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The Semantics of Wisdom in the Philosophy of Tang Junyi: Between Transformative Knowledge and Transcendental Reflexivity

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In this article, I offer a provisional analysis of the philosophical semantics of “wisdom” in the thought of the New Confucian thinker Tang Junyi. I begin by providing some pointers concerning the concept of wisdom in general and situating the discourse on wisdom in comparative philosophy in the context of the later Foucault’s and Pierre Hadot’s historical investigations into ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy as a mode of spiritual self-cultivation and self-transformation. In the remainder of the paper, I try to describe and think through what Foucault identifies as a “Cartesian moment,” in which self-knowledge becomes the ultimate precondition for the ethico-spiritual project of “caring for the self,” in Tang’s approach of wisdom. In the course of my argument, I outline the complex relation between his vision of a renewed Confucian mode of religious practice on the one hand and his philosophical presuppositions concerning the transcendental status of subjectivity and the reflexivity of consciousness on the other.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium E-mail:


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