Abstract of “Kung Fu Philosophy”

Here is my abstract of an interesting article written by Pemin Ni over in the Stone section of the New York Times.

The West has a philosophical tradition, perhaps since the Enlightenment, of using logos (our reasoning power) to answer metaphysical questions. Western philosophers like to sit in lazy boy chairs and think—and in fact in many cases they are paid to do it. They think about all of the major questions like the meaning of life, the reality of an enduring self, morality, and justice. Chinese philosophy, however, is oriented differently, and always has been: “The predominant orientation of traditional Chinese philosophy is the concern about how to live one’s life, rather than finding out the truth about reality [like it is in the West].” Kung-fu is a type of art that encompasses this concern about how to live life–therefore there is a Kung fu to cooking, dancing, playing music, judging other people, and governing. In this sense, then, when thinking of classical Chinese philosophy, it can be helpful to keep Plato and Aristotle and their life of virtue in mind. For them, it wasn’t simply enough to answer questions about what justice was–they were primarily concerned with how to be a virtuous agent.


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