Neo-Confucianism is a philosophically sophisticated tradition weaving classical Confucianism together with themes from Buddhism and Daoism. It began in China around the eleventh century CE, played a leading role in East Asian cultures over the last millennium, and has had a profound influence on modern Chinese society. -/- Based on the latest scholarship but presented in accessible language, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction is organized around themes that are central in Neo-Confucian philosophy, including the structure of the cosmos, human nature, ways (...) of knowing, personal cultivation, and approaches to governance. The authors thus accomplish two things at once: they present the Neo-Confucians in their own, distinctive terms; and they enable contemporary readers to grasp what is at stake in the great Neo-Confucian debates. (shrink)
An exceptional contribution to the teaching and study of Chinese thought, this anthology provides fifty-eight selections arranged chronologically in five main sections: Han Thought, Chinese Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, Late Imperial Confucianism, and the early Twentieth Century. The editors have selected writings that have been influential, that are philosophically engaging, and that can be understood as elements of an ongoing dialogue, particularly on issues regarding ethical cultivation, human nature, virtue, government, and the underlying structure of the universe. Within those topics, issues of (...) contemporary interest, such as Chinese ideas about gender and the experiences of women, are brought to light. -/- Introductions to each main section provide an overview of the period, while brief headnotes to selections highlight key points. -/- The translations are the works of many distinguished scholars, and were chosen for their accuracy and accessibility, especially for students, general readers, and scholars who do not read Chinese. Special effort has been made to maintain consistency of key terms across translations. -/- Also included are a glossary, bibliography, index of names, and an index locorum of The Four Books. (shrink)
Mengzi believed that tyrannical rulers can be justifiably deposed, and many contemporary scholars see this as evidence that that Mengzi endorsed a right of popular rebellion. I argue that the text of the Mengzi reveals a more mixed view, and does so in two respects. First, it suggests that the people are sometimes permitted to participate in a rebellion but not permitted to decide for themselves when rebellion is warranted. Second, it gives appropriate moral weight not to the people’s judgments (...) about the justifiability of rebelling, but rather to certain affections and behaviors that closely track their life satisfaction. I contend that in both respects the permissions Mengzi grants the people fall short of a proper right of rebellion. I conclude that the more historical account of Mengzi’s “just revolt theory” suggests an intriguing division of justificatory labor, and note some of the advantages of this account. (shrink)
As recorded in the Analects, Kongzi (Confucius) held that using punishment to influence ordinary citizens will do little to develop a sense of shame (chi 恥) in them. This term is usually taken to refer to a sense of shame described here as “ autonomous,” understood as a predisposition to feel ashamed when one does something wrong because it seems wrong to oneself, and not because others regard it as wrong or shameful. Historically, Confucian philosophers have thought a great deal (...) about the habits and character traits necessary for someone to have a sense of shame that is truly autonomous. The article looks at their views on this matter and shows how they help to articulate the hypothesis that coercive punishments undermine or work at cross-purposes with the cultivation of an autonomous sense of shame. It then uses this analysis to explicate the proposal that governing people by cultivating a sense of shame is to be preferred to governing by threat of punishment. It concludes by weighing its merits as a view about effective governance, observing that its strength and plausibility depends on whether we take the threat of punishment to be direct or indirect. (shrink)
In this chapter the author defends the view that the major variants of Confucian ethics qualify as virtue ethics in the respects that matter most, which concern the focus, investigative priority, and explanatory priority of virtue over right action. The chapter also provides short summaries of the central Confucian virtues and then explains how different Confucians have understood the relationship between these and what some regard as the chief or most comprehensive virtue, ren (humaneness or benevolence). Finally, it explicates what (...) most Confucians take to be a requirement of all virtues, which the author calls “wholeheartedness,” and concludes by highlighting some neglected implications of the wholeheartedness requirement for ethics more generally. These include reasons for linking conceptions of virtue and human nature, for thinking that good character necessitates that individuals change how things seem to them, and for endorsing automatic as opposed to intensively deliberative judgments and decisions. (shrink)
This paper explicates the influential Confucian view that “people” and not “institutional rules” are the proper sources of good governance and social order, as well as some notable Confucian objections to this position. It takes Xunzi 荀子, Hu Hong 胡宏, and Zhu Xi 朱熹 as the primary representatives of the “virtue-centered” position, which holds that people’s good character and not institutional rules bear primary credit for successful governance. And it takes Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 as a major advocate for the “institutionalist” (...) position, which holds that institutional rules have some power to effect success independently of improvements in character. Historians have often called attention to this debate but left the major arguments and positions relatively unspecified. As I show, the Confucian virtue-centered view is best captured in two theses: first, that reforming people is far more demanding than reforming institutional rules; second, that once the rules have reached a certain threshold of viability, further improvements in those rules are unlikely to be effective on their own. Once we specify the theses in this way, we can catalogue the different respects and degrees to which the more virtue-centered political thinkers endorse virtue-centrism in governance. Zhu Xi, for example, turns out to endorse a stronger version of virtue-centrism than Hu Hong. I also use this account of the major theses to show that Huang Zongxi, who is sometimes regarded as historical Confucianism’s foremost institutionalist, has more complicated and mixed views about the power of institutional reform than scholars usually assume. (shrink)
The past couple of decades have witnessed a remarkable burst of philosophical energy and talent devoted to virtue ethical approaches to Confucianism, including several books, articles, and even high-profile workshops and conferences that make connections between Confucianism and either virtue ethics as such or moral philosophers widely regarded as virtue ethicists. Those who do not work in the combination of Chinese philosophy and ethics may wonder what all of the fuss is about. Others may be more familiar with the issues (...) but have doubts about the fruitfulness of this line of inquiry. It is therefore worth asking whether a constructive engagement between Confucianism and virtue ethics is worth turning into a significant, multi-generational research agenda. Most answers to this question will fall somewhere between two poles. At one end is the view that the line of inquiry has run its course, if ever there were a course to run in the first place; at the opposite end is the view that we’re only just getting started. And then there is a wide range of more moderate views falling between these two positions. Far from having exhausted the potential of virtue ethical approaches to Confucianism, I think we are standing on a philosophical gold mine that we’ve only just begun to tap. In what follows I would like to explain briefly why I take this to be the case. (shrink)
This paper is about two proposals endorsed by Xunzi. The first is that there is such a thing as a moral expert, whose moral advice we should adopt even when we cannot appreciate for ourselves the considerations in favor of it. The second is that certain political authorities should be treated as moral experts. I identify three fundamental questions about moral expertise that contemporary philosophy has yet to address in depth, explicate Xunzi’s answers to them, and then give an account (...) of politically authorized moral expertise as Xunzi understands it. The three questions at the heart of this study are these: how should we distinguish between knowing the correct course of action on another’s authority and knowing it for oneself? What exactly are the underlying considerations that the expert grasps and the novice does not? Who are the experts and in what spheres of life can they legitimately claim expertise? (shrink)
One of the most high-profile debates in Chinese philosophy concerns the compatibility of human and individual rights with basic Confucian doctrines and practices. Defenders of the incompatibilist view argue that rights are inconsistent with Confucianism because rights are (necessarily) role-independent obligations and entitlements, whereas Confucians think that all obligations and entitlements are role-dependent. Two other arguments have to do with the practice of claiming one's own rights, holding (a) that claiming one's rights undercuts family-like community bonds and (b) that giving (...) everyone license to claim her own rights is incompatible with certain hierarchical social structures that Confucians value. In this essay, I show that these arguments are too crudely formulated to identify the real points of contention with rights compatibilism, and then develop versions of two of the arguments which, when properly qualified, pose a more serious challenge for those who think rights and a license to claim one's own rights are consistent with core Confucian views. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to explicating Dai Zhen’s defense of self-interested desires, over and against a tradition that sets strict limits to their range and function in moral agency. I begin by setting the terms of the debate between Dai and his opponents, noting that the dispute turns largely on the moral status of directly self-interested desires, or desires for one’s own good as such. I then consider three of Dai’s arguments against views that miscategorize or undervalue directly self-interested desires. (...) I begin with the most widely recognized line of defense, which holds that the suppression of such desires makes those in positions of authority less sensitive to the mistreatment of those with whose interests they are entrusted. I call this the “Pity for the Powerless” argument. I then explore an argument that Dai offers in the form of a multi-faceted metaphor, which likens the suppression of desires to attempts to block or dam natural waterways. I call this is the “Damming the Desires” argument. I conclude with a brief summary of a third and fundamental defense implied by structural features of ethics as Dai understands them. On my reading, Dai thinks ethics is concerned first and foremost with the character traits and resultant behavior that allow us to participate in relationships, and the relationships in question are mutually beneficial, not one-sided or reciprocal. I call this the “Argument from Mutual Fulfillment.” On the view spelled out here, directly self-interested desires are not just morally tolerable, nor is the possession of them merely a necessary condition for the possession of moral virtue; instead, moral virtue is constituted in part by self-interested desires. This is the strong position that Dai endorses when he characterizes the Confucian path as the “way of mutual fulfillment.”. (shrink)
This chapter explains how Xunzi's text and views helped shape the thought of the Neo-Confucian philosophers, noting and explicating some areas of influence long overlooked in modern scholarship. It begins with a general overview of Xunzi’s changing position in the tradition (“Xunzi’s Status in Neo-Confucian Thought”), in which I discuss Xunzi’s status in three general periods of Neo-Confucian era: the early period, in which Neo-Confucian views of Xunzi were varied and somewhat ambiguous, the “mature” period, in which a broad consensus (...) formed and then became orthodoxy for several centuries, and a late and often overlooked reassessment of Xunzi that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the second section (“Debating Human Nature on Xunzi’s Terms”), I discuss in greater detail Neo-Confucian criticisms of Xunzi’s views on human nature, noting that in key respects the Neo-Confucians accepted Xunzi’s somewhat uncharitable characterization of the doctrine that human nature is good, thereby taking on a considerably greater burden of proof than necessary. In the third section (“Virtue without Roots”), I attempt to explicate what is perhaps the most prominent but also the most laconic Neo-Confucian criticism of Xunzi, which is that Xunzi misunderstands the “great root” or “great foundation” of cosmic and social order, finding it in conventional human relationships rather than in the deeper, purer and more powerful inner workings of human nature. In the final section (“The Accretional Theory of Knowledge Acquisition”), I explain how the major differences between Xunzi and his Neo-Confucian critics can be cast as a dispute about how moral knowledge is acquired, where Xunzi’s critics assume that acquiring moral knowledge of any meaningful kind is impossible without a natural base or foundation of moral knowledge to begin with. (shrink)
This article spells out a forgotten debate in Confucian ethics that concerns the finer points of empathy, sympathy, and perspective-taking (sometimes called ‘role-taking’). The debate’s central question is whether sympathy is more virtuous when it is automatic and other-focused – that is, when we engage in perspective-taking without conscious effort and sympathize without significant reference to our selves or our own feelings.
I argue that Dai Zhen’s account of sympathetic concern is distinguished from other accounts of sympathy (and empathy) by several features, the most important of which are the following: First, he sees the awareness of our similarities to others as a necessary condition for sympathy but not a constituent of it. Second, the relevant similarities are those that are grounded in our common status as living creatures, and not in our common powers of autonomy or other traits that are often (...) taken to be distinguishing features of persons. Finally, Dai thinks that when we properly sympathize with others, we value their well-being in a way that mimics the way we value our own. This last feature helps to explain two important claims about the place of sympathy in moral action: that it necessarily requires perspective-taking (at least with respect to most other human beings), and that it provides indirect motives to be virtuous, which even imperfect moral agents can draw upon. In the course of making my argument, I identify salient differences between Dai’s variant of sympathy and some of its closest relatives, including Aristotelian pity and Buddhist compassion. (shrink)
Liang Tao and Kuang Zhao, trans. Confucian rights can be characterized as a kind of “fallback apparatus,” necessary only when preferred mechanisms—for example, familial and neighborly care or traditional courtesies—would otherwise fail to protect basic human interests. In this paper, I argue that the very existence of such rights is contingent on their ability to function as remedies for dysfunctional social relationships or failures to develop the virtues that sustain harmonious Confucian relationships. Moreover, these remedies are not, strictly speaking, rights-based, (...) for having a right consists in having the power to claim one's rights for oneself, which the classical Confucians would curtail. I conclude by noting how we might revise standard assumptions about the practice of “claiming one's rights” to make it more compatible with core Confucian principles. 梁涛 匡钊译 儒家权利可称为是一种“备用机制”（fallback apparatus），诉诸权利仅当其他首选机制，如家族与邻里的关怀或对传统礼俗的依赖等，不能有效维护人们的基本利益时才是必要的。儒家权利的存在取决于其补救功能，其需要补救的是儒家谐社会关系及相应美德中 出现的危机、过失。但儒家的补救并不完全是基于权利之上的，古典儒家不认为人民可以代表自己提出主张，也不认为民众可以直接推翻昏庸的暴君，有抵抗权的主要是汤、武等第一级的贵族。对于儒家国家来讲，从制度上认可 人民的权利主张可能是获得社会和谐最有效的手段。. (shrink)
In this chapter, I explicate several general views and arguments that bear on the notion and contemporary theories of human welfare, as found in two foundational Daoist texts, the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi. Ideas drawn from the Daodejing include its objections to desire theories of human welfare and its distinction between natural and acquired desires. Insights drawn from the Zhuangzi include its arguments against the view that death is bad for the dead, its attempt to develop a workable theory of (...) well-being for those who are skeptical about such theories, and the prudential benefits of what I call "philosophical double-vision.". (shrink)
Xunzi, a founding figure in the Confucian tradition, is one of the world's great philosophers and theorists of religion. For much of the last century, his work has been seen largely as critical of religion, particularly the popular beliefs and invocations of supernatural forces that underpin so many religious rituals. Contributors to this volume challenge this view and offer a more sophisticated picture of Xunzi. He emerges not as critic, but rather as an adherent of religion who seeks to give (...) religious practices meaning even though many religious beliefs are mistaken or self-serving. Each essay offers a powerful illustration of Xunzi as both a religious devotee and as a philosopher of religion, drawing on a wide array of disciplines and methodologies. (shrink)
This paper offers an account of an important type of human relationship: relationships based on shared ends. These are an indispensable part of most ethically worthy or valuable lives, and our successes or failures at participating in these relationships constitute a great number of our moral successes or failures overall. While many philosophers agree about their importance, few provide us with well-developed accounts of the nature and value of good shared-end relationships. This paper begins to develop a positive account of (...) such relationships. In the interest of highlighting some strengths and weaknesses of competing approaches, it contrasts the theories that are proposed by the Confucian philosopher Dai Zhen 戴震 (1724–1777) and the influential moral philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Both philosophers share many of the same core ethical commitments, but as the author shows, Dai Zhen’s approach to thinking about the nature and value of good shared-end relationships is superior to Kant’s because it highlights the fact that such relationships must be motivated by ethically-shaped forms of other-concern and self-interest, whereas Kant does not picture self-interest as an important source of morality or ethically valuable relationships. The author considers clarifications and revisions to Kant’s theory that seem to make more room for the mixture of motives required for good shared-end relationships, but concludes that these ad hoc modifications do not succeed at providing a recognizably Kantian theory that can account for them as well as Dai Zhen’s. (shrink)
In Stephen Angle’s Sagehood, he contends that Neo-Confucian philosophers reject ways of moral thinking that draw hard and fast lines between self-directed or prudential concerns (about what is good for me) and other-directed or moral concerns (about what is right, just, virtuous, etc.), and suggests that they are right to do so. In this paper, I spell out Angle’s arguments and interpretation in greater detail and then consider whether they are faithful to one of the chief figures in Neo-Confucian thought. (...) I begin by identifying some of the better-known ways in which moral philosophers give special treatment to prudential considerations, and say which of these Angle’s reading of the Neo-Confucians appears to rule out. After laying this groundwork, I proceed to test Angle’s interpretation against the moral thought of history’s most influential Neo-Confucian philosopher, Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), arguing that even on Angle’s own reading, there are certain respects in which Zhu preserves the distinction, although by Angle’s lights these ways are perhaps less pernicious than their contemporary equivalents. I also look closely at how Angle uses the psychological structure of humane love (ren 仁) to undermine the prudence-versus-morality distinction. Here I suggest that the better way to phrase his point is to say that prudence drops out or becomes an ethically incoherent concept, which is something quite different from rejecting or collapsing the distinction between prudence and morality. (shrink)
An overview of Confucianism in the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, which many regard as second only to the classical period in philosophical importance and influence. This piece canvasses the major thinkers and schools, competing views on the metaphysics of li (pattern, principle) and qi (vital stuff), criticisms of Buddhism and Daoism, and debates about the heartmind, virtue, knowledge, and governance.
This article (1) offers a relatively comprehensive survey of criticisms of Buddhism made by the influential Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) with translations of key passages, and (2) proposes that these criticisms are best understood as targeting the implicit presuppositions and practical implications of Buddhist teachings, not so much the explicit doctrines of the Buddhists. The article examines three sets of criticisms. The first has to do with Buddhist soteriology, the fundamental priority of Buddhist salvation, which Zhu takes to (...) be egoistic and a corruption of the more relationship-oriented nature of ethics itself. The second set of criticisms concerns Buddhist over-reliance on meditation as a form of mental discipline, which in Zhu’s view leaves Buddhists ill-equipped to take independent standards of right and wrong into account. He proposes instead that Confucian “reverential attention” (jing 敬) is the better means by which to reshape one’s intentions and emotions in light of objective standards. The final criticisms are of the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness. Here Zhu seems to be an uncharitable critic, suggesting that Buddhists treat all things as illusory and without a certain ethically significant relationship to the larger world. But a closer examination of the evidence shows that he was both aware of more defensible notions of Buddhist emptiness and, at the end of the day, unconvinced that Buddhist practices were conducive to realizing them. (shrink)
This essay is about the relations between two different types of empathy and two different conceptions of oneness. Roughly, the first type of empathy is what is sometimes called “other-focused” or “imagine-other” empathy, in which one reconstructs the thoughts and feelings that someone else has or would have. The second type, “self- focused” or “imagine-self” empathy, is the sort of emotional attitude someone adopts when she imagines how she would think or feel were she in the other person’s place. Some (...) philosophers and psychologists have taken note of this distinction, but none has linked them with one of the more important reemerging religious and philosophical issues of the day, which has to do with the ethical significance of seeing oneself as part of a larger whole, or its proper role in moral motivation and other-directed moral concern. There are some long-overlooked materials in Neo-Confucian philosophy that attend closely to these very linkages, drawing out the morally salient differences between self- and other-focused empathy in light of their implications for the virtue of benevolence. This chapter unearths some of the most important ideas and arguments in this debate, fills in some gaps in the arguments, and draw out their moral implications. (shrink)
This chapter is about issues in ethics and moral psychology that have been little explored by contemporary philosophers, ones that concern the advantages and disadvantages of two different kinds of empathy. Roughly, first type is what is sometimes called “other-focused” empathy, in which one reconstructs the thoughts and feelings that someone else has or would have. The second type, “self-focused” empathy, is the sort of emotional attitude someone adopts when she imagines how she would think or feel were she in (...) the other person’s place. Both are variants of empathy, for both have to do with having thoughts and feelings that are more apt, in the relevant senses, for someone else’s circumstances than one’s own. But they differ with respect to how much one makes substantial reference to oneself in order to elicit those thoughts and feelings. Some influential philosophers and psychologists have taken note of the distinction, but none have engaged the issues as thoroughly as did Zhu Xi and his students in twelfth century, largely in a series of commentaries and conversations that have yet to be translated into Western languages. The aim of this chapter is to explicate Zhu’s view about self- and other-focused empathy as he characterized them, reconstruct his arguments for his view, and then discuss some of the implications for ethics and moral psychology more generally. Zhu’s position in brief is that self-focused empathy is—for flawed moral agents like ourselves—a necessary and useful means by which we can better understand and care for others, but that ultimately it is the ladder we must kick away in favor of purely other-focused empathy. (shrink)
An overview of Zhu Xi's moral psychology, with a special focus on the metaphysical underpinnings and the relations between heartmind (xin), emotions (qing), and nature (xing). The authors explain how Zhu uses his account to balance the demand for independent standards of assessment with his commitment to ethical norms that virtuous agents can embrace wholeheartedly.
This essay is a response to Yong Huang's Why Be Moral? I raise three concerns about Huang's answer to the very question "Why Be Moral?" which is the subject of the first chapter of the book. First, I suggest that the justificatory interpretation of the question is as important as the motivational one, in general and for the Cheng brothers, and that it shouldn't be dismissed as quickly as Huang dismisses it. Second, I argue that joy cannot be the direct (...) motive for being moral, but propose that it could be (and probably is) an indirect motive, and speculate about the particular kind of indirect motive it might be. Finally, I ask whether Huang's appeal to "being human" as a motive is better understood in the Millian way or the Aristotelian way, and suggest that Mill's approach is a better fit for the Cheng brothers. (shrink)