which point I shall return in a moment. The systematic character of South Asian viewpoints gives us a clear view of the way that key terms are embedded in contexts. As so embedded the terms acquire systematic ambiguity. Consider that so prominent and widely emphasized expression,mokṣa,...

  15. Śaṅkara and Nārāyaṇa Guru
    (pp. 184-202)

    The Vedanta school of philosophy, which has historically produced so many branches, is still quite viable in India today. Among active branches, the Advaita Vedanta school founded by Śaṅkara in the eighth century constitutes the main current of Indian philosophy.

    It is well known that Śaṅkara’s philosophy, which is rooted in the purely orthodox Brahmanic tradition of thought, exercised a strong influence on Ramakrishna, Ramaṇa Maharṣi, and Vivekananda in modern India. It is, however, surprising that Śaṅkara’s philosophy also played an important role in religious and social reform among the scheduled castes or untouchables during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries....

  16. Is There Philosophy in Asia?
    (pp. 203-229)

    Most of the contributors to this volume are not only members of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, but also authors and teachers in the area of Asian philosophy. We are the last people, therefore, to have an unbiased opinion on the question, “Is there philosophy in Asia?” For if the answer is negative, we ought to change our society and professions, or at least their names. One might even go farther and claim that posing this question has a paradoxical twist to it. For our work exists because there is such a thing as Asian philosophy; if there...

  17. Chu Hsi and World Philosophy
    (pp. 230-264)

    Let me begin by recalling the first East–West Philosophers’ Conference in 1939. It was a very small beginning. There were only five of us: Charles A. Moore, the organizer, and Filmore S. C. Northrop from Yale representing the West, George P. Conger of Minnesota representing India, Takakusu Junjirō, the eminent Buddhist scholar, representing Japan, and I, representing China. We dealt with generalities and superficialities and lumped Brahman, Tao, and Buddhist Thusness together. We hardly went beyond Spinoza in western philosophy and confined Chinese thought largely to the pre-Christian era. We saw the world as two halves, East and West.¹...

  18. Confucius and the Ontology of Knowing
    (pp. 265-279)

    Interpreting across boundaries is dependent, in important measure, on the art of translation.¹ Over the past century, the classical Chinese corpus has been served well by philologically trained translators with increasingly sophisticated language skills. By contrast, philosophy as a discipline has not properly entertained the Asian traditions as “philosophy.” As a consequence, the major difficulty confronted by the humanist in attempting to use translated material lies not as much in the syntax as in the semantic content of core philosophical concepts that frame these texts. Of course, when a concept is assigned an English equivalent, much of the depth of...

  19. Reflections on Moral Theory and Understanding Moral Traditions
    (pp. 280-293)
    A. S. CUA

    The philosophical significance of cross-cultural ethical studies depends by and large on the adoption of a viable and coherent conception of the function of moral philosophy. An inquiry into the affinity or difference between two or more moral traditions (that is to say, traditions of moral thought) and their representative thinkers may be informative and conducive to intercultural understanding. But without a broad conception of moral philosophy that can serve as a basis for cross-cultural interpretation, the results of such a valuable study are likely to be ignored by serious students of moral philosophy. This observation applies also to the...

  20. Neoconfucianism as Traditional and Modern
    (pp. 294-310)

    Tradition and modernity, though fixtures of the modern mind, are unfortunately not so well fixed in time. In Chinese Communist historiography, the “modern” period is defined as starting in 1840 and ending in 1949, yet in the most recent years of the so-called “contemporary” period, the dominant slogans of the age in China are the Four Modernizations, as if to concede that modernization had not taken place during the “modern” era but belonged to the present and future.

    Similarly with tradition: the more we place it in the past the more striking is its persistence into the present, and the...

    (pp. 311-312)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 313-316)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)