After expounding the conceptions of harmony that are central to Confucianism and the sub-Saharan ethic of ubuntu, I apply them to three major topics pertaining to age, namely, virtue, the value of life, and care. Roughly speaking, indigenous East Asian and African values of harmony both entail that only the elderly can be truly virtuous, that the elderly have a strong claim to life-saving resources, and that they are entitled to care from their children, views that I show are not (...) characteristic of moral thinking in the contemporary West, neither for prominent philosophies nor the cultures out of which they grew. I suggest that many Anglophone moral philosophers should be given pause by the existence of different perspectives on the part of at least two long-standing philosophies, and conclude by briefly proposing some ways that cross-cultural debate might be undertaken in the future. (shrink)
The view that aesthetics is central to human conduct and social order derives from the cosmology articulated in the classical corpus. This led several modern Chinese thinkers to articulate how some notion of the aesthetic has been central to Chinese culture and society. Roger Ames and David Hall’s work might be considered as a continuation of this New Confucian project, since their account of the classic Chinese tradition as an aesthetic tradition also starts from recognition of some kind of comprehensive (...) unity between humans and the world. Their approach, however, holds out the promise of avoiding metaphysical or causal problems facing these earlier accounts, where attempts to link a world of processual transformation directly with human emotion must explain casually how such correlation could arise. Hall and Ames, however, emphasize a different conception of aesthetic. In their account, this unity is understood not in terms of metaphysical or causal connection, but through aesthetic judgment. This conception utilizes a Whiteheadian metaphysical framework, whereby the holistic cosmology is now understood as giving rise not to emotions but to an aesthetic order. Building on Roger Ames’ creative reinvigoration of Confucian thought through an appreciation of the role of the aesthetic in the Confucian tradition, we might consider an additional Confucian sense of “aesthetic” that also contributes to social order: the practical concern to create aesthetic goods within everyday social life. This account also draws on Whitehead for relevant conceptual resources, while incorporating the Deweyan instrumentalism of Professor Ames’ later work. (shrink)
Shun Kwong-loi argues that the distinction between first- and third-person points of view does not play as explanatory a role in our moral psychology as has been supposed by contemporary philosophical discussions. He draws insightfully from the Confucian tradition to better elucidate our everyday experiences of moral emotions, arguing that it offers an alternative and more faithful perspective on our experiences of anger and compassion. However, unlike the distinction between first- and third-person points of view, Shun’s descriptions of anger and (...) compassion leave unarticulated what would be necessary to differentiate these responses from non-moral responses. Here, I make a friendly suggestion on how this explanatory gap might be filled, providing complementary grounding for Shun’s observations by way of K. C. Bhattacharyya’s phenomenological analysis of feeling. It fills the gap by means of a gradation in the possible depth of emotional responses found in the a priori structure of a feeling experience for any subject. The payoff of such a comparison between Shun’s explication of Confucian moral psychology and Bhattacharyya’s explication of rasa theory is not only a possible phenomenological grounding for the former but also a potential way to articulate a missing ethics in Bhattacharyya’s thought. (shrink)
I argue that Zhuangist Daoism manifests what I label the spiritual aspiration to emulation, and then use this to challenge some of John Cottingham's attempts to confine authentic spiritual experience to theistic traditions.
Many values originating in Africa and in China, and ones that continue to influence much of everyday communication in those societies, are aptly placed under the common heading of 'harmony'. After first spelling out what harmony involves in substantially Confucian China, and then in Africa, this article notes respects in which the Confucian and African conceptions of harmony are similar, an awareness of which could facilitate smooth communication. The article then indicates respects in which the Confucian and African conceptions of (...) harmony are different, a lack of awareness of which could undermine smooth communication The point of the article is to facilitate Sino-African communication by means of an awareness of indigenous moral-philosophical mindsets that continue to be salient in China and Africa, despite the influence of the West. (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)
Can it ever be morally justifiable to tell others to do what we ourselves believe is morally wrong to do? The common sense answer is no. It seems that we should never tell others to do something if we think it is morally wrong to do that act. My first goal is to argue that in Analects 17.21, Confucius tells his disciple not to observe a ritual even though Confucius himself believes that it is morally wrong that one does not (...) observe the ritual. My second goal is to argue against the common sense answer and explain how Confucius can be justified in telling his disciple to do what Confucius thought was wrong. The first justification has to do with telling someone to do what is second best when the person cannot do what is morally best. The second justification has to do with the role of a moral advisor. (shrink)
A virtue-based theory of right action aims to explain deontic moral principles in terms of virtue and vice. For example, it may maintain the following account of moral obligation: It is morally obligatory for an agent A to ϕ in circumstances C if and only if a fully virtuous and relevantly informed person V would characteristically ϕ in C. However, this account faces the so-called supererogation problem. A supererogatory action is an action that is morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory. (...) Suppose John risks his own life to save a stranger, which is supererogatory rather than obligatory. However, a fully virtuous... (shrink)
When asked why we are friends with someone, we often point to her good virtues as reasons. If these are the reasons, we have equal reasons to be friends with anyone with such virtues, and we can even replace current friends with anyone with the same or better virtues without substantive loss in friendship. However, it does not seem right that a particular friend is replaceable by just any other person with the same or better virtues. This is the fungibility (...) problem of friendship. This essay outlines a Confucian response to the problem on the basis of the Confucian family-based conception of friendship and the Confucian understanding of particularized virtues. First, in the Confucian understanding, true friends are like family members, toward whom we have special obligations. Family members are nonfungible, and so are friends. Second, even though virtues are general traits that can be shared, the formations and practices of virtues are particularized. Confucian thinkers hold that each person configures virtues and exercises virtues in his or her own way depending on specific circumstances, and that persons with the same virtues may nevertheless possess them in varied fashions and exercise different shades of them in particular ways. Thus, persons of the same generic virtues will still retain their particularities as distinctive individuals. We become friends and remain friends with people in part because of their virtues practiced in ways that we appreciate. This notion of particularly exercised virtues makes it practically impossible for two persons to be identical in virtues. On such an understanding, virtuous friends are nevertheless unique and nonfungible. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThis paper is an exploration of the ethical significance of Sengzhao’s concept of the sage as exhibited through a Buddhist practitioner’s expanded understanding and cognition of reality. From a philosophical point of view, I aim to show that the ethical significance of his concept of the sage comprises a shift first from ontology to epistemology, and then from epistemology to ethics. I firstly define Sengzhao’s concept of the sage and present a preliminary account of this concept before elaborating on its (...) philosophical aspects. Next, I attempt to illustrate how ethical implications can be derived from Sengzhao’s ethical shift, and lastly, I shed light on the value and significance of this philosophical standpoint within Buddhist philosophy. (shrink)
This volume offers a comprehensive philosophical study of Confucian ethics-its basic insights and its relevance to contemporary Western moral philosophy. Distinguished writer and philosopher A. S. Cua presents fourteen essays which deal with various probl.
In the face of differences between the ethical religio-philosophies believed across the globe, how should a media ethicist theorize or make recommendations in the light of theory? One approach is relativist, taking each distinct moral worldview to be true only for its own people. A second approach is universalist, seeking to discover a handful of basic ethical principles that are already shared by all the world's peoples. After providing reasons to doubt both of these approaches to doing media ethics, consideration (...) is given to a third. This under-explored approach offers moral claims that would be reasonable for nearly all long-standing cultures to accept even though they currently do not, with the aim of creating new common ground among them. The chapter advances some rights and responsibilities, particularly as they concern the media's role in respect of self-government and self-expression, on which many of those with African, Confucian, Islamic, and Western foundational commitments could sensibly converge. (shrink)
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)
This article explores the relationship between friendship and morality. Two ideas have been influential in the history of moral philosophy: the impartial standpoint and close friendship. These two perspectives on thought and action can conflict, however, and such a case is presented here. In an attempt to resolve these tensions, and understand the assumption that gives rise to it, I explore an alternative conception of moral conduct and friendship suggested by early Confucian thought. Within this account, moral conduct is that (...) which aims at harmony, understood as the appropriate blending of different elements. This suggests a conception of friendship that realizes harmony through a focus on shared activities, and the quality of interaction achieved between people as they participate in shared social events. This account offers a novel way of conceptualizing friendship, which also avoids the tension between the impartial standpoint and close friendship. (shrink)
Given a 21st century context of sophisticated market economies and other Western influences such as Christianity, what similarities and differences are there between characteristic indigenous values of sub-Saharan Africa and China, and how do they continue to influence everyday life in these societies? Establishing that central to both non-Western, indigenous value systems are ideals of harmonious relationships, I compare and contrast traditional African and Chinese conceptions of harmony and analyze a number of respects in which an appeal to this value (...) affects contemporary political, economic and social interaction. (shrink)
Professor Chenyang Li’s insightful volume, The Confucian Philosophy of Harmony, is the first book-length, content-rich, and serious exploration of the Confucian ideal of he 和, harmony. The book convincingly shows that Confucianism cherishes harmonious relations and emphasizes the utmost goal of world harmony.1 To take harmony as a supreme value, Li wants us to “maintain a high level of harmony consciousness” and “give harmony a prominent place in exercising judgments in daily life”. In a nutshell, Confucian harmony has five key (...) characteristics in his account: heterogeneity, tension, coordination and cooperation, transformation and growth, and renewal. Since... (shrink)
Chenyang Li’s new book, The Confucian Philosophy of Harmony, challenges current interpretations of Confucianism by focusing on a long neglected idea — harmony. It also challenges an ideology, found in both the East and the West, that harmony is either static conformity or well-disguised conflict. As Li explains, the book is a reclamation of ‘harmony’ for its proper use in designating the kind of harmony advocated in traditional Chinese thought and, mainly, Confucianism.1 Li does this by carefully examining the status (...) of harmony in the Confucian classics, arguing that it is the most comprehensive and penetrating idea. Other Confucian values such as ren 仁, li 禮, zhong 中, and dao 道 are either intertwined... (shrink)
For well over a thousand years, countless audiences have taken pleasure in watching unfold the following fearful event:Filled with dread, desperately tossing unchewed grass from its mouth, looking back at the hunting king, a beautiful deer springs into flight to escape a fast-approaching chariot from which repeated arrows fly — one of which will inevitably lodge in the deer’s defenseless body. This is not a scene from “National Geographic” or an episode from some sadly popular TV hunting show. Indeed, this (...) scene has been played out far longer than any current program on America’s “Outdoor Channel,” and it comes to most Westerners from half a world away. Kālidāsa’s The Signet-Ring of Śakuntalā, the most famous poem.. (shrink)
Graham Priest claims that Asian philosophy is going to constitute one of the most important aspects in 21st-century philosophical research. Assuming that this statement is true, it leads to a methodological question whether the dominant comparative and contrastive approaches will be supplanted by a more unifying methodology that works across different philosophical traditions. In this article, I concentrate on the use of empirical evidence from nonphilosophical disciplines, which enjoys popularity among many Western philosophers, and examine the application of this approach (...) to early Chinese philosophy. I specifically focus on Confucian ethics and the study of altruism in experimental psychology. (shrink)
Are Confucian and Buddhist ethical views closer to Kantian, Consequentialist, or Virtue Ethical ones? And how can such comparisons shed light on the unique aspects of Confucian and Buddhist views? This essay (i) provides a historically grounded framework for distinguishing western views, (ii) identifies a series of questions that we can ask in order to clarify the philosophic accounts of ethical motivation embedded in the Buddhist and Confucian traditions, and (iii) then critiques Lee Ming-huei’s claim that Confucianism is closer to (...) Kantianism than virtue ethics and Charles Goodman’s claim that Buddhism is closer to Consequentialism than virtue ethics. (shrink)
The Shenzi Fragments is the first complete translation in any Western language of the extant work of Shen Dao (350–275 B.C.E.). Though his writings have been recounted and interpreted in many texts, particularly in the work of Xunzi and Han Fei, very few Western scholars have encountered the political philosopher's original, influential formulations. This volume contains both a translation and an analysis of the Shenzi Fragments. It explains their distillation of the potent political theories circulating in China during the Warring (...) States period, along with their seminal relationship to the Taoist and Legalist traditions and the philosophies of the Lüshi Chunqiu and the Huainanzi. These fragments outline a rudimentary theory of political order modeled on the natural world that recognizes the role of human self-interest in maintaining stable rule. Casting the natural world as an independent, amoral system, Shen Dao situates the source of moral judgment firmly within the human sphere, prompting political philosophy to develop in realistic directions. Harris's sophisticated translation is paired with commentary that clarifies difficult passages and obscure references. For sections open to multiple interpretations, he offers resources for further research and encourages readers to follow their own path to meaning, much as Shen Dao intended. The Shenzi Fragments offers English-language readers a chance to grasp the full significance of Shen Dao's work among the pantheon of Chinese intellectuals. (shrink)
In this paper, I survey some recent literature produced by the established Chinese philosophers who regularly publish in Chinese philosophy journals and work in Mainland China. Specifically, I review the recent research of these philosophers in two areas: Chinese Philosophy and epistemology. In each area, I focus on two topics that have caught the attention of a lot of Chinese philosophers. I argue that the Chinese philosophers’ research on these topics has two prevalent problems: (i) a lot of arguments they (...) make are weak; (ii) they tend not to critically engage with others. I discuss a metaphilosophical objection that weak argumentation and disengagement are not vices of philosophical research. I also try to make sense of (i) and (ii) in terms of some cultural factors. (shrink)
This essay explores the positive aspects of resentment in early Confucian thought. Specifically, it argues that from an early Confucian perspective, resentment is a frustration or anger that occurs when those close to us withhold their care or when they otherwise injure us. Stated succinctly, resentment is a result of frustrated desire for affection. It is a sign that we require the care of significant others, and that we are vulnerable to their concern or neglect. When understood appropriately, resentment signals (...) genuine recognition of meaningful relationships; it is a sign that we are affected by those that ought to matter to us. Importantly, resentment has a creative dimension in that it can lead to the production of literature aimed to channel frustrated desire toward realizing the Confucian dao 道. These texts work to connect the author’s resentment with the reader’s possibility of remaking the world in a way desired by the author. (shrink)
Li Zehou 李澤厚, one of the outstanding contemporary thinkers, coins the term “emotio-rational structure” for his ethical theory. Li emphasizes a balanced and integrated structure of emotion and reason, and the core of this structure is an innovative combination of Kantian rationalism and Confucian ethics. Li admires Immanuel Kant’s rational ontology of ethics, but criticizes his exclusion of human emotion and desire. Li advocates complementing Kantian rationalism with the Confucian ethics of emotion, which he calls “emotion as substance”. He believes (...) that such a balanced structure of emotion and reason will offer inspiration to a changing world... (shrink)
Mengzi 孟子 6A2 contains the famous water analogy for the innate goodness of human nature. Some evaluate Mengzi’s reasoning as strong and sophisticated; others, as weak or sophistical. I urge for more nuance in our evaluation. Mengzi’s reasoning fares poorly when judged by contemporary standards of analogical strength. However, if we evaluate the analogy as an instance of correlative thinking within a yin-yang 陰陽 cosmology, his reasoning fares well. That cosmology provides good reason to assert that water tends to flow (...) downward, not because of available empirical evidence, but because water correlates to yin and yin correlates to naturally downward motion. Substantiating these contentions also gives occasion to better understand the nature of correlative reasoning in classical Chinese philosophy. (shrink)
Engaging in dialogue with African philosophy, I respond to questions raised by Thaddeus Metz on characteristics of Confucian philosophy in comparison with African philosophy. First, in both Confucian philosophy and African philosophy, harmony/harmonization and self-realization coincide in the process of person-making. Second, Confucians accept that sometimes it is inevitable to sacrifice individual components in order to achieve or maintain harmony at large scales; the point is how to minimize such costs. Third, Confucians give family love a central place in the (...) good life before extend love to the rest of the world. Fourth, the Confucian philosophy of gender equality is based on appropriate division of labor consistent with its yin-yang philosophy, rather than equal split of power in the family. Fifth, in the Confucian view, hierarchy and harmony do not necessarily contradict each other, though hierarchy is not essential to all forms of harmony. The two can co-exist. (shrink)
In this paper I respond to criticisms from Jiyuan Yu, Yu Kam Por, and Daniel Bell on interpreting Confucian philosophy of harmony and on various views of harmony from Confucian, Greek, liberal and global perspectives.
Chenyang Li’s new book, The Philosophy of Confucian Harmony, has been heralded as the first book-length exposition of the concept of harmony in the approximately 3,000 year old Confucian tradition. It provides a systematic analysis of Confucian harmony and defence of its relevance for contemporary moral and political thought. In this philosophical discussion of Li’s book, I expound its central claims, contextualize them relative to other salient work in English-speaking Confucian thought, and critically reflect on them in light of a (...) conception of harmony that is salient in the sub-Saharan African tradition. Hence, this article aims to continue the nascent dialogue between indigenous Chinese and African philosophical traditions that has only just begun. Li responds to this critical notice in the same issue of the journal. (shrink)
Bertolt Brecht is internationally known as one of the most influential dramatists, directors, and theater theorists of the twentieth century and also, within German culture, as one of its most innovative modern poets and prose stylists. Whereas Brecht’s contributions to a Marxist aesthetics of drama, theater, poetry, and prose are widely acknowledged, he is less well known as a major thinker on ethical issues, mostly because of his materialist orientation, which conflicts with ethical traditions rooted in metaphysics. Against these traditions, (...) Brecht envisioned an “ethics for the satisfaction of needs”1 and claimed that “material needs as ethical, ethical ones as material, this is not grasped.”2 This.. (shrink)
Contemporary virtue ethicists have attempted to offer a virtue-based account of right action. However, such an account is faced by a daunting challenge, the ‘supererogation problem’ as it may be called. Since what a virtuous person would characteristically do is often beyond the scope of moral duty, virtue ethics seems to have difficulty in accommodating the distinction between obligation and supererogation. This essay aims to meet this challenge by recommending a Confucian virtue theory of supererogation.
This paper explores the Confucian value of authenticity. Taking as the starting point of the Confucian concept of becoming authentic persons of bo, da, jing, and shen, the paper first demonstrates that a high–far–firm zhixiang, creativity, an examined life, and sincerity are four necessary conditions for a self to be an authentic one of bo, da, jing, and shen. It then demonstrates that Confucian ethics operates with a metaphysical concept of a substantive self and Confucian self-cultivation implies authenticating such a (...) substantive self. Finally, it demonstrates that in Confucian ethics, cultivating a person’s self and cultivating the person’s humanity are not separable and entail one another. (shrink)
A growing number of scholars have come to view Confucians and other Chinese thinkers as virtue ethicists. Other scholars, though, have challenged this classification. This essay discusses some of the problems that surround this debate, points out shortcomings in some of the criticisms that have been made, and offers suggestions about how best to develop a productive discussion about the issue.
On the one hand, Confucianism and Christianity advocate universal love for all humans on the ultimate basis of particular love for parents or for God respectively. On the other hand, they have to sacrifice the former for the latter in cases of conflict since they give top priority merely to the latter. In order to overcome this paradox in theory and realize the ideal of universal love in practice, they should transform their particularistic frameworks into universalistic ones and assign a (...) supreme position to their ideas of universal love for all humans, which imply in a potential way a modern, humanistic principle ‘respect the deserved rights of every human being’. (shrink)
Reflections on recent Chinese socio-economic development, insofar as it has been influenced by values, especially Confucianism, and what lessons there are to be learned for understanding sub-Saharan African values and how best to develop in that context.
Confucian resources for moral discourse and public policy concerning abortion have potential to broaden the prevailing forms of debate in Western societies. However, what form a Confucian contribution might take is itself debatable. This essay provides a critique of Philip J. Ivanhoe’s recent proposal for a Confucian account of abortion. I contend that Ivanhoe’s approach is neither particularly Confucian, nor viable as effective and humane public policy. Affirmatively, I argue that a Confucian approach to abortion will assiduously root moral consideration (...) and public policy in evidence-based strategies that recognize the complexity of the phenomena of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. What most distinguishes a Confucian approach, I argue, is a refusal to treat abortion as a moral dilemma that stands free of the myriad social conditions and societal inequities in which empirical evidence shows it situates. (shrink)
Virtue theorizing, long in eclipse, has revived strongly in recent times. However, virtue-type approaches predominate in non-Western cultures and dominated Western thought before the modern period. So the revival can make one wonder whether modern epistemology and ethics do not represent a kind a medieval period relative to these other historical/sociological facts. Why did virtue ethics and epistemology go into eclipse in the West during the modern period? The emerging importance of the individual may represent a kind of shock of (...) modernity that left Western virtue approaches decimated in its wake. Both Cartesian epistemology and modern rights theory represent emergent individualism, but the revival of virtue approaches recently may indicate that the shock of modernity is starting to wear off. (shrink)
I offer a Buddhist-inspired account of how patience can count as a moral virtue, arguing that virtuous patience involves having a perspective on the place of our own desires and values among others and a sense of their relative importance.