The public good that does the public good: A new reading of mohism

Asian Philosophy 3 (2):125 – 141 (1993)
Abstract
Abstract Mohism has long been misrepresented. Mo?tzu is usually called a utilitarian because he preached a universal love that must benefit. Yet Mencius, who pined the Confucian way of virtue (humaneness and righteousness) against Mo?tzu's way of benefit, basically borrowed Mo?tzu's thesis: that the root cause of chaos is this lack of love?except Mencius renamed it the desire for personal benefit. Yet Mo?tzu only championed ?benefit? to head off its opposite, ?harm?, specifically the harm done by Confucians who with good intent (love) perpetuated rites that did people more harm than good. Mo?tzu wanted his universal love to be the public good that would actually do the public good (i.e. benefit the collective). And he derived this from Confucius? teaching of ?Love (all) men? and his Golden Rule: Render not what others would not desire. No man desires harm. As a critic of Confucian rites (especially the prolonged funeral), Mo?tzu worked to replace the blind custom of rites with his rational measure of ?rightness?: what is right must do good (i.e. benefit the intended recipient). It is not true that Mohists were ?joyless? ascetics; they would gladly celebrate a good harvest with wine and folk song?not expensive court music?with the people. Since Mohist discourse is ?public? (that is, accountable), it is also only proper that what is ?right? should be outer (means?end efficacy) and not inner as Mencius would insist
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Whalen Lai (2010). On “Trust and Being True”: Toward a Genealogy of Morals. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 9 (3):257-274.
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