Saturday, March 28, 2009

Im, Manyul. Review of Karyn Lai's AN INTRODUCTION TO CHINESE PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (March 2009).

Lai, Karyn L. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. It is noteworthy that the two most recent textbooks that bear this title, the current one by Karyn Lai, and one by JeeLoo Liu (2006, Blackwell; also reviewed on NDPR), limit themselves to introducing the reader to early Chinese philosophy (Warring States period through the Han -- roughly 5th century BCE through 3rd century CE) and the early schools of Chinese Buddhism (from ca. 1st through 6th centuries CE). This means that the title is quite misleading for both volumes since there are also significant periods of Chinese philosophy in the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties, and up to the post-dynastic present; so, roughly 1400 years of the 2500-year tradition are not represented. The similarity and temporal proximity of the two textbooks invites comparison, but for the purposes of this review, I will leave that exercise to others. Lai's volume is interesting and bold, as introductory textbooks go. There are aspects to her approach that those who are concerned with issues of historiography will find controversial. Those who care more about comparative philosophy should be pleased to find that Lai's presentation of Chinese philosophy provides a very useful update to the collection of textbooks that are available. Lai's discussion provides an excellent sense of the most current interpretations and uses of early Chinese thought by philosophers who, like Lai herself, work in Chinese and comparative philosophy. . . . Read the rest here:

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