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5 Force of Psyche: Electricity or Void? Re-examination of the Hermeneutics of the Force of Psyche in Late Qing China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the concept of psyche in the writings of Tan Sitong 譚嗣同 (1865-98), a late Qing intellectual. In Tan's concept of psyche as void, one can see a sharp contrast with the "psycho-physical parallelism" that was popular in late nineteenth-century China. Late Qing intellectuals developed a mode of hermeneutics that, using the metaphor of electricity, viewed xinli 心力 or "psyche force" as a force that is tamable, utilizable, and controllable. Through modification of the psyche force, xin 心 (the psyche) can evolve into a strong and healthy condition so that it becomes the foundation from which the nation might be saved and a new people created. The chapter attempts to probe into these affinities so that the concept of a dynamic topology in Tan's concept of xinli, as well as its political and ethical implications, might thereby become thinkable to our contemporary world.

Keywords: ethical implication; Hermeneutics; Late Qing China; psyche force; Tan Sitong



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