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On Cheng Chung-Yings Bentiyong Onto-hermeneutics

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image of Frontiers of Philosophy in China

The onto-hermeneutic approach to bentiyong 本体用 championed by Cheng Chung-Ying 成中英 is a valuable addition to comparative philosophy. In his well-honed reading, bentiyong is described as the continuous, integrative substance at the base of things, which becomes known through an ongoing hermeneutic integration and interpretation of reality. However, his use of the English word substance to describe bentiyong is problematic, mainly because substance, being without properties and existing without change, cannot be read as part of a hermeneutic process. Luckily, there are resources within the Chinese philosophical tradition that can help in overcoming some of the difficulties in translation presented here. Namely, the way that Zhu Xi 朱熹 approaches ti-yong as a principle (li 理 ) provides a better and more fittingly discursive basis for expressing the onto-hermeneutic character of bentiyong intended by Cheng, and allows English translation of the term with a firm footing in mainstream Neo-Confucianism.


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