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  • Rejoinder to Ralph Weber
  • Xiao Ouyang (bio)

Ralph Weber's reply to my comment, as we have come to expect from his writing, is both well articulated and instructive. His clarification has helped me to further grasp the consideration that underpins his methodological criticism. I am also encouraged to find agreement on the worth of a historical study of comparative philosophy as an established sub-discipline. In addition, Weber's attitude toward "disagreement" is thought-provoking. However, I would like to suggest that disagreement is positive and meaningful if and only if (1) it is not based on misunderstanding, and moreover if (2) disagreement itself should not be regarded as the purpose. The ideal intellec tual exchange should be able to encompass both (1) the aim and endeavor to achieve a potential agreement, and (2) the possibility for an ongoing dialogue and disputation. In this spirit, I will now respond to some points raised by Weber in his reply to my comment.

1. I do not doubt the merit of Weber's analytical tool for comparison (ATC) in providing a criterion of "meaningful" comparison "in the rationalistic way." My criticism is not of its "wrong[ness]." My first-order criticism is on "the general applicability" of Weber's ATC and "its potentially unbridled use," which can lead to a conflict between its own legitimacy and the legitimacy of comparative philosophy as a sui generis sub-discipline of philosophy. My reflection on the ATC's constitutive limitedness—as Weber puts it—is a second-order derivation. The Daoist notion that "the reversal is the movement of the Dao" sheds light on my inference here: Weber's ATC is limited precisely because it tends to be too encompassing, as illustrated by Weber's "many different ways of conceptualizing the tertium comparationis." My criticism of ATC is also informed by Chinese Yin-Yang thinking. A major difference between Yin-Yang and Western-logical dichotomy is that the latter is qualitative (i.e., either true or false) while the former is both qualitative and quantitative: junior Yin/Yang and senior Yin/Yang have distinct numerical quantities that define their responses or tendencies toward their opposites. In spite of my criticism of the ATC, the primary motivation of my comment is to take up the "burden"—as Weber prescribes to those who pursue comparative philosophy as intercultural philosophy—to justify [End Page 261] that culture is by no means an "unwarranted" pre-comparative tertium, as Weber believes.

Weber particularly emphasizes that a "focus on the tertium comparationis and the 'pre-comparative' tertium precisely offers a means to evaluate comparisons." But given the true ecology of contemporary comparative philosophy, a sub-discipline of philosophy to a large degree established as intercultural philosophy—as Weber also recognizes—a question might be raised: by prudently applying the ATC in all comparative research, will there be a finding in which one constantly identifies "culture" as the "'pre-comparative' tertium"—and if so, will this warranted enlightenment be helpful, or simply tautological?

2. To reply to Weber's comment on my attempt to translate ATC into a syllogism and his statement that "a syllogism cannot be reduced to a comparison," I would like to propose a further distinction between being identical and being reducible. I also translate the logical form "Either A or B. Not A. Then B" into a comparison in terms of Weber's ATC, which I believe demonstrates the same point as the case of syllogism, and perhaps also wants a response.

Weber points out that in one of my sentences "the reasoning here is very fast and difficult to follow." Here I summarize my analysis on how the general applicability of the ATC would potentially generate many non-typical "comparative" studies that cannot fit in the category of comparative philosophy, established as one particular sub-discipline as it is. I do not wish to restate the entire argument here but call for a reexamination of the sentence within its relevant context. In the same vein, I disagree that "at least three separate issues are getting confused" in that sentence—my thesis is the dilemma restated in point one.

3. Weber's comment on "a world philosophy...


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