Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy Blog

… 名可名非常名 …

(un)clarifying Terms: “Philosophical”

In the Yijing thread of comments, astute participants have pointed out that I am not at all clear about how I construe “philosophy” and “philosophical” value. How can we judge that something has little or no philosophical value if we aren’t precise about what that means? I’m taking that as an excuse to introduce this post about the issue.

First, almost anything whatsoever could be construed philosophically and hence have philosophical value. The mindset or aims of the “construer” determine this. Anything from the Big Bang to defecation can seem interesting from the point of view of thinking philosophically about something.

That should indicate that the crux of the matter lies somewhere in a type of “point of view” or “mindset” that could be reasonably regarded as philosophical. As applied to a text, say the Yijing, I should then clarify that when I’m in my philosophical mindset, I don’t see anything very interesting in the actual semantic content of the text. I do, however, see something philosophically interesting in the way it is used and the influence it has.

So, what makes for a philosophical point of view or mindset? I almost want to say that I know when I’m in it and that’s that, but I don’t know how adequate that will sound. Any suggestions? Disagreements with my way of setting up the question?

A somewhat interesting issue at stake here is whether there is such a thing really as a distinction between Western and Eastern/Asian/non-Western philosophy, or whether instead there is just THE philosophical point of view as applied to different sets of texts and viewpoints.

February 5, 2008 Posted by | Chinese philosophy | 8 Comments