Debating the Principles
of Eastern and Western Social Thought
Edited by Wayne Cristaudo,
Heung Wah Wong, and Sun Youzhong
These original essays debate two ways of theorizing social life. One way is the integrative or holistic model of thought typified in the writings of Confucius. The other, the revolutionary tradition, is suspicious of holism and harmony as principles of social thought because harmony is seen as something that can genuinely occur only when a society has rectified deeply ingrained injustice. This volume evaluates the alternative priorities of order and revolt, harmony and spontaneity, in social life.
About the Editors
Wayne Cristaudo is professor of politics at Charles Darwin University. His books include Religion, Redemption, and Revolution; Power, Love and Evil; Great Ideas in the Western Literary Canon; and A Philosophical History of Love.
Heung Wah Wong is associate professor teaching creative arts and Japanese studies at the University of Hong Kong.
Sun Youzhong is dean of the School of English and International Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Robert Elliott Allinson, Professor of Philosophy, Soka University of America
Roger T. Ames, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii
Miran Bozovic, Professor of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Wayne Cristaudo, Professor of Politics, Charles Darwin University NT
Alexander Dolin, Professor of Comparative Culture, World Civilization and Japanese Literature, Akita International University
Waddick Doyle, Director, Division of Global Communications and Film and Masters Program in Global Communication, The American University of Paris
Hélène Landemore, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University
Han Rui, Ph.D., Guangdong University of Foreign Studies
Donald Sturgeon, Hong Kong University
We Need John Dewey to Understand Confucius and Vice Versa. Or Philosophers Need Anthropologists and Vice Versa. - Wong Heung Wah
It is my great honor to be invited to edit this book with Professor Wayne Cristaudo and Professor Sun Youzhong at the later stage of this publication project. As an anthropologist who received almost no serious training in philosophy, I am not sure whether I deserve such a great honor. Anthropologists have devoted themselves to understanding “the other,” which I believe necessarily involves cross-cultural comparisons. Dialogue with other cultures is the discipline’s essential skill. In other words, the general goal of this book, which is to compare the so-called holistic model of Oriental thought and the Western mode of revolutionary tradition, is anthropologists’ normal practice. To understand the other, anthropologists have to take two basic steps. The first step is to involve ourselves deeply in the culture we are to understand through long-term ethnographic fieldwork. The second step is to lie back and understand other cultures creatively from an external vantage. That external vantage can be our own culture or another culture. Without these two steps, the task of understanding other cultures cannot really be completed. We need another culture to understand other cultures; and in the context of this book, we need Confucius’s harmonious thought to understand John Dewey’s pragmatism and vice versa. The same might be said of the much less known relationship between Lao Tzu and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, with each one posing a challenge to the more harmonious functionalist view of society provided by Dewey and Confucius. They need each other to achieve mutual understanding. That is to say, comparing Confucius with John Dewey, or Rosenstock-Huessy to Lao Tzu, is not just to point out their differences; through such differences we can better understand Confucius and John Dewey, Lao Tzu and Rosenstock-Huessy, the Oriental harmonious whole and the Western mode of revolutionary thought. It is in this sense that this philosophy book is also an anthropological exercise, and what the philosophers are doing here is also relevant to the work of their anthropology colleagues. This may be one reason I was invited to join this publication.
Although I am not interested in commenting on the abstract relevance of Confucius in the current sociopolitical situation of China, I think that Confucius’s tradition of harmony and order does serve as a mode of thought that structures contingent events in particular ways and thus results in particular historical paths of China, which further makes China historically distinct from its counterparts in the West. It is in this general sense that China’s historical processes are guided by Confucius’s harmonious whole. Confucius’s thoughts are therefore relevant in understanding China. A book like this publication project is extremely useful to anthropologists studying China. Confucius’s harmonious whole, however, cannot be deterministic because the events themselves, though contingent or even chaotic, can, as many previous ethnographic studies of China have effectively showed, very often impact and thus transform the general historical path of China. It follows that an anthropology of events is also necessary in understanding the historical courses of China. Perhaps this is another reason I was invited to participate in this book project.