Skip to main content
Review of Ziporyn, Ironies and Beyond Oneness
Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy (2015)
  • Stephen C. Angle, Wesleyan University
Near the end of the second volume of the two books under review (hereafter referred to as Ironies and Beyond Oneness), Brook Ziporyn says that his goal has been to provide the power to think a greater number of more greatly differing thoughts.... Truth is important, but it is important only because it makes things so much more interesting(2/314). No one who reads these books with any charity can deny that he has achieved this goalin fact, far exceeded it. Ziporyn takes on the deepest issues and most difficult texts from a millennium and a half of Chinese thinking, and offers exciting new ways to make sense of both individual texts and the traditions broader concerns. At the core of his account is an idea he labels coherence,a category he argues is fundamental in most Chinese thought, and from which sameness and difference are negotiable, non-ultimate derivatives(2/2). The term most often used to express coherence, especially in post-Han dynasty texts, is li . The fact that li is more prominent in later texts allows Ziporyn to divide his story into two volumes: the first looks at the idea of coherence as it emerges in Warring States and Han texts, with only tangential attention to li; the second recenters the discussion around li, repeating only a little of the ground covered in the first book as it focuses primarily on WANG Bi , GUO Xiang , and both Huayan and Tiantai Buddhism. Each book can thus be read independently; read together, the argument for the pervasiveness and complex- ity of perspectives on coherenceand for seeing Chinese Buddhism as in many ways continuous with and further developing themes in indigenous Chinese thinkingis extremely powerful. Whether read separately or together, these two volumes are among the most provocative and tightly-argued works on Chinese philosophy to appear in many years, and richly repay the effort it takes to learn to see through the lens of coherence. 
  • China
Publication Date
January, 2015
Citation Information
Stephen C. Angle. "Review of Ziporyn, Ironies and Beyond Oneness" Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy Vol. 4 (2015) ISSN: 1540-3009
Available at: