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Full Access Why Talk about Chinese Metaphysics?

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Why Talk about Chinese Metaphysics?

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Chinese philosophy in the twentieth century has often been related to some sort of cultural or other particularism or some sort of philosophical universalism. By and large, these still seem to be the terms along which academic debates are carried out. The tension is particularly manifest in notions such as “Chinese philosophy,” “Daoist cosmology,” “Neo-Confucian idealism,” or “Chinese metaphysics.” For some, “Chinese metaphysics” may be a blatant contradictio in adiecto, while others may find it a most ordinary topic to be discussed at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In this article, I set out to examine two major discourses in which talk about “metaphysics” is frequent and popular and to which talk of “Chinese metaphysics” may wish to contribute: the history of philosophy and analytic philosophy. My contention is that it is usually far from obvious what reasons are behind putting “Chinese metaphysics” on the academic agenda and to what precise purpose this is done. What my discussion seeks to highlight is the as yet often largely unarticulated dimension of the politics of comparative philosophy—of which talk about “Chinese metaphysics” may but need not be an example.


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