Nāgārjuna and the Limits of Thought
Jay L. Garfield and Graham Priest, 1
Nāgārjuna seems willing to embrace contradictions while at the same time making use of classic reductio arguments. He asserts that he rejects all philosophical views including his own—that he asserts nothing—and appears to mean it. It is argued here that he, like many philosophers in the West and, indeed, like many of his Buddhist colleagues, discovers and explores true contradictions arising at the limits of thought. For those who share a dialetheist’s comfort with the possibility of true contradictions commanding rational assent, for Nāgārjuna to endorse such contradictions would not undermine but instead confirm the impression that he is indeed a highly rational thinker. It is argued that the contradictions he discovers are structurally analogous to many discovered by Western philosophers and mathematicians.
The status of Ibn ‘Arabi and Derrida as thinkers is examined: their disagreements with rational/metaphysical thought on the basis of différance and what Ibn ‘Arabi calls al-haqq or the Real. Advantage is taken of the fact that both writers speak of emancipatory projects in their work—the freeing of writing from the shackles of logocentric thought and of the unthinkably Divine (the Real) from the constructs of philosophers and theologians. Just as Ibn ‘Arabi believes that no thinker can provide ‘‘a definition of the Real [al haqq],’’ Derrida insists that no thinker can escape the history of metaphysics. In the work of both, the reaffirmation of something vital, inconstant, and elusive that defeats all attempts to discuss it plays a common role and evolves according to a common structure. If différance and the Real do seem uncannily analogous—sharing, for example, features like namelessness, radical otherness, intangibility/invisibility/unthinkability, and atemporality, not to mention their paradoxically generative functions—there are also a number of significant differences.
Democracy and Confucian Values
Shaun O’Dwyer, 39
This essay considers a number of proposals for liberal political democracy in East Asian societies, and some of the critical responses these proposals have attracted from political philosophers and from East Asian intellectuals and leaders. These proposals may well be ill-suited to the distinctive traditional values of societies claiming a Confucian inheritance. Offered here instead is a pragmatist- and Confucian-inspired vision of participatory democracy in civic life that is possibly better able to address the problem of conserving and continuing these traditional values through times of economic and social change.
Leibniz was writing his Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese as the Leibniz-Clarke Controversy developed. Both were terminated by his death. These two fronts show interesting doctrinal correlations. The first is Leibniz’ concern for the ‘‘decadence of natural religion.’’ The dispute with Clarke began with it, and the Discourse is a defense of Chinese natural religion in order to show its agreement with Christian natural religion. The Controversy can be summed up as ‘‘clockmaker God versus idle God.’’ Leibniz wants to escape from the perverse consequences that all criticism of divine voluntarism seems to cause. Thus, his elaboration is directed at a distinct concept of a God that rules without interposing, a supramundane intelligence. And the Leibnizian interpretation of the natural theology of the Chinese can be viewed the same way: it emphasizes a First Principle, Li, which rules without interposing.
Aspects of Xunzi’s Engagement with Early Daoism
Aaron Stalnaker, 87
Xunzi borrows several significant ideas originating in the Zhuangzi and the ‘‘Neiye’’ chapter of the Guanzi, adapting them to solve problems in his own theories of mind and self-cultivation. This reworking occurs in three main areas. First, he uses some of the psycho-physical terminology of the ‘‘Neiye’’ but alters its cosmological background and thus its implications for self-cultivation. Second, largely for rhetorical effect he adopts the language of shen and shenming from both texts, but uses them to argue for the potency of the Confucian Way rather than some ineffable cosmic Dao. Third, and most significantly, he takes and transforms the terminology of emptiness, unity, and tranquility, using them in new ways within his own Confucian vision to solve important philosophical problems generated by his own positions.
On Zhuangzi and Kierkegaard, a review of The Sense of Antirationalism: The Religious Thought of Zhuangzi and Kierkegaard, by Karen L. Carr and Philip J. Ivanhoe
Hans-Georg Moeller and Leo Stan, 131
Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation, by Jay L. Garfield
Reviewed by Mario D’Amato, 137
Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories, by Wang Zheng
Reviewed by Ruiqi Ma, 140