Since the very beginning, Confucianism has been troubled by a serious gap between its political ideals and the reality of societal circumstances. Contemporary Confucians must develop a viable method of governance that can retain the spirit of the Confucian ideal while tackling problems arising from nonideal modern situations. The best way to meet this challenge, Joseph Chan argues, is to adopt liberal democratic institutions that are shaped by the Confucian conception of the good rather than the liberal conception of the (...) right.Confucian Perfectionism examines and reconstructs both Confucian political thought and liberal democratic institutions, blending them to form a new Confucian political philosophy. Chan decouples liberal democratic institutions from their popular liberal philosophical foundations in fundamental moral rights, such as popular sovereignty, political equality, and individual sovereignty. Instead, he grounds them on Confucian principles and redefines their roles and functions, thus mixing Confucianism with liberal democratic institutions in a way that strengthens both. Then he explores the implications of this new yet traditional political philosophy for fundamental issues in modern politics, including authority, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, and social justice.Confucian Perfectionism critically reconfigures the Confucian political philosophy of the classical period for the contemporary era. (shrink)
Three claims are defended. (1) There is a conception of moral autonomy in Confucian ethics that to a degree can support toleration and freedom. However, (2) Confucian moral autonomy is different from personal autonomy, and the latter gives a stronger justification for civil and personal liberties than does the former. (3) The contemporary appeal of Confucianism would be strengthened by including personal autonomy, and this need not be seen as forsaking Confucian ethics but rather as an internal revision in response (...) to new social circumstances. From this inclusion emerges a new theory of liberties that recognizes the value of personal autonomy and the importance of the ethical good that liberties instrumentally serve to promote. (shrink)
Popular sovereignty is one of the most widespread but poorly understood notions in modern politics. Exalted as the highest principle of democratic legitimacy, the idea of popular sovereignty has been given various but broadly similar formulations. . . .
Western Political Thought in Dialogue with Asia is a unique collection of essays that examines the exchange of political ideas between Western Europe and Asia from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. The contributors to the volume call for globalizing the scope of research and teaching in the history of political thought.
In contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy, perfectionism is widely understood as the idea that the state may, or should, promote valuable conceptions of the good life and discourage conceptions that are worthless or bad. As such, debates over perfectionism occupy a central place in contemporary political philosophy because political philosophers are deeply concerned about whether or not a liberal state is permitted to promote any particular ethical or religious doctrine or impose it on its citizens. -/- In general, contemporary perfectionists do (...) not argue for the state’s pursuit of any religious doctrine. They only maintain that the state is permitted to make a wide range of public policies with the aim of promoting the good life. These policies, commonly found in liberal democratic societies, may include subsidizing museums and art galleries, preserving cultural heritage, setting up public libraries and providing free access to reading materials, encouraging athletic excellence, conserving nature and biodiversity, and educating citizens about the harm of recreational drugs. Nevertheless, perfectionism remains controversial among philosophers and political scientists. -/- It might be beneficial to take a sympathetic view of perfectionism and consider how perfectionists might defend their position against some of the common objections. These objections mainly include: (a) that the state does not possess legitimate authority to make decisions about the good life and seek to promote it; (b) that perfectionist policies are generally illiberal and paternalistic; and (c) that conceptions of the good life are objects of reasonable disagreement and hence cannot legitimately be promoted by the state. In addition, the nature and importance of perfectionist policies and politics will be discussed. (shrink)
This paper suggests that liberal democratic governments adopt a reconciliatory approach to conscientious disobedience. Central to this approach is the view – independent of whether conscientious disobedience is always morally justified – that conscientious disobedience is normatively distinct from other criminal acts with similar effects, and such distinction is worthy of acknowledgment by public apparatus and actors. The prerogative applies to both civil and uncivil instances of disobedience, as defined and explored in the paper. Governments and courts ought to take (...) the normative distinction seriously and treat the conscientious disobedients in a more lenient way than they treat ordinary criminals. A comprehensive legislative scheme for governments to deal with prosecution, sentencing, and imprisonment of the conscientious disobedients will be proposed, with the normative and practical benefits of such an approach discussed in detail. (shrink)
Jiwei Ci’s Democracy in China: The Coming Crisis presents an extraordinarily rich set of ideas regarding the important subject of the prospect of democracy in China. The book argues that it is in the interest of the Chinese Communist Party to immediately begin to prepare China for democracy, as that is the only way to save the party and China from imminent crises of legitimacy, governance, and stability. Drawing upon Tocqueville’s discussion of equality of conditions in America, Ci argues that (...) as China has already more or less become a society of equality of conditions, it already has a democratic society, which will inevitably exert enormous pressures for political democratization, thereby creating serious legitimacy and stability crises for the regime. In my view, Ci overstates the relevance of Tocqueville’s America for China, and his claim that there is a democratic society in China is disputable. In grounding his case for democracy in China, Ci also appeals to a larger species of argument—the argument from social circumstances to political regime, of which Tocqueville’s argument is an example. This is the argument that once a kind of society has become entrenched and is no longer amenable to a political regime’s effort to remake it, it is the political regime that must make itself fit the state of society. I argue that this argument is also problematic. (shrink)
We may sum up the five roles which human beings might play in the existence of the polis in the following way: (1) Human nature plays the role of the inner principle of change which explains the type of human relation a polis takes (the polis as a type); (2) General patterns of human behaviours, together with patterns of societal conditions, play the role of material conditions which explain the variety of forms of polis; (3) Statesmen or politicians play the (...) role of political craftsmen which explains the particular form of the natural type a polis actually takes; (4) Human effort plays the role of one of the external conditions which explains the occurrence of a polis; (5) Individual human persons or groups play the role of an artificer which is responsible for and wholly explains the type of the human relation a polis takes. What I have argued in this paper is, firstly, that (1) is compatible with (2), (3) and (4), but not with (5), and secondly, that Aristotle affirms (1), (2), (3) and (4), but denies (5). Aristotle's theory of the naturalness of the polis is, therefore, not the blundered doctrine its critics suppose it to be. (shrink)
Although it is widely believed that post-Mao China has fallen into a moral crisis, there are few scholarly analyses of its nature, causes, and consequences. Jiwei Ci's Moral China in the Age of Reform–1 fills this gap by giving an unusually penetrating and insightful account of this crisis. There is much in Ci's account that one can find thought-provoking and enlightening. Any good analysis of a crisis not only gives a good diagnosis but also sheds light on a possible solution. (...) While the diagnosis of China's problem occupies a large part of the book, in a tentative yet careful manner Ci does suggest a way out. In my comment here, I focus on his suggestions as to how China can accomplish this.For Ci, China has been... (shrink)