Austerity in Mohist ethics

Analysis 83 (3):483-492 (2023)
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Fraser highlights an unattractive feature of Mohist ethics: the Mohists, while criticizing their Confucian contemporaries, restrict one’s pursuits to the most basic sorts of goods. Fraser suggests that the Mohists assume the perpetuity of scarce resources, which leads to a commitment to austerity, which in turn leads them to deny a plausible third way between austerity and excess. In their defence, I argue that the Mohists do not assume perpetuity of scarce resources but rather the hedonic treadmill. And instead of begging the question by assuming austerity and then denying a moderate alternative to excess, the Mohists take the hedonic treadmill to preclude a principled stopgap between austerity and excess, leaving austerity as the only acceptable option. Finally, these dynamics illuminate a feature that should make us wary of parallels to Millian utilitarianism: the maximization principle of the latter is absent from Mohism, and this goes hand-in-hand with austerity.



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Bradford Jean-Hyuk Kim
University of Southampton

References found in this work

Later Mohist ethics and philosophical progress in ancient China.Daniel J. Stephens - 2021 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 29 (3):394-414.
Mohist Care.Dan Robins - 2012 - Philosophy East and West 62 (1):60-91.
Reconstructing Mozi's Jian'ai 兼愛.Back Youngsun - 2017 - Philosophy East and West 67 (4):1092-1117.
Is mo Tzu a utilitarian?Dennis M. Ahern - 1976 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 3 (2):185-193.

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