What is knowledge, why is it valuable, and how might it be cultivated? Barry Allen
's new book carefully considers the problem of knowledge in a range of Chinese philosophical discourses, creating a stimulating cross-disciplinary dialogue that's as much of a pleasure to read as it will be to teach with. Taking on the work of Confucians, Daoists, military theorists, Chan Buddhists, Neo-Confucian philosophers, and others, Vanishing into Things: Knowledge in Chinese Tradition
(Harvard University Press, 2015) looks at the common threads and important differences in the ways that scholars have attempted to conceptualize and articulate what it is to be a knowing being in the world. Some of the major themes that recur throughout the work include the nature of non-action and emptiness, the relationship between knowledge and scholarship, the possibility of Chinese epistemologies and empiricisms, and the importance of artifice. Allen pays special attention to the ways that these scholars relate knowledge to a fluid conception of "things" that can be "completed" or "vanished into" by the knower, and to their understanding of things as parts of a collective economy of human and non-human relationships. The book does an excellent job of maintaining its focus on Chinese texts and contexts while making use of comparative cases from Anglophone and European-language philosophy that brings Chinese scholars into conversation with Nietzsche, Latour, Deleuze and Guattari, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and beyond.