THIS ESSAY PRESENTS A CONFUCIAN PERSPECTIVE ON LI. My main concern is the question, “How can a Confucian moral philosopher move from the ethical to the religious dimension of li?” Section 1 provides an analysis of the scope, evolution, functions, and a brief discussion of the question of justification of li. Section 2 deals with the inner aspect of the foundation of conduct, the motivational aspect of li-performance. Section 3 discusses the outer aspect of the foundation of li, focusing on (...) Hsün Tzu’s vision of the triad of t’ien, earth, and humanity, an interpretation of his use of t’ien, shen and shen-ming as expressing a respect for established linguistic, religious practice without an endorsement of associated popular religious beliefs. This interpretation leaves open the question of the validity of reasoned religious beliefs, while presuming the religious dimension of li as extension of Confucian ethics. Section 4 centers on the ethical significance of the li of mourning and sacrifice and the more general question on the efficacy of li, and concludes with some remarks on the transformative significance of the religious dimension of li. (shrink)
IN THIS ESSAY I offer a critical appreciation of Paul Weiss's Toward A Perfected State by reconstructing a framework for explicating some of his major theses. After a statement of this framework as consisting of metaphysical theses and their mediating principles, I turn to the role of these principles in Weiss's account of the nature and defects of social complexes. In the conclusion, I make some suggestions on the plausibility of these principles, apart from Weiss's metaphysical presuppositions, in the light (...) of a conception of reasonableness. (shrink)
UNTIL RECENT YEARS moral traditions have not been an important topic for moral philosophy. With few exceptions, attention has been directed to the problem of moral justification, to the search for universal criteria for the assessment of moral beliefs or judgments regardless of their traditional provenance. Generally, philosophers aspire to formulate "the view from nowhere." Since the publication of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue there has been a revival of interest in the concept of a living, moral tradition, especially among moral (...) philosophers concerned with the possibility of an ethics of virtue or character as a viable alternative to the ethics of principle or, say, to deontological, utilitarian, or contractarian ethics. We must observe here that in the three decades prior to 1981, some moral philosophers displayed similar concern with tradition, although terms other than "tradition" were used, for example, "forms of life," "ways of life," "moral practices," and "moral community." Rawls's conception of reflective equilibrium is also developed with an eye on the notion of tradition. Indeed, Rawls has been quite explicit about his tradition-oriented approach to moral theory: "What justifies a conception of justice is not its being true to an order antecedent to and given to us, but its congruence with our deeper understanding of ourselves and our aspirations, and our realization that, given our history and the traditions embedded in our public life, it is the most reasonable doctrine.". (shrink)
HSÜN Tzu's essay on "Rectifying Terms" is justly considered a work of "great logical interest." For in this essay, one finds a remarkably modern concern with such topics as the rationale for having terms; the empirical and pragmatic bases for the classification of terms; the formation of generic and specific terms; the importance of observing established linguistic practices; the necessity of complying with proper standards for the institution, ratification, and regulation of the uses of language ; the nature of argumentative (...) discourse ; and the problems inherent in successful linguistic communication. A careful examination of some passages in other essays also suggests an awareness of the distinction between deductive, inductive, and analogical inferences, though Hsün Tzu provides us no explicit discussion of the nature of reasoning and its validating rules. (shrink)
In the past two decades, interest in the logical aspect of Chinese thought was largely confined to classical Chinese philosophy, particularly to the works of the later Mohists and Kung-sun Lung. Most of these discussions employed the techniques of formal analysis. Little attention was devoted to the possibility of exploring the nature of informal analysis and the standards of competence for evaluating particular pieces of discourse.
Perhaps the best approach to the Chinese conception of reason is to focus on the concept li, commonly translated as “principle,” “pattern,” or sometimes “reason.” While these translations in context are perhaps the best, having an explication of the uses of li is desirable and instructive for understanding some main problems of Chinese philosophy. Because there is no literary English equivalent, one cannot assume that li has a single, easily comprehensible use in Chinese discourse. This assumption is especially problematic when (...) it comes to appreciating the basic concerns of Confucian ethics. A closer examination of the uses of li and “principle” reveals a complexity that cannot be captured by a simple formula. Apart from the question whether li and “principle” are functionally equivalent, one may also ask whether li in Confucian ethics can be properly considered a context‐independent notion in the way that “principle” can. For a contemporary Confucian moral philosopher, Confucian ethics is more plausibly viewed as a form of virtue ethics. Absent an explanation of the uses of li, the translation of li as “principle” unavoidably leads to such misleading questions as: “What are the principles of Chinese or Confucian ethics?” “If such principles exist, do they serve as premises for the derivation of moral rules?” “Are Confucian principles universal or relative?” While these questions are fundamental in Western moral theory, their importance for Confucian ethics depends on a prior consideration of the status of principles in Confucian ethics. (shrink)
This is an impressive book containing noteworthy and challenging contributions to meta-ethics, especially in presenting a powerful case for a version of moral relativism based on recent developments in the philosophy of language. The main thesis on moral relativity denies that there is "a single true morality." Much of the argument centers on the relevance of truth-condition semantics and the causal and descriptive theories of reference. In this light, relativist analyses are proposed for "A ought to do X" and "X (...) is a good Y" statements. These analyses are preceded by an extensive discussion of the notion of moral truth in light of works of Alfred Tarski and Donald Davidson, and the relativist analyses of morality as a social creation represented in some writings of Gilbert Harman and Hector-Neri Castañeda. It is recommended that the moral "A ought to do X" statement be analyzed as "By not doing X under certain actual conditions C, A will be breaking a rule of an adequate moral system applying to him or her," and the "X is a good Y" statement in terms of "Under certain conditions C, X satisfies the appropriate standards for Y's." Moral goodness is a special case and derivative from the general use "X satisfies the appropriate moral standards for Y's when these standards are derived from the adequate moral system applying to X." These analyses are clarified and defended against the Absolutist objections and alternative proposals, and followed by a defense "of the principle of the best explanation" as a guiding maxim for translating moral language and as "the method for explaining diversity and disagreement in moral beliefs.". (shrink)
This is an excellent philosophical study of a frequently neglected ethical problem regarding substitute judgments for incompetent persons. In Part I, the discussion of the legal context in which the problem arises gives the reader an informative and perceptive account of the Supreme Court's acknowledgment of certain fundamental rights in substantive due process cases. The analysis of the line of cases pertaining to the right of privacy and its implication for the problem of the incompetent person presents a good case (...) for the view that "the history of the problem is in fact a legal history." "The problem arises with the Court's articulation of fundamental rights because the question of whether and in what manner the incompetent person possesses these same rights follows immediately from this. Once the courts establish that the incompetent person does possess these rights, they are confronted with the difficulty of determining who shall act on behalf of the incompetent person". The three chapters that comprise Part I are valuable in reminding the reader of the legal aspect of many contemporary moral issues, such as contraception, abortion, etc.; and the importance of the doctrine of judicial strict scrutiny with respect to invidious discriminations. (shrink)