Philosophy East and West, vol. 55, no. 1 (2005)


Crisis and Certainty of Knowledge in al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) and Descartes (1596-1650)
Tamara Albertini, 1

In his autobiographical account, the Munqidh min al-Dalāl, al-Ghazālī reflects on his conversion from skepticism to faith. Previous scholarship has interpreted this text as an anticipation of Cartesian positions regarding epistemic certainty. Although the existing similarities between al-Ghazālī and Descartes are striking, the focus of the present essay lies on the different philosophical aims pursued by the two thinkers. It is thus argued that al-Ghazālī operates with a broader notion of the Self than Descartes, because it is inclusive of the body. And it is shown that the two philosophers use completely diverging paradigms. While Descartes models his notion of evidence after mathematical certainty, al-Ghazālī draws his famous ‘ilm al-yaqīnī (certain knowledge) from a religious context.

Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil
Whitley R. P. Kaufman, 15

The doctrine of karma and rebirth is often praised for its ability to offer a successful solution to the Problem of Evil. This essay evaluates such a claim by considering whether the doctrine can function as a systematic theodicy, as an explanation of all human suffering in terms of wrongs done in either this or past lives. This purported answer to the Problem of Evil must face a series of objections, including the problem of any lack of memory of pastlives, the lack of proportionality between wrongdoing and the observed suffering in the world, the problem of infinite regress of explanation, and the problem of compatibility of free will with karmic determinism. These objections, either separately or taken together, provide (it is argued) sufficient reason to doubt whether the doctrine of karma and rebirth can in fact provide a satisfactory theodicy.

Japanese Shinto: An Interpretation of a Priestly Perspective
James W. Boyd and Ron G. Williams, 33

This is an interpretation of the experiential/religious meaning of Japanese Shrine Shintō as taught us primarily by the priests at Tsubaki Grand Shrine, Suzuka, Mie Prefecture. As a heuristic device, we suggest lines of comparison between the thought and practice of the Tsubaki priests and two Western thinkers: the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and the French philosopher Georges Bataille. This in turn allows the construction of three interpretive categories that we believe illuminate both the Shintō worldview and Shintō ritual practice.

Beyond Proceduralism: A Chinese Perspective on Cheng (Sincerity) as a Political Virtue
Julia Tao, 64

This essay aims to provide a philosophical analysis of the Chinese concept of cheng (sincerity) as a political virtue that could be incorporated to ground a duty of civility in liberal deliberative democracy. It is argued here that the virtue of sincerity is an essential feature of the liberal political culture taken for granted by Rawls in his theory of public reason. Ideal procedures and public discourse are not sufficient to generate civic virtues. The goal of this essay is to show how, in the Chinese conception, the root of civility lies in the virtue of Cheng, which can provide the moral grounding for a duty of civility that is essential to sustaining the stability and overcoming the problem of defection from support of the common good in pluralistic states.

Zen Language in Our Time: The Case of Pojo Chinul’s Huatou Meditation
Jin Y. Park

Zen philosophy of language is discussed by exploring the concepts of live and deadwords, involvement with meaning and involvement with words, and the three mysterious gates as they are employed in Pojo Chinul’s huatou meditation. A comparison is made between the Zen use of language and Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of visibility, Julia Kristeva’s idea of the semiotic and the symbolic, and Kierkegaard’s concept of anxiety, in an attempt to provide a paradigm to understand the Zen Buddhist vision.


Recent Works on Confucius and the Analects, a review of Confucius and the Analects: New Essays, edited by Bryan W. Van Norden, and Confucius: Analects with Selections from Traditional Commentaries, translated by Edward G. Slingerland
Ronnie Littlejohn, 99

Of Diversities and Comparisons, a review of Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, edited by Antonio S. Cua
Sor-hoon Tan, 111


Japanese Buddhism: A Cultural History, by Yoshiro Tamura
Reviewed by Steven Heine, 125

A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters, by Harold D. Roth
Reviewed by Steve Coutinho, 126

Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Text, by Paul Unschuld
Reviewed by Aerin Caley, 130

Letting Go: The Story of Zen Master Tōsui, by Peter Haskel
Reviewed by David E. Riggs, 132

Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogacara Buddhism and the Ch’eng Wei-shih Lun, by Dan Lusthaus
Reviewed by Charles Muller, 135

Between Two Worlds: East and West: An Autobiography, by J. N. Mohanty
Reviewed by William Edelglass, 139