David B. Wong proposes that there can be a plurality of true moralities, moralities that exist across different traditions and cultures, all of which address facets of the same problem: how we are to live well together. Wong examines a wide array of positions and texts within the Western canon as well as in Chinese philosophy, and draws on philosophy, psychology, evolutionary theory, history, and literature, to make a case for the importance of pluralism in moral life, and to establish (...) the virtues of acceptance and accommodation. Wong's point is that there is no single value or principle or ordering of values and principles that offers a uniquely true path for human living, but variations according to different contexts that carry within them a common core of human values. We should thus be modest about our own morality, learn from other approaches, and accommodate different practices in our pluralistic society. (shrink)
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1984.
Metaphors of adorning, crafting, water flowing downward, and growing sprouts appear in the Analects , the Mencius , and the Xunzi 荀子. They express and guide thinking about what there is in human nature to cultivate and how it is to be cultivated. The craft metaphor seems to imply that our nature is of the sort that must be disciplined and reshaped to achieve goodness, while the adorning, water, and sprout metaphors imply that human nature has an inbuilt directionality toward (...) the ethical that should be protected or nurtured. I argue that all the metaphors capture different aspects of human nature and how one must work with these aspects. There is much in contemporary psychology and neuroscience to suggest that the early Confucians were on the right track. It is also argued that they point to a fruitful conception of ethical development that is relational and holistic. (shrink)
Is the ancient Confucian ideal of he 和, ‘harmony,’ a viable ideal in pluralistic societies composed of people and groups who subscribe to different ideals of the good and moral life? Is harmony compatible with accepting, even encouraging, difference and the freedom to think differently? I start with seminal characterizations of harmony in Confucian texts and then aim to chart ways harmony and freedom can be compatible and even mutually supportive while recognizing the constant possibility of conflict between them. I (...) shall point out how the Confucian notion of harmony resonates with the Indian King Asoka's project of promoting religious pluralism. Along the way, I will make some comments of a ‘meta’ nature about the kind of interpretation I am offering of harmony in the Confucian texts and the use to which I am putting this interpretation by setting it in the context of societies that in important respects are quite different from the ones from which concepts of harmony originally emerged. (shrink)
The Chinese ethical tradition has often been thought to oppose Western views of the self as autonomous and possessed of individual rights with views that emphasize the centrality of relationship and community to the self. The essays in this collection discuss the validity of that contrast as it concerns Confucianism, the single most influential Chinese school of thought. Alasdair MacIntyre, the single most influential philosopher to articulate the need for dialogue across traditions, contributes a concluding essay of commentary. This is (...) the only consistently philosophical collection on Asia and human rights and could be used in courses on comparative ethics, political philosophy and Asian area studies. (shrink)
The view defended is one sense externalist on the relation between moral reasons and motivation: A's having a moral reason to do X does not necessarily imply that A has a motivation that would support A's doing X via some appropriate deliberative route. However, it is in another sense externalist in holding that there are the kind of moral reasons there are only if the relevant motivational capacities are "generally present" in human beings, if not in all individuals. The process (...) of socialization is an attempt to embed the recognition of what we have moral reason to do in the intentional content of one's feelings. E.g., learning that about others' suffering embeds their suffering as a reason to help in the intentional content of incipient compassionate feelings. This endows the reason with motivational efficacy while conferring further direction to the feelings in ways that shape us for social cooperation. (shrink)
The issue of conceptual templates of Western philosophy has been prominently put forth by Kwong-loi Shun. This paper seeks to establish additional perspectives adopted in traditional concepts involving anger and compassion by both Confucianist and Western scholars to reconcile purported differences between Confucianist and Western interpretations of key concepts utilised in philosophical thought. Through reinforcing similarities between the different concepts, the author serves to highlight the inter-compatibility of Confucianist and Western interpretations of basic notions of anger and compassion and the (...) need to explore the relevance of both facets in the complex modern world. (shrink)
Readers should be aware that the present author’s views are criticized in Moody-Adams’ book. Very few moral theorists escape criticism in this interesting alternative to relativist and realist approaches in contemporary ethical theory. Moody-Adams rejects the relativist claim that there are irresolvable moral disagreements, but does not rest that rejection on the idea of an independently existing moral reality. Indeed, she resolutely rejects attempts to explain moral differences based on the idea that some cultures have a lesser access to a (...) moral reality than others do. All cultures, she holds, have the same fundamental conceptual resources for moral reflection and debate. Such reflection and debate, she goes on to argue, is more a matter of interpretation of the common conceptual resources, rather than inquiry into the nature of an independently existing reality. In staking out such a position, she comes closest to Michael Walzer’s view that the main task of moral philosophy ought to be interpretation of existing tradition, and to Hilary Putnam’s rejection of both relativism and “metaphysical realism.”. (shrink)
The Zhuangzi text deploys two epistemic themes to accomplish its ends of combatting human pretensions to know the world and to prompting us to rediscover the world through fresh eyes. To get us to shed our arrogant dispositions it applies a constructive skepticism to whatever it is that human beings claim to know. To point towards a more constructive relationship with Nature, it articulates the stance of being a mirror to nature. This essay will explain how the text does this (...) and relates its conceptions of skepticism and being as mirror to relevant contemporary science. (shrink)
There are two broad approaches to environmental ethics. The “conservationist” approach on which we should conserve the environment when it is in our interest to do so and the “preservationist” approach on which we should preserve the environment even when it is not in our interest to do so. We propose a new “relational” approach that tells us to preserve nature as part of what makes us who we are or could be. Drawing from Confucian and Daoist texts, we argue (...) that human identities are, or should be, so intimately tied to nature that human interests evolve in relationship to nature. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: Abstract Introduction The Tacit ‐ Agreement Approach to Morality as Social Construction Speaker Relativism What it Might Mean for Morality to be Constructed as Part of Human Culture Explaining Moral Commonalities and Differences Across Cultures Relativism and the Meaning of Moral Terms Explaining Intra ‐ Group Disagreement Why Fundamental Intragroup Disagreement Might Be Inevitable References.
The view defended is one sense externalist on the relation between moral reasons and motivation: A's having a moral reason to do X does not necessarily imply that A has a motivation that would support A's doing X via some appropriate deliberative route. However, it is in another sense externalist in holding that there are the kind of moral reasons there are only if the relevant motivational capacities are generally present in human beings, if not in all individuals. The process (...) of socialization is an attempt to embed the recognition of what we have moral reason to do in the intentional content of one's feelings. E.g., learning that about others' suffering embeds their suffering as a reason to help in the intentional content of incipient compassionate feelings. This endows the reason with motivational efficacy while conferring further direction to the feelings in ways that shape us for social cooperation. (shrink)
I explore conceptions of happiness in classical Chinese philosophers Mengzi and Zhuangzi. In choosing to frame my question with the word ‘happiness’, I am guided by the desire to draw some comparative lessons for Western philosophy. ‘Happiness’ has been a central concept in Western ethics, and especially in Aristotelian and utilitarian ethics. The early Chinese concept most relevant to discussion of Mengzi and Zhuangzi concerns a specific form of happiness designated by the word le, which is best rendered as ‘contentment’. (...) For both Mengzi and Zhuangzi, there is a reflective dimension of happiness that consists in acceptance of the inevitable transformations of life and death, though these two thinkers chart very different paths to such acceptance. Mengzi holds that it liesin identification with a moral cause much larger than the self. Zhuangzi is profoundly skeptical about the viability of such a path to contentment. He instead offers identification with a world that transcends human good and evil, and a way to live in the present that can be deeply satisfying. One interesting outcome of both their discussions of achieving happiness is that both come to question the importance of happiness as a personal goal. (shrink)
This essay explains the inescapability of moral demands. I deny that the individual has genuine reason to comply with these demands only if she has desires that would be served by doing so. Rather, the learning of moral reasons helps to shape and channel self- and other-interested motivations so as to facilitate and promote social cooperation. This shaping happens through the “embedding” of reasons in the intentional objects of motivational propensities. The dominance of the instrumental conception of reason, according to (...) which reasons must be based in desires of the individual, has made it harder to recognize that reasons shape desires. I attempt to undermine this dominance by arguing that the concept of a self that extends over time is constructed to meet the demands of social cooperation. Prudential reasons to act on behalf of the persisting self's desires are often taken to constitute the paradigm of reasons based on desires of the individual. But such reasons, along with the very concept of the persisting self, are constructed to promote human cooperation and to shape the individual's desires. (shrink)
The objective of the article is twofold: to advance an interpretation of Descartes’ position on the problem of explaining how deduction from universal propositions to their particular instances can be both legitimate and useful for discovery of truth; and to argue that his position is a valuable contribution to the philosophy of logic. In Descartes’ view. the problem in question is that syllogistic deductions from universal propositions to their particular instances is circular and hence useless as a means for discovery (...) of truth. Descartes’ solution to the problem is to claim that noncircular, useful deduction from the universal to the particular must first be based on deduction from particular truths to particular truths. I examine previous interpretations of Cartesian deduction given by E.M. Curley, Bernard Williams, and Andre Gombay. None of these interpretations fit with all of Descartes’ criticisms of syllogistic deduction and his characterization of useful and legitimate deduction (such as the cogito). I argue that the key to a correct interpretation is Descartes’ claim that implicit knowledge of universal propositions plays a crucial role in useful and legitimate deduction, and I explain how we may cash in his talk of implicit knowledge through Ryle’s notion of knowing how. Having set out a fuller explication of Descartes’ theory of deduction, I argue that it is consistent with the way people actually reason, that it helps us with problems in the philosophy of logic that have been raised by John Stuart Mill, Hilary Putnam, and Michael Dummett. (shrink)