Xiong Shili : biography
Xiong Shili ( 1885—May 23, 1968) was a modern Chinese philosopher whose major work A New Treatise on Consciousness-only (新唯識論, Xin Weishi Lun) is a Confucian critique of the Buddhist "consciousness-only" theory popularized in China by the Tang Dynasty pilgrim Xuanzang.
Xiong is widely regarded as the thinker who laid down the basis for the revival of Confucianism during the twentieth century, and the main voice in contemporary Chinese philosophy who called for a revival of the Confucian dao. He felt it could provide a guide for the country during its tumultuous period following the May Fourth Movement in 1919. Yu, Jiyuan, "Xiong Shili's Metaphysics of Virtue." in Cheng, Zhongying, and Nicholas Bunnin, eds., Contemporary Chinese Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002. Print. p. 127 He felt that national survival was predicated on a sense of community, which in turn could only come from trusting commitments from the people involved. He believed that the most urgent task for the educated elite in China was to raise the cultural awareness and sensitivity of the people that the clash between the West and China was not solely a clash of economic strength and military might, but also a conflict between basic human values. Tu, Wei-ming, "Hsiung Shih-li's Quest for Authentic Existence." in Furth, Charlotte, and Guy Alitto, eds., The Limits of Change: Essays on Conservative Alternatives in Republican China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1976. Print. p. 248 While he led a fairly secluded life throughout his career as a teacher and his association with the academic community did not begin until he was in his late thirties, his views have influenced scholars to this day.
Daily Decrease and Daily Renovation
Xiong's preference of Confucianism is partially because he felt that Buddhism over-emphasizes the negative or passive aspects of human nature. Because of this, it fails provide a positive and active guide to human life. This is something that Confucianism provided with its trend towards humanist thought. He labels Buddhism a learning of ‘daily decrease,’ a philosophy that points out the darker aspects of human nature and then directs us to eliminate it. Xiong’s view of humanity was brighter. He felt that the meaning of human life is not confined to the elimination of the negative, but also involves the cultivation of the brighter aspects of human nature. He found Confucianism to uphold original human goodness; an original benevolence is insisted upon in Orthodox Confucianism. The role of the human dao is to develop this fundamental goodness. Xiong felt that the human dao lies in expanding the good root of the original mind and having it grow daily. Yu, Jiyuan, "Xiong Shili's Metaphysics of Virtue." in Cheng, Zhongying, and Nicholas Bunnin, eds., Contemporary Chinese Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002. Print. pp. 130-131
Original Reality and Function
Xiong felt that the central theory of his New Treatise was to show that original reality, (what he also refers to as ti 體 and substance), and the material world, (which he calls yong 用, or function. Cf. Ti yong) are one. The two cannot be split into separate realms. He admits that they should be described using different terms, and can be spoken of as such, but are not actually two separate entitites. Original reality is the cause of all transformations, while function is the myriad of manifestations of original reality. Original reality is hidden, function is visible. He uses the metaphor of the ocean and the waves to illustrate this point. Ibid. pp. 132
This is different from the notion of substance in mainstream western philosophy, which does not allow substance to embrace dynamism. Plato’s Forms, for example, are static and normative. Xiong’s substance changes and transforms unceasingly to become function. Tu, Wei-ming, "Hsiung Shih-li's Quest for Authentic Existence." in Furth, Charlotte, and Guy Alitto, eds., The Limits of Change: Essays on Conservative Alternatives in Republican China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1976. Print. p. 225
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