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One: Zhang, Eucken, and Life-Philosophy Zhang’s intercultural contexts: Modernity, colonialism, and the crisis of life

Sweeping Western influences and a new cosmopolitan vision of Chinese cultural and social-political life were adopted in different stages during the Republican era in China from the “New Culture” movement (xin wenhua yundong ЖШ), beginning in the late 1910s, to the “New Sensation” school (xin ganjue pai ШШШШ) that flourished in the 1930s in semi-colonial Shanghai. The threat of the Western powers colonizing China and broader processes of Westernization brought with it a deepening sense of a multifaceted crisis in Republican China. This sense of crisis encompassed multiple dimensions: (1) the crisis of the meaning of life evident within Western modernity itself, (2) the crisis of a threatened sense of traditional Chinese identity, (3) the economic and material crisis of deep economic and social-political inequalities overseen by a corrupt and inefficient political regime, and (4) the crisis of military intervention and occupation by the Western powers and subsequently Imperial Japan.

The sense of a crisis of meaning was adopted through the translation and interpretation of the Western critics of modernity. It was interpreted through the reception of continental European life-philosophy and existentialism in opposition to the growing influence of technocratic pragmatism and scientism of Anglo-American thought. This is evident in Zhang’s heated debates in the 1920s with the Anglo-American-oriented intellectuals who promoted the abandonment of Chinese traditions and advocated absolute faith in science, technology, and Westernization that was associated with Americanization (meiguo hua ^Hft).

The iconoclastic radicalness visible in Westernizing intellectuals and the May Fourth Movement that sought to extinguish the Chinese past, and was in some ways a precursor to the Cultural Revolution, was not uniform among the Anglo-American-oriented intelligentsia. Although regarded as the leading voice of the movement against tradition and an active critic and opponent of Zhang, the Columbia University educated Hu Shi (1891-1962) gradually moved away from advocating radical Americanization toward interpreting liberal democratic Enlightenment thought in relation to a renewal of Confucian li Ш (ritual propriety) and de Ш (virtue) as constituting a socially oriented “ritual Enlightenment," which would adjust and correct the univocal conformity and one-sidedness of the Western idea of Enlightenment in relation to local conditions and traditions.1

The crisis of Chinese identity in the face of the overwhelming power and apparent “universality” ofWestern civilization is visible in Zhang’s early works and in those of other Republican era thinkers such as Hu Shi and the philosopher and historian Gu Jiegang МвМИ (1893-1980). Another illustration of the problematic of modernity in China is visible in the analysis of the imperial function of Western internationalism and universalism by the anti-colonial nationalist leader Sun Yat- Sen ЩШ{Ш (1866-1925). This anxiety in the face of the sinister side of Western universalism as a vehicle of domination is expressed by Sun in his 1924 lecture “Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism,” published in Sanmin zhuyi (The

Three Principles of the People); the cosmopolitan vision furthers the interests of the stronger party (e.g., the colonizing West) against the weaker party (e.g., the colonized peoples) who require an appeal to their own particular self-interests and national particularity to actively resist their oppression.2

The Western powers and their Westernizing Chinese servants claimed that cosmopolitanism was inevitably progressive and modern, even as the “opening” of Asia meant its domination and exploitation by imperial powers pursuing their own nationalist self-interests in the “civilizing” cosmopolitan guise characteristic of international empires. Sun noted in this context how earlier Chinese Confucian thinking was cosmopolitan and imperial. The cosmopolitan imperial version of Confucianism allowed traditional China to rule over other non-Han nationalities and to be ruled by non-Han peoples in turn under the Mongolian Yuan (1271-1368) and the Manchu Qing (1644-1912) dynasties. Cosmopolitanism is consequently an advantage of empires and a flaw for weak vulnerable peoples.

Traditional Confucian cosmopolitanism, like all cosmopolitanisms, is a double-edged weapon for Sun: it could function as an imperial ideology to assimilate other peoples or prepare the way for the Han people’s subjugation under the Qing dynasty or modern China’s status as an exploited “hypo-” or “semi-” colony that calls for a progressive anti-cosmopolitan and nationalist response. Without a sense of national identity that is capable of resisting Western colonial cosmopolitanism, the Chinese and other oppressed peoples of the earth were heaps of “loose sand” (yipan sansha —M^^) unable to resist the exploitation of their cosmopolitan oppressors. Real asymmetries of power demand that the weak affirm themselves in their particularity, in patriotism and nationalism, in order to resist their oppression. The Western universal ideologically conceals its actual particularity and the genuine possibility of universality rests in the resistance of an oppressed people as a concrete particular.

In the same semi-colonial context in which Sun confronted the overwhelming power of the ostensive universality of the West, early twentieth-century Chinese and East Asian philosophy developed in confrontation with Western ideas of universality, of rational science vis-a-vis life-intuition, in the context of either abandoning or reviving indigenous conceptions of knowing from Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. The emerging field of academic philosophy centered on debates between the priority of the scientific knowledge and rational civilization of the West and the intuitive experiential knowing and organic forms of life of the East. As “intuition”—translated in Chinese as zhijue ЖШ or, less frequently as unmediated perception, zhiguan ЖШ—was deployed to distinguish Eastern and Western modes of experiencing and thinking, the varieties of intuition (perceptual, life-experiential, intellectual, mystical) accordingly marked a key concern for early twentieth-century Chinese thinkers who fused insights and arguments from modern European and traditional Chinese discourses.

It is in this complicated hybridized context that Zhang, who studied classical Chinese and subsequently modern Western philosophy in Shanghai, Waseda University in Tokyo (1906-1910), and the University of Berlin (1913-1915), would encounter and collaborate with the German life-philosophers Eucken, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908 and was the teacher of Max Scheler, and the neo-vitalist experimental embryologist and philosopher Driesch. Eucken and Driesch are currently forgotten figures who were influential in their own generations and attracted the attention of East Asian intellectuals because of their modernistic critiques of modernity.

As discussed in Chapter 1, philosophers such as Buber and Misch stressed the ethical humanism and personalism of Confucian teachings. Buber developed this account in the language of a humanistic religiosity and Misch in the language of enlightened hermeneutical life-philosophy. This chapter continues this thematic by turning to the humanistic life-philosophical interpretation of Confucianism and Chinese culture developed in the 1920s in writings of Zhang, Eucken, and Driesch; in particular, the idea of a humanistic cultivation of life that was unfolded in response to the crises of modernity in Eucken’s and Zhang’s coauthored work, published in German in 1922, The Problem of Life in China and Europe (Das Lebensproblem in China und Europa).3 Eucken and Zhang would interpret in this work the Confucian concept of dao Ж as humanity, alluding to the statement in the Analects (Lunyu §й1и) that the human broadens the Way instead of the Way broadening the human, and the concept of de Ш as justice.4

 
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