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The being of things is reduced to its limit that constitutes both their innermost nature and their external boundary.It would be wrong to say that Chinese thought negates any notion of reality that transcends the world of appearances.This paradox of self-realization through “self-forgetting”, still only vaguely understood, has also a historical aspect.What kind of history, if any, can such subjectivity have and how does this history account for the actual historical stages of Chinese thinking?Serving predominantly the purpose of learning and self-cultivation they are used as the expedient mnemonic signs, like those words, in Chuang-tzu’s memorable phrase, that should be forgotten once their meaning is grasped.The canons of separate schools in Chinese tradition were precisely a certain set of types corresponding to the (symbolic) perfection of being.The real meaning of getting to “the double bottom” of being is to release oneself into the openness of the absolute Other, to turn one’s inside out, to reach the stillness of Aeon that abides with-out measured time.
Its real essence is the creative event or, to be precise, the self-effacing power of time, the irresistible force of forgetfulness that affirms the ever-present but essentially a-temporal reality under the cover of permanent renovation.
The concept of the “Focus-Field Self’ obviously aims at avoiding the pitfalls of rationalistic self-identities but, unfortunately, it does so to the point of neglecting the problem of authentic Self altogether.
Indeed, we find in Confucianism a strong sense of the inner reality of Self which runs from Confucius’s obscure remark on the “single thread”(yz guan) in his teachings to the theme of the persistent “common Mind” or just “the Mind” (yi ge xin) in the so called “idealistic” trend of Neo- Confucianism.
According to them, Chinese thought operates with a concept of “the Focus-Field Self’ which reduces self-consciousness to the “awareness of one’s role as a locus of observation by others” while acknowledging that such a Self has the quality of deference, or self-elusiveness The “deferential” Self is able to transform its individuating capacity (embodied in one’s “virtue” or de) into integrating power and to extend oneself to the point of being able to embrace the indeterminate field of its context.
Ames in their recent book «Thinking from the Han» argue that the Western philosophical inventory related to the idea of Self is irrelevant for Sinological studies.
The key to solving these questions lies, I believe, in the fundamental notion of Chinese thought — a notion of change.