Xiyin ZHOU, lecturer and researcher in the department of East Asian Languages and Civilisations at Paris Diderot University, associated with CESPRA at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, holds a doctor’s degree of philosophy from l'École Normale Supérieure de Paris Ulm. Her research focuses on the diverse language problems that the Chinese contemporary scholars and intellectuals encounter in their practice in Chinese. She works also on the non-institutional ecology of the production and the diffusion of knowledge in contemporary China.
Is the conceptual relation between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ more like that between ‘left’ and ‘right’ or that between ‘up’ and ‘down’? Through an analytical investigation of a Chinese classical text of Mencius (which is a dialogue between Mencius and one of his disciples whose name is Gaozi) concerning human nature, we will firstly explain that the way in which the good is in relation to the evil is more like between 'up' and 'down', than between 'left' and 'right': while the relation between the good and the evil and that between 'up 'and 'down' are both ‘asymmetrical’, the relation between the left and the right is ‘symmetrical’. Secondly, we would try to elucidate the moral and ethical significance and implications of this conceptual asymmetry. Based on a detailed investigation of this very asymmetry between the good and the evil in a moral context, we would extend the discussion to ponder over the conceptual relation between ‘life’ and ‘death’, with a view to provide, from a characteristically Chinese secular point of view, another possible answer to the well-known classical western philosophical question about the actual existence of death. Through this transcultural conceptual approach, based on a Chinese classical text, to the problem of human nature and that of life and death, we witness rather a hermeneutic reasoning, as the principal method, instead of a cause-and-effect analysis dictated by the modern and contemporary natural science. However, this doesn’t necessarily imply that the conceptual approach falls into a doomed relativism. On the contrary, we would defend the very conceptual analysis for its universal value.
What does it mean by “philosophizing in Chinese” at present? We can’t take it for granted. What kind of obstacles and challenges have the Chinese contemporary intellectuals encountered in their theoretical practice in Chinese language? What language problems are they still taking pains to deal with? This sort of questions has triggered our research concerning the relationship between “language and philosophizing” in the Chinese context. We would bring forward a concept, “natural comprehension”, and clarify some pertinent problems with this very concept. In the end, we will argue that it is not only a problem of language or of philosophy, but also and particularly a question that has many significant political implications.