Zhang Pinxing: Philosophical Thinking in the Era of Change – Comments on Zhang Shaohua's Serial New Philosophical Thoughts


With implementation of the Reform and Opening-up policy, the most profound and meaningful event happened in philosophy must be the publication of Zhang Shaohua’s six philosophical works, totaling 2.5 million words. Right after the publication, they drew great attention from the thinking public and some national newspapers, magazines and TV stations including People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, China Reform Daily, China National Radio, Philosophical Study, and Philosophical Trends. They introduced those works by publishing articles and news and spoke highly of them.
 
Nansen Huang, famous philosopher, doctoral supervisor in Peking University, and a member in Philosophy Comment in State Council’s Degree Committee, once wrote, “We all agree to hold on and expand Marxism but it’s easier said than done because our insistence tends to stay away from development and vice versa.” Zhang Shaohua “impressed us with his adherence to the basic views of Marxism-Leninism and Mao’s Theory”, and “affirmed the basic views of Materialism, Dialectics, Historical Materialism, Practical Standard, and Theory of Reflection. Meanwhile, readers can easily find his exclusive ideas which show great courage.”
 
Zhai Mo, currently a famous aesthetic critic and a professor in Chinese Academy of Art, wrote that “Zhang Shaohua stood at the highest level of human history “and “from the perspective of the whole humanity, and through great changes like the demise of East-West Confrontation, Cold War, China’s establishment of market economy and global polarization, found the sublimation of our times.” He praises Zhang Shaohua’s works as “important aha-moments of the mature humanity”.
 
Qinghai Gao, a famous philosopher, doctoral supervisor in Jilin University and a member in Philosophy Comment in State Council’s Degree Committee, wrote that Zhang’s works “express a sense of grandness with its brilliant topics and profound ideas”. “People always say that China never has a true philosopher in the last decades. Though way too absolute, it really makes sense in academic circle. Outside the circle, that will be the other side of the coin.” He believes that Zhang Shaohua is “the real philosopher” in a few decades in China because Zhang who only graduated from junior high school, sacrificed his health to study philosophy for 27 years consistently. He added that Zhang’s works “represent our Chinese people’s exclusive understanding towards major philosophical topics that draw people’s universal attention and they form a detailed theory with self-justified structure and content. We have reasons to say that now China has its own modern philosophical theory which is parallel to other countries.” Zhang’s works “may exert even bigger influence cross borders”.
 
On November 29, 1995, our country’s famous scientist Hsue-shen Tsien mentioned Zhang Shaohua and affirmed and supported Zhang’s bold exploration in his letter congratulating the 40th anniversary of Institute of Philosophy of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences when talking about the mission of philosopher and social scientists.
 
Changes in the era induce that of the philosophy; while changed philosophy will, in return, greatly influence the era. Zhang’s works are like rich fruits ripening from the ever-changing times. As his works “cover hundreds of subjects with abundant content and huge scale” (from Philosophy needs to refresh self-thinking, Qinghai Gao), it is hard for the majority to read and understand. Therefore, we brief on the main ideas of his six published books and the inner connection among them.
 
My Understanding of Marxist Dialectics (published in 1991) conducts in-depth discussions on Marxist dialectics and proposes many new ideas. For example, according to the author, materialistic dialectics is about the rule of the development of things, namely an internal unified rule system consisted of the familiar “old three rules “and the “new three rules” (internal and external rule, metabolic rule and balanced and imbalanced rule) proposed by Mao Zedong in his book On Contradictions, instead of (as some comrades may regard) one rule or (as generally speaking) three rules. A second example shows that after studying the interconnections among many ideas about materialistic dialectics, the author believes the development of dialectics can simply be concluded as the following three interconnected principles: the one with new and old things struggling, the one with primary and secondary conditions transforming, and the one with material and historical conditions. Another example illustrates, as the author puts it, materialistic dialectics provide people with three dialectic thinking principles: the unification between subjects and objects, the unification between conditions and objections, and the unification between popularity and specification.
Step Out of the Myth of Philosophy - Determine-Counterdeterminism is the paramount principle of dialectics (Part 1, published in 1991) as the Most Important Materialistic Dialectic Law is a sublimation based on the former works and a masterpiece after the author working his heart out for 15 years. This book raised a thought-provoking question: people insist on “materialism” from the bottom of their heart and decide things “in accordance with dialectics” but how can the results be unsatisfied over and over again? The author believes there are many reasons yet theoretically, it is because an “isolation area” (the author calls it “misunderstanding”) exist in our understanding of materialism and dialectics so they can’t realize unification, under which circumstances people unconsciously deviate from dialectics when adhering to materialism and vice versa. Therefore, the author “unifies materialism and dialectics with ‘the Determine-Counterdeterminism’”. By doing so, the Determine-Counterdeterminism has logically become “the most important law of materialistic dialectics” and “the most important principle of dialectic materialism”. In terms of a broad sense, it is “subjectival existence”; in terms of human relations, it is “super-animal existence”; in terms of human characters, it is “demand-creation “existence; in terms of structure, it is “body-tool “existence; in terms of basic and integral sense, it is “Naturality-Morality “existence. Therefore, the direction of human development can only be communism which basically represents Marx’s early persistence of “a ‘completed’ ‘Naturality-Morality’”.
                                                                                                                 
Step Out of the Myth of Philosophy -- Determine-Counterdeterminism is the paramount principle of dialectics (Part 1, published in 1991) as the Most Important Materialistic Dialectic Law is a sublimation based on the former works and a masterpiece after the author working his heart out for 15 years. This book raised a thought-provoking question: people insist on “materialism” from the bottom of their heart and decide things “in accordance with dialectics” but how can the results be unsatisfied over and over again? The author believes there are many reasons yet theoretically, it is because an “isolation area” (the author calls it “misunderstanding”) exist in our understanding of materialism and dialectics so they can’t realize unification, under which circumstances people unconsciously deviate from dialectics when adhering to materialism and vice versa. Therefore, the author “unifies materialism and dialectics with ‘the Determine-Counterdeterminism’”. By doing so, the Determine-Counterdeterminism has logically become “the most important law of materialistic dialectics” and “the most important principle of dialectic materialism”. In terms of a broad sense, it is “subjectival existence”; in terms of human relations, it is “super-animal existence”; in terms of human characters, it is “demand-creation” existence; in terms of structure, it is “body-tool” existence; in terms of basic and integral sense, it is “Naturality-Morality” existence. Therefore, the direction of human development can only be communism which basically represents Marx’s early persistence of “a ‘completed’ ‘Naturality-Morality’”.
 
The Second Declaration of Humankind - The Naturality-Morality Theory is an academic monograph with four parts. From the perspective of “Contemporary World” and contemporary humans who are integrated, the author reviews what humans achieved in self-knowledge and how our thinking and practices evolved in history, as well as how they form a sharp contrast to human nature. On that basis, the author makes a case for establishing Prime Civilization—Naturality-Morality, which calls on nations to live harmoniously with each other and with nature. The purpose of the argument is clear: as he says, he wishes to create a basis, a starting point, a reference frame and a yardstick for how people think, live, work and interact and for where modern science is going. The book has four parts. The first part discusses what is Prime Civilization, as well as the conditions and significance of studying it. The second one talks about Naturality-Morality from many angles and levels and draws the conclusion that Naturality-Morality (a theory concerning the common nature of human beings and of human relations) should be the Prime Civilization for contemporary people. The third one discusses the essence of Naturality-Morality. In the last part, on the basis of Naturality-Morality theory, the author reevaluates capitalism, socialism and nationalism as well as their relations. He also reviews the relations of the “Three Worlds” and relations between men as well as between man and nature. Further, the author analyzes and explains the major problems and prospects of the contemporary world with this theory.
 
The Universe Spirit Theory - The Human Life Outlook collects, verifies and improves his points in the first five volumes. The author believes that people live to showcase the essence and power that make them human, and the essence and power of mankind are the quality and capabilities of Naturality-Morality that makes human human. Since a healthy life and a sound society depend on individual activities, it is important that we establish a concept on human life according to Naturality-Morality. This concept explains the features, structure, mechanism and law of motion of human life or explores to extend human life, enhance the quality of people and build a harmonious living environment. Unfortunately, people tend to be one-sided on “human life” in two ways. One is analyticalism, which features sciences before the 1960s (except Traditional Chinese Medicine). The other is holism, which features most of the sciences after the 1960s.According to analyticalism, scientists, thinkers conduct their studies or establish their scientific system simply from  physical structure (molecular biology, genetic engineering, cytology and biochemistry, etc.), or from physiological perspective (TCM, modern medicine, Qigong, longevity, somatology, nutriology, etc.) or from mental perspective (Psychology, psychoanalysis, thinking, philosophy, etc.) or from social perspective (Sociology, management, politics, law, sociobiology, etc.) or from moral perspective (Ethics, emotion, literature, personality, etc.). Based on holism, scientists and thinkers focus only on entirety, system, structure, coordination, unity, integration. Therefore, the author put forward Universe-Spirit. It holds that human life can be interpreted in many ways, but fundamentally, it is a phase or aspect when the universe is displaying its spirit. Therefore, the author further proposes the “great unification” (namely every subject focuses on, refers to and examines by Naturality-Morality) and “tiny concentration” (namely every human-life-related science absorb the results of relevant subjects into its own theory). He believes human life becomes the main research of natural sciences and philosophy, moreover, the basic object of social sciences and humanities. Hence, every science should be synthesized, layered and concluded by the study of “human life”. By this means, the author tries to establish an outlook of “human life” to create a new perspective for the development of human sciences and the unification between oriental and occidental traditions, which is inevitably a remarkable work.
 
We can see that those six books clearly show how Zhang Shaohua’s academic thoughts develop. Facing social practices, the author “carries on in-depth research on General Dialectics” which is the most profound, abstract and crucial subject in Marxism in the first volume.