Feng Shui, Science, and Politics in Contemporary China

  • Michael R. Matthews
Part of the Science: Philosophy, History and Education book series (SPHE)


The modernization of thought called for by contemporary Chinese scholars echoes the Enlightenment project launched in Europe in the eighteenth century. ‘Modernization’ means recognizing and engaging with the core political (universal rights, anti-absolutism, freedom of speech, and assembly), philosophical (primacy of reason, autonomy of philosophical investigation, and its freedom from religious, party, or state oversight), and scientific (primacy of observation, experimental testing, and commitment to methodological naturalism) arguments advanced by the Enlightenment thinkers. The Enlightenment took different forms in different national contexts, and so it did, and will do, in China. The task of ‘cultural self-consciousness’, as outlined by so many Chinese progressives, is an educational project that requires science-informed historical and philosophical input. Since the late nineteenth century, there has been a constant scientific liberal, dissenting thread in Chinese culture. This was proclaimed on banners of the May Fourth Movement and its promotion of ‘Mr Science’ and ‘Mr Democracy’. The philosophical/political backdrop to the history of science and dissent in China is the adoption of Marxism as the official philosophy of the People’s Republic of China. As an example of the new normalcy of feng shui in ‘Communist’ China, the China Architectural Culture Center held the first summit on architectural feng shui in the Great Hall of the People in September 2004. On the other hand, there have been calls from some academics to have feng shui university courses shut down. These ‘public sphere’ debates can be an occasion for science teachers to encourage discussion and examination of the basic issues in philosophy of science that the debates are predicated upon: What is science? What is scientific method? What counts as evidence for a theory? What is the difference between proactively and reactively seeking evidence for a theory? What is the legitimate and the illegitimate role of metaphysics in science? Can pseudoscience be identified and demarcated from science?


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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