Life-philosophical and Kantian Confucianism in Zhang and Mou
These intercultural and intertextual moments are multidirectional, with implications in both German and Chinese contexts. There are echoes of Zhang’s interpretive encounter and exchange with German philosophy in subsequent Chinese thinking, as well as the thought of the most important Chinese philosopher of the twentieth-century. This final section briefly explores the issues of life-philosophy and intuition in the context of Kant and Confucius in Zhang and Mou Zongsan (1909-1995), arguably the most important
Chinese philosopher of the twentieth-century. Mou utilized Kant and Western philosophy in formulating his own account of a modern new Confucianism that is at the same time deeply indebted to and informed by Chinese philosophical traditions from early Confucian sources and the Yijing to Chinese Buddhist and Neo-Confucian philosophical systems.
The two philosophers worked together at various points and these experiences left Mou bitter toward Zhang as he repeatedly mentioned in his Autobiography at Fifty (Wushi zishu 1957).124 Mou implied that Zhang abandoned
him to poverty during the desperate situation of the 1920s and then, when he finally received a position and income, compelled him to become the primary editor of the social democratic journal The National Renaissance, founded by Zhang in 1932 and edited by Mou from 1937 to 1939.
Zhang and Mou were both concerned with articulating a modern democratic Confucianism.125 They collaborated again after the publication of Mou’s autobiography. A group of New-Confucian intellectuals, including Mou, Zhang, Tang Junyi ШШШ, and Xu Fuguan ШШШ, published a historic manifesto and program for a modern Confucian philosophy in 1958 in the Hong Kong journal Minzhu pinglun (Democratic Review) and in the journal—reborn in
Taipei after the Chinese civil war—Zaisheng entitled: “A Manifesto for a Reappraisal of Sinology and Reconstruction of Chinese Culture” (“Wei Zhongguo Wenhua Jinggao Shijie Renshi Xuanyan” ^АНА^ШАЙ^ААжА).126
Both thinkers shared, despite their personal differences expressed by Mou in his autobiography, an interest in and commitment to synthesizing Neo- Confucian and Kantian philosophy to help confront the modern Chinese condition.127 While in the West the reception of Confucius centered on whether he could be considered a Chinese Socrates, as discussed in Chapter 1, Chinese intellectuals such as Zhang and Mou pondered whether Kant could be understood in some sense as a “German Confucius” That is, Confucianism was a philosophy concerned with the individual self and the interiority of the subject as much as the community and ritual behavior.
Zhang’s reading of Kant is indebted to life-philosophical interpretations of Kant, as the life-experiential form of intuition allows Zhang to critically respond to modern scientism and Westernization, advocating the contemporary significance of the Confucian tradition. Zhang, as seen above, increasingly turned toward emphasizing the rationality inherent in ethical life based on Kantian and Confucian moral philosophy.
Mou was, however, less impressed by the European life-philosophers than the early Zhang and more fully committed to notions of intuition and life than the later rationalistic Zhang in his approaches to both Kant and the Chinese philosophical legacy. Mou developed a more systematic and detailed interpretation of Kant’s Three Critiques and the role of intuition in Kant’s thought in contrast to Zhang’s earlier attempts in the 1920s to justify intuition vis-a-vis scientific knowledge. Mou is more radical in violating Kant’s critical philosophy by identifying intellectual intuition of the “thing in itself” with the intuition of “life in itself” (shengming zai qi ziji A^A^^B) and the Chinese intellectual tradition’s conception of intrinsic or innate moral knowing (liangzhi ЙВП) of the good.128 Mou’s engagement with the problem of intuition expresses the importance of the life-experiential and life-expressive forms of intuition in his thought. Intuition is interpreted in Sinicized life-philosophical terms that helped shape Mou’s encounter with Kant, and the ongoing confrontation between Chinese philosophy and Western modernity.
Mou evaluates Zhang negatively as a person and philosopher in his discussion of their relationship and collaboration in his Autobiography at Fifty. Mou’s description of his intellectual journey and concern with the problem of intuition expresses the practical importance of the life-experiential and life-expressive forms of intuition. That is to say, the problem of intuition is interpreted in a lifephilosophical discursive language that helped shape the East Asian encounter with Kant’s critical philosophy and the modern Chinese understanding of Confucian ethics in Zhang and Mou as a discourse of autonomous self-formation and social obligation.129 A striking difference between Chinese and Western scholars of Confucianism is the role of the language of autonomy, responsibility, and subjectivity in the former and its absence in favor of the language of roles, rituals, and virtues in the latter.
An appropriate assessment of Mou’s interpretation and critique of Kantian intuition accordingly should take into consideration the confluence of life- philosophical concerns and interpretive strategies that mediated the encounters between Zhang and Mou with Kant, and New Confucian Chinese thought with elements of Western modernity.