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  • Confucianism and Phenomenology: An Exploration of Feeling, Value and Virtue by Yinghua Lu
  • Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee (bio)
Yinghua Lu. Confucianism and Phenomenology: An Exploration of Feeling, Value and Virtue. Modern Chinese Philosophy series, vol. 22. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2022. xii, 251 pp. Hardcover $159.00, isbn 978-90-04-31908-0. E-book $159.00, isbn 978-90-04-31909-7.

This book adds to a growing list of monographs in the field of comparative philosophy that go beyond the narrow focus on Western intellectual traditions to understand the wide range of perennial questions regarding the human condition. Yinghua Lu in this comparative study takes a phenomenological turn to explore Confucianism in terms of feelings, values, and virtues, merging Max Scheler's phenomenology with the Confucian concept of liangxin 良心 (original heart–mind), liangzhi 良知 (original knowing), and tianli 天理 (heavenly pattern) that are most prominently associated with Mencius and Wang Yangming. The task [End Page 217] itself is complex since the merging of different terminologies is, by its very nature, fraught with difficulties; the danger of under- and over-interpretation of each intellectual tradition so as to fit the task at hand is ever present.

Despite the obvious obstacles, Lu's overarching goal for this project is nevertheless praiseworthy. As he explains: "This work is an illustration of comparative philosophy with a phenomenological approach. It does not only enhance the understanding of one's own culture and alien culture through comparing their discussions on the relevant topic, but also provides meaningful resources to enrich and develop respective cultures" (p. 112). In other words, through this phenomenological study of Confucianism, our understanding of both Confucianism and Max Scheler is thus deepened and enriched. Lu's noble goal of intercultural enrichment is surely reflective of the larger aim of the field of comparative philosophy, which at the very minimum is to give those often overlooked and misunderstood non-Western intellectual traditions their fair shake in the Western academies to provide the world with viable conceptual alternatives beyond the confines of Western intellectual traditions. It is with this larger aim of the field of comparative philosophy in mind that one must cautiously navigate Lu's project of merging Scheler's phenomenology with Confucianism.

In addition to the "Introduction" and "Concluding Remarks," there are eleven chapters in total. In chapter 1, the book kick-starts the discussion on phenomenology with the apparent split between the sensible and the rational in the textual traditions of Hume and Kant and then contrasts it with the synthesis of the Mencian heart–mind as both intentional and sensible. Chapter 2 takes Scheler's understanding of feelings, values, and virtues that are hierarchally ranked with holy—that is, the pursuit of the infinite (p. 34)—as the highest value to interpret a wide range of Confucian texts from the Analects, Mencius, Zhongyong, to Wang Yangming's writings to demonstrate a similar set of hierarchal values, feelings, and virtues also exhibited in the greater Confucian textual tradition. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with Scheler's understanding of sympathy and love, and then apply that understanding to the greater Confucian textual tradition in order to again demonstrate the similar hierarchy in both textual traditions.

In terms of love, Lu concludes that "[i]n contrast with Buddhism, which negates the value of love, Christianity and Confucianism transforms a mere secular love into divine love and humane love" (p. 69). And since for Mencius, sympathy is the initial sprout for the virtue of ren 仁 (humaneness), the discussion of sympathy in Confucianism leads to the discussion of ren, and then ren eventually becomes the conceptual equivalent for Scheler's genuine love for God. The objectivity of Confucian morality, much like the objectivity of Christian morality, is said to be rooted in the transcendent source: tianli 天理 (Heavenly pattern) for Wang Yangming and God for Scheler, respectively. As [End Page 218] Lu writes, "… for Scheler, genuine love is ensured by God as the absolute; for Wang, humane love is illustrated in terms of pure moral knowing [i.e. liangzhi] that is correlated with Heavenly pattern [i.e. tianli]" (p. 82). In short, Scheler's phenomenological approach to feelings, values, and virtues seems to find...