The development of modern Chinese thought involves an ongoing interaction between internal processes and impacts of foreign ideas. Several intellectual controversies are interwoven into its history and among these one of the more philosophical ones began some 90 years ago, in 1923. In this controversy, supporters of science or scientism and supporters of metaphysics or Confucian tradition debated issues of what both sides referred to as “the view of life.”
The study of the view of life controversy by Gad C. Isay discusses the positions of the view of life supporters who upheld metaphysics against scientism. It focuses on both the philosophical merit of their views and the relevance of these views to the question of culture in modern China. Considering the sources of the view of life problem in traditional Chinese thought and the discussions that followed after the controversy, it is argued that the view of life question was a central theme in Chinese thought from its beginning. In this respect, modern discussions of this problem indicate continuity with the past. However, these discussions demonstrate too, the dynamics of changing conceptions regarding the context of human relationships that are related directly to the meeting with the West. Isay’s study traces the development of these discussions from their beginning up to our days giving a comprehensive survey of the philosophy of the view of life in modern Chinese thought.