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Human Uses of Science and Technology: Chinese vs. Western

Chung-ying Cheng (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

In this article I shall show and argue that Chinese and Western (Classical and Modern) approaches are very different. The difference lies in the fact that in the history of Chinese logic, Chinese science and Chinese technology the scientific understanding of reality is always connected to human experiences as described on different but basically related levels. There is no reality which could not be experienced because there is always some method of cultivation and elevation of the human mind and human consciousness to a stage close and congenial to the reality of reality. Hence science having such a human phenomenological base is always related to the human person and is always intrinsic and integral to its human uses. Hence Chinese science and Chinese technology are not separable but instead very much united in their ontological considerations as well as in their relation to human subjectivity.

In the case of Western science, science tends to be developed independent- ly of considerations of human needs and human capacity of self-transforma- tion as well as independently of a holistic view of the nature of reality. It is not just reductionism, atomism but suspended subjectivity and an overextended sense of objectivity which have guided Western science to its powerful achievement of knowledge of the physical world and beyond. Although human experiences are important, it is the common factors or common denominators which makes experiences conceptually referential, transcending its immediacy of phenomenological closure. Not only scientific knowledge develops into systms of knowledge, the uses of systems of sciences for human purposes also develop into systems of technology and high technology. Western science and technology therefore thrived and continued to thrive because of their separation, not of their interlinking and intrinsic connection as in the case of China. Hence both science and technology in the Western cannot be said to be phenomenological . Their uses sometimes are above the best human interests and even sometimes create problems and difficulties for the human condition. In this sense we can see that Western science and technology can be non-humanistic and even can be anti-humanistic.

The important question is how we could define human and humanist uses of science and technology. The study of history and philosophy of Chinese science and technology could provide an illuminating answer. In this paper I shall discuss the case of Mobian logic and the case of chemistry of "liandan" in the works of Wei Boyang's CAN TONG Qi.

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