Two: Zhang and Driesch between Republican China and Weimar Germany Hans and Margarete Driesch in Republican China

After his collaboration with Eucken, Zhang returned to China and promoted German Idealism (particularly Kant and Hegel), social democratic political and economic thought, and the neo-idealistic and the neo-vitalist life-philosophies of Eucken, Driesch, and Bergson in his writing, teaching, and public lecturing.

Zhang’s mentor Liang Qichao founded the Chinese Lecture Association (jiang xue she M^ji) that invited Bertrand Russell, Hans Driesch, John Dewey, and Rabindranath Tagore to lecture in China between 1920 and 1924. These lectures were major cultural events that were well received among Chinese intellectuals. Zhang and Liang had initially invited Eucken to China. He declined due to his advanced age and they hosted instead, with Eucken’s encouragement, Driesch’s visit to China for nine months during 1922-1923.37 Zhang reports in his 1922 article on Driesch, which summarizes Driesch’s thought for Chinese audiences prior to his visit, that its significance lies in its break with the abstractions of Neo- Kantianism and his articulation of the “living I.”38 Zhang glosses Driesch’s biological and logical works and focuses on his dynamic conception of the self as well as his “methodological solipsism,” which was an important source—along with Driesch’s system of logic called a theory of order (Ordnungslehre)—for the early Rudolf Carnap’s Logical Formation of the World (Der logische Aufbau der Welt, 1928).

At a conference held at the conclusion of Driesch’s stay in Beijing, Zhang described how he was interested in Driesch’s philosophical project insofar as it promised to unite life-philosophy and science by providing an “idealist foundation” for contemporary scientific and experimental inquiry.39 Zhang emphasized that Driesch’s philosophical importance resides in his scientifically oriented critique of Darwinism and associational psychology as well as in his conception of ideality (rationality) as allowing for a holistic explanation of the interconnectedness of the whole and its parts.40 Driesch offered Chinese intellectuals an alternative holistic paradigm for philosophical-scientific inquiry in contrast with the previous two recent philosophical visitors to China, Bertrand Russell and John Dewey.41 Zhang then turned to address the common problems of China and Germany, two countries both threatened by crisis and peril.42 In addition to Zhang’s lecture, Driesch himself and the Sinologist Richard Wilhelm, among others, would give lectures at this farewell event.43

During his nine months in China, which the spouses Margarete (nee Reifferscheidt, 1874-1946) and Hans Driesch retrospectively described as an especially happy time in their life, Driesch lectured at the National Southeastern University in Nanjing and Peking University (4ЬЖ^^) on

Kant, the philosophy of the organic, contemporary philosophical tendencies, and problems of modern psychology.44 Qu Shiying Шй^ (1901-1976) (alias Qu Junong ШЙЖ) worked as Zhang’s assistant during Driesch’s visit. Qu was the first Chinese person to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, which he received in philosophy a few years later in 1926. Driesch describes becoming friends and interlocutors with Zhang and Qu, thanking them both in the preface to The Far-East as Guest of Young China (Fern-Ost als gaste Jungchinas, published in German in 1925) and his Fundamental Problems of Psychology: Its Crisis in the Present (Grundprobleme der Psychologie: Ihre Krisis in der Gegenwart, 1926) written on the basis of his lectures in China.45 Driesch also wrote his Theory of Relativity Theory and Philosophy in 1923 (Relativitatstheorie und Philosophie, 1924) while in China at the request of Zhang. In this text, which was dismissed by physicists as a merely philosophical critique, he argued for the logical incoherence of the theory of relativity.46 Zhang translated Driesch’s critique of Einstein’s theory of relativity, a critique with which he disagreed, in the hope of fostering a Chinese debate that failed to emerge.47

Hans and Margarete Driesch consider in their co-written work about their time in China from October 1922 to July 1923, The Far-East as Guest of Young

China, whether Europeans can have a more adequate view of relations in East Asia to replace the old myths and prejudices.48 The work was not composed as a scientific work nor as “a travel dairy of a philosopher,” a reference to the popular work of Hermann Graf Keyserling (1880-1946), The Travel Diary of a Philosopher (Das Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen, 1919) that employed the style of a travelogue as a point of departure for varied philosophical reflections.49 Despite this disavowal, the couple engaged in philosophical reflections about their experiences in China as well as reflections on Chinese philosophy, religion, and culture. They describe the goal of their book in loftier terms, in opposition to German nationalism and fascism, as furthering political enlightenment concerning the German relationship with the world and indicating how Germany does not stand alone in isolation from the world.50 The internationalist message of this work also informed Margarete Driesch’s other work based on her experiences abroad and correspondence with women throughout the world, Women beyond the Ocean (Frauen Jenseits der Ozeane, published in 1928), which gathered contributions from contemporary female voices from Africa and Asia.51

The Drieschs’ cosmopolitanism is palpable in Hans Driesch’s political activism against militarism and nationalism after his return to Germany. It stands out in an epoch of growing nationalist resentment that would lead a few years later to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist assumption of power in 1933.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >