What Is Enlightenment: Can China Answer Kant's Question?

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What is enlightenment? Wei Zhang brings together the fabled consideration of enlightenment by Kant, his contemporaries, and modern respondents such as Habermas and Foucault with the question "what is Chinese enlightenment?" Kant and his peers began a discussion of the notion of enlightenment in the pages of the Berlinische Monatsschrift when that newspaper's editor posed the question "Was ist Aufklarung ?" in 1784. Chinese intellectuals began a similar consideration in the wake of the May Fourth New Cultural Movement of 1919, which marked a self-conscious break from the feudal past and a new engagement with the West.

Zhang asks to what extend European enlightenment can be regarded as purely philosophical and isolated from political events and, alternately, to what extent the Chinese enlightenment can be split into separate political and intellectual discourses. Her work yields a new set of conceptual questions and practical issues and provides new energy to the dialogue on political and cultural modernity. In cross-cultural context, Zhang finds the answers to the question "What is enlightenment?" are multiple, pluralistic, dynamic, and self-renewing.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Wei Zhang is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida and the author of Heidegger, Rorty, and the Eastern Thinkers: A Hermeneutics of Cross-Cultural Understanding, also published by SUNY Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Two "Unrelated" Questions 1

Chapter 1 What Is Enlightenment? A Kant-Foucault-Habermas Sequence 9

Chapter 2 What Is Chinese Enlightenment? Can China Answer Kant's Question? 29

Chapter 3 Hermeneutics as Politics May Fourth Appropriation of a Confucian Model 45

Chapter 4 History and the Present A May Fourth Critique of Spurious History 72

Conclusion So ... What Is Enlightenment? 93

Notes 103

Selected Bibliography 113

Index 119

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