Review of Metaphysics 38 (4):881-882 (1985)

The focus of this informative work is "The Art of Rulership," Book 9 of the Huai Nan Tzu--an anthology of the Early Han. A complete translation of this book is given at the end of this study. Through a careful and detailed discussion of various political concepts in Pre-Ch'in philosophical literature, it is maintained that "The Art of Rulership" is a creative synthesis of some key concepts in Taoism, Confucianism, and Legalism. Ample translations of important passages supporting Ames's interpretations are provided. Ames states that his book is "an exercise in conceptual reconstruction." After a preliminary chapter on philosophy of history, Ames discusses five fundamental concepts: wu-wie, shih, fa, yung chung, and li-min. Throughout, Ames traces the conceptual evolution of these notions and the way these notions are incisively used in "The Art of Rulership." The chapters on shih and fa are particularly illuminating and jointly contribute to the understanding of legalism. On the whole, Ames's interpretative remarks are sound. Indeed, the book is an important contribution to the study of ancient Chinese political thought. However, there are two rather puzzling features in this work. The first is the attribution of organismic metaphysics to both Confucianism and Taoism. Very little explanation or justification is given for this attribution. Moreover, it is doubtful that such an attribution throws light upon the key concepts studied. Actually Ames rarely invokes this metaphysical presupposition throughout his study. In addition an informed reader is likely to be disturbed by Ames's regular use of the term "consummate person" in discussing both Confucianism and Taoism. The Confucian chün-tzu may be rendered in this way; but it can hardly be used to translate Chuang Tzu's chih-jen, which may be rendered as "perfect man." To render both terms as "consummate person" misleadingly suggests that both Taoism and Confucianism have the same conception of ideal personality. In fact, we are dealing with two radically divergent conceptions of ideal person. Ames should have provided some justification for his practice.--Antonio S. Cua, The Catholic University of America.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph198538463
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