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Some Basic Problems in the Development of the Human Sciences

Date:2005-11-05 00:00Author:youzhengli
New developments in the social and human sciences in China have aroused worldwide attention. Foreign people are curious about the great changes in Chinese cultural life during the past ten years because China has a brilliant cultural herita

New developments in the social and human sciences in China have  aroused worldwide attention. Foreign people are curious about the  great changes in Chinese cultural life during the past ten years because  China has a brilliant cultural heritage dating back three thousand years:  the world still expects a lot from her. That fact raises a big question  both at home and abroad: will a country that contributed so much to  world culture in the past continue to do so in the changed, modern  period? In order to answer this question we have to understand more  thoroughly and more deeply the present situation of Chinese culture  and the humanities.    


   China boasts the longest uninterrupted cultural development in the  world; this fact helps to explain why people have always taken a great  interest in cultural and scholarly activities. Traditionally there were  three major scholarly disciplines: philosophy, history, and literature;  their formation has been different from that of the corresponding  Western disciplines. Even today we Chinese prefer to use the names of  this triad (wen-shih-che) to represent the main branches of the humanities. In the  earliest period of Chinese scholarship, the practical and theoretical  parts were not separated, but later gradually a  distinction between practical learning and quasi-theoretical learning  became apparent. Certain subjects like politics, military affairs, religion,  entertainment, and other social and private activities become more  distinct from one another, especially in the written expression of these  matters. But in comparison with the classification of subjects in ancient  Western scholarship, practical and theoretical knowledge have always  remained linked in China. One can say that traditional Chinese learning  is mainly empirical, practical, and ethical, that it is stronger in literary  description and moral judgment than in logical analysis and the  systematic articulation of the disciplines.       


   When at the beginning of this century Western culture and thought  started making inroads into China, Chinese intellectuals were angered  by the aggressive Western attitude, but they could not help recognizing  the superiority of Western culture in two major domains: democracy  and scientific method. To overcome the lacunae of Chinese culture in  these two respects became subsequently the main objective of the new  political and cultural movements. In this process the natural sciences  and the social sciences or the humanities met quite different reactions. For  throughout China's long history her rulers and scholars had often  adopted a tolerant and sometimes even an encouraging attitude toward  technological progress, although the significance of science and scientific technology was not truly appreciated. Thus when the benefits of Western technology became apparent in the modern period, the Chinese had  almost no difficulty in accepting this aspect of Western culture. With regard to the Western social sciences and humanities,  however, successive Chinese governments have shown caution and even  raised objections, in varying degrees. Of the present government it can  be said that it has a quite open-minded policy toward Western culture  and scholarship, including the humanities. Under this tolerant policy  Western culture in the humanities is again being introduced into China,  bringing with it fruitful results. When considering the present-day  conditions of Chinese culture and the humanities, it should he borne in  mind that these conditions are shaped by four major forces: the cultural  policy of the government, the spontaneous reception of Western culture  by the majority of young people living in urban areas, the inner  momentum of the Chinese humanities, and finally the adherence by a  powerful minority to traditional Chinese scholarship.   



1. The History of Cultural Modernization   


   The history of Chinese cultural modernization in this century can he  divided roughly into three periods: a first period of active modernization, introducing widely Western knowledge and cultural activities  (from about 1910 to 1937); a second period of passive development  (from 1937 to 1978); and a third period, again of active modernization,  during which Western knowledge is widely being disseminated (since  1978). I shall address here the general situation in this third period,  namely, the cultural development over the past ten years. But in order  to do so I need to give some background by tracing the recent situation  to the earlier periods.       

    For about twenty years prior to the Japanese invasion, there were  three principal types of scholarly activities in China: comprehensive  absorption of Western thought and culture; serious reorganization of  China's scholarly and cultural heritage along more scientific lines; and  lastly, an effort to harmonize these divergent traditions present in the  early stages of the modernization of Chinese Society. Most of China's  great scholars at that time, even those specializing in Western studies,  hard a rich background in traditional Chinese education. Many endeavored to reconcile the different Western and Chinese approaches to  philosophy, history, and literature, often achieving rather satisfactory  results. Nevertheless, we should remember that these often mentioned  early efforts at harmonizing the two cultures were hasty and lacked a  thorough understanding of Western thought. That is, mainly those  themes were chosen for discussion which were readily suited to  reconciliation by virtue of their relation to the traditional Chinese  problematic. The Confucian scholars' traditional pride explains why the  men engaged in the task of harmonizing Western and Chinese cultures  believed that any conflict between them had already been basically  resolved. And the conclusions reached in this first stage continue to be  echoed even today.     


    The outbreak of World War II proved to be a serious obstacle to the  progress of Chinese cultural modernization for many decades. After the  late 40s the orientation of cultural development on the mainland shifted  completely. And when the Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966  cultural activities of various kinds were systematically and completely  destroyed. On the other hand the work of Chinese scholars living  abroad became largely determined by regional interests, with little  carry-over from the first period of modernization. As a result these  scholars passively continued the tradition of oriental learning in the  West. In short, during the second period of cultural modernization  the earlier emphasis on integrating Chinese and Western cultures  disappeared. In my view that was a lamentable setback for the cultural  development of China.      


    The third period of Chinese cultural modernization began just over  ten years ago, starting on the mainland but developing gradually also  among Chinese scholars abroad. These years mark the beginning of a  new cultural era in China, and this for several reasons:     


    1) Despite occasional political interference, academic and cultural  activities have enjoyed generally much greater freedom than during the  former period. As a consequence an increase in publications and the  growth of cultural activities are indicative of a new cultural movement  reminiscent of the first period of cultural modernization.     


    2) Contents of Western culture introduced into China over the past  ten years have gradually become mainstream. The causes for this are  evident. Chinese intellectuals in higher educational and academic  institutions returned spontaneously to their earlier fascination with  Western culture, and published many introductory books on modern  Western thought. A persistent nation-wide English language program  has improved the mastery of English of the majority of young people.  And finally the government has encouraged an ever-increasing number  of academic and cultural exchanges with many Western countries.     


    3) The continuity between the first and the present period of  cultural modernization is manifested not only in the concentrated  interest in Western culture and scholarship but also in the similarity of  problems under consideration.     


    4) Chinese scholars abroad have also paid greater attention to  contemporary Western humanities. This can he explained in part by the  movement on the mainland, but it also has independent roots.     


    However, in spite of its similarities with the first period of cultural  modernization, the current phase is different in many ways. As the  social effects of introducing Western culture and scholarship into China  have been carefully controlled, much of the work has been done quietly  and without much publicity.   


2. Philosophy   


    During the first period of cultural modernization philosophical discussions played a more important role in Chinese cultural life than today.  This was due partly to the traditionally privileged position of Confucian  philosophy and partly to the cultural uncertainty created by the fall of  the last empire in 1911. Deeply perplexed about the future orientation  of Chinese culture and scholarship, the intellectuals of the period  tended naturally to trace the problems back to their fundamental roots  in Chinese and Western philosophies. And it was here that they found  their traditional belief and learning most seriously challenged.       


    Since 1978 the situation of Chinese philosophy has undergone  another major change. The former philosophical dogmatism has been  widely put into doubt. However, it is worth noting that the relation between Marxism and the main Western philosophies has never become  the focus of an intense academic debate, nor have such philosophical  confrontations had any political, cultural, or social impact. Although the  majority of younger scholars and students has shown an increasing  interest in contemporary Western philosophical problems, the resulting  discussions have been limited to academic questions. On the whole, in  philosophy the past ten years have been a period of learning and  improved understanding, but not one of debate and argument. What is  most important is that today a number of contemporary Western  philosophies can be studied and that a peaceful coexistence between  Marxism and these Western philosophies has been reached.     


    We can mention four main areas of philosophical research in China  today:     


   1) Marxist philosophy. As it is the theoretical foundation of the  political and economic theories of Communist China, Marxism remains  the leading philosophy. It is the philosophy taught in philosophy and  non-philosophy departments in all universities, colleges, and institutes.  The standard textbooks are written by a group of specialists under the  auspices of the ministry of higher education.     


    2) Classical Chinese philosophy. Scholars in this area are more  specialized than those in other philosophical areas, for their work  suffered less from earlier political interference. Some in this group are  mainly concerned with the Marxist interpretation of the Chinese  classics, while others concentrate on philological and historical studies  of the texts. As they have become increasingly involved in international  discussions of sinology, these scholars feel the need to expand the  scope of their knowledge.      


    3) Classical Western philosophy. The work in this area that began  in the first period of modernization continued, though on a reduced  scale, throughout the second period, and this for several reasons. For  Marxism, classical Western philosophy, i.e., Western philosophy from its  beginnings until Hegel, is important as one of the sources of Marxism,  and is thought to contain some valuable tenets. On the other hand, this  period of Western philosophy has less to do with the contemporary  ideological struggle. Therefore some Chinese philosophers in this area,  who had received good training abroad, were allowed to pursue their  interests by translating and editing classical texts. Thus over the past  forty years works by Kant, Hegel, et al., have been translated and  published in China.     


    4) Contemporary Western philosophy, 1,e., Western philosophy  after Marx. In present-day China this is a special area of the history of  philosophy. Owing to Lenin's judgment, this part of Western philosophy had been officially cut off from classical Western philosophy. Also its terminology and problematics were much more difficult to understand than classical Western philosophy. Lately, however, the situation  is gradually changing as more and more younger scholars turn to the study of contemporary Western philosophy. And one can say that today this area has become the most welcome and the most important one for Chinese philosophical life.       


    Among the many philosophical discussions and debates taking place  in China today, the most significant ones are those concerned with the  direction philosophical development is to take. In these discussions the  following trends can be distinguished:   


    1) Encouraged partly by Chinese philosophers working abroad and  by some Western sinologists, and also in response to the academic  competition from the international community, some philosophers in  classical Chinese philosophy are becoming more ambitious and are  hoping to reinstate some original topics of Chinese philosophy as the  leading themes of future philosophical discussions in China. Thus they  challenge the predominant position assumed by Western philosophy in  the world today. Recently many debates have taken place concerning  the re-evaluation of traditional Chinese philosophy. For the moment  this resurgence of philosophical nationalism has attracted only a few  followers, but it is likely that it will increase its influence in the near  future. The main point of this trend is that we Chinese should take  classical Chinese philosophy as the basic framework into which we can  integrate useful aspects. of foreign philosophies, transforming the latter  into an organic part of the former. Such an attitude had already  surfaced during the first period of cultural modernization.     


    2) For the past ten years another philosophical area has gained  influence in China, namely the area called “natural dialectic” or “philosophy of natural sciences”. This large academic circle consists of intellectuals coming from three different spheres: Marxism, Western  philosophy of science, and the sciences. They try to combine Marxist  principles, Western scientific knowledge, and philosophy of science  with the aim of substantially reforming classical Marxism. The work in  this area has in general enjoyed the support of the academic authorities.  Furthermore, the philosophers in this area have shown a greater  concern for the influence of philosophy on social reality than their  colleagues in the areas of classical Western philosophy and contemporary Western philosophy. On the other hand, they are no longer  interested in the typically idealist topics of dialectics and claim to be  more scientific in their work. But those engaged in classical and  contemporary Western philosophy believe that this work in the area of  philosophy of science does not go deep enough.     


    3) As knowledge of twentieth-century Western philosophy has  become more widespread, Chinese philosophers have turned increasingly to the two divergent trends that mark this period. Five years ago  these trends were labeled “scientific” and “humanist”; today they are  known by their Western names, as “analytic” and “continental”.  Although the number of Chinese philosophers attracted to the analytic  school is comparatively small, they appear to have a more thorough  understanding of their subject. These highly specialized philosophers  accept almost completely the position of Western analytic philosophy  and promote their work steadily and convincingly, according to its  prescribed methods. However, among younger philosophers research in  continental philosophy in its various forms is more popular. On the  whole they pursue philosophy energetically and ambitiously as significant for life. Generally speaking, these young philosophers speak and  write more eloquently and exercise more social and cultural influence.  But they have often been criticized for a lack of firm knowledge and  logical training. It is important to note that Chinese philosophers are  aware of a similar situation in America with respect to these two  philosophical traditions. At some institutions in China the question of  which contemporary direction to pursue has been explicitly discussed.       


    4) Under the influence of the latest developments in the Western  humanities, some Chinese philosophers have been paying closer attention to the interdisciplinary orientation in the human sciences. They  stress the need for dialogue between the various human sciences and  the different fields of philosophical research. They believe that in the  final decade of this century we have the important task of reorganizing  and integrating the systems of the social and human sciences in order to  make research more relevant and effective. Scholars should be liberated  from the confining academic specialization’s that have been customary  in the profession. Not surprisingly, this attitude meets with much  objection on the part of mainstream philosophers who have not been  able to follow the interdisciplinary writings of their contemporary  Western colleagues. The advocates of the interdisciplinary approach to  philosophy also wish to promote a dialogue between contemporary  Western philosophy and classical Chinese philosophy, but unlike the  philosophers mentioned above under point 1) they do not want to  favor one to the disadvantage of the other.     


    5) finally, many Chinese philosophers feel that it is very important  today not to prefer blindly one. type of philosophy to another. The  differences between China and the West, but also between the different  Western countries, in terms of intellectual background, social history,  stages of development, and educational levels, are too great to permit a  hurried decision in favor of one or another Western or Chinese  philosophy. In order to make a proper judgment on the matter Chinese  philosophers need now to concentrate on deepening their knowledge  of contemporary Western philosophy. This strategic attitude is quite  different from the attitude of “complete Westernization”, which is a  form of spiritual cowardliness. Understanding does not entail outright  acceptance. For example, we can pay close attention to all kinds of  Western anti-methodological doctrines and try to grasp their epistemological significance; however, we cannot simply follow this movement,  when today we are in fact seriously lacking in any modern methodological tradition.   



3. Literature   


    The important role of literature in modern Chinese cultural history  deserves special mention. In this century no other cultural sphere can  compare with literature for its strong influence, privileged position, and  dignity. The most important and influential thinkers in this century are  not the philosophers or historians but the novelists and essayists. That  also means that the opinion-formers in modern China are creative  literary men rather than academics. The sociological background of  Chinese literature is multifarious:     


    1) In ancient China literature always played a very important role.  Though not professional writers, the politicians, historians, and philosophers were all excellent writers or poets. With such a great tradition,  literature has naturally become the most convenient channel for social  and cultural thought.    


    2) Since the beginning of this century the foreign literary genre of  the novel has rapidly caught on in China, becoming the favorite and  most influential form of literary expression. A number of Chinese  writers found the novel as well as the short story the most desirable  means to express, synthetically and emotionally, their thoughts, feelings  and social criticism. Throughout the century novel writing has acquired  in China a status comparable to the one it had achieved in nineteenth-  century Russia. The leading novelists have become the maitres d penser  of the majority.      


    3) The different governments have consciously maintained a  cultural policy according to which novel writing has been most encouraged and rewarded. As a result this form of literary activity has become  one of the surest ways of gaining influence.     


    4) The majority of young people prefer reading novels to pondering over scholarly texts; this is the reason why novels have such great social effect in China.     


   Given this background it is not difficult to see how the modern  Chinese novel has been intricately intertwined with Chinese social and  political life. Because of their influence on society, Chinese writers have  been actively involved in all the major political and ideological events  of this century. 


    As far as literary criticism as a discipline goes, China has lacked a  theoretical tradition until recently. In ancient times most literary studies  were concerned with practical essays based on empirical learning about  how to read and appreciate poetry and prose. Since the beginning of  this century literary history has become the leading form of modern  Chinese literary studies. At the same time normative criticism has  become the standard form of literary commentary. This critical  tendency can be traced back to many sources: for example, Confucianism, nineteenth-century Russian criticism, Russian Marxist theory  of literature, and Maoist literary theory. All of these theories about  literature have furnished the guiding principles for literary writing.  Western literary theory and criticism did not receive much attention  until quite recently.      


    Since 1978 both literary activity and literary scholarship have  undergone considerable changes. The novel has become an impotent  critical voice against the earlier social and political dogmatism. We can  say that contemporary novels are committed to an unprecedented form  of critical realism, expressing painful experiences and exposing the  political crimes of earlier socialist periods. It is evident that novelists  during the third period of modernization have contributed greatly to  the new political revolution. In fact many famous novelists have now  become political figures. As a direct reflection of current Chinese  reality these contemporary novels have aroused great interest abroad.  There is no doubt that these novels show with more originality the true  nature of Chinese society, and for this reason the art of the contemporary novel in China is highly sociological. Thus it is not surprising that  the most successful novels are those that treat deep social concerns. But  with the recent relaxation of the dogmatic control of literary theory,  there appear also an increasing number of purely aesthetic works, both  in poetry and fiction, which would indicate that the future development  of Chinese literature will be pluralist. Chinese literature will certainly  have to face more and more intellectual and aesthetic challenges from  foreign cultural sources.     


    Literary studies in China have followed two main trends over the  past ten years, viz. ideological criticism and literary theory. The former  is a natural successor to earlier forms of criticism but with a different  point of view. It advocates greater freedom in writing and sharply  opposes earlier literary dogmatism. New Marxist critics of the present  period of modernization, as we may call them, strongly support writers  of the new type of novels, and are engaged in controversy with the  surviving dogmatic critics of the preceding period. It is evident that  these debates are entirely ideological and deeply involved with the  present political movement.     


    Up to now ideological literary criticism has been dominant in  Chinese literary studies, but recently a more scientific approach to  literature has also started to manifest itself. Because of the novelty of  this kind of literary study in China, and given the absence of a native  tradition in literary theory, it is the young who are most attracted to it.  For the past three years, due to some decline in literary creativity, some  writers too have turned to literary theory. This has further loosened the  ties between actual writing and literary theory. In this connection it is  important to know that in China one often notices an inverse correlation between educational level and interest in the products of contemporary Chinese writers: people with a higher educational background are often less eager to read what their own writers are producing.  Confronted with the contemporary developments in world literature, it  is inevitable that Chinese writers must become interested in the  theoretical problems of literary creation. For concern with social problems does not automatically lead to literary works of high quality.  Stimulated in part by this dilemma of Chinese literary creation, younger  scholars are eager to deepen their understanding of literary aesthetics.  Thus the general trend of present-day Chinese literary theory and  criticism is to shift gradually from some form of social commitment to  the objective analysis of the multiple aspects and functions of literary  works.     


    Another very promising area of literary studies is the investigation of  classical Chinese literary criticism. This area is in a much more  favorable situation than the investigation of classical Chinese 'philosophy. For philosophical problems are perennial, which means that even  problems raised in ancient times cannot be studied independently of  contemporary debates. But classical literary criticism can be studied  philologically or historically. Appreciation and empirical analysis of  ancient texts of literary criticism do not require much reference to the  contemporary intellectual situation; thus this area of literary study can  maintain its scholarly originality without being concerned too much  about contemporary developments. However, although ancient Chinese  literature is a world unto itself, scholars outside this area are beginning  to feel the need of an academic dialogue between the study of classical  Chinese literature and that of contemporary Western literary theory.  Yet the prospects and modalities of such a dialogue are still very  unclear.   



4. History   


    History was one of the three great traditional subjects in ancient China.  For three thousand years Chinese scholars have been deeply interested  in recording historical events and have left an unparalleled body of  historical literature. Traditional historiography has in general the same  orientation as classical Chinese literary studies: it is ideologically  practical and morally normative, and consists of historiographical,  philological, typological, and ethical discussions. Modern Chinese  historiography dates from the eighteenth century, i.e., from the middle  of the Qing dynasty (Manchu), and by comparison with earlier periods  it is more scientific. Historians from the schools of this period began  systematically to compare and check old texts, and they were thus able  to correct many errors. Following these earlier methods and helped by  modern Western methods of empirical research, contemporary Chinese  studies have contributed significantly to historical textual criticism. This  type of technical research suffered least from ideological interference  during the past decades. Chinese historiography has remained a  privileged domain in which Chinese scholars are evidently superior to  their Western counterparts.     


    According to Marxist principles, historical studies should be among  the leading disciplines and be closely connected to political realities. So  between 1949 and 1978 this field was strictly supervised in China.  Soviet-style historical materialism became the dominant guideline in  historical research and teaching. One of the most remarkable achievements of the past ten years for Chinese historiographers is the official  recognition that historical materialism as a philosophy of history should  be separated from concrete historiographical methodologies. Because  of this ideological emancipation, methodological problems have  become the topics of many national congresses of historical science. In  the first years after 1978 several younger scholars tried to update the  old system of historiography, to make it more scientific in its terminology and formulations, by simply following the model of the natural  sciences. But now that more translations of Western texts on historical  methodology have become available in the past five years, one begins  to realize that the modernization of historical science needs more  preparation. There exists the danger that all too scientifically minded  scholars, who lack adequate background in historical literature and the  established disciplines of historical methodology, tend to simplify the  enormously complex task of historiography, and replace the old  historical dogmatism with a new one. Today more and more scholars in  this area realize that the modernization of the epistemology and  methodology of historical studies cannot he obtained by some superficial philosophical adaptation. An understanding of the multi-layered  and complex causal network of Chinese history cannot be based on  some simple philosophy, be it even a fashionable philosophy of science.  with this broader understanding of the nature of historiography,  Chinese historical researchers are paying more and more attention to a  new, independent discipline called “historical methodology”. Several  scholars have chosen to work in this new area. But it is a typical  interdisciplinary field whose considerations branch out to other related  areas. For this reason routine historical work has not yet profited much  from it, though some contemporary Western historiographical schools,  for example the French Annales school, have had some influence. 


    It is worth noting that the differences between the old dogmatist  historiography and the new Western approaches have not prompted  any heated debate. Discussions concerning the applicability of the  model of the natural sciences to historiography have taken place, but  competent historians never took seriously the superficial comparisons  between human history and natural history. The potentially most  serious debates in Chinese historiography occur between those wanting  to go back to traditional Chinese historiography and those who favor  contemporary Western methodologies. These debates may multiply in  the future, because especially in the field of history scholarship can be  strongly nationalistic. I suppose these debates will last for several  decades. Actually, many Chinese scholars working abroad are determined advocates of the traditional Chinese historiographical methods,  while among the historians in mainland China the majority favors  Western methods. However, the former group enjoys more political  influence in China, so that the issue will remain alive for a long time  among Chinese academics.     


    Compared with philosophy and literature, history plays a less  influential role in China today. Most scholars in the human sciences are  unconcerned with historical problems; and most professional historians  continue their usual research without paying much attention to methodological and epistemological discussions. But in the near future historical investigation will most certainly attract greater interest in the social and human sciences in China.   



5. Linguistics and Psychology   


    The general tendency in Chinese linguistics over the past decades has  been toward empirical studies of various kinds. These include the  production of grammar textbooks, revision of the spelling system, and  investigation of dialects. Almost all distinguished linguists engage in this  kind of practical research and show little interest in purely theoretical  problems.     


    Recently, a few younger linguists have become interested in general  linguistics and have translated foreign books and articles on the subject.  However, they have not yet had a wide impact even within their own  circle. For a long time general linguistics or theoretical linguistics were  regarded as useless and misleading. Only recent contacts with Western  linguists are inciting more younger scholars to undertake theoretical  studies. Generally speaking, specialists in general linguistics are attentive to American trends. Initially their concern was with the American  descriptive school of linguistics and then later with the work of Noam  Chomsky. So far these theoretical studies have not exercised much  influence on Chinese linguistics; but with the growing importance of  computer technology more and more efforts are being made in this  direction, which is in keeping with the traditional practical orientation  of Chinese linguistics. The achievements of Western theoretical linguistics in this century present an awesome challenge to Chinese linguists,  which is not easily met given the traditional character of academic  Chinese linguistics. Furthermore, as interest in semiotics spreads  throughout the humanities, some younger linguists feel compelled to  strengthen their theoretical knowledge. Finally, more scientific inquiries  into the unique features of the Chinese language also require better  theoretical tools. Thus mere empirical studies are not enough to ensure  a solid development of scientific linguistics in China.     


    Unlike the scholarly areas that we have mentioned so far, psychology  completely lacks an indigenous basis in China. In contrast with the role  Western philosophy has played in relation to psychology classical  Chinese philosophy could not offer a starting point, not even an  introspective one, for a native tradition in psychology. This is due to the  fact that Chinese philosophy lacks a strong tradition of analysis. In spite  of this, Chinese intellectuals quickly adapt to a psychological way of  thinking. Already at the beginning of the first period of modernization  the different varieties of Western psychology were introduced into  China. During the 20s there were frequent discussions about behaviorism, experimental psychology, and even psychoanalysis, as well as of  the entire Western tradition of philosophical psychology. In 1949 this  pluralist approach to the study of psychology was replaced by the  monism of the official Soviet psychology, and the discipline was  assigned to the natural sciences. As a result psychology was one of the  least fruitful disciplines in China. Only after 1978 did it resume its  normal activities. Among the various schools Piaget's doctrine has  aroused the greatest interest. Although previously Pavlov's doctrine had  been accepted on principle in China, independent experimentation was  never undertaken in this direction. The new psychological investigations  underway in China today need to be bolstered by further work in both  the scientific and the humanistic aspects of the domain.     


    In the early twentieth century China was one of the few countries  outside the European tradition to take a strong interest in psychoanalysis as a theory of sexuality. Chinese intellectuals have been traditionally curious about sex-related problems, so they were particularly receptive to reflections on this subject coming from psychoanalysis. Following the gradual relaxation of sexual taboos over the past ten  years, sex and sexology are more openly discussed. Consequently  psychoanalysis has once again become an important subject within the  Chinese academic community. However, much time will be needed to  transform curiosity into serious investigations in this field.   



6. Sociology and Anthropology    


    Sociological investigations in modern China have always been weak,  particularly with respect to theoretical work. Before 1949 a few  Chinese sociologists had carried out some introductory work and  translated some Western literature on the subject. Most of the latter  comprised Anglo-American studies in applied sociology. After 1949  research in Western sociology was halted in the name of Marxist social  theory. But in 1978 sociology was one of the first social sciences to be  resuscitated. Currently it is again orientated to American applied  sociology, which is thought to be complementary to Marxist social  philosophy. Senior sociologists who had survived from the earlier  period insisted on the importance of applied sociology, but younger  scholars began to question the soundness of the earlier Chinese  sociology. They soon found that so far in China little was known about  modern sociological theories. The awareness that we must expand out  knowledge in this field has sparked a renewed vigor in studying  Western sociological doctrines. Today Max Weber's theory has gained  central importance among Chinese sociologists. Yet here again the  more profound aspects cannot be absorbed without a more thorough  theoretical preparation. Nevertheless, the introduction of Weber,  Durkheim, Parsons, Merton, and Schutz into the discussions of Chinese  sociology is highly significant. In the future the achievements of theoretical sociology will certainly influence Chinese research in history, literature, politics, and the arts.     


    The academic background of Chinese anthropology is even weaker  than that of Chinese sociology. At the beginning of the twentieth  century anthropology was limited to empirical studies without theory  and with little field work. Anthropology is still waiting to become a  discipline. No one doubts that simple ethnological reports are not true  anthropological studies. For the past few years there has been a  growing interest among aestheticians, literary theorists, and philosophers in cultural anthropology — for example, in the work of Claude Levi-Strauss — but this is not considered as part of anthropology itself. The lack of theoretical knowledge seriously limits Chinese scholars' grasp of the new developments in this discipline and in other fields  related to it.   


7. Religion   


    Throughout the long history of Chinese philosophy and religion studies  within religious philosophies were frequent, but there was no philosophy of religion or investigation of religious practice as such. That is to say, religion was a way of thinking, not a subject for objective investigation. Compared with the situation of Chinese philosophy in this  century, religious studies have not acquired any importance, with the  exception at some religious historiographical work. Over the past ten  years more and more research has been undertaken on Chinese  Buddhism, but this is more descriptive than theoretical in nature. Most  Buddhist scholars are familiar only with Buddhist texts and do not refer  to other modern sources. Thus despite all these activities theoretical  work remains limited. Studies of Western theology are still lacking. Only a few younger philosophers, not students of religion, have shown some interest in contemporary Western theology and ins relation to hermeneutic philosophy, but this is unlikely to lead to  major change in the status of religious studies in the near future.   



8. Political Science   


    Political science as a discipline distinct from Marxist philosophy  regained its standing in China ten years ago, but its scholarly direction  remains unclear. Theoretically and practically it should be more  involved in actual politics. In some respects it seems inclined to support  the present political reform movement, but this involvement is nonetheless limited. Unlike their counterparts in sociology, Chinese political  scientists show no interest in theoretical work and remain satisfied with  practical investigations. Apart from some possible external reasons, the  lack of qualified scholars seems to be the main reason why this subject  has contributed so little to the recent period of cultural modernization.  Moreover, since few people distinguish between politics and political  science, the current lively political debates make them overlook the  paucity of scholarly activities in political science.     


    Compared with political science the study of law in China appears to  be much more active and fruitful. This is mainly due to the fact that the  government has continually encouraged scholarship in this field. But  most of the effort until now has concentrated on various applied legal  theories and little on more theoretical matters.     


   Sociologically, it is interesting to note that Chinese scholars of the  younger generation have been more attracted to philosophy and literary  studies than to political science or law. However, the young are quick to  express their opinions on current political issues, which implies that  their views are based more on speculative arguments than on positive  scientific reasons. It is all too easy to mix speculation directly with  action and to avoid the burden of more solid scientific investigation.   



9. Comparative Studies   


    Over the past five years a new academic discipline called “comparative  studies” has become increasingly popular. Although comparative  studies exist in disciplines like philosophy, religion, and law, they are  best developed as comparative literature, a discipline which has been  strongly supported both by the government and foreign academics.  Chinese scholars had to endure a long separation from the international  academic community, and it has been tempting therefore to find a  domain in which Chinese scholars seem to be on an equal footing with  their Western counterparts. In point of fact, in comparative literature  they even enjoy a superiority as far as the Chinese sources are concerned. Such international respect has spurred Chinese scholars both at  home and abroad to further their activities in this domain. But here, as  in other areas, Chinese scholars have to learn that the modern  approach to their subjects is becoming more complex and more theoretically demanding, that without mastering several related disciplines it  is no longer possible to be successful in one of them. Thus Chinese  scholars in comparative literature have to face a serious intellectual  challenge if they want to acquire a competence that goes beyond merely  local topics of limited interest. On the other hand, their participation in  international discussions is an important channel through which the  study of Chinese literature can improve.   



10. Arts and Studies of Arts   


In modern China most current theoretical work concerning the arts has  been done in “philosophical aesthetics”, which is a rather popular  discipline based on Western models. Today aesthetics seems to cover a  middle ground between more solid philosophical reflections and less  strict literary essays. However, though it is widely discussed, this  aesthetics contributes little to an understanding of the contemporary  situation of the arts in China.     


    The “art studies” on the other hand, are mostly concerned with  historical descriptions. In China one often says that theory should be  applied to practice, but unfortunately these theoretical studies, too, are  incapable of giving a satisfactory interpretation of artistic practice in  contemporary China, with the help of which the arts could meet the  terrible challenge of modernization.     


    Art in the first half of this century was not so distant from classical  art and Chinese artists were better able to deal with the relationship  between contents and forms. Today we still can see many valuable art  works of that period, be they in painting, architecture, music, dance,  Opera, drama, or even film. Artists working in the various media were  able to harmonize more successfully the conflicting aesthetics of the  East and the West. But in that period Western culture had not yet  acquired a dominant position in every area. There followed a long  cultural isolation that culminated in the ravages of the cultural Revolution which brought everything to a standstill. The majority of younger  Chinese intellectuals emerged from this period indifferent to traditional  Chinese art. They became therefore fervent admirers of the Western  popular arts as soon as these were allowed to enter China. In view of  this development young attests today are hesitant about their creative  direction. This situation has provoked much discussion of what is  generally called “the crisis in Chinese painting”. It seems that neither  the repetition of traditional realistic subjects nor the imitation of  modern Western styles can inspire today's artists to produce great art. 


    Chinese painting has aroused more attention abroad than have other  artistic media. As far as music goes, China has many technically  brilliant instrumentalists, singers and conductors, but few successful  composers ¾ a worrisome problem for China's spiritual life. Film ¾  making is hardly in a better position. Despite the success of some  Chinese films at international festivals, the critical situation of Chinese  film-making is often evoked in the press. As a synthetic art Chinese film  culture is confronted with problems similar to those afflicting Chinese  literature. In both domains the urgent problem for artists is not to know  how to express more successfully, but what to express. If artists in these  areas fail to grasp the deeper meanings of current culture, they will  remain mediocre.     


    In saying that the key problems for painting and music are a lack of  inspiration and pathos, and for literature and film a lack of cultural  depth, we have at least an idea of where change and improvement  might occur. Compared to this, the situation of traditional Chinese  open with its unique aesthetic potential seems hopeless, and no solution is in sight. Here the relevant social and cultural circumstances have  shifted drastically. In almost every aspect the classical Chinese opera  fails to attract modern audiences. The serious lack of an educational  background in traditional culture necessary to appreciate this medium  could in principle be remedied. Yet the greater problem is the gap  separating modern Western taste from traditional Chinese taste, a gap  which is deeply rooted in historical and geographical divergence. The  fact is that without constant government support the professional artists  involved in opera would have no livelihood at all.     


    Cultural modernization has created difficulties in other art forms too,  but space does not permit a more detailed account. Owing to the  weak standing of the indigenous fine arts, Western art, particularly in  the area at the popular arts, has become dominant in urban cultural life.  Mary Chinese artists are reluctant to be cheap imitators of the Western  arts and try to insist on traditional Chinese styles. But successful works  of art cannot he created merely on the basis of nationalistic sentiment.  The predicament of the Chinese arts reveals the need to deepen our  knowledge of culture, history, and art. Without a profound understanding of the aesthetic problems concerned, we will hardly find a  solution to our difficulties. But as we have mentioned above, in the  studies at the various arts very little theoretical research has been  undertaken. It is a promising sign, however, that this situation is  gradually changing as younger scholars take an increased interest in art  theories and translate the relevant literature. We can expect further  efforts in this direction.   


11. Conclusion   


    When we talk about the latest developments in cultural phenomena and  the human sciences in China today, we should distinguish two deeper  structural levels: one is the level of political and ideological shifts and  processes (the direct level); and the other is the level of the inherent  cultural mechanisms (the indirect level). The present situation in  Chinese culture and the Chinese social and human sciences is the  outcome of the combined action of these structural forces. As soon as  the political factors play a less important role in cultural life, the inner  conflicts between traditional Chinese and modern Western culture must  become more evident. Because of the two levels, when we consider the  problems of Chinese culture and of the Chinese social and human  sciences, there are two different standards by which to measure the  significance of the subjects discussed. Nowadays, more attention is paid  both at home and abroad, to cultural and scholarly shifts with political  implications. But if we want to deepen our understanding of the  developmental problems in the Chinese human sciences and their  cultural circumstances, we should take a more academic, theoretical  approach. Unfortunately, what is presently offered by Chinese scholars  or Western sinologists is inadequate to meet this theoretical objective.  A first step in this direction would be, I believe, to abandon the fixed  idea that West is West and East is East. No matter how different the  cultures may be, communication is possible between them, because they  can exist in one and the same mind, that is, in a free land in which each  element is allowed to touch every other. In the second place, theoretical  efforts must be increased concerning every aspect, and the theoretical  objectives should clearly be demarcated from practical ones.     


    China, as one of the great cultures of the world, has undergone the  shock of Western civilization and lived through successive periods of  adaptation and cultural depression; now she is beginning to renew her  cultural efforts. Like an organism, China has been ridding herself of the  illness that has plagued her for so long, and wants to resume doing what  she has done for thousands of years, but now in much larger and much  more complicated surroundings. What can we expect of her in this new  beginning? In all fairness one must admit that what she has achieved in  the past ten years is already remarkable, especially when seen against  the background of the preceding three decades. The promised cultural  effort looks heroic, but no cultural future can be built purely on the will  to cultural survival alone. A great number of political, economic,  historical, and traditional factors interact constantly in this large  cultural organism. We can only hope that our choices will fit well into  this interplay!   


* This paper was read on November 3, 1988 before the Philosophical Society of Fribourg, Switzerland and appeared in Studies in Soviet Thought, vol. 38, Kluwer Academic Publisher, 1989.