Passages from the recently excavated Guodian manuscripts bear a surprising resemblance to a position ascribed to Gaozi and his followers in the Mengzi at 6A4-5, namely that righteousness is “external.” Although such a resemblance has been noted, the philosophical implications of it for the debate between Gaozi and Mengzi and, by extension, for Mengzian ethics have been largely unexplored. I argue that a Guodian-inspired reading of 6A4-5 is one that takes the debate to be about whether standing in certain family (...) relations makes a difference to whether one’s actions are righteous. Gaozi denies that it does, holding the view that one’s family relations, i.e., relations internal to the household, are irrelevant when it comes to matters of righteousness, while Mengzi disagrees, arguing that all relational properties, including family relations, are just as much reason-giving properties for performing righteous actions as they are in the case of performing benevolent actions. I argue that such a Guodian-based reading provides us a simple, yet explanatorily powerful reading of 6A4-5 that has broader implications for Mengzian ethics and our understanding of the early Chinese intellectual milieu in general. (shrink)
Franklin Perkins' newest book is written for a general audience with little or no background in the Chinese intellectual tradition and it purports to introduce readers to the philosophical views of the third century BCE Confucian thinker Mengzi.
Many anglophone scholars take the early Confucians to be virtue ethicists of one kind or another. A common virtue ethical reading of one of the most influential early Confucians, namely Mengzi, ascribes to him the view that moral actions are partly (or entirely) moral because of the state from which they are performed, be it the agent’s motives, emotions, or their character traits. I consider whether such a reading of the Mengzi is justified and I argue that it is not. (...) I argue that there is no reason to believe that Mengzi distinguishes the moral value of actions that are performed from virtuous and non-virtuous states. Given this, virtue (as a feature of agents) is normatively posterior to virtuous actions. I conclude, first, that this poses a challenge to a wide range of common interpretations of the Mengzi, be they virtue ethical or otherwise, and second, that there might be conceptual space for an account of virtue ethics that rejects the normative priority of virtue over virtuous actions. (shrink)
This chapter examines Mencius’s views on knowledge and how they might contribute to contemporary debates in epistemology. For this purpose, I focus on three features that I take to be characteristic (although not exhaustive) of Mencian epistemology: first, Mencius’s views on knowing things; second, the role that wisdom or intellectual virtue plays in acquiring knowledge; and third, Mencius’s views on “knowing-to”, a kind of knowledge conceptually distinct from knowing-that and knowing-how. I argue that the views we find in the Mencius (...) on these matters are relevant to contemporary debates on the nature of objectual knowledge, on the role of intellectual virtue in knowing, and on the relation between know-how and intelligent action. (shrink)
The Confucian philosopher Mengzi believes that ‘extending’ one's kindness facilitates one's moral development and that it is intimately tied to performing morally good actions. Most interpreters have taken Mengzian kindness to be an emotional state, with the extension of kindness to centrally involve feeling kindness towards more people or in a greater number of situations. I argue that kindness cannot do all the theoretical work that Mengzi wants it to do if it is interpreted as an emotion. I submit that (...) Mengzi's notion of extending kindness is best understood as the exercise of a capacity for intelligently performing kind actions. (shrink)
This article explores Mencius’s virtue-oriented ethics and its metaphysical foundation for resources they can provide to transgenerational communities. Mencius’s ethics offers moral norms for human actions that transcend those generations with whom they can interact and impact generations of people in the future. These actions range from the preservation of traditional values to the challenges of climate change, offering grounds for transgenerational justice. Mencius’s account of virtues offers a moral justification for the standards of living that are common to all (...) human beings, justifying their entitlements to certain economic, social, cultural, and environmental conditions for the cultivation of moral virtues that perfect human nature. Due to his view that the metaphysics of human nature also governs the cosmic world, the virtues that govern good human relationships will also protect the world’s natural resources, regardless of whether someone subscribes to a Confucian community. (shrink)
El concepto de dignidad humana ha sido considerado o demasiado denso o demasiado delgado. Sin embargo, desde el punto de vista del no-positivismo, la normatividad jurídica de la dignidad humana puede ser justificada y reforzada por medio de su corrección moral. Desde una perspectiva individual, la comprensión de Mencio sobre la dignidad humana como un valor intrínseco y el imperativo categórico de Kant (el ser humano como un fin en sí mismo) podrían ser adecuadamente comprendidos con base en la diferencia (...) (así como la conexión) entre el principium diiudicationis y el principium executionis, entre voluntad y “elección”; así como entre homo phaenomenon y homo noumenon (es decir, humanidad en la persona de los seres humanos). Desde una perspectiva social, las dimensiones del individuo y la persona social son construcciones ficticias; inclusive Radbruch -alguna vez defensor del derecho social- no remplazó el concepto de “persona jurídica” y, en el periodo de posguerra, reconoció la dignidad humana individual como el criterio para aplicar su famosa “fórmula de Radbruch". Por una parte, la dignidad humana muestra cuando menos un carácter normativo débil, el cual requiere, primero, ponderar entre el ejercicio de los poderes estatales y el control de constitucionalidad bajo la guía de la dimensión dual del ser humano y, segundo, la optimización del principio de la dignidad humana en casos particulares. Por otra, a través de la conexión necesaria entre el concepto de dignidad y personalidad, la dignidad humana puede exhibir un carácter normativo fuerte, el cual requiere inevitablemente una justificación metafísica. (shrink)
The reactive attitude of ‘resentment’ has been gaining increasing attention within contemporary philosophical literature. However, little attention has been given to the conceptions of resentment in Asian philosophy. In recent years, some philosophers have argued that there is a positive account of resentment in Confucian philosophy. This paper brings a recent Mencian account of resentment in conversation with contemporary philosophical discussions. The conversations revolve around aspects of resentment such as exculpatory conditions, payback, transition, and moral cultivation. The conversation not only (...) adds clarity to the Mencian account, it also demonstrates potential contributions this account has to contemporary discussions on resentment. (shrink)
Mencius, referred to as second sage in Chinese philosophy history, grounds his theory about original goodness of human nature on psychological components by bringing in something new down ancient ages. Including the principles of virtuous action associated with Confucius to his doctrine, but by composing them along psychosocial development, he theorizes utterly out of the ordinary that makes all the difference to the school. In his argument stated a positive opinion, he explains the method of forming individuals' moral awareness by (...) means of inseparable integrity of feelings and thoughts, saying human being are born innately good. According to Mencius, heart-mind correlation is the motivational complement of inner incentives. Knowledge and virtue, which are extensions of inborn goodness, comprehended intuitively; then affective motives respond to circumstance, what is learned transmits to cognitive process and eventually behavior emerges. Comparing during the years of Warring State period he lived, in western geography Aristotle, who is one of the pioneers of Greek philosophy, argues deductive and inductive methods in mental activity. On the other hand, Mencius uses analogical reasoning throughout his self-titled work. This essay is an attempt to assert that most postulates of developmental theories, which have been considered an integral part of modern psychology, begin with Mencius in early era. Secondly, this study also aims to discuss the main paradigm of Mencius across emotivist-rationalist opposition, which keeps emotion above thought as well as reason above emotion. (shrink)
This chapter explores Mencius’s view on the kind of effort that is needed to attain a state in which one is fixated on propriety. In Mencius 2A:2, Mencius claims that he attained the unmoved xin 心 (heart/mind) at the age of forty. Very roughly, we may understand the unmoved xin as a state in which xin is fixated on propriety. That Mencius attained the unmoved xin only when he was forty suggests that xin’s fixation on propriety is not a given (...) state. In the following, I will discuss why, in Mencius’s view, xin is not by default in the unmoved state. Once we have a better understanding of what the obstacle is, we can better understand what needs to be done to attain the unmoved xin. (shrink)
When studying historical thinkers, it helps enormously to know on which issues they had philosophically systematic views. For example, if attributing to Mencius the view that all existence is process-like rather than substance-like, it is very useful to know whether Mencius had philosophically systematic views about the (process-like or substance-like) nature of existence in the first place, or whether speculation about this particular issue is more constructive on the part of interpreters. In this paper, I offer a rough-and-ready account of (...) philosophical systematicity, talk about what would count as evidence of this sort of systematicity, and what implications it should have for one's interpretation if one can or cannot provide such evidence. The historical tradition that I am most concerned with is the pre-modern Chinese one, but my conclusions should hold for philosophical interpretations of thinkers of most times and traditions. (shrink)
In this chapter I give an account of the epistemology underlying the concept of “extension” in the Mengzi, an early Confucian text written in the fourth century BCE. Mengzi suggests in a conversation with King Xuan of Qi that a solution to the King’s problem of how one comes to act in a kingly manner is that one engages in “extension”. I argue that a long-standing scholarly debate on the exact nature of Mengzian “extension” can be resolved by closely investigating (...) the epistemological assumptions that must be in place for “extension” to be a viable solution to King Xuan’s problem. More specifically, my argument is that knowledge of a certain kind, namely knowing-to, is both necessary and sufficient for extension to take place. In other words, for a person S to extend X, where X is a capacity for action, S at least needs to have knowing-to. (shrink)
This article reconstructs grounds for Mengzi's view that moral self-cultivation, or the process of "nourishing the heart" (yangxin 養心), depends largely on minimizing the desires of the senses. I argue that these desires are detrimental for the growth of the heart in two different ways: directly, by distorting or desensitizing the heart's moral perception, and indirectly, by depriving it of its nutrients, that is, of the exercise of moral actions.
It is widely accepted among Mencius scholars that for Mencius, the junzi 君子 is the kind of person who accepts Heaven’s will and never resents Heaven. There are, however, several passages where resentment seems to be presented as a quality that the junzi possesses. In particular, Mencius 2B13 has been the subject of much contention. In Section 1, I will discuss various interpretations of 2B13, building on and updating Philip Ivanhoe’s helpful 1988 survey. In Section 2, I will present an (...) argument for resentment against Heaven in the Mencius. I argue from passages in the Mencius and its relationship with the Shijing 詩經 that we have good reason to think that, under certain circumstances, the junzi ought to resent Heaven. In Section 3, I will develop a theory of resentment from the Mencius and demonstrate how 2B13 can be understood in the larger context of this theory. (shrink)
This article analyzes Mencius 7B.23, a concise passage that offers complex ethical dilemmas. It provides a close reading of the passage, along with relevant passages elsewhere in the text and, occasionally, in other texts. The narrow goal of the article is to present a coherent reading of the passage within the context of the Mencius as a whole. This reading suggests that while the passage touches upon a wide range of topics, including personal credibility and political responsibility, the overarching concern (...) is on being a morally superior person, on the difficult dilemmas such people may face, and on how they would respond to them. More broadly, the article shows that while the philosophical practice of "weighing circumstances" (quan 權) allows moral agents in exceptional cases to break certain moral or ritual rules, Mencius seems unwilling to apply this discretion when morality as a whole, or the integrity of the person who embodies it (shi 士), are involved. (shrink)
Totalitarianism is perhaps unanimously regarded as one of the greatest political evils of the last century and has been the grounds for much of Anglo-American political theory since. Confucianism, meanwhile, has been gaining credibility in the past decades among sympathizers of democratic theory in spite of criticisms of it being anti-democratic or authoritarian. I consider how certain key concepts in the classical Confucian texts of the Mencius and the Xunzi might or might not be appropriated for ‘legitimising’ totalitarian regimes. Under (...) an Arendtian approach to understanding totalitarianism, it is precisely an unproblematised relation to a normative History and Nature that underlies the potential compatibility or incompatibility. I argue against a longstanding prejudice that if any form of Confucianism would be totalitarian, it would have to be Xunzian. Against this, I hope to show that if any form of Confucianism would be totalitarian, it might well be a naturalistic Mencian Confucianism instead of a constructivist Xunzian one. (shrink)
「不動心」的本質是甚麼？ ─《孟子》〈知言養氣章〉的文理與義理 / 漢學研究 39.2 (2021): 1-37. Scholars have tended to focus on the implications of such philosophical terms as “flood-like qi” 浩然之氣 and “unperturbed mind-heart” 不動心 in Mencius 2A:2, but have failed to identify the common thread of this rather long chapter. This article argues that Mencius 2A:2 frequently alludes to Analects 2.4, and that this allusion is precisely the common thread holding 2A:2 together. According to Mencius’s interpretation, Confucius’s achievements in different ages as stated in Analects 2.4 are (...) all related to the political consideration of whether one ought to remain in a state and serve as its minister. In light of this, and with the support of other evidence from within the Mencius, it is argued that the question “would your mind-heart be perturbed?” at the beginning of the chapter can only mean “would your intention of leaving Qi 齊 be shaken by the fact that you had been appointed as its minister?” but not “would your intention of putting the Way into practice be shaken,” as suggested by Zhao Qi 趙岐 (?-210). Furthermore, it is shown that after the death of Mencius, his act of valor, namely leaving Qi despite having already been appointed as a Qi minister, had become a shared cultural memory of early Chinese intellectuals. Whenever mentioning “unperturbed mind-heart” in their works, early intellectuals consistently evoked Mencius’s unmoved determination to reject any inappropriate political appointment even though the position could bring them fame and material comfort. The rise of Zhao Qi’s misreading in his commentary to Mencius, however, has led to the loss of this cultural memory. -/- . (shrink)
In this paper, we elucidate the moral psychology and what we might call the moral sociology of Mencius and of Hume, and we argue for three claims. First, we demonstrate that there are strong similarities between Mencius and Hume concerning some of the principal psychological sources of the virtue of humanity. Second, we show that there are strong similarities between the two concerning some of the principal social sources of the virtue of humanity. Third, we argue that there are related, (...) though weaker, similarities between Mencius and Hume concerning some of the principal cognitive sources of the virtue of humanity. We conclude by suggesting that the number and nature of these similarities demonstrate the need for future research on the conceptual connections between Confucian and Humean moral philosophy, especially on the psychological and social sources of benevolent moral development. (shrink)
Amy Olberding, The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2019, 183pp., $29.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780190880965. Reviewed byAndrew Lambert, City University of New York, College of Staten Island.
The question of possible moral conflict between commitment to family and to impartiality is particularly relevant to traditional Confucian thought, given the importance of familial bonds in that tradition. Classical Confucian ethics also appears to lack any developed theoretical commitment to impartiality as a regulative ideal and a standpoint for ethical judgment, or to universal equality. The Confucian prioritizing of family has prompted criticism of Confucian ethics, and doubts about its continuing relevance in China and beyond. This chapter assesses how (...) those sympathetic to the Confucian vision of the good life might respond. It first explores Confucian conceptions of love and the importance of familial love. Next, problems arising from this commitment to partiality are discussed, and how a modern Confucian ethics might respond. I explore what notions of impartiality—understood largely pragmatically, as a value that functions in everyday social life rather than as an explicit moral principle that guides deliberation or judgment—can be derived from an ethics that focuses on family commitments. (shrink)
Anecdotes play an important role in ancient Chinese philosophical writings. This essay offers a close reading of one anecdote in the Mencius, one of the most influential Confucian texts. This reading provides insight into what it means, according to Mencius, to be a morally superior human being. The goal of this essay is to provide insight into the ethical and political philosophy of Mencius and, more broadly, to provide a guideline for reading Chinese philosophical writings in an attentive and receptive (...) manner. (shrink)
Because Mencius’s condemnation is equivalent to condemnation of ethical egoism, Mencius’s condemnation of Yang Zhu has something to say about the fight against COVID-19. There are measures, imposed by government, to fight the virus and defiance against these measures is condemned as selfish. In other words, Mencius’s condemnation of Yang Zhu could be said to be saying that the defiance is to be condemned as selfish.
Anthony C. Yu, Carl Buck Distinguished Professor in Humanities, Chairman, Division of East Asian Languages, University of Chicago, Divinity School, writes: "Robert Allinson's book represents tremendous thoughtfulness, originality, and erudition. Its wide-ranging and lucid discussions cover a huge terrain, from ancient metaphysics to quantum mechanics. The enlistment of certain classical Confucian concepts and themes at critical junctures to advance the book's argument also provides luminous comparison. His interpretation of the Confucian emphasis on life as social and self-preservation is both humane (...) and interesting, much as his analysis of the Mencian notion of compassion deserves our attention." This title was first published in 2002: In Space, Time and the Ethical Foundations ideas about space and time are developed, unique to the history of philosophy, that match the new physics. A well grounded metaphysics is presented which offers a safe haven between stifling scepticism and wild imagination, and an original philosophical method is demonstrated which sharply demarcates philosophy from the empirical sciences. A new foundation is laid for ethics by grounding ethics on the author's psycho-biological deduction of the emotions that offers a progressive model to replace the Freudian paradigm. An originally designed trans-cultural ethics, doubly grounded on both Eastern and Western thought, presents an antidote to the contemporary retreat into relativism. Insights from biology, psychology, evolutionary theory and ethics are brought together in a unique and fruitful synthesis. At the same time, human barbarisms such as the Holocaust are pointed to as reminders that there are just limits to compassion. This book presents a sophisticated text for metaphysics, epistemology and systematic ethics. (shrink)
As a 4th century BCE Confucian text, Mencius provides a rich reflection on moral emotions, such as empathy and compassion, and moral cultivation, which has drawn attention from scholars around the world. This two-part discussion dwells on the idea of natural moral motivation expressed through the analogy of the four sprouts—particularly the sprout of ceyin zhixin (the heart of feelings others' distress)—as the starting point, the focus, and the drive of moral cultivation. In this paper, Part 1, I stress the (...) importance of holding an integrated view of the sprouts as consisting of three components: cognitive, affective, and motivational. Through examining scholarly accounts that do not adhere to such a view, I demonstrate why the integrative perspective is necessary for understanding the dynamic nature of human moral potential and the centrality of moral cultivation in Mencian ethics. (shrink)
Mengzi maintained that both benevolence (ren 仁) and rightness (yi 義) are naturally-given in human nature. This view has occupied a dominant place in Confucian intellectual history. In Mencius 6A, Mengzi's interlocutor, Gaozi, contests this view, arguing that rightness is determined by (doing what is fitting, in line with) external circumstances. I discuss here some passages from the excavated Guodian texts, which lend weight to Gaozi's view. The texts reveal nuanced considerations of relational proximity and its limits, setting up requirements (...) for moral action in scenarios where relational ties do not play a motivational role. I set out yi's complexity in these discussions, highlighting its implications for (i) the nei-wai debate; (ii) the notion of yi as "rightness," or doing the right thing; and (iii) how we can understand the connection between virtue and right action in these early Confucian debates. This material from the excavated texts not only provides new perspectives on a longstanding investigation of human nature and morality, it also challenges prevailing views on Warring States Confucian intellectual history. In the well-known debate between Mengzi and Gaozi in Mencius 6A, Mengzi maintained that both ren and yi are naturally-given 1 in human nature. The figure 1 To say that ren and yi are naturally-given is not to say that they are fully-developed from the start. I use the phrase "naturally-given" throughout the paper to indicate where a particular capacity or resource (ren or yi) may be found, rather than its final polished state. (shrink)
The term bu ren 不忍, which may be loosely translated as "cannot bear to harm others," does not occur frequently in the Mencius. However, the passages where the term does occur are ones that are crucial to our understanding of Mencius' thought. In one of the key passages, 1A:7, Mencius uses the example of King Xuan of Qi 齊宣王 having the heart/mind of bu ren for an ox to show that he has the kind of heart/mind that enables him to (...) be a true king. The context of the story is this: King Xuan asks Mencius whether he is capable of protecting his people and being a true king. Mencius reminds the king of an incident where the king spared an ox that is about to be killed for consecrating a bell because the king bu ren to see... (shrink)
Early Chinese texts make us witnesses to debates about the power, or lack thereof, that humans had over the course of events, the outcomes of their actions, and their own lives. In the midst of these discourses on the limits of the efficacy of human agency, the notion of ming 命 took a central position. In this article, I present a common pattern of thinking about the relationship between the person and the world in early China. I call it the (...) reifying pattern because it consisted in thinking about ming as a hypostasized entity with object-like features. Although external and independent, ming was not endowed with human qualities such as the capacities for empathy, responsivity, and intersubjectivity. The reification of fate implied an understanding of ming as an external, amoral, and determining force that limited humans without accepting intercommunication with them, thereby causing feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and existential incompetence. I first show that the different meanings of ming hold a sense of prevailing external reality, and hence can be connected to the overarching meaning of fate. Then, I offer an account of the process of reification of fate in early China and its consequences, theoretical and practical, through cases study of received (Mengzi 孟子) and found (Tang Yu zhi dao 唐虞之道) texts. I end with some reflections on the implications of ming as a nonpersonal and nonsubjective type of actor for both early Chinese and twenty-first-century accounts of agency. (shrink)
Mengzi (372–289 BCE), or Mencius, an early Confucian whose thinking is represented in the eponymous Mengzi, argues that human nature is good and that all human beings possess four senses—the feelings of compassion, shame, respect, and the ability to approve and disapprove—which he variously calls “hearts” or “sprouts.” Each sprout may be cultivated into its corresponding virtue of ren, li, yi, or zhi. -/- Here we explore why Mengzi thinks we possess these four hearts and their relation to the cultivated (...) virtues. (shrink)
We explore the central analogy behind Mengzi’s view of ethical cultivation. -/- Philosophers sometimes ask what makes a person’s life worthwhile or what conditions make for a good life. Mengzi’s answer involves cultivating our innate moral senses into fully ripened virtues of ren (humaneness), yi (rightness), li (propriety), and zhi (wisdom). This cultivation neither is individualistic nor can it happen in isolation: it requires a lifetime of meaningful interactions with other people. In short, one’s ethical cultivation is interdependent with other (...) people, one’s social environment, and whether (and how well) one reflects on the stirrings of their sprouts and extends their previous moral behavior to the current situation. (shrink)
In this highly original work, Mathew A. Foust breaks new ground in comparative studies through his exploration of the connections between Confucianism and the American Transcendentalist and Pragmatist movements. In his examination of a broad range of philosophers, including Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Peirce, William James, and Josiah Royce, Foust traces direct lines of influence from early translations of Confucian texts and brings to light conceptual affinities that have been previously overlooked. Combining resources from (...) both traditions, Confucianism and American Philosophy offers fresh insights into contemporary problems and exemplifies the potential of cross-cultural dialogue in an increasingly pluralistic world. (shrink)
This essay offers an experimental interpretation for Mengzi’s 孟子 ren-yi 仁義 discourses, reading them as strategic prescriptions akin to those presented in classical strategic manuals. However, rather than arguing that it is the correct interpretation of Mengzi, I use it to highlight the ambiguity of Mengzi’s discourses. This ambiguity, I argue, motivated Zhuangzi’s 莊子 criticisms of moral language abuse and rationalizes some early narratives about Mengzi.
This is my contribution to a symposium on David Wong’s paper, “Early Confucian Philosophy and the Development of Compassion.” I simply grant Wong his reading of the relevant texts and consider the merits of the ideas about ethical development on their own terms. In particular, my aim is to see how fruitful these ideas might be in the contemporary philosophical landscape.
The concept of yu 欲 is an under-explored concept in the scholarship on early Confucianism. Perhaps due to the focus on the term “the yu of eyes and ears,” a common term in early Chinese philosophy denoting desires for sensual gratification, or on the Daoist stance on desires, many scholars tend to emphasize the negative and the hedonistic connotations of the term. For example, Chad Hansen notes that the early Confucians do not “make desires central in their account of human (...) guidance,”1 and that Confucius uses “desire” “more to describe dispositions that conflict with his favored dao.”2 In the same vein, when many scholars analyze Xunzi’s account of desires they focus on its... (shrink)
Mengzi 孟子 6A2 contains the famous water analogy for the innate goodness of human nature. Some evaluate Mengzi’s reasoning as strong and sophisticated; others, as weak or sophistical. I urge for more nuance in our evaluation. Mengzi’s reasoning fares poorly when judged by contemporary standards of analogical strength. However, if we evaluate the analogy as an instance of correlative thinking within a yin-yang 陰陽 cosmology, his reasoning fares well. That cosmology provides good reason to assert that water tends to flow (...) downward, not because of available empirical evidence, but because water correlates to yin and yin correlates to naturally downward motion. Substantiating these contentions also gives occasion to better understand the nature of correlative reasoning in classical Chinese philosophy. (shrink)
This article responds to a common criticism of Aristotelian naturalism known as the Pollyanna Problem, the objection that Aristotelian naturalism, when combined with recent empirical research, generates morally unacceptable conclusions. In developing a reply to this objection, I draw upon the conception of human nature developed by the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius, and build up an account of ethical naturalism that provides a satisfying response to the Pollyanna Problem while also preserving what is most attractive about Aristotelian naturalism.
ABSTRACTI suggest that Kierkegaard proves a helpful interlocutor in the debate about Analects 13.18 and the meaning of yin 隱. After surveying the contemporary debate, I argue that Kierkegaard and the Confucians agree on three important points. First, they both present relational selves. Second, both believe certain relationships are integral for moral knowledge. Third, both present a differentiated account of love where our obligations are highest to those with whom we are closest. Moreover, Kierkegaard’s ‘covering’ in the deliberation ‘Love covers (...) a multitude of sins’ in Works of Love of ‘covering’ suggests innovative meanings for yin 隱 that are compatible with Confucian philosophy. Finally, I argue that sagely discretion in covering on the Confucian account is like the teleological suspension of the ethical. (shrink)
In this paper I respond to criticisms from Jiyuan Yu, Yu Kam Por, and Daniel Bell on interpreting Confucian philosophy of harmony and on various views of harmony from Confucian, Greek, liberal and global perspectives.
This essay examines whether Confucian role ethics offers resources to identify and redress gender inequality and oppression. On its face, Confucian role ethics seems ill suited for this task for two reasons. First, a central tenet of role ethics is that a person is constituted by her roles. Because roles are constituted by norms that govern them, many social roles are, and have been, historically oppressive. Second, discussions of Confucian role ethics tend to avoid talk of autonomy, yet autonomy is (...) helpful in identifying and rectifying gender inequalities insofar as autonomy tracks the ways oppression disables individuals’ abilities to achieve personhood. My goal in this essay is to work... (shrink)
This article surveys recent scholarship on Confucian role ethics, examines some of its fundamental commitments, and suggests future directions for scholarship. Role ethics interprets early Confucianism as promoting a relational conception of persons and employs this conception to emphasize how a person's roles and relationships are the source of her ethical obligations and ethical growth. While there is much consensus among role ethic scholars, they disagree over the role of theory in further explicating the view and about the metaphysical basis (...) of relational persons. Strong and moderate versions of role ethics emerge, and the article explores the strengths and weaknesses of both. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIn this article, I shall briefly examine the basic characteristics of Confucian familial morality, especially of the concept of filial piety, and argue that ancient Confucians tend to be conservative on allowing breach of filial obligations although they may not entirely exclude particular considerations to exceptional situations to a certain degree. I shall then argue that this conservative aspect of the Confucian idea of filial piety accurately captures some distinctive features of familial relationships and may thus shed light on our (...) understanding of the ethical nature of human family life and our philosophical investigation of familial ethics. (shrink)
Appeals to human nature in normative inquiry have fallen out of favor among contemporary philosophers. There are a variety of reasons frequently cited by those who see appeals to human nature as deeply problematic: (a) that the notion of human nature, which conceives nature as having a teleological direction, is incompatible with evolutionary biology; (b) that the manifest diversity of cultural values and traditions falsify any essentialist claims involving a common nature necessarily shared by all humans; (c) that appeals to (...) human nature have been frequently employed throughout history to justify the oppression of women and other marginalized members of society; (d) that human nature, if seen as a descriptive account of how human beings naturally are, does not tell us anything about how we ought to be; and (e) that human nature, if seen as a normative account of how we ought to be, lacks explanatory power and cannot play any substantive role in moral inquiry. To fully defend the view that human nature has a substantive role to play in ethics, one would have to address at least each of these challenges. (For a response to such challenges, see Van Norden 2007, 341-50.) Such a defense is not the aim of this essay. Instead, I want to focus on the following question: Are there any good reasons to think that an account of human nature is indispensable for moral inquiry, here conceived as the systematic exploration of the nature of and the connections between such significant moral concepts as practical reason, virtue, and wellbeing? (shrink)
The role dilemma raises a problem for role ethic interpretations of Confucianism. The dilemma arises from the conflict between the demands and obligations of Humaneness and the demands and obligations of roles one occupies. Favoring the demands of Humaneness undermines a role ethic because roles and role-obligations no longer ground the ethic. However, favoring social role-obligations permits immoral and unjust role-obligations and allows for uncharitable readings of Confucianism.This paper examines how Mengzi resolves the dilemma. I argue that Mengzi’s account of (...) human nature privileges the demands of Humaneness; social roles are central but defeasible in light of Humaneness. I briefly discuss a prominent articulation of Confucian role ethics as well as the role dilemma. Then, after considering the technical resources within the Mengzi, I argue that Mengzi espouses an externalism about roles. Finally, I explore the relationship between Mengzi’s externalism and role e.. (shrink)
I examine the role moral reasons play in the Mengzi and their relationship to Mengzi's conception of wisdom. Some commentators have argued that agency in early Chinese thought is best characterized as performance based rather than deliberation based. I propose that Mengzi's conception of agency is both performative and deliberative because he understands wisdom as a sort of expert decision making. Consequently, Mengzi relies on moral reasons of two sorts. First, duan-reasons are reasons to act so as to overcome internal (...) obstacles to action and, second, renyi-reasons are reasons to act so as to achieve a goal that constitutes moral success. (shrink)