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On Ethics and HistoryEssays and Letters of Zhang Xuecheng$
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Philip J. Ivanhoe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804761284

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804761284.001.0001

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The Analogy of Heaven

The Analogy of Heaven

Chapter:
(p.64) Essay 6 The Analogy of Heaven
Source:
On Ethics and History
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804761284.003.0006

This chapter presents the English translation of an essay, which argues for the similarity between examples of what we today would distinguish as ethical and scientific knowledge. Zhang believes that attempts to capture the development and expression of ethical norms with a formal, unvarying theory or system will develop similar problems over time, as Heaven is something beyond the ken of human beings—we only see traces of its workings in the phenomenal world—and its operation and future trajectory are things we can at best only approximate. The most we can do is sketch its basic nature, discern its general direction, cultivate ourselves to be sensitive to the inevitable drift that is bound to come, and be prepared to respond to and accommodate such deviations. While this argument does not present a wholly compelling account of the natural sciences, it can be seen as a very sensible stance toward the ongoing process of history.

Keywords:   Zhang Xuecheng, essay, ethical knowledge, scientific knowledge, history

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