In this study, Olberding proposes a new theoretical model for reading the _Analects_. Her thesis is that the moral sensibility of the text derives from an effort to conceptually capture and articulate the features seen in exemplars, exemplars that are identified and admired pre-theoretically and thus prior to any conceptual criteria for virtue. Put simply, Olberding proposes an "origins myth" in which Confucius, already and prior to his philosophizing knows _whom _he judges to be virtuous. The work we see him (...) and the _Analects'_ authors pursuing is their effort to explain in an organized, generalized, and abstract way _why _pre-theoretically identified exemplars are virtuous. Moral reasoning here begins with people and with inchoate experiences of admiration for them. The conceptual work of the text reflects the attempt to analyze such people and parse such experiences in order to distill abstract qualities that account for virtue and can guide emulation. (shrink)
Being rude is often more gratifying and enjoyable than being polite. Likewise, rudeness can be a more accurate and powerful reflection of how I feel and think. This is especially true in a political environment that can make being polite seem foolish or naive. Civility and ordinary politeness are linked both to big values, such as respect and consideration, and to the fundamentally social nature of human beings. This book explores the powerful temptations to incivility and rudeness, but argues that (...) they should generally be resisted. Drawing on early Chinese philosophers who lived during great political turmoil but nonetheless sought to “mind their manners,” it articulates a way of thinking about politeness that is distinctively social. It takes as a given that we can feel profoundly alienated from others, and that other people can sometimes be truly terrible. Yet because we are social neglecting the social and political courtesies comes at great cost. The book considers not simply why civility and politeness are important, but how. It addresses how small insults can damage social relations, how separation of people into tribes undermines our better interests, and explores how bodily and facial expressions can influence how life with other people goes. It is especially geared toward anyone who feels the temptation of being rude and wishes it were easier to feel otherwise. It seeks to answer a question of great contemporary urgency: When so much of public and social life with others is painful and fractious, why should I be polite? (shrink)
The early Confucians recognize that the exchanges and experiences of quotidian life profoundly shape moral attitudes, moral self-understanding, and our prospects for robust moral community. Confucian etiquette aims to provide a form of moral training that can render learners equal to the moral work of ordinary life, inculcating appropriate cognitive-emotional dispositions, as well as honing social perception and bodily expression. In both their astute attention to prosaic behavior and the techniques they suggest for managing it, I argue, the Confucians afford (...) a model useful for appropriation in contemporary efforts to address small but potent moral harms such as microinequities. (shrink)
The Analects appears to offer two bodies of testimony regarding the felt, experiential qualities of leading a life of virtue. In its ostensible record of Confucius’ more abstract and reflective claims, the text appears to suggest that virtue has considerable power to afford joy and insulate from sorrow. In the text’s inclusion of Confucius’ less studied and apparently more spontaneous remarks, however, he appears sometimes to complain of the life he leads, to feel its sorrows, and to possess some despair. (...) Where we attend to both of these elements of the text, a tension emerges. In this essay, I consider how Confucius’ complaints appear to complicate any clean conclusion that Confucius wins a good life, particularly where we attend to important pre-theoretical sensibilities regarding what a “good life” ought to include and how it ought to feel for the one who leads it. (shrink)
My purpose in this essay is to suggest, via case study, that if Anglo-American philosophy is to become more inclusive of non-western traditions, the discipline requires far greater efforts at self-scrutiny. I begin with the premise that Confucian ethical treatments of manners afford unique and distinctive arguments from which moral philosophy might profit, then seek to show why receptivity to these arguments will be low. I examine how ordinary good manners have largely fallen out of philosophical moral discourse in the (...) west, looking specifically at three areas: conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries that depressed philosophical attention to manners; discourse conventions in contemporary philosophy that privilege modes of analysis not well fitted to close scrutiny of manners; and a philosophical culture that implicitly encourages indifference or even antipathy toward polite conduct. I argue that these three areas function in effect to render contemporary discourse inhospitable to greater inclusivity where Confucianism is concerned and thus, more broadly, that greater self-scrutiny regarding unexamined, parochial western commitments and practices is necessary for genuine inclusivity. (shrink)
The Zhuangzi offers two apparently incompatible models of bereavement. Zhuangzi sometimes suggests that the sage will greet loss with unfractured equanimity and even aplomb. However, upon the death of his own wife, Zhuangzi evinces a sorrow that, albeit brief, fits ill with this suggestion. In this essay, I contend that the grief that Zhuangzi displays at his wifeâs death better honors wider values averred elsewhere in the text and, more generally, that a sage who retains a capacity for sorrow will (...) be better positioned for the robust joy so often identified as central to the Zhuangziâs vision of flourishing. The sagely figures who entirely forego sorrow, I argue, achieve equanimity only through a sacrifice of the emotional range and responsiveness necessary not only for grief but also for the delight Zhuangzi recommends. (shrink)
Etiquette writer Judith Martin is frequently faced with “etiquette skeptics,” interlocutors who protest not simply that this or that rule of etiquette is problematic but complain that etiquette itself, qua a system of conventional norms for human conduct and communication, is objectionable. While etiquette skeptics come in a variety of forms, one of the most frequent skeptical complaints is that etiquette is artificial.The worries Martin canvasses are frequently also raised in more philosophical work as reasons to doubt the moral significance (...) of etiquette. See, e.g., Sarah Buss, “Appearing Respectful: The Moral Significance of Manners”, Ethics 109.4 : 795–826; Nancy Sherman, “The Look and Feel of Virtue”, in Christopher Gill, ed., Virtue, Norms, and Objectivity: Issues in Ancient and Modern Ethics ; and Karen Stohr, On Manners , especially Chapter 1. “Artificial” typically operates in this context as a catch-all te .. (shrink)
Exemplars clearly play a significant role in the ethical vision of the Analects. However, while they are often treated as illustrations of the text’s more abstract ethical commitments, I argue that they are better understood to source those commitments. Such is to say that the conceptual schemata of the Analects – its account of human flourishing, the specific virtues it recommends, and its suggested path for self cultivation – originate in the people the text so vividly describes, in the unmediated (...) experiences of admiration and appreciation that these figures inspire. Theory is here an attempt to take our responses to exemplars and query just why we admire them, lifting from the examples they provide more general observations about virtue. Drawing on Linda Zagzebski’s’s recent work, I argue that there are both sound textual reasons and important prudential reasons to treat the Analects as exemplarist virtue ethic. (shrink)
One of the central pedagogical strategies employed in the "Analects" consists in the suggestion of models worthy of emulation. The text's most robust models, the dramatic personae of the text, emerge as colorful figures with distinctive personal styles of action and behavior. This is especially so in the case of Confucius himself. In this essay, two particularly notable features of Confucius' style are considered. The first, what is termed "everyday" style, consists in Confucius' unusual command of conventional norms in ordinary (...) circumstances; the second, termed "deviant" style, consists in Confucius' occasional and sometimes puzzling departures from conventional norms. The combind effect of these two aspects of Confucius' personal style is shown to yield a productive pedagogical tension for the moral learner who would emulate, but cannot imitate, Confucius. (shrink)
Mundane and often subtle forms of bias generate harms that can be fruitfully understood as akin to the harms evident in rudeness. Although subclinical expressions of bias are not mere rudeness, like rudeness they often manifest through the breach of mannerly norms for social cooperation and collaboration. At a basic level, the perceived harm of mundane forms of bias often has much to do with feeling oneself unjustly or arbitrarily cut out of a group, a group that cooperates and collaborates (...) but does not do so with me. Appealing to the subtle but familiar choreography of mannered social interaction, I argue, makes it easier to recognize how exclusion can be accomplished through slight but symbolically significant gestures and styles of interaction, where bias manifests not in announced hostility but in an absence of the cooperation and collaboration upon which we rely socially. (shrink)
The moral vision of the "Analects" notably includes among our moral responsibilities the need to style behavior such that the propriety of one's dispositions is evident in one's manner and demeanor. While the sage effortlessly fulfills this responsibility, the moral learner must actively strive to shape her demeanor and manner. This essay considers her resources for doing so where becoming effortlessly sagely is a distant, if not unreachable, possibility. While the "Analects" clearly proffers the li as the principal mechanism for (...) developing an appropriate style, the models provided by Zigong and Zilu, two of the text's most vividly depicted moral learners, demonstrate what an improvement in the domain of style requires and significantly indicate an account of moral style in which formal propriety must be vouchsafed by the personally revelatory. (shrink)
Confucian resources for moral discourse and public policy concerning abortion have potential to broaden the prevailing forms of debate in Western societies. However, what form a Confucian contribution might take is itself debatable. This essay provides a critique of Philip J. Ivanhoe’s recent proposal for a Confucian account of abortion. I contend that Ivanhoe’s approach is neither particularly Confucian, nor viable as effective and humane public policy. Affirmatively, I argue that a Confucian approach to abortion will assiduously root moral consideration (...) and public policy in evidence-based strategies that recognize the complexity of the phenomena of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. What most distinguishes a Confucian approach, I argue, is a refusal to treat abortion as a moral dilemma that stands free of the myriad social conditions and societal inequities in which empirical evidence shows it situates. (shrink)
Chapter 2 History and Formation of the Analects Tae Hyun Kim and Mark Csikszentmihalyi It is possible, of course, to pick up and read the Analects without concern for its pedigree, historical significance, or authorship.1 Pithy and sometimes ...
: Throughout the Analects, Confucius describes the capacity for grief as an ethically valuable trait. Here his own display of grief at the premature death of his beloved student Yan Hui is investigated as a model of the meaning and significance of grief in a flourishing life. This display, it is argued, provides a valuable portrait, in situ, of the specific species of grief that Confucius sanctions and encourages. It likewise makes clear the role played by vulnerability to injury in (...) the articulation of well-being and value. (shrink)
In this essay, we describe practices developed by the philosophy department at the University of Oklahoma to promote fair and inclusive recruitment, application review, and hiring for faculty positions.
In this essay, I consider the philosophical purposes served by Seneca’s insistently violent imagery and argue that Seneca appears to provide what I term an “erotica of death.” In the Roman context, a context in which violence and violent death are regular features of popular entertainment, there is a worry that Seneca’s vivid depictions of violent death can only aim at eliciting more of the intoxicating pleasure Romans derived from their spectacles. However, where the spectacle features as a species of (...) death denial, a “pornography” in which death is stripped of its emotive and symbolic content, Seneca provides an “erotica” in which raw physical detail serves to announce and evoke emotive responses to death. He thus works against the Roman taboo on expressing fear and the equation of fear with cowardice in order to court the dismay and disgust necessary as a precondition for a robust therapy for death anxiety. (shrink)
This essay elaborates on my essay, “Confucius’ Complaints and the Analects’ Account of the Good Life,” responding to issues and criticisms raised by Michael Ing and Manyul Im. Ing’s and Im’s critiques most invite reflection on regret, both as it might situate in Confucius’ own life and as it could feature more broadly in developed moral maturity. I consider two modes of regret: regret concerning compromises of conscience and end-of-life regret. The latter can naturally include elements of the former, but (...) may nonetheless have special features not exhausted by it. I argue that the model of Confucius is consistent with versions of both of these forms of regret while also acknowledging that where the Analects is concerned, much of what we might say about regret will inevitably be somewhat speculative. The essay thus dwells in some of the ambiguities suggested by the Analects. (shrink)
Do Lucretius’ vivid evocations of pain and suffering render impotent his therapy for fear of death? Lucretius’ readers have long noted the discord between his avowed aim to provide a rational foundation for cool detachment from death and his impassioned and acute attention to nature’s often cruel brutality. I argue that Lucretius does have a viable remedy for death anxiety but that this remedy significantly departs from Epicurus’ original counsel. Lucretius’ remedy confesses its origins in a heightened, rather than benumbed, (...) sensitivity to the affective and somatic features of human experience, culminating in “the feel of not to feel it.”. (shrink)
Self-presentation is a complex phenomenon through which individuals present themselves in performance of social roles. The success of such performances rests not just on how well a performer fulfills expectations regarding the role she would play, but on whether observers find her convincing. I focus on how self-presentation entails making use of material environment and objects: One may “dress for the part” and employ props that suit a desired role. However, regardless of dress or props, one can nonetheless fail to (...) “look the part” owing to expectations informed by biases patterned along commonplace social stereotypes. Using the social role of philosopher as my example, I analyze how the stereotype attached to this role carries implications for how demographically under-represented philosophers may self-present, specifically with regard to dress and decoration. I look, in particular, to the alienation from one's material environment that may follow on the frustration of self-presentation through bias. One pernicious effect of bias, I argue, is the power it has to deform and distort its target's relation to her physical setting and objects. Where comfort and ease in one's material environment can be a significant ethico-aesthetic good, bias can inhibit access to, and enjoyment of, this good. (shrink)
In his remedy for grief, Seneca rehearses familiar Stoic arguments regarding the need to reconcile oneself to Fortune yet is not content with the efficacy of these strategies. Seneca’s hortatory rhetoric and the models he recommends for appropriation emphasize not the exercise of reason but the need for courageous self-command as a fitting strategy for the repudiation of sorrow. In a departure from Stoic orthodoxy, Seneca concedes that loss constitutes an injury and locates well-being in a vulnerability to sorrow valorized (...) by heroic endurance. (shrink)
A special issue on the state of the field in Chinese philosophy, including work by: Stephen Angle, Roger Ames, Bryan Van Norden, Justin Tiwald, Manyul Im, David Wong, Hugh Benson, Leslie Francis, and Amy Olberding.
I am grateful to the reviewers who have so carefully and insightfully engaged with my work. Promoting civility at our present political moment is often nauseating. Even as I write this, I am acutely aware that by the time it reaches print, the world may well be worse in ways that would alter whatever arguments or reflections I can offer here. The struggle is one caught most directly in Olufemi Taiwo's response: the world we inhabit is not just riven by (...) social and political conflicts, it is also engaged in a heated struggle over just what "civility" will come to mean socially. Like Taiwo, I think we sacrifice too much and to quite uncertain effect if we abandon civility to those who employ it... (shrink)
Early Confucian philosophy is remarkable in its attention to everyday social interactions and their power to steer our emotional lives. Their work on the social dimensions of our moral-emotional lives is enormously promising for thinking through our own context and struggles, particularly, I argue, the ways that public rhetoric and practices may steer us away from some emotions it can be important to have, especially negative emotions. Some of our emotions are bad – unpleasant to experience, reflective of dissatisfactions or (...) even heartbreak – but nonetheless quite important to express and, more basically, to feel. Grief is like this, for example. So, too, is disappointment. In this essay, I explore how our current social practices may fail to support expressions of disappointment and thus suppress our ability to feel it well. (shrink)
In this essay, I draw Karen Stohr’s work on the moral-aesthetic elements of hospitality into conversation with classical Confucianism. While the early Confucians would not deny the other-regarding elements of hospitality Stohr emphasizes, they also notably highlight the ways exercises in taste and skillful aesthetic activity can work on and for the agent herself, providing a sensibility that can guard domestic aesthetic activity against problematic forms of self-sacrifice and alienated labor that color contemporary gendered representations of the home and its (...) activity. The most robustly virtuous and indeed rewarding versions of hospitality and domestic aesthetic activity, I argue, will link self to environment and work, using both as mechanisms that foster wider values the self prizes and endorses. (shrink)