How a hybrid Confucian-engendered form of governance might solve today’s political problems What might a viable political alternative to liberal democracy look like? In Against Political Equality, Tongdong Bai offers a possibility inspired by Confucian ideas. Bai argues that domestic governance influenced by Confucianism can embrace the liberal aspects of democracy along with the democratic ideas of equal opportunities and governmental accountability to the people. But Confucianism would give more political decision-making power to those with the moral, practical, and intellectual (...) capabilities of caring for the people. While most democratic thinkers still focus on strengthening equality to cure the ills of democracy, the proposed hybrid regime—made up of Confucian-inspired meritocratic characteristics combined with democratic elements and a quasi-liberal system of laws and rights—recognizes that egalitarian qualities sometimes conflict with good governance and the protection of liberties, and defends liberal aspects by restricting democratic ones. Bai applies his views to the international realm by supporting a hierarchical order based on how humane each state is toward its own and other peoples, and on the principle of international interventions whereby humane responsibilities override sovereignty. Exploring the deficiencies posed by many liberal democracies, Against Political Equality presents a novel Confucian-engendered alternative for solving today’s political problems. (shrink)
The compatibility between Western democracy and other cultures, and the desirability of democracy, are two important problems in democratic theory. Following an insight from John Rawls’s later philosophy, and using some key passages in Mencius, I will show the compatibility between a ‘thin’ version of liberal democracy and Confucianism. Moreover, elaborating on Mencius’s ideas of the responsibility of government for the physical and moral well-being of the people, the respectability of the government and the ruling elite, and the competence-based limited (...) political participation, I shall explore the Mencian criticisms of some ‘thick’ democratic ideas. Through the discussion in this paper, I hope to show the relevance of Confucianism to contemporary political philosophy and society. (shrink)
But what is the message of China's rise as an economic and political power? Tongdong Bai addresses this pressing question by examining the history of political theories and practices from China's past, and showing how it impacts upon the present. Chinese political traditions are often viewed as "authoritarian" (in contrast with "Western" democratic traditions), but the historical reality is much more complex and there is a need to understand the political values shaping China. Bai argues that the debates between China's (...) two main political theories - Confucianism and Legalism - anticipate themes in modern political thought and offer resources for thinking about contemporary political problems. This groundbreaking work offers a insight into the political history and thought of a nation. (shrink)
In this essay, the understanding of naturalness and of ruling without taking unnatural actions in the "Laozi" will be clarified and elaborated on, and it will be argued that the "Laozi" offers a theoretically adequate and realistic proposal to address both the problems of its times and some of the problems of modernity.
Mencius’s account of the yi-li (righteousness-benefit) distinction is important in his moral philosophy, and is often compared with consequentialism or deontology in Western moral philosophy. After showing the problems with a naïve deontological reading and a sophisticated consequentialist reading of Mencius, I will argue that both a really sophisticated consequentialist reading and a non-Kantian deontological reading are more defensible. But they couldn’t address the inequality hidden in Mencius’s moral philosophy, making a Nietzschean reading possible. However, Mencius embraced compassion as a (...) key virtue, which Nietzsche would reject. Mencius’s moral philosophy is doubly bifurcated and different from consequentialism, deontology, and also Nietzsche’s philosophy. (shrink)
This essay explores the history of studies in analytical philosophy in China since the beginning of the last century, by dividing into three phases. It shows that, in these phases, analytic philosophy was always at a disadvantage in confronting serious challenges coming from both Chinese traditional philosophy and modern philosophical trends. The authors argue that Chinese philosophers have both done preliminary studies and offered their own analyses of various problems as well as some new applications of analytic philosophy especially in (...) the latest period. Meanwhile, Chinese traditional philosophy was always trying to adjust its cultural mentality in the struggle with analytic philosophy, and accommodated in its own way the rationalistic spirit and scientific method represented in analytic philosophy. (shrink)
The apparent conflict between some fundamental ideas of Confucianism and of rights seems to render Confucianism incompatible with rights. I will illustrate the general strategies, based upon an insight of the later Rawls, to solve the incompatibility problem. I will then show how these strategies can help us to develop a Confucian account of animal rights, which, by way of example, demonstrates how Confucianism can endorse and develop unique and constructive accounts of most rights that are commonly recognized today.
"Is Traditional Chinese Thought Philosophy?" has been a perennial question ever since the term zhexue 哲學, as a translation of the Western concept of philosophy, was introduced to China via Japan, and it will stay this way for years to come. Two factors make the answering of this question a Sisyphean project. First, a lot of scholars feel that they have to answer this question. The contemporary academic disciplines were defined by Westerners, and the discipline of philosophy was alien to (...) traditional Chinese scholarship. Then, unless the structure of academia is radically redefined, anyone who relies heavily on traditional Chinese materials and wishes to work... (shrink)
Confucius argued for the centrality of the superior man’s political duty to his fellow human beings and to the state, while Socrates suggested that the superior man (the philosopher) may have no such political duty. However, Confucius also suggested that one not enter or stay—let alone save—a troubled state, while Socrates stayed in an unjust state, apparently fulfilling his political duty to the state by accepting an unjust verdict. In this essay, I will try to show how Confucius could solve (...) these apparent contradictions. I will then examine the reasons Socrates directly and indirectly offers to resolve his seemingly conflicting positions in light of the discussion of the Confucian case. This article is a first step toward a deeper understanding of both Confucius and Socrates (Plato) by way of comparative studies, and of the general issue of a superior man’s political duty to a bad state. (shrink)
How to defend a small state is an important issue in politics and military affairs. Three important philosophical texts, the Han Fei Zi 韓非子, Plato’s Republic, and the Mencius, discuss this issue. In this article, I will analyze the three accounts offered in these texts, and compare and contrast them. We will see that the Han Fei Zi, a text in the “realist” tradition, offers a typically realist yet rather interesting account of how to save a small state from stronger (...) enemies. Plato’s Republic, too, offers an amoral solution of the defense issue, in spite of its celebration of justice and the Good. The Mencius, a classical Confucian text that is often said to emphasize the power of virtue, does have a normative dimension, but it also takes political reality into account. In fact, it is even more realistic than the first two texts on international interventions in some aspects, partly because, paradoxically, it pays attention to the moral dimension of human affairs. After elaborating and comparing these three accounts, I shall argue that a synthesis may offer a realism-based normative theory of the just defense of a small state. (shrink)
The -19 pandemic highlights the following problems: the balance between the private and the public within a liberal framework; the merits and the limits of a liberal democracy in governance; and the inadequacy of a nation-states-led global order. In light of these problems, I will offer some Confucian alternatives.
This dissertation is an attempt to defend two founders of quantum theories, Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli, against various anti-realist readings. These readings claim that Bohr's and Pauli's interpretations of quantum mechanics are based on a denial of the reality of the external world, and that their debates with Albert Einstein are over realism. But I argue that the differences between their views and Einstein's are neither about the reality of the external world, nor about the reality of theoretical entities (...) in general. Rather, the differences are about the reality of this or that particular theoretical entity and the viability of this or that particular idea of physics. Although in 1972 Clifford Hooker gave an adequate and then-comprehensive discussion of Bohr's ideas countering anti-realist readings, his work has been forgotten by a new generation of interpreters such as Arthur Fine and Mara Beller who read anti-realism into Bohr's ideas. One aim of this dissertation is to revive Hooker's defense of Bohr and to counter such misreadings. ;A second contribution this dissertation makes consists in an elaboration of Pauli's views. Pauli wrote extensively on many philosophical issues, and made important contributions to the debates between Einstein, Bohr and himself. However, his views are unfairly ignored by most philosophers of quantum mechanics, and when considered, are at best quickly dismissed as anti-realist. In my dissertation, I discuss Pauli's rich ideas on physics and philosophy and show that Pauli is not an anti-realist. In particular, Bohr's and Pauli's views on a problem introduced in a paper by Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen are discussed in detail. The close examination of Bohr's and Pauli's views also shows that there are significant differences between them, suggesting the inadequacy of the generic term "the Copenhagen school," often used to refer indiscriminately to their views. Through my studies of Bohr's and Pauli's ideas, I hope to show the inadequacy of using metaphysical doctrines such as realism and anti-realism to gain either a full understanding of general problems in physics, or an understanding of the ideas of these working physicists in particular. (shrink)