Commensurability and Difference
A Hermeneutic-Deconstructive Engagement with Chinese Philosophy
Keywords:Chinese philosophy, hermeneutics, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Derrida, différance
In this explorative paper, I propose that relatively recent trends in Western continental philosophy can provide a much more commensurate access to Chinese philosophy than found in most mainstream Western philosophy. More specifically, I argue that three prominent European philosophical approaches to interpretation can offer meaningful parallels to classical Confucian views of interpretation. These are Paul Ricoeur’s term “distanciation”, Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophy of hermeneutics and, finally, Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive notion of “différance”. While the last two approaches have had their internal clashes, I see them in this specific case as mutually reinforcing by stimulating the continuous reinterpretation of tradition, advancing the view that Western and Chinese philosophies cannot be reduced to the other in conceptual terms, and stipulating that a finalized meaning or interpretation of each is a priori unattainable. In this way, they provide a future opening for—and even integration of—a Chinese-Western philosophical dialogue.
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