Mind and Body in Early China: Beyond Orientalism and the Myth of Holism

October 31, 2020
Mind and Body in Early China: Beyond Orientalism and the Myth of Holism

Mind and Body in Early China critiques Orientalistaccounts of early China as the radical, "holistic" other. The ideathat the early Chinese held the "strong" holist view, seeing noqualitative difference between mind and body, has long beencontradicted by traditional archeological and qualitative textualevidence. New digital humanities methods, along with basicknowledge about human cognition, now make this position untenable.A large body of empirical evidence suggests that "weak" mind-bodydualism is a psychological universal, and that human socialitywould be fundamentally impossible without it. Edward Slingerlandargues that the humanities need to move beyond socialconstructivist views of culture, and embrace instead a view ofhuman cognition and culture that integrates the sciences and thehumanities. Our interpretation of texts and artifacts from the pastand from other cultures should be constrained by what we know aboutthe species-specific, embodied commonalities shared by all humans.This book also attempts to broaden the scope of humanisticmethodologies by employing team-based qualitative coding andcomputer-aided "distant reading" of texts, while also drawing uponour current best understanding of human cognition to transform ourbasic starting point. It has implications for anyone interested incomparative religion, early China, cultural studies, digitalhumanities, or science-humanities integration.