Response to
Edward Slingerland (1)
Philosophy East and West, v50 #1 (January 2000) 141-147

The authors' response to the Slingerland review was followed by an author's reply. The two were combined and abridged as posted on Thomas Carlson's web site, with the permission of the authors, and that presumably more convenient version is largely duplicated here.

Response and Reply

Brooks: No one knows better than ourselves, after years with the text, how far any brief commentary on the Analects must fall short of doing justice to its importance and its difficulty. We are thus heartened to learn that our efforts have made LY 3:23 "come alive" for Professor Slingerland, and that he finds the commentary in general to be "an invaluable sourcebook" that can "enrich and deepen even the specialist's understanding of the text." On several points at which he is less convinced we may add a word here. Chief among these are: (1) our generally "scientific" and "skeptical" approach; (2) whether the approach establishes an advance on the position reached by Tswei Shu; (3) whether our argument, especially as respects LY 3 and the latter half of LY 4, is circular; (4) whether we are right on several points of philosophical importance, such as the Mencius/Sywndz situation and its relation to the Analects; and (5) whether our accretional model for the text is appropriately derived and successfully applied.

1. We admit to preferring a result-neutral, and also a skeptical, methodology. We feel that a historical inquiry biased toward any contemporary interest, philosophical or other, does not deserve the name of historical inquiry. We also note that, apart from the decontextualizing effect of the almost total loss of Warring States history, great pressures have been exerted on these texts by the fact of their canonical position over two imperial millennia. We feel that this self-evident fact justifies, and even requires, the suspicion that any original political dimensions they may once have contained have been artificially attenuated in the orthodox interpretation. Is it intrinsically likely that the preserved debate was carried on without reference to the civil and military conflicts that consumed the attention of the rest of society? Not to be skeptical toward the traditional view at such points would, we feel, fail to appreciate the problems of the text and the problems of the circumambient culture that have for so long impeded their solution.

Slingerland: Point 1. My problem with the Brookses' "skeptical" approach is not that they take into account the possible influence of extra-philosophical forces (military conflicts, struggles for dominance among disciples, etc.) on the development of the Analects, but rather that they focus almost exclusively on such extra-philosophical forces as explanatory factors. While this is certainly in accordance with the practice now fashionable in the humanities of seeing expressions of human thought as mere epiphenomena originating in social/political power struggles, it is hardly "unbiased". It presupposes that social/political forces are the primary factors driving the development of philosophical thought and thereby rules out as a matter of course any other sort of explanation. It is not at all clear that the success of reductive explanations in physics or chemistry translates into a mandate for reductive explanations in the humanities, and the Brookses' approach seems to me another example of the model of the natural sciences being inappropriately applied to the Geisteswissenschaften. I would merely urge the Brookses to apply their skeptical knife not only to the assumptions of the orthodox Chinese commentarial tradition but to their own methodological assumptions as well, and avoid dismissing the former assumptions simply as a matter of policy.

Brooks: 2. The progress of Analects scholarship since Tswei Shu is reviewed at the beginning of Appendix 1. It is there shown that his advance over the Hu/Ito view has in turn been refined by Waley and Pokora on the structural side (Waley's argument from the mythic evolution of the Dzvngdz persona within the confines of the text is particularly telling) and by Kimura, Lau, and others on the formal side. It is made clear on page 207 note 25 that we have moved beyond these valuable but isolated suggestions to recover the entire formal logic of the text, bringing the insights of Tswei Shu and his successors to the point where they constitute a critical mass, which by its implications, in our opinion, makes inevitable a new and unprecedented view of the text as a process of continuous, but orderly, growth over time.

Slingerland: [There was no response to Point 2]

Brooks: 3. Is that conclusion reached on circular grounds? It is shown in the rest of Appendix 1 that this advance makes it possible to identify interpolations in the text simply by their incongruity with the design of the chapter in which they occur, rather than by their content, using arguments such as earlier scholars have brought to bear piecemeal on problematic passages like LY 13:3. However convincing in detail, such arguments might fairly have been open to objection as circular. Since, however, we identify interpolations on formal or linguistic grounds (in the case of LY 4:18-19, by linguistic usages in the preceding sayings, which are not only distinctive but specifically archaic; see indeed p. 208, but higher up; also pp. 203-204), it is an independent confirmation and not a circular statement that, as shown in Appendix 2 (and again, with evidence of absolute date, in Appendix 3), the Analects minus its interpolations not only fully confirms Tswei Shu's insights as to the lateness of LY 16-20, but also reveals in the received chapter sequence LY 4-20 a process of continual and historically plausible evolution on the content level. It was always open to alert readers to see that Tswei Shu's criteria for a distinctive LY 16-20 were unevenly distributed, the "numerical categories" being largely confined to LY 16, whereas the "stray bits of ancient lore" do not appear until LY 18, and reach a climax of free composition à la Shu only in LY 20:1. The Tswei data for LY 16-20 were thus inherently dynamic, implying both obsolescence and development of literary devices within that range, and already suggesting a process rather than a single fixed authorial or editorial style.

Our results extend that dynamic situation to the whole text. They cannot be accounted for by any layer model, whether the Ito/Tswei/Waley model or quite different models proposed by Takeuchi and others, but only on a process of continual augmentation. In the task of placing the preposed chapters, including LY 3, within the linear development of LY 4-20 (p.206), the use of context evidence is inevitable. The sort of covert reference to current events that we see in LY 3 (and in LY 16, which equally conveys a sense of stylistic "heat," and in the more inscrutable and wary LY 19) is conceded by Slingerland to be "quite common in early China." That agreed fact is surely warrant for invoking such explanations in particular cases. In complaining that the Analects does not openly identify such philosophical antagonists as the Micians, Slingerland seems to misconstrue the logic of a text composed in the name of a past figure and deriving its authority from that figure. Such a text does not normally violate that presumption by directly referring to persons who would not have been either past or present to that figure. Thus the living Sywndz, in the 03d-century "human nature" debate, can refer to "Mencius" (dead since ca. 0303), whereas the Mencians cannot symmetrically have their eponymous spokesman refer directly to "Sywndz" (died after 0238). We ruefully admit that greater naïveté on the part of the Analects authors would have facilitated the job of later philologists, but we must take the text as its authors left it. In the not so covert references to the Tyen rulers of Chi in LY 16:2-3 (ca. 0285), they left it transparent even to modern readers. All the more, surely, were passages like these unproblematic for their intended audience.

4. We think that on further acquaintance Slingerland will find that our argument is linear, and also that the view of the Analects that it reaches is far more coherent and convincing than the problematic and at points self-contradictory view to which he appears to have become accustomed (that the Analects were composed "in a haphazard manner" or "cobbled together by a single editor," whether at a time when the Master was "among the living" or in the "early fourth century"). As to specifics, we are confident that he will, for example, eventually appreciate that the link between LY 12-13 (ca. 0326-ca. 0322) and the historical Mencius of MC 1 speeches (closely datable to ca. 0320f; see pp.9 and 97) cannot yet be expected to feature the "human nature" debate between the later Mencian school and Sywndz, which, with Sywndz himself, belongs to the early-middle 03d century and is echoed, quite on schedule, in LY 17 (ca. 0270; see pp. 161 ap 17:2a and 171). His expectation that psychophysical theories that underlie the Mencian position in the debate should also have been held by the contemporary Analects would be reasonable were it not refuted by the entire tenor of Warring States argument, in which the texts and their votaries defend contrary positions on just such issues.

As to meditative techniques per se, we have argued at length that the Lu Confucians were aware of them as early as the 05th century (the emblematic figure, for the Analects as for the Jwangdz, is Yen Hwei; see our note to LY 9:11 et saepe). But they later rejected them (and Yen Hwei [LY*15:31]; we think our observation that Yen Hwei turns up, among 03d-century texts, not in the Analects but in the Jwangdz, is a strong argument somehow missed by Tswei Shu) and strongly opposed the DDJ theorists who tried to build a theory of government on them (LY 16:4). It would be consistent with this stance that they would keep a certain distance from the Mencian developments of these theories. Slingerland's conclusion that the Analects as a whole represents early Confucianism "as existed prior to the philosophical explosion of the Hundred Schools period" not only ignores these probabilities, but fails to take account of the diagram on page 249, showing that the Hundred Schools echoes do exist in the text, and that they are entirely confined to the chapters from LY 12 onward, that is, to the latter half of the work. This, in our view, rather neatly mirrors the fact that the Hundred Schools situation itself falls midway in the Warring States period.

On this and other points we can only think that Slingerland will in the end be persuaded by our view of the Warring States texts, not as arbitrary structures emerging in a vacuum, but as rational growths rooted in the period and its problems, having a physical location and an organizational continuity behind them and a distinctive agenda in front of them and being shaped over time by contact (largely adversative) with other points of view on all sides of them.

That conclusion, though not reached by a philosophically biased argument, has its philosophical interest, perhaps most notably in accommodating and explaining many separate and seemingly incompatible facts about the text. We continue to feel it a virtue of our view that it resolves a dispute between Chinese scholars (who see rvn as central to Confucius' values) and many Western scholars (who accept Fingarette's reading in terms of li) by showing that they refer, respectively to the 05th-century of Confucius and the 04th-century world of the Kung-dominated Analects school. The disturbing, and sometimes identical, echoes of the Gwandz (in the sudden statecraft focus of LY 12-13); the Mwodz (in the LY 17 dispute over the three-year mourning), and above all the Jwangdz (in the hermit stories of LY 18) disappear in a vision of creative contact with these texts. An early Confucian method of teaching by single gnomic maxims (05th century) is seen to be replaced by a more philosophical consciousness that requires of its body of maxims both internal consistency and external consistency (late 04th century). These and similar results make possible the writing of future histories of Chinese thought not as a series of watertight arbitrary positions, but as an integrated fabric of individually evolving, increasingly sophisticated, and mutually interactive positions in the larger historical context. The text has in this way been made more readily available, not only to the philosopher but also to the modern reader of any disciplinary affiliation as well, and, may we say so, to the heirs, in all nations, of the rich but long misunderstood Chinese classical tradition in any of its aspects. We think that this utility will readily impress itself on those who lend themselves even briefly to the new view.

Slingerland: Points 3 and 4. With the regard to the circularity of their argument, I did acknowledge in the review that there are a few instances where the Brookses provide solid formal, linguistic, or historical evidence for their dating. I am nonetheless concerned because there are only a few isolated places where such evidence is provided, and because the few hard dates that the Brookses are able to provide are all still within the fifth century B.C.E. - that is, well within the more traditional range of possible dates for the formation of the text. I would be much more receptive to the Brookses' account if at least one firm date could be identified by means of external evidence that would place the Analects at the extreme end of their dating range (i.e. in the fourth or third century B.C.E.). What I see instead is that these later dates are arrived at by the means of elaborate assumptions built upon other assumptions, which in turn rest upon a few isolated hard dates - the whole edifice being supported by "echoes" of possible influence by other schools or speculation about "coded" references to current events. I did indeed acknowledge that such coded references are common in early China, but to rely on them as "proof" of some otherwise speculative date seems to me ill advised. Again, I would urge the Brookses to apply some of their healthy skepticism to their own founding assumptions.

With regard to my questioning of the supposed echoes of competing schools in the later books of the Analects, my point is not merely that there is no direct reference to the alleged targets of the text (which could conceivably be deliberate), but more significantly that nothing in the Analects betrays an awareness of the sophisticated intellectual milieu in which the authors of the Mencius, Zhuangzi, and Xunzi lived and breathed. While it is conceivable that clever fabricators may have avoided direct reference to figures and texts not available to the historical Confucius, even the Brookses see the later, more narratively complex books as responses to a "more philosophical consciousness that requires of its body of maxims both internal consistency and external consistency." That is, later compilers of the Analects were clearly not so obsessed with avoiding anachronisms that they were unwilling to break with the more authentically archaic, "gnomic" style in order to keep pace with the stylistic and philosophical developments of their own age. By this same logic, the fact that even these later passages fall short of demonstrably later Warring States texts in terms of stylistic and philosophical sophistication argues against their being contemporary "responses" to these texts.

Brooks: 5. As "accretional" hypotheses go, ours for the Analects, and for the Dau Dv Jing with which, in our view, it is intertwined, are risky due to their specificity: they are open to refutation by archaeology. We propose that the DDJ grew from a ca. 0350 beginning to an enforced end in the Lu conquest year 0249. The implication is that if a version of that text were recovered from a site datable within that span, it would lack certain high numbered chapters. As it happens, the archaeologically recovered Gwodyen 1 tomb texts, which were not available to scholars until May 1998, three months after the publication of The Original Analects, include three florilegia drawn largely from the later, governmental chapters of the DDJ. These constitute an archaeological referendum on the hypothesis.

The occupant of the Gwodyen 1 tomb was the tutor to the Heir Apparent of Chu, probably the future Kau-lye Wang, whose accession was in 0262. It was not until the accession of his father in 0298 that the future Kau-lye Wang became Heir Apparent and could have had a tutor appointed for him. The death of that tutor could not have occurred before that year and may have been at any time between then and the abandonment of Jing-mvn as the capital of Chu in 0278. The tutor is unlikely to have died immediately after his appointment, so that the earliest years of the range are unlikely, and since there are stylistically later tombs in the same cemetery, the last years of the span are also unavailable as plausible dates for Gwodyen 1. A valid working hypothesis would be the midpoint of 0298-0278, or ca. 0288.

What does our DDJ hypothesis predict for a copy of that work datable to that year? In a partial statement of that hypothesis published in Sino-Platonic Papers 46 (1994), we assigned DDJ 37 to 0309 and DDJ 70 to 0274 (pp. 72-73). In The Original Analects, we further committed ourselves to seeing in LY 16:4,8, and 11 responses to DDJ 43, 53 and 54-55, respectively. The LY 16 chapter date is ca. 0285, but these particular passages would slightly predate the Sung-related material and would thus be from perhaps ca. 0290. The related DDJ passages, then, ought to have been in circulation, at least in Lu, before the Gwodyen date. We additionally saw in LY 17:6 a response to DDJ 65, which would be earlier than the LY 17 chapter date 0270, but not necessarily as early as the Gwodyen date. Then a Gwodyen DDJ sample of ca. 0288 would probably include chapters up to DDJ 55, might (depending on fine-tuning of the tomb date and the passage dates) include chapters up to DDJ 65, but should not include DDJ 70 or higher-numbered chapters. Any significantly different result would be a serious problem for the DDJ accretion theory and the associated Analects accretion theory. As it happens, the total Gwodyen DDJ inventory for all three of the florilegia (Gwodyen Chu-mu Ju-jyen [1998], p.111) is as follows: DDJ 2, 5, 9, 13, 15-19, 20, 25, 30-32, 35, 37, 40, 41, 44-46, 48, 52, 54-57, 59, 63-64, and 66.

Quod erat demonstrandum. This independent confirmation may be of use to Professor Slingerland and others in permitting them to repose greater confidence in our argument for the chronology of the text, thus making our conclusions as to the evolution of early Lu Confucianism less problematically available to them as well.

Slingerland: Point 5. The archaeological evidence provided here is fascinating. While I still find it to be something less than "independent confirmation" of their entire Analects dating scheme - it does directly concern only the Daodejing, and the link to the Analects requires many of the same assumptions that I already find a bit questionable - more evidence of this sort would certainly go a long way toward increasing my confidence in the Brookses' chronology.

[For the authors' rejoinder, which was not printed by Philosophy East and West, click HERE].

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