Wang Yangming on ‘Unquestioning Obedience’ and Epistemic Superiority

Philosophy East and West (forthcoming)


Within various contexts, such as politics and parenting, Confucianism has been criticized on the basis that it endorses ‘unquestioning obedience’ to authorities. In recent years, several philosophers have argued against this view by appealing to textual evidence from Classical Confucian philosophers. In this essay, I examine Wang Yangming’s views on this subject, arguing that Wang teaches that criticism of those who stand in a socially superior role relation is not only permitted, but encouraged. From this, I consider the implications that Wang’s analysis has for contemporary discussions of disagreement between epistemic superiors and inferiors and epistemic peerhood. I will argue that Wang’s position is much closer to the total evidence view than the preemptive view. Relatedly, I will suggest that Wang provides a novel proposal about how to recognise or disregard epistemic ‘superiors’, especially in the context of moral knowledge.

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Daryl Ooi
National University of Singapore

References found in this work

The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement.Thomas Kelly - 2005 - In Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Volume 1. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 167-196.
Moral Disagreement and Moral Skepticism.Katia Vavova - 2014 - Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1):302-333.
Experts and Peer Disagreement.Jennifer Lackey - 2018 - In Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Dani Rabinowitz (eds.), Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 228-245.
The Reflective Epistemic Renegade.Bryan Frances - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (2):419 - 463.

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