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The philosophical study of Chinese thought

Instead of directly addressing the question whether there is such a thing as Chinese philosophy, the paper starts by considering the point of raising such a question, and proposes that the point can be captured by a different question about whether the philosophical study of Chinese thought is possible. It elaborates on what it is to engage in the philosophical study of Chinese thought, using the study of Confucian ethics in relation to contemporary Anglo-American philosophy as an example. It argues that the philosophical study of Chinese thought is indeed possible. This can be taken to imply an affirmative answer to the question whether there is such a thing as Chinese philosophy, but not in the sense that Chinese thinkers of the past engage in an activity that can be described as ‘philosophy’. Instead, it means that we ourselves can engage in an intellectual activity that is akin to philosophy as it is practiced nowadays, in relation to a subject matter that engages the interest of both contemporary philosophers and past Chinese thinkers, and approaching the subject matter in a way that is guided primarily by the insights of past Chinese thinkers on the subject.

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