In this paper we discuss ethical implications of the use of mobile phone apps in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing is a well-established feature of public health practice during infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. However, the high proportion of pre-symptomatic transmission in COVID-19 means that standard contact tracing methods are too slow to stop the progression of infection through the population. To address this problem, many countries around the world have deployed or are developing mobile phone apps (...) capable of supporting instantaneous contact tracing. Informed by the on-going mapping of ‘proximity events’ these apps are intended both to inform public health policy and to provide alerts to individuals who have been in contact with a person with the infection. The proposed use of mobile phone data for ‘intelligent physical distancing’ in such contexts raises a number of important ethical questions. In our paper, we outline some ethical considerations that need to be addressed in any deployment of this kind of approach as part of a multidimensional public health response. We also, briefly, explore the implications for its use in future infectious disease outbreaks. (shrink)
Mohism was an ancient Chinese philosophical movement founded in the fifth century B.C.E. by the charismatic artisan Mozi, or "Master Mo." The Mohists advanced a consequentialist ethics that anticipated Western utilitarianism by more than two thousand years and developed fascinating logical, epistemological, and political theories that set the terms of philosophical debate in China for generations. They were the earliest thinkers to outline a just war doctrine and to explain the origin of government from a state of nature. Their epistemology (...) and psychology provide intriguing alternatives to contemporary Western mentalism. The Philosophy of the Mozi is an extensive study of Mohism that immerses readers in the Mohist worldview, situates the movement's rise and decline within Chinese history, and highlights its relevance to modern thought. (shrink)
The paper develops a eudaimonistic reading of the Zhuāngzǐ 莊子 on which the characteristic feature of a well-lived life is the exercise of dé 德 in a general mode of activity labeled yóu 遊 . I argue that the Zhuāngzǐ presents a second-order conception of agents’ flourishing in which the life of dé is not devoted to predetermined substantive ends or activities with a specific substantive content. Rather, it is marked by a distinctive manner of activity and certain characteristic attitudes. (...) Zhuangist eudaimonism differs from virtue ethics, I suggest, since dé is not moral virtue nor is it normatively basic. The paper discusses textual evidence that the Zhuāngzǐ presents eudaimonistic ideals, develops the Zhuangist conception of “wandering” in detail, and explores connections between wandering and the Zhuangist interest in skill. It surveys the justification for Zhuangist eudaimonism and sketches how the wandering ideal affects the substantive content of a good life. (shrink)
Drawing primarily on the Mòzǐ and Xúnzǐ, the article proposes an account of how knowledge and error are understood in classical Chinese epistemology and applies it to explain the absence of a skeptical argument from illusion in early Chinese thought. Arguments from illusion are associated with a representational conception of mind and knowledge, which allows the possibility of a comprehensive or persistent gap between appearance and reality. By contrast, early Chinese thinkers understand mind and knowledge primarily in terms of competence (...) or ability, not representation. Cognitive error amounts to a form of incompetence. Error is not explained as a failure to accurately represent the mind-independent reality due to misleading or illusory appearances. Instead, it can be explained metaphorically by appeal to part-whole relations: cognitive error typically occurs when agents incompetently respond to only part of their situation, rather than the whole. (shrink)
The ethics of the Zhuāngzi is distinctive for its valorization of psychological qualities such as open-mindedness, adaptability, and tolerance. The paper discusses how these qualities and their consequences for morality and politics relate to the text’s views onskepticism and value. Chad Hansen has argued that Zhuangist ethical views are motivated by skepticism about our ability to know a privileged scheme of action-guiding distinctions, which in turn is grounded in a form of relativism about such distinctions. Against this, Icontend that the (...) Zhuāngzi’s skepticism and its ethical stance jointly rest on a metaethical view of value as inherently plural, perspectival, heterogeneous, and contingent. This view provides grounds for moral consideration toward others and for political liberalism. It also explains how the psychological qualities valorized in the Zhuāngzi contribute to the value of our individual lives, by showing what their absence costs us. (shrink)
The article assesses Chad Hansen's arguments that both early and later Moist texts apply only pragmatic, not semantic, terms of evaluation and treat “appropriate word or language usage,” not semantic truth. I argue that the early Moist “three standards” are indeed criteria of a general notion of correct dao 道 , not specifically of truth. However, as I explain, their application may include questions of truth. I show in detail how later Moist texts employ terms with the same expressive role (...) as “ is true.” Thus, contra Hansen, the Moists can justifiably be said to have a concept of semantic truth. (shrink)
Among the many striking features of the philosophy of the Zhuāngzǐ is that it advocates a life unperturbed by emotions, including even pleasurable, positive emotions such as joy or delight. Many of us see emotions as an ineluctable part of life, and some would argue they are a crucial component of a well-developed moral sensitivity and a good life. The Zhuangist approach to emotion challenges such commonsense views so radically that it amounts to a test case for the fundamental plausibility (...) of the Daoist ethical orientation: If the Zhuangist stance on emotion is untenable, then other aspects of Daoist ethics may founder as well. In this essay, I explore what I call a Zhuangist ‘Virtuoso View’ of emotion and its connections with human agency, attempting to show that at least one version of a Zhuangist approach to emotion passes the ‘basic plausibility’ test. I begin by describing the Virtuoso View and sketching its theoretical foundation, which involves claims about human agency, the self, psychophysical hygiene, the good life, epistemology, and metaphysics. Next, I defend the Virtuoso View against three objections, namely that it abandons intentionality, that it interferes with a good life, and that it yields a schizophrenic conception of agency. I argue for three major theses. First, the Virtuoso View is easily intelligible and largely defensible. Second, it reflects a crucial insight into a fundamental dichotomy at the core of human agency: the unavoidable conflict within a self-aware human agent between an internal, engaged perspective and an external, detached one. Third, I suggest that certain problems or conflicts arising from the Virtuoso View actually reflect inherent features of the human predicament and thus are not mere conceptual defects. Hence even if we do not find the Virtuoso View wholly convincing, we can nevertheless gain much insight from it. (shrink)
The article proposes an account of the prevailing classical Chinese conception of reasoning and argumentation that grounds it in a semantic theory and epistemology centered on drawing distinctions between the similar and dissimilar kinds of things that do or do not fall within the extension of ‘names’. The article presents two novel interpretive hypotheses. First, for pre-Hàn Chinese thinkers, the functional role associated with the logical copula is filled by a general notion of similarity or sameness. Second, these thinkers’ basic (...) explanation of reasoning is that it is a process of moving from a comparison of whether something is similar to a ‘model’ or ‘standard’ to a judgment about whether that thing is part of a certain kind. Classical texts treat judgment as the attitude of predicating a ‘name’ of something, or, equivalently, of distinguishing whether something is the kind of thing denoted by a certain term. Reasoning is treated as a process of considering how some acts of term predication, or drawing distinctions, normatively commit one to making further, analogous predications or drawing further, analogous distinctions. Inference is thus understood as the act of distinguishing something as a certain kind of thing as a result of having distinguished it as similar to a relevant ‘model’ or ‘standard’. The article concludes by summarizing the consequences of the proposed account of early Chinese semantic and logical theories for the interpretation of other areas of classical Chinese thought. (shrink)
The Zhuangzi rejects the use of invariant general norms to guide action, instead stressing the importance of contextual factors in determining the apt course to take in particular situations. This stance might seem to present a variety of moral particularism, the view that general norms play no fundamental role in moral thought and judgment. I argue against interpreting the Zhuangzi as committed to particularism and thus denying that dao rests on, is shaped by, or comprises general patterns or norms. Instead, (...) I contend, the text presents a combination of contextualism about the factors that determine appropriate responses to particular situations and pluralism about defeasible general norms or standards. The target of criticism is not generalism, the view that general patterns and relations play a role in determining and explaining appropriate courses of action. It is the monolithic application of fixed norms without regard for context. (shrink)
Three views of psychological emptiness, or x , can be found in the Zhu ngz . The instrumental view values x primarily as a means of efficacious action. The moderate view assigns it intrinsic value as an element of one Zhuangist vision of the good life. The radical view also takes it to be an element of the ideal life, but in this case the form of life advocated is that of the Daoist sage, who transcends mundane human concerns to (...) merge with nature or the D o. The instrumental and moderate views articulate a relatively commonsensical position, on which the agent continues to pursue at least some characteristically human projects. On the radical view, by contrast, the agent ceases to exercise agency and lives a life hardly recognizable as human. The three views thus signal a tension in Zhuangist ethics, and the unattractiveness of the radical view poses a potential obstacle to the application of Daoist ideas in contemporary ethical discourse. The paper argues that there are principled grounds within Zhuangist thought for detaching the instrumental and moderate views from the radical view and rejecting the latter. (shrink)
Three views of psychological emptiness, or xū, can be found in the Zhuāngzĭ. The instrumental view values xū primarily as a means of efficacious action. The moderate view assigns it intrinsic value as an element of one Zhuangist vision of the good life. The radical view also takes it to be an element of the ideal life, but in this case the form of life advocated is that of the Daoist sage, who transcends mundane human concerns to merge with nature (...) or the Dào. The instrumental and moderate views articulate a relatively commonsensical position, on which the agent continues to pursue at least some characteristically human projects. On the radical view, by contrast, the agent ceases to exercise agency and lives a life hardly recognizable as human. The three views thus signal a tension in Zhuangist ethics, and the unattractiveness of the radical view poses a potential obstacle to the application of Daoist ideas in contemporary ethical discourse. The paper argues that there are principled grounds within Zhuangist thought for detaching the instrumental and moderate views from the radical view and rejecting the latter. (shrink)
The Mohist Canons are a set of brief statements on a variety of philosophical and other topics by anonymous members of the Mohist school , an influential philosophical, social, and religious movement of China's Warring States period (479-221 B.C.).  Written and compiled most likely between the late 4th and mid 3rd century B.C., the Canons are often referred to as the “later Mohist” or “Neo-Mohist” canons, since they seem chronologically later than the bulk of the Mohist writings, most of (...) which are probably from the mid-5th to the late 4th century. The.. (shrink)
This essay examines the theory of ritual propriety presented in the Xúnzǐ and criticisms of Xunzi-like views found in the classical Daoist anthology Zhuāngzǐ. To highlight the respects in which the Zhuāngzǐ can be read as posing a critical response to a Xunzian view of ritual propriety, the essay juxtaposes the two texts' views of language, since Xunzi's theory of ritual propriety is intertwined with his theory of language. I argue that a Zhuangist critique of the presuppositions of Xunzi's stance (...) on language also undermines his stance on ritual propriety. Xunzi contends that state promulgation of anelaborate code of ritual propriety is a key to good social order (zhi) and that state regulation of language is a key to smooth communication and thus also good order. The Zhuāngzǐ provides grounds for doubting both contentions. Claiming that ritual propriety causally produces social order is analogous to claiming that grammar causally produces smooth linguistic communication, when in fact it is more likely our ability to communicate that allows us to develop shared rules of grammar. Humans have fundamental social and communicative capacities that undergird our abilities to speak a language or engage in shared ritual performances. It is these more fundamental capacities, not their manifestation in a particular system of grammar or ritual norms, that provide the root explanation of our ability to communicate or to live together harmoniously. The Xunzi-Zhuangzi dialectic suggests that ritual is indispensable, but normatively justified rituals will be less rigid, less comprehensive, less fastidious, and more spontaneous than a Xunzian theorist would allow. (shrink)
: This essay critiques Chad Hansen’s "mass noun hypothesis," arguing that though most Classical Chinese nouns do function as mass nouns, this fact does not support the claim that pre-Qin thinkers treat the extensions of common nouns as mereological wholes, nor does it explain why they adopt nominalist semantic theories. The essay shows that early texts explain the use of common nouns by appeal to similarity relations, not mereological relations. However, it further argues that some early texts do characterize the (...) relation between individuals and collections as a mereological relation. (shrink)
Chris Fraser presents a rich and broad-ranging study of the culminating period of classical Chinese philosophy, the third century BC. He offers novel and informative perspectives on Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, Legalism, and other movements in early Chinese thought while also delving into neglected texts such as the Guanzi, Lu's Annals, and the Zhuangzi 'outer' chapters, restoring them to their prominent place in the history of philosophy. Fraser organizes the history of Chinese thought topically, devoting separate chapters to metaphysics and metaethics, (...) political philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, and philosophy of language and logic. Focused specifically on the last century of the Warring States era, arguably the most vibrant, diverse period of philosophical discourse in Chinese history, the discussion covers the shared concerns, rival doctrines, and competing criticisms presented in third-century BC sources. Fraser explicates the distinctive issues, conceptual frameworks, and background assumptions of classical Chinese thought. He aims to introduce the philosophical discourse of early China to a broad audience, including readers with no prior familiarity with the material. At the same time, the thematic treatment and incisive interpretations of individual texts will be of interest to students and specialists in the field. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, Daniel Stephens argues against Chad Hansen’s and Chris Fraser’s interpretations of the later Mohists as realists about the ontology of kinds, contending that the Mohist stance is better explained as conventionalist. This essay defends a realist interpretation of later Mohism that I call “similarity realism,” the view that human-independent reality fixes the similarities that constitute kinds and thus determines what kinds exist and what their members are. I support this interpretation with a new, (...) detailed account of the Mohist conception of a kind on which kind relations lie in inherent similarities between the intrinsic features of objects. This account distinguishes kind relations from “uniting together” and part-whole relations, both of which, unlike kind relations, may be determined by convention. I argue that Stephens’s critique of realist interpretations fails because it confuses the ontological issue of what determines the existence of kinds with the semantic issue of what fixes the names for kinds. (shrink)
In this lecture, I present a sketch of how action and agency are conceived of in pre-Qín 先秦, or classical, Chinese thought, along the way drawing some contrasts with familiar Western conceptions of action. I will also comment briefly on how the ideas I present might affect our interpretation of early Chinese texts and how they might help us to relate early Chinese thought to contemporary action theory and ethics.
John Searle’s “thesis of the Background” is an attempt to articulate the role of nonintentional capacities---know-how, skills, and abilities---in constituting intentional phenomena. This essay applies Searle’s notion of the Background to shed light on the Daoist notion of w’u-w’ei---“non-action” or non-intentional action---and to help clarify the sort of activity that might originally have inspired the w’u-w’ei ideal. I draw on Searle’s work and the original Chinese sources to develop a defensible conception of a w’u-w’ei-like state that may play an intrinsically (...) and instrumentally valuable role in the exercise of agency. At the same time, however, I argue that Searle’s view that “Intentionality rises to the level of the Background abilities” convincingly explains why the conception of w’u-w’ei presented in ancient texts is untenable. W’u-w’ei-like states can generally occur only as components of an intentional flow of activity, and thus they are not fundamentally nonintentional. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to clarify the role of self-interest in Moist thought and by doing so to refute the Self-Interest Thesis. Toward these ends, I will examine passages from the Mozi bearing on the role of self-interest in Moist ethics and psychology and show that, in each case, an alternative interpretation explains them better than the Self-Interest Thesis does. I will argue that the Moists recognize the obvious truth that self-interest figures among people’s basic motives, but they (...) believe people also have other important sources of motivation. (shrink)
The “School of Names” ming jia ) is the traditional Chinese label for a diverse group of Warring States (479-221 B.C.) thinkers who shared an interest in language, disputation, and metaphysics. They were notorious for logic-chopping, purportedly idle conceptual puzzles, and paradoxes such as “Today go to Yue but arrive yesterday” and “A white horse is not a horse.” Because reflection on language in ancient China centered on “names”.
This essay argues that the third-century BC Ruist “masters” text Xúnzǐ presents a sophisticated approach to semantics and epistemology in which a concern with truth is at best secondary, not central. Xúnzǐ’s primary concern is with identifying and applying the apt dào (way), which for him is a more fundamental concept that underwrites and explains truth claims. Dào refers to a way or path of personal and social conduct, covering prudential, esthetic, ethical, and political concerns. Xúnzǐ is primarily concerned with (...) whether utterances, along with actions, policies, and social practices, are correct in conforming to dào—specifically, the dào of “good order” (zhì)—rather than whether they are correct in being true. Insofar as he is concerned with truth, he regards the status of assertions as true or not as derivative from their status as following dào or not. A consequence is that for Xúnzǐ questions of value and culture are more basic than questions of truth. (shrink)
This note responds to an interpretation of Mohist Canon and Explanation B 671 published by John Makeham some years ago. Makeham’s interpretation makes significant contributions to our understanding of this passage, especially in calling attention to problems with two influential previous interpretations, those of A. C. Graham and Chad Hansen.3 Yet his reading presents difficulties of its own, which I will attempt to rectify here.
This essay applies John Searle’s account of weakness of will to explore the classical Chinese problem of weak-willed action. Searle’s discussion focuses on the shortcomings of the Western classical model of rationality in explaining weakness of will, so he naturally says little about the practical ethical problem of overcoming weak-willed action, the focus of the relevant Chinese texts. Yet his theory of action, specifically his notion of the Background, suggests a compelling approach to the practical issue, one that converges with (...) a plausible account of the classical Chinese conception of agency. On this approach, the practical problem is due to weaknesses of the self in carrying out intentions. The key to overcoming the problem lies not in restructuring the agent’s affective states, as suggested by prominent interpreters of Chinese thought such as David Nivison, but in strengthening the agent’s Background capacities, much as we do when mastering new skills. (shrink)
This essay contributes to comparative inquiry concerning happiness through a case study of Xúnzǐ, a major Confucian thinker. Xúnzǐ’s ethical theory presents values and norms that fill the role of happiness indirectly, through the ideal figure of the gentleman. However, his working conception of psychological happiness and individual well-being turns on aesthetic values that go beyond the universal prudential values to which his ethical theory appeals. Hence I argue that his implicit conception of happiness actually revolves around a way of (...) life grounded in what Susan Wolf has called “reasons of love.”. (shrink)
This book aims to rectify this imbalance by including essays on Daoism and Confucianism, early Chinese moral psychology including widely neglected views of the Mohists and newly reconstructed accounts of the "embodied virtue" tradition, ...
, originally was not an independent chapter in the Fei Gong (Condemning Aggression) series, but rather part of the ending of Mozi 26, the first of the Tian Zhi ¤Ñ§Ó (Heaven’s Intention) chapters. I will argue that we have no reason to..