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Features 5 Chun-chieh Huang and Erik Zürcher, editors. Time and Space in Chinese Culture. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995. 400 pp. Hardcover, isbn 90-04-10287-6. Time and space are the warp and weft ofvirtually any Weltanschauung. Yet despite their essential importance as fundamental philosophical concepts, they have not figured prominently in American discussions of Chinese intellectual history. That a group ofEuropean and Taiwanese scholars have contributed to a lengthy anthology ofessays examining them reflects, perhaps, the more metaphysically attuned sensibilities ofthese two academic communities, at least as compared to the American sinological community. One of the overall achievements, purportedly , of Time and Space in Chinese Culture is its corrective for "our usual conception of the Kantian 'forms ofintuition' as being transcendental and indifferently general. These Kantian 'forms' ofspace and time rather are culture-specific themselves , concretely spaced and timed in various cultural-historical theatres. . . ."' While Time and Space in Chinese Culturéis indeed a sophisticated collection of theoretically important essays on topics related primarily to Chinese intellectual history, the anti-Kantian context they are given is surely overstated philosophically , though it does accurately capture one level of the volume's underlying significance as a whole. According to its editors, Chun-chieh Huang2 Üííelfé and Eric Zürcher, who authored the volume's lead essay, "Cultural Notions ofTime and Space in China," the "Western, commonsense understanding of the notions oftime and space" claims that time and space are "transcendental," that is, "a-historical, acultural , and indifferently shared by all human beings as long as they are rationally human." They add, however, that the "transcendental" character of time and space, at least as explained by Kant's Critique ofPure Reason, links these supposed "forms ofintuition" to the subject, or the "I"—but the "I" as understood as "the transcendental ego," that is, the "I-in-general." Huang and Zürcher consider the latter notion to be an oxymoron because, they explain, the "I" by its very nature is "always situation-specific, always a specific T in a specific cultural space and a specific cultural time."3In making this claim, Huang and Zürcher not only oppose Kant, they also endorse an epistemological line not unlike that articulated in William James' Principles ofPsychologythat claims that abstract notions such as time and space are constructed by the intellect from temporal and spatial relations experienced via sense data.4 Yet Huang and Zürcher are not so interested in© 1997 by University defining Chinese culture in terms ofwell-known Western philosophical positions ofHawai'i Pressregarding time and space as they are in using the refutation ofKant as a theme around which a variety ofinteresting and generally well-researched essays by a group ofEuropean and Taiwan sinologists can be bundled into a unity. Yet ulti- 6 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 mately one weakness of the volume is that, while the individual essays are often outstanding, the editors' attempt to weave them into a philosophical package, billing them as a product that is more than their sum, seems strained. The lead essay by Huang and Zürcher, while an impressive theoretical yarn, strives for excessive philosophical sophistication by contextualizing the essays in terms ofrebutting Kant. In doing so, however, it makes simplistic ifnot outlandish claims that might, for some readers, undermine the credibility of the volume as a whole. For example, calling Kant's ideas on space and time "our Western, commonsense understanding" seems uninformed, philosophically speaking. It is doubtful that many pedestrians could or would formulate, on the basis of their resort to "common sense," Kant's explanation of time and space as the a priori forms of intuition. Also it is doubtful that many contemporary philosophers would subscribe to Kant's views without some modification of them. Thus, it seems mistaken to assume that Kant's ideas are either commonsensical or characteristically Western. Assuming that they are, and that Western understandings of time and space have not progressed much since the Critique ofPure Reason, seems naive and unconvincing, and weakens the credibility of the volume at a crucial stage. Something other than simply Kant, however, is at work in Time and Space in Chinese Culture. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 5-23
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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