Volume 52, Issue 3, September 2012
Philip J. Ivanhoe
Understanding Traditional Chinese Philosophical Texts
The descriptive aim of this essay is to sort out and distinguish among some different hermeneutical approaches to Chinese philosophical texts and to make clear that the approach that one employs carries with it important implications about the kind of intellectual project one is pursuing. The primary normative claim is that in order to be doing research in the field of traditional Chinese philosophy, one must make a case for one’s interpretation as representing philosophical views that have been held by Chinese thinkers and that making such a case is a distinctive type of intellectual activity analogous to making a case in a court of law. In addition to this conceptual or methodological point, I argue that the interpretation of Chinese philosophical texts should make clear and take into account the special role that commentary has played throughout the tradition.