The Problem of Life in China and Europe: Zhang Junmai, Eucken, and Driesch


The presupposition of the autonomy and isolation of Western philosophy is an illusory product of the asymmetrical relations of power, exchange, and communication characteristic of the colonial and postcolonial eras. The idea of one Enlightenment and one modernity, as distinctively Western, has been promoted by its Western advocates and critics. For instance, in Husserl and Habermas as well as in Heidegger, Derrida, and Foucault, there is only one— Western—form of reason that has overtaken and encompassed the globe in modernity. This current work is a contribution to the critique of European reason, or—more precisely—the Eurocentric conception of rationality, for the sake of disclosing—to decolonize and pluralize a thesis from Husserl and Habermas and, in its own form, Confucian ethics—the rationality and selfreflective critical potential within the myriad concrete forms of ethical life and materially and communicatively reproduced lifeworlds.

In the colonial and semi-colonial regions of the world, the problem of multiple Enlightenments, modernities, and rationalities was a pressing concern that has remained basically invisible to Western philosophy. The problematic of “Western” and alternate modernities, however, forced itself with violence upon twentieth-century Chinese intellectuals, as considered in this chapter.

The chapters of this book illustrate how “Western” and “Eastern” philosophical discourses have already been interculturally intertwined for generations. The history of the German Confucius (Kongzi ?L^) is, as Chapter 1 revealed, a knotted series of intercultural encounters and mis- and non-encounters. The German philosophical reception of Confucianism intersects and overlaps with modern Chinese appropriations of German philosophy and reinterpretations of Chinese intellectual discourses, as explored in this chapter on the hybridity of modern philosophy through the asymmetrical yet evocative interaction between the young Chinese philosopher and political thinker Zhang Junmai Щ.ШШ (Carsun Chang, 1886-1969) and the older German philosophers Rudolf Eucken (1846-1926) and Hans Driesch (1867-1941).

In this chapter, we examine the openness to encountering Asia and Asian philosophy in the philosophical works and cross-cultural activities of Eucken and Driesch and how, in Zhang’s encounter with German philosophy, one can trace how modern Chinese thought was not merely passively Westernized. Western thought was actively adopted, modified, and Sinicized in the context of a new hybrid intercultural discourse such as the discourse of a modern “new” Confucian philosophy as a philosophy calling for intuition into and selfreflection on “life” (shengming ^^).

The primary topics of this chapter are Zhang’s encounter and dialogue with the practical neo-idealist Eucken (in Part one) and neo-vitalist Driesch (Part two), the reformulation of his initial enthusiasm for life-philosophy in relation to Kantian and Confucian thought, the later development of Zhang’s philosophy, and the implications of Zhang’s encounters and interpretations for intercultural philosophy (Part three). In addition, the interest of Eucken, Driesch, and related German figures (Wilhelm, Lessing, Jung, and Keyserling) in the Chinese way of thought and life, which was interpreted as a potential source for renewing crisis-ridden Western modernity, is discussed in the context of the interpretive situation of the Weimar Republic.

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