22 Sep: ZHAO Tingyang (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing): “The maze of Tianxia--all-under-heaven”

20 Oct, 2 pm: Stephen Angle (Wesleyan university, Middletown, CT): “The Limits of Tianxia”

17 Nov, 2 pm: Georg Stenger (University of Vienna): „Some phenomenologically instructed requests to Zhao Tingyang's concept of Tianxia“

„Some phenomenologically instructed requests to Zhao Tingyang's concept of ‚Tianxia’“

Univ.-Prof. Dr Georg Stenger (University of Vienna)


In my contribution, I would like to go into more detail on some of the prerequisites, basic terms and forms of understanding that my colleague Prof. Zhao Tingyang developed using the time-honoured "Tanxia" concept. Above all, I would like to emphasize that Zhao's analyzes make an important contribution to the question of our understanding of the "world" insofar as it is global and system-wide. However, whether and to what extent this global approach does not itself represent a renewed infusion of a "universalization of particularity" is to be explained in more detail with my inquiries, which tend more or rudimentary towards "intercultural" and "post- and decolonial" questions.


Inspired by the phenomenological research tradition, my analyzes are primarily aimed at the respective constitutional processes that can show "how something becomes what" as what it can be understood and is able to convince in the first place. To this end, I would like to critically question the following problem areas addressed by Zhao Tingyang:

1) What does "methodology" mean when "Tianxia" – the topic or subject of the research itself - is used "as methodology"?

2) How do "the order of coexistential" and "relational rationality" relate to each other?

3) Who is speaking and from what location when a “world without an outside” is presupposed?

4) How does the inner structure of a "system logic" assumed throughout the book relate to those parameters "mutual benefit" on the one hand and "virtue" on the other hand, which are said to be dependent on "mutual rescue"?

5) How does the “one world”- approach with its inclusion paradigm relate to that aspect of the “diversity of the world” resp. of the worlds" to each other, which as such should be "protected"?

6) If the "Tianxia" term - however traditional - has already produced those great concepts of Daoism, Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism and others that have established themselves primarily in China - especially with regard to their different ways, nuances, systematics, historical Formations, etc. - what should then be special about the author's approach - unless he merely reports on a history of thought and life in China that wants to be understood as "all-encompassing"? In other words, what is the key to propagating “the world as a political subject” (cf. Introduction, Chapter 1), in which not only ethos and ethics, custom and morals, individuals, families, clans, countries, etc. are taken into account? Where are the “rights” of the individual and the citizen, which, as we know at least since H. Arendt, are the first to (co-)found and concretely implement the “political space”? The “entitlement to rights” makes people human, very concrete, real. As important as “rites” are, which are constitutively inscribed in every legal procedure and thereby draw attention to the necessary mutually owed and shown respect, they still prove to be life-world “dwellings” of previous or future legal claims. Generally speaking: "Harmony" necessarily requires "disharmony" in order to be able to create "becoming" from "mere being".

The topos of a new "world politics" often used by Zhao could, in contrast to its sole return to the venerable "Tianxia", lead to what I believe to be a deeper challenge, according to which the respective claims of the different worlds of thought and life become aware of each other. A future world policy would then not only have to take a much stronger look at the sometimes very different self-images and the concepts associated with them, it would also result in the intercultural approaches and, as a result, post- and decolonial forms of thought and theories mentioned at the beginning . Not to mention that the comprehensive concept of "nature" required a readjustment of the connection between culture, nature and humanity, if only because of the impending "climate catastrophe".



15 Dec, 2 pm: Aurélie Névot (CNRS, linCS, Paris): „From tianxia to tianxia-ism“