Philosophy East and West, vol. 60, no. 2 (2010)


Al-Ghazali and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola on the Question of Human Freedom and the Chain of Being
Craig Truglia, 143

The person most often credited as the first to free humanity from its bonds in the chain of being was the Renaissance humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Scholars have asserted that Pico’s chain-of-being doctrine was either inspired or predated by earlier European thinkers, namely Marsilio Ficino, Nicholas of Cusa, Allan of Lille, and John Scotus Eriugena. By analyzing the works of the previously listed philosophers, this article argues that Pico’s philosophical doctrine was in fact predated by no European writer. Instead, as the analysis of his works will show, the Muslim mystic al-Ghazali was the first to elucidate the ideas that are presently attributed to Pico. Furthermore, after researching Pico’s library and scholarly development, the possibility that Pico was inspired by al-Ghazali’s writings is assessed. It may be the case that a large part of the philosophical underpinning of Renaissance Humanism has its origins in eleventh-twelfth century Muslim thought.

Genes, Memes, and the Chinese Concept of Wen: Toward a Nature/Culture Model of Genetics
Thorsten Botz-Bornstein, 167

The Chinese concept of wen is examined here in the context of contemporary gene theory and the “cultural branch” of gene theory called “memetics.” The Chinese notion of wen is an untranslatable term meaning “pattern,” “structure,” “writing,” and “literature.” Wen hua—generally translated as “culture”—signifies the process through which one adopts wen. However, this process is not simply one of civilizational mimesis or imitation but the “creation” of a new pattern. Within a gene-wen debate we are able to read genes neither in terms of nature or culture but, in a Chinese way, in terms of “nature-culture.” “Posthuman” or “transhuman” models that celebrate the creation of techno-bio bodies (cyborgs) as the continuation of the human by nonhuman means are still dependent on a clear distinction between nature and technology (culture) that is rooted in the Greek and Christian traditions. Bioengineering does not do more than gradually replacing the “given” by the “made” until the body is seen as a commodity malleable in the hands of modern technology. A wen-based genetics offers a new perspective on nature-culture continuity because it is not trapped in nature but involved in a concept of wen that a Western mind tends to identify too quickly with natural necessity.

Confucianizing Socrates and Socratizing Confucius: On Comparing Analects 13:18 and the Euthyphro
Tim Murphy and Ralph Weber, 187

An apparently quite specific question that was addressed by both Confucius and Socrates has attracted much attention in Sino-Hellenistic comparative philosophy. Their respective responses to the question of how a son should respond if his father commits a crime are found in Confucius’ Analects 13:18 and in Plato’s Euthyphro. This essay assesses three comparative analyses of these responses with particular reference to their underlying assertions of commonality, that is, the assumptions or presuppositions of commonality that serve to justify the comparative exercise in the first instance. The authors suggest that two of the analyses assert commonality between their two responses from a Confucian standpoint, while the third constructs commonality from a Socratic standpoint. The authors argue that the response of Confucius focuses specifically on the issue of xiao (filial piety) in the concrete situation presented to him, whereas Socrates uses the issue to investigate the different question known as the “Euthyphro dilemma.” Some brief conclusions are drawn regarding comparative philosophical analysis in general and about comparing the responses of Confucius and Socrates in these passages in particular.

The Rehabilitation of Spontaneity: A New Approach in Philosophy of Action
Brian J. Bruya, 207

Scholars working in philosophy of action still struggle with the freedom/determinism dichotomy that stretches back to Hellenist philosophy and the metaphysics that gave rise to it. Although that metaphysics has been repudiated in current philosophy of mind and cognitive science, the dichotomy still haunts these fields. As such, action is understood as distinct from movement, or motion. In early China, under a very different metaphysical paradigm, no such distinction is made. Instead, a notion of self-caused movement, or spontaneity, is elaborated. In this article a general conception of spontaneity from early Daoism is explained, detailing its constituent aspects. Similar notions appeared from time to time in Western philosophy, and these instances are pursued, exploring how their instantiations differed from Daoist spontaneity and why. Based on these approximate examples of spontaneity and on early Daoist spontaneity, new criteria are postulated for a plausible theory of action that dispenses with presuppositions that eventuate in a freedom/determinism dichotomy, and instead the possibility is offered of a general model of action that can be applied smoothly across current philosophical and cognitive scientific subdisciplines.

Grounding “Language” in the Senses: What the Eyes and Ears Reveal about Ming 名 (Names) in Early Chinese Texts
Jane Geaney, 251

For understanding early Chinese “theories of language” and views about the relation of speech to a nonalphabetic script, a thorough analysis of early Chinese metalinguistic terminology is necessary. This article analyzes the function of ming 名 (name) in early Chinese texts as a first step in that direction. It argues against the regular treatment of this term in early Chinese texts as the equivalent of “word.” It examines ming in light of early Chinese ideas about sense perception, the mythology about the origin or music and writing, and changes occurring in the writing system in the third century B.C.E. This lays the groundwork for a more informed response to Derrida’s speculation about Chinese logocentrism. It is explained that, in early Chinese texts, certain concepts associated with logocentrism (e.g., reality/appearance, presence/absence) function in a way that is neither the same as, nor exactly the reverse of, the Western philosophical episteme. Thus, attempts to reconstruct attitudes toward “language” in early China should note the importance of sound in interpreting ming. Moreover, interpretations of apparent denigrations of writing in early Chinese texts should, before diagnosing logocentrism, consider the context of the reliability of the visual.


Yoga: India’s Philosophy of Meditation, edited by Gerald James Larson and Ram Shankar Bhattacharya
Reviewed by Stuart Ray Sarbacker, 294

The Writing of Weddings in Middle-Period China: Text and Ritual Practice in the Eighth through Fourteenth Centuries, by Christian de Pee
Reviewed by Michael Nylan, 298

The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue, by Jiyuan Yu
Reviewed by Christian Helmut Wenzel, 303

The Caitanya Vaịṣnava Vedānta of Jīva Gosvāmī: When Knowledge Meets Devotion, by Ravi M. Gupta
Reviewed by Alessandro Graheli, 306

Modern Intellectual Readings of the Kharijites, by Hussam S. Timani
Reviewed by Shabbir Ahsen, 310