By Wei Zhang
A cross-cultural paintings that reinvigorates the glory of enlightenment.
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Additional resources for What Is Enlightenment: Can China Answer Kant's Question?
Thus, an attempt to deﬁne the nature of the May Fourth movement became the focal point of the debate concerning modern Chinese political and intellectual history. 4 Those three processes not only typiﬁed the processes of modernization in modern China, but reﬂected a “universal tension between modernization and social change” evident in all traditional societies. The latter have viewed China as a paradigm for the third world,5 which made modern China’s answer to Kant’s question of “What is enlightenment” even more signiﬁcant.
She modiﬁed her previous understanding of the May Fourth movement as the simultaneously unfolding processes of the nationalist, political, and cultural into the two mutually exclusive discourses and praxis. In her ﬁnal analysis, May Fourth was premised upon a dialectical tension between an “internal prerequisite of cultural enlightenment” What Is Chinese Enlightenment? ”12 Such a modiﬁed understanding reduced the dynamic process of May Fourth to a rigid dualistic construct. In the end, the incapability of mediating and resolving this dialectical tension eventually thwarted modern China’s emergence from its feudal past.
Of course, such a self-understanding was further perpetuated by a popular enlightenment prejudice that assumed that it was only reason that constituted the legitimate ground for knowledge and truth. However, as we discussed in the previous chapter, Kant in his response to the question of enlightenment had departed from both the traditional and modern self-understanding of philosophy, as well as from the understanding of enlightenment as a mere theoretical or philosophical discourse. Hence, in her comparative analysis of the European enlightenment and the May Fourth movement, Schwarcz had entirely missed the important paradigm shift initiated by Kant and the contemporary interpreters of Kant, such as Foucault, Habermas, Rorty, and others.