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Modern Chinese Counter-Enlightenment

Affect, Reason, and the Transcultural Lexicon

An examination of the Counter-Enlightenment movement in China.

In Modern Chinese Counter-Enlightenment, Peng Hsiao-yen argues that a trend of Counter-Enlightenment had grown from the late Qing to the May Fourth era in the 1910s to the 1920s and continued to the 1940s. She demonstrates how Counter-Enlightenment was manifested with case studies such as Lu Xun’s writings in the late 1900s, the Aesthetic Education movement from the 1910s to 1920s, and the Science and Lifeview debate in the 1920s. During the period, the life philosophy movement, highlighting the epistemic debate on affect and reason, is connected with its counterparts in Germany, France, and Japan. The movement had a widespread and long-term impact on Chinese philosophy and literature. Using the transcultural lexicon as methodology, this book traces how the German term Lebensanschauung (life view), a key concept in Rudolf Eucken’s life philosophy, constituted a global tide of Counter-Enlightenment that influenced the thought of leading Chinese intellectuals in the Republican era. Peng contends that Chinese intellectuals’ transcultural connections with others in the philosophical pursuit of knowledge triggered China’s self-transformation. She successfully reconstructs the missing link in the Chinese theater of the worldwide dialectic of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment.

240 pages | 8 halftones | 6 x 9

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“With a clear focus, this book examines the historical debate and thinkers that have received little scholarly attention. These figures are relevant and significant to contemporary arguments regarding humanism and technoscientific triumphalism in the digital age of posthumanism. I am very much impressed by the erudition of the author, who draws on extensive archival and textual references from Japanese, German, classical Chinese, and French sources.”

Ban Wang, Stanford University

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Preface: Modern Chinese Counter-Enlightenment from a Transcultural Stance
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Lu Xun and Counter-Enlightenment
1. The Science and Lifeview Debate: The Transcultural Lexicon
2. The Aesthetic Education Movement: Affective Enlightenment
3. Zhang Dongsun’s Chuanghualun [Creative Evolution]: Heart-Mind versus Reason
4. Liang Shuming: Life Is an Unceasing Becoming
5. Affectivism: Intuition and Affective Flows 127
Conclusion: Alice Searching for the Key to the Garden of Life—Affect or Reason?
Works Cited

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