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Whitehead and China
Relevance and Relationships
Wenyu Xie, Zhihe Wang, George E. Derfer
erschienen August 2005 | 217 Seiten
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Klappentext > zum Seitenanfang
Whitehead acknowledged that "the philosophy of organism seems to approximate more to some strains of...Chinese thought." Some scholars have attempted to explore this relationship and its implications. The Beijing Conference provided a good forum for interested and engaged scholars to address each other directly, in an atmosphere of mutual regard and respect. The ongoing scholarly work on process thinking in China is impressive. It is the editors' conviction that the publication of this book in English will promote international discussion of the themes and issues herein set forth. This should contribute significantly to the broader discussion between West and East, so important in this age of cultural globalization.
Vorwort > zum Seitenanfang
During mid-June, 2002, a conference of international scholars met in Beijing, China. The theme that brought them together was Whitehead and China in the New Millennium. The conference was co-sponsored by the China Project of the Center for Process Studies, Claremont, California, and, the Center for the Study of Values and Culture, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China. More than 180 scholars presented and discussed papers. This volume contains a selection of those papers.
The conference aimed at a two-way exploration and exposition: process thinkers in the tradition of Whitehead addressing Chinese thought, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Chinese thinkers addressing Whiteheadian process thought. Of course, many of the papers did not feel neatly into these two categories. The papers we have selected fall into the following two groups: one set of papers addressing the interaction or fusing of the two traditions and another devoted to the contributions of Chinese scholars addressing Whiteheadian process thinking.
In Part One we have collected 9 papers, which explore interconnections of Whiteheadian thought and Chinese traditional thought. John Cobb and David Griffin contribute the first two essays. These address issues that Chinese society is now encountering in the fields of religion, politics, and economy. They acknowledge the mistakes that Western modernization has made and express their hope that China will not repeat them. Based on this observation and concern, they suggest that Whitehead's thought, which is rooted in both Western and Oriental philosophy, may help China not only to be aware of the problems but also to find a different way ahead.
In "The Tao of Postmodernity: Process, Deconstruction and Postcolonial Theory," Catherine Keller picks up the concept of "not yet beginning" in the thought of Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu) and shows its connection to Whitehead's notion of beginning, which refers to irruption out of potentiality. Keller employs this notion in understanding the recent development of postcolonial theory within postmodernism.
Meijun Fan and Ronald Phipps, in their presentation, "Process Thought in Chinese Traditional Arts," begin with the assumption that Chinese traditional thought and Whitehead's process thinking are alike in many ways. They examine several pieces of Chinese art aesthetically and philosophically and show that they express a sentiment agreeable with the spirit of Whitehead's thought.
Joseph Grange begins with Whitehead's notion of in solido, in which one's experience must be felt in the presence of the whole. Based on this notion, in "Process Thought & Confucian Values" Grange defends the view that we should define "good" in light of our knowledge of ecology as nature's way of pursuing excellence, and that democracy is good because it is closely in agreement with ecological structure. He believes that Confucian values support this position.
George E. Derfer's presentation, "Education's Myths and Metaphors: Implications of Process Education for Educational Reform," is about education. In it he asks an existential question: "What motivates us: informs and inspires us?" He then emphasizes Whitehead's generally ignored concern for and concept of "deeper faith", which he sees as an essential dimension of cosmic evolution in general and our participation in this in particular. With an assumption that Whitehead and Chinese thought share a common "deeper faith", Derfer proposes a direction for the reforming of education.
Wang Shik Jang's essay is entitled "The Problem of Transcendence in Chinese Religions: From a Whiteheadian Perspective." Jang targets a thesis of David Hall and Roger Ames, that the notion of non-transcendence should be emphasized in interpreting Chinese religions. Jang argues that the notion of strict transcendence is also required for an adequate interpretation. He selects Xunzi for analysis and shows that Xunzi's thought never denies transcendence. Jang concludes that, from the perspective of a Whiteheadian theology, Chinese religious thought has actually been fostering a notion of immanent transcendence.
Brook Ziporyn's lengthy essay, "Whitehead and Tiantai: Eternal Objects and the Twofold Three Thousand," displays the similarity between Whitehead and Buddhism. Ziporyn compares the Whiteheadian concept of eternal objects and the Buddhist concept of three thousand and finds that they refer to the same things: the totality of actual occasions. Ziporyn exemplifies this similarity by an analysis of the respective treatments of evil. In his conclusion, both Whitehead and Buddhism attempt to demonstrate the value of process in its transient concrete contingency.
In his paper "Concepts of Creation and Pragmatic of Creativity," Michel Weber traces Whitehead's efforts to understand creation and creativity. Whitehead proposes abandoning substantialism and promoting the idea of creation. To fulfill this program, Weber considers the potential contribution of Chinese Taoism, which advocates spontaneity and pragmatically levels differences among beings.
Part Two is a collection of six articles by Chinese writers. In China scholars may have known Whitehead by name for some time, but serious study and discussion of his process thought are just beginning. However, the unexpected registration of 120 Chinese participants demonstrated that there is now a strong interest in contemporary process thought among Chinese scholars. We may call them the first generation of Chinese Whiteheadian scholars. Their perspectives on and interpretations of process thought may shape its future development in China.
The first two articles in this division are quite analytical and critical of process thought. Wenyu Xie presents a philosophical analysis of the concept of actual entity in "Non-sensuous Perception and Its Philosophical Analysis." Actual entity is the fundamental concept in Whitehead's scheme. After examining the definition of the concept in terms of non-sensuous perception, Xie demonstrates that, to define the concept is to distribute subjectivity among all actual entities. This raises the question of inter-subjectivity, and shows that faith (or emotional prehension) isrequired in this distribution.
Guihuan Huo perceives Whitehead's philosophy in the scheme of a theory of his own, called "the social individual growing-up theory." He imposes a question as the title of his paper, "Can Whiteheadian Process Philosophy Challenge Western Philosophy?" His theory emphasizes the development of an individual in a social context on the one hand and, on the other, the impact on society of an individual's growing up. The dichotomy of subject and object in modern philosophy treats a subject as a static and independent being and therefore ignores the significance of its growing up in its interactions with objects. Huo considers that the concept of process may contribute something to break up the dichotomy. To realize this contribution, however, Huo suggests that a combination of process thought and the social individual growing-up theory may help.
Zhihe Wang shifts the tone of the preceding articles and evaluates the contributions of process thought to the movement of postmodern thought in Chinese scholarship. In his paper, "The Postmodern Dimension of Whitehead's Philosophy and Its Relevance," Wang suggests that process thought contains an attitude of openness, which may help us overcome the dominant closed mentalities supported by Western cultural imperialism and Chinese Yelangism (self-centralism).
Similarly, Zhen Han writes appreciatively of Whitehead's sentiment of adventure. His paper is entitled "The Value of Adventure in Whiteheadian Thought." Han believes that human society must retain a spirit of adventure in order to survive. His reading of Whitehead reveals that Whitehead's thought indeed urges people to pay attention to the potentiality of society and individuals.
The last two chapters, contributed by Li Shiyan and Nini Zhang, look for the constructive contributions of process thought to contemporary Chinese thought. In her "Defining Environmental and Resource Protection in Process Philosophy," Li perceives the agreement between process thought and the current scientific understanding of the evolvement of nature. She then concludes that we should apply process thought in developing projects of environmental and resource protection. Zhang's article, "Towards a Whiteheadian Ecofeminism," on the other hand, finds that we need an ecofeminist concept of nature that is complementary to, and interactive with, the male-defined concept of nature. Zhang documents discussions of ecofeminism in the tradition of process thought, and argues that process thought can help establish a Chinese ecofeminism.
The conference resulted chiefly from the work of the China Project of the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California, and especially its executive director, Zhihe Wang. This Project began in 1994 with the translation and publication of The Reenchantment of Science: Postmodern proposals (Beijing: Zhongyang Bianyishe, 1995), thanks to the efforts of Drs. David Griffin, Wenyu Xie, and Zhihe Wang. This book was surprisingly well received by Chinese scholars. The following story gives evidence of its success.
In October of 1996, the Association of the Philosophy of Nature in China held its annual conference in Guangdong. Zhihe Wang was invited to the conference as an honored guest because of his editorship of the Chinese translation of The Reenchantment of Science. Wang was amazed that the book set up the theme of the conference, and its name was mentioned in all the presentations. This encouraging sign paved the way for an aggressive translation project, resulting in a strong presence of process thought in Chinese scholarship.
Since the conference from which the essays in this book are derived, publication has continued. This includes both translations of additional works in English and new books by Chinese authors. Notable among these is The Third Metaphysics - Constructive Postmodernism by Prof. Weifu Wu. A group of scholars from the Academy of Social Sciences collaborated with the China Project in publishing the first issue of Chinese Process Studies.
The rapid growth of interest in process thought in China is attested by the establishment of eight centers for its study and promotion in Chinese universities, with others under consideration. In collaboration with these centers and universities, numerous conferences have taken place, dealing with a wide range of issues. These have attracted eminent Chinese scholars and considerable attention in the media. Two have dealt with educational reform, and the relation of process thought to education has been of special interest to several of the new centers. The relation of Marx and Whitehead has also been a major concern.
The range of topics considered in relation to process thought is shown by the series of international conferences. In Wuhan, at a university devoted to science and technology, the topic was "Science and Spirituality in the Postmodern World." John Haught, an international leader in the dialogue between science and religion was the keynote speaker. A conference in Suzhou was entitled "Toward a Sustainable Urbanization." This featured Paolo Soleri, a visionary architect who invented the idea of "architectural ecology" or "arcology," a city that, among other things, would be self-sufficient in energy. John Cobb gave a keynote address at a conference in Shanghai on "Marxism and the Harmonious Society." In Beijing a conference was held on "Land and Social Justice in Modernization." James Brown and Cliff Cobb gave major addresses.
Whitehead acknowledged that "the philosophy of organism seems to approximate more to some strains of ...Chinese thought." Some scholars have attempted to explore this relationship and its implications. The Beijing Conference provided a good forum for interested and engaged scholars to address each other directly, in an atmosphere of mutual regard and respect. The ongoing scholarly work on process thinking in China is impressive. It is the editors' conviction that the publication of this book in English will promote international discussion of the themes and issues herein set forth. This should contribute significantly to the broader discussion between West and East, so important in this age of cultural globalization.
Inhaltsverzeichnis > zum Seitenanfang
Part I. Engagements:
Can Process Thought and Chinese Thought Be Fused?
1. John B. Cobb, Jr.: Is Whitehead Relevant in China Today? 15
2. David R. Griffin: Whitehead, China, Postmodern Politics, and Global Democracy. 25
3. Catherine Keller: The Tao of Postmodernity: Process, Deconstruction and Postcolonial Theory. 39
4. Meijun Fan and Ronald Phipps: Process Thought in Chinese Traditional Arts. 51
5. Joseph Grange: Process Thought & Confucian Values. 69
6. George E. Derfer: Education's Myths and Metaphors: Implications of Process Education for Educational Reform. 77
7. Wang Shik Jang: The Problem of Transcendence in Chinese Religions from a Whiteheadian Perspective. 101
8. Brook Ziporyn: Whitehead and Tiantai: Eternal Objects and the "Twofold Three Thousand". 113
9. Michel Weber: Concepts of Creation and the Pragmatic of Creativity. 137
Part II. Perspectives:
Process Thought in Chinese Minds
10. Wenyu Xie: Non-sensuous Perception and Its Philosophical Analysis. 153
11. Guihuan Huo: Can Whiteheadian Process Philosophy Challenge Western Philosophy? 163
12. Zhihe Wang: The Postmodern Dimension of Whitehead's Philosophy and Its Relevance. 173
13. Zhen Han: The Value of Adventures in Whiteheadian Thought. 189
14. Shiyan Li: Defining Environmental and Resource Protection in Process Philosophy. 197
15. Nini Zhang: Towards a Whiteheadian Eco-feminism. 205