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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the ongoing debate about the “legitimacy of Chinese philosophy” (Zhongguo zhexue hefaxing) raises issues relevant to the globalization of knowledge. On its surface, the debate concerns whether Chinese thought can be meaningfully understood as “philosophy”; more generally, it asks how, in the very process of enabling their translation into presumably more “modern” languages of intellectual expression, the terms of a specific academic discipline shape and constrain the development of particular forms of knowledge. The debate reveals the power inequalities that underlie attempts to include culturally marginalized bodies of thought within established disciplines and suggests the range of alternatives that are silenced or forgotten when this “inclusion” takes place. Even contemporary invocations of “Chinese philosophy” are often unable to comprehend the stakes of the debate for many of its Chinese participants, who link the debate to enduring questions about the capacity of indigenous Chinese academic terms to compete successfully with Euro-American ones. These debates may illuminate questions currently motivating comparative political theory.

Keywords: philosophy, disciplines, comparative political theory, China, knowledge production, comparative philosophy

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