This comprehensive introductory textbook to early Chinese philosophy covers a range of philosophical traditions which arose during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods in China, including Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism. It considers concepts, themes and argumentative methods of early Chinese philosophy and follows the development of some ideas in subsequent periods, including the introduction of Buddhism into China. The book examines key issues and debates in early Chinese philosophy, cross-influences between its traditions and interpretations by scholars up (...) to the present day. The discussion draws upon both primary texts and secondary sources, and there are suggestions for further reading. This will be an invaluable guide for all who are interested in the foundations of Chinese philosophy and its richness and continuing relevance. (shrink)
It is proposed here that the Confucian li, norms of appropriate behavior, be understood as part of the dynamic process of moral self-cultivation. Within this framework li are multidimensional, as they have different functions at different stages in the cultivation process. This novel interpretation refocuses the issue regarding the flexibility of li, a topic that is still being debated by scholars. The significance of this proposal is not restricted to a new understanding of li. Key features of the various stages (...) of moral development in Confucian thought are also articulated. This account presents the picture of a Confucian paradigmatic person as critically self-aware and ethically sensitive. (shrink)
The cicada catcher focuses as much on technique as he does on outcomes. In response to Confucius’ question, he articulates in detail the learning he has undertaken to develop techniques at each level of competence. This chapter explains the connection between the cicada catcher’s development of technique and his orientation toward outcomes. It uses details in this story to contribute to recent discussions in epistemology on the cultivation of technique.
In Daoist philosophy, the self is understood as an individual interdependent with others, and situated within a broader environment. Within this framework, the concept ziran is frequently understood in terms of naturalness or nature while wuwei is explained in terms of non-oppressive government. In many existing accounts, little is done to connect these two key Daoist concepts. Here, I suggest that wuwei and ziran are correlated, ethical, concepts. Together, they provide a unifying ethical framework for understanding the philosophy of the (...) Daodejing. I explore the meaning of ziran as self-so-ness or, in human terms, as pertaining to an individualâs spontaneity. The appropriate response to the spontaneity of individuals is to avoid, insofar as possible, imposing or using restrictive norms and methods, that is, wuwei. According to this view, ziran and wuwei offer an account of ethics that attends to core notions of interdependent selfhood, including mutuality, relationality, interdependence, symbiosis, and responsiveness. (shrink)
In this article, we present an account of ming 明 in the Zhuangzi's Neipian in light of the disagreements among the thinkers of the time. We suggest that ming is associated with the Daoist sage's vision: he sees through the debaters' attempts to win the debates. We propose that ming is primarily a meta-epistemological stance, that is, the sage understands the nature of the debates and does not enter the fray; therefore he does not share the thinkers' anxieties. The sage (...) takes his stance at the pivot of dao and, from there, responds to the different views limitlessly. (shrink)
By examining fundamental Confucian concepts -- zhengming, ren, li, xiao, shu and dao -- the essay demonstrates that Confucian ways of thinking do not always fit neatly into categories such as 'moral' or rights'. The author provides a positive interpretation of certain Confucian ideas including: the concept of a person as a self- in- relation; the notion of responsibility as particularistic and dependent upon the kinds of relationships one has and the social positions one occupies; and the view of the (...) moral community as comprised by selves- in- relation who are reciprocally connected and who share similar ideals and forms of life. (shrink)
The standard criticisms of Confucian ethics appear contradictory. On the one hand, Confucian ethics is deemed overly rule-bound: it is obsolete because it advocates adherence to ancient Chinese norms of proper conduct. On the other hand, Confucian ethics is perceived as situational ethics—done on the run—and not properly grounded in fundamental principles or norms. I give reasons for these disparate views of Confucian ethics. I also sketch an account of Confucian morality that focuses on moral development; in this account the (...) place of normative ethics is nominal. (shrink)
In this article, we present an account of ming 明 in the Zhuangzi's Neipian in light of the disagreements among the thinkers of the time. We suggest that ming is associated with the Daoist sage's vision: he sees through the debaters' attempts to win the debates. We propose that ming is primarily a meta-epistemological stance, that is, the sage understands the nature of the debates and does not enter the fray; therefore he does not share the thinkers' anxieties. The sage (...) takes his stance at the pivot of dao (daoshu 道樞) and, from there, responds to the different views limitlessly. (shrink)
Since the 1940s, Western epistemology has discussed Gilbert Ryle’s distinction between knowledge-that and knowledge-how. Ryle argued that intelligent actions – manifestations of knowledge-how – are not constituted as intelligent by the guiding intervention of knowledge-that: knowledge-how is not a kind of knowledge-that; we must understand knowledge-how in independent terms. Yet which independent terms are needed? In this chapter, we consider whether an understanding of intelligent action must include talk of knowledge-to. This is the knowledge to do this or that now, (...) not then or in general. Our argument is refined and buttressed by consideration of a text in Chinese philosophy, the Lüshi Chunqiu. This 3rd century BCE text, a compendium on good government, focuses on different types of knowledge that an effective ruler or a capable official should possess. A significant number of those discussions concern examples of knowing-how being manifested in particular situations. The text is explicitly aware of the importance of timeliness and awareness of context in manifesting know-how. Some might say that these are merely manifestations of knowing-how. But we see these examples as revealing characteristics of know-how that Ryle did not anticipate. Might knowing-to be an essential and irreducible aspect of intelligent action? (shrink)
The concepts dao and de in the Daodejing may be evoked to support a distinctive and plausible account of environmental holism. Dao refers to the totality of particulars, including the relations that hold between them, and the respective roles and functions of each within the whole. De refers to the distinctiveness of each particular, realized meaningfully only within the context of its interdependence with others, and its situatedness within the whole. Together, dao and de provide support for an ethical holism (...) that avoids sacrificing individuals for the sake of the whole. The integrity and stability of the whole are important not because the whole is an end-in-itself but because those conditions assist in preserving the well-being of the constituent parts. In other words, the ethical holism supported in the Daodejing does not present individuals and wholes in mutually exclusive terms, but sees them in symbiotic relation, allowing for events to be mutually beneficial, or mutually obstructive, to both. In addition, two other Daoist concepts, wuwei (non-action) and ziran (spontaneity), provide further support for this construction of holism. If the distinctiveness of particular individuals is valued, then unilateral or reductive norms which obliterate such individuality are inappropriate. In this regard, the methodology of wuwei allows for the idea of individuals developing spontaneously in relation to others. According to this view of holism,individuals manifest and realize their integrity in relation to others in the environmental context, achieving an outcome that is maximally co-possible within those limits, rather than one that is maximally beneficial only for particular individuals. (shrink)
For a while now, there has been much conceptual discussion about the respective natures of knowledge-that and knowledge-how, along with the intellectualist idea that knowledge-how is really a kind of knowledge-that. Gilbert Ryle put in place most of the terms that have so far been distinctive of that debate, when he argued for knowledge-how's conceptual distinctness from knowledge-that. But maybe those terms should be supplemented, expanding the debate. In that spirit, the conceptual option of practicalism has recently entered the fray. (...) Practicalism conceives anew the nature of knowledge-that, as being a kind of knowledge-how. In this paper we enlarge upon this conceptual suggestion. We draw from an ancient Chinese text, the Analects of Confucius, explaining how it lends some support to practicalism. (shrink)
The Zhuangzi is noted for its advocacy of many different perspectives—chickens, cicadas, fish and the like. There is much debate in the literature about the implications of Zhuangzi’s pluralist inclinations. I suggest that Zhuangzi highlights the limitations of individual, perspectivally-constrained, knowledge claims. He also spurns the ‘view from nowhere’ and is sceptical about the possibility of an ideal observer. For him, wisdom consists in understanding the epistemological inadequacies of each perspective. I propose that Zhuangzi’s philosophy offers significant insights to an (...) increasingly globalized world characterized by a plurality of ethical and value commitments. It does not assume there will necessarily be universal agreement or a standardized answer. Most importantly, it is a position that seeks to augment self-understanding and enrich the self in dialogue with and response to others. (shrink)
This paper explores the contribution of early Daoist thought to contemporary feminist philosophy. It has often been noted that the Daodejing stands in contrast to other texts of the same period in its positive evaluation of femininity and of values associated with the feminine. This paper takes a cautious approach to the Daoist concept of the feminine, noting in particular its emphasis on the characteristic of feminine submissiveness. On the other hand, the paper seeks to demonstrate that the Daoist treatment (...) of contrastive pairs--in particular, the Daoist notion of complementarity--provides a powerful conceptual scheme within which the notions of both femininity and masculinity may be articulated. (shrink)
The concepts dao and de in the Daodejing may be evoked to support a distinctive and plausible account of environmental holism. Dao refers to the totality of particulars, including the relations that hold between them, and the respective roles and functions of each within the whole. De refers to the distinctiveness of each particular, realized meaningfully only within the context of its interdependence with others, and its situatedness within the whole. Together, dao and de provide support for an ethical holism (...) that avoids sacrificing individuals for the sake of the whole. The integrity and stability of the whole are important not because the whole is an end-in-itself but because those conditions assist in preserving the well-being of the constituent parts. In other words, the ethical holism supported in the Daodejing does not present individuals and wholes in mutually exclusive terms, but sees them in symbiotic relation, allowing for events to be mutually beneficial, or mutually obstructive, to both. In addition, two other Daoist concepts, wuwei and ziran, provide further support for this construction of holism. If the distinctiveness of particular individuals is valued, then unilateral or reductive norms which obliterate such individuality are inappropriate. In this regard, the methodology of wuwei allows for the idea of individuals developing spontaneously in relation to others. According to this view of holism,individuals manifest and realize their integrity in relation to others in the environmental context, achieving an outcome that is maximally co-possible within those limits, rather than one that is maximally beneficial only for particular individuals. (shrink)
A distinguishing characteristic of Confucianism is its emphasis on learning (xue), is a key element in moral self cultivation. This paper discusses why learning from the experiences of those in the past is important in Confucian learning.
Many tertiary-level courses assess students’ participation in tutorial or online discussions. However, in educational and pedagogical research literature, criteria for assessing students’ skills in engaging with peers remain unclear. This article describes an online assignment with a set of participation criteria and a method for assessing the quality of students’ interactions with peers. The assignment focuses on students’ ability to utilise their critical thinking skills while engaging with peers on a particular topic. This includes abilities such as responding to criticism, (...) justifying one’s view and contributing to discussion. While the assignment is designed for a critical thinking course in a philosophy curriculum, the method and participation criteria may be adapted for assessment in other discipline areas. (shrink)
Both Ancient Chinese and Greek philosophers provide accounts of the life lived well: a Confucian junzi, a Daoist sage and a Greek phronimos. Cultivation in Early China and Ancient Greece engages in comparative, cross-tradition scholarship and investigates the processes associated with cultivating or nurturing the self in order to live such lives. -/- By focusing on the processes rather than the aims of cultivating a good life, an international team of scholars investigate how a person develops and practices a way (...) of life. They look at what is involved in developing practical wisdom, exercising reason, cultivating equanimity and fostering reliability. Using the thought of those thinkers central to both traditions, including Plato, Confucius, Han Fei and Marcus Aurelius, they examine themes of harmony, balance and beauty, and highlight the different concerns of scepticism across both traditions. They also discuss the action of doing as an indispensable method of learning. As a result, Cultivation in Early China and Ancient Greece is a valuable collection opening up new lines of inquiry in ethics and demonstrating the importance of drawing on philosophical ideas from across cultural traditions. (shrink)
This anthology presents the distinctive insights of Chinese philosophy and their relevance to contemporary issues in a range of areas: moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, environmental ethics, medicine and psychological health. New, especially interdisciplinary research Applies insights in Chinese philosophy from eminent scholars in the field of Chinese philosophy.
Mengzi maintained that both benevolence (ren 仁) and rightness (yi 義) are naturally-given in human nature. This view has occupied a dominant place in Confucian intellectual history. In Mencius 6A, Mengzi's interlocutor, Gaozi, contests this view, arguing that rightness is determined by (doing what is fitting, in line with) external circumstances. I discuss here some passages from the excavated Guodian texts, which lend weight to Gaozi's view. The texts reveal nuanced considerations of relational proximity and its limits, setting up requirements (...) for moral action in scenarios where relational ties do not play a motivational role. I set out yi's complexity in these discussions, highlighting its implications for (i) the nei-wai debate; (ii) the notion of yi as "rightness," or doing the right thing; and (iii) how we can understand the connection between virtue and right action in these early Confucian debates. This material from the excavated texts not only provides new perspectives on a longstanding investigation of human nature and morality, it also challenges prevailing views on Warring States Confucian intellectual history. In the well-known debate between Mengzi and Gaozi in Mencius 6A, Mengzi maintained that both ren and yi are naturally-given 1 in human nature. The figure 1 To say that ren and yi are naturally-given is not to say that they are fully-developed from the start. I use the phrase "naturally-given" throughout the paper to indicate where a particular capacity or resource (ren or yi) may be found, rather than its final polished state. (shrink)
Discussions of human partiality—anthropocentrism—in the literature in environmental ethics have sought to locate reasons for unnecessary and thoughtless degradation of the earth’s environment. Many of the debates have focused on metaethical issues, attempting to set out the values appropriate for an environmental ethic not constrained within an anthropocentric framework. In this essay, I propose that the fundamental problem with anthropocentrism arises when it is assumed that that is the only meaningful evaluative perspective. I draw on ideas in the Zhuangzi, a (...) classical Chinese philosophical text of the Daoist tradition. The Zhuangzi scrutinises the debates of its day, focusing on the attitudes of the thinkers who sought to trump others in the debates. Through many images expressed in stories, the Zhuangzi asserts the irreducibility of individual perspectives, challenging its readers to examine the insularity of their own views. I suggest that the epistemological awareness in the Zhuangzi helps in our understanding of anthropocentrism. (shrink)
Many scholars note that the Analects, and Confucian philosophy more generally, hold a conception of knowing that more closely approximates ‘knowing-how’ than ‘knowing-that’. However, I argue that this description is not sufficiently sensitive to the concerns of the early Confucians and their focus on self-cultivation. I propose that a particular conception of knowing—knowing to act in the moment—is better suited to capturing the Analects’ emphasis on exemplary lives in actual contexts. These investigations might also contribute to discussions on know-how in (...) epistemology in western philosophy. (shrink)
Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe (eds.), Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously: Contemporary Theories and Applications Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-6 DOI 10.1007/s11712-011-9253-y Authors Karyn Lai, School of History of Philosophy, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009.
In the Lunyu, Confucius remarks on the implausibility—or impossibility—of a life lacking in xin 信, reliability (2.22). In existing discussions of Confucian philosophy, this aspect of life is often eclipsed by greater emphasis on Confucian values such as ren 仁 (benevolence), li 禮 (propriety) and yi 義 (rightness). My discussion addresses this imbalance by focusing on reliability, extending current debates in two ways. First, it proposes that the common translation of xin as denoting coherence between a person’s words and deeds (...) is inadequate. The translation fails to capture the longer-term consistency in a person’s actions and behaviours in different circumstances across time. Second, it explores how the Lunyu passages discuss the processes of learning that prepare a person for reliable action. (shrink)
This chapter discusses ren 仁, a major term in the Confucian Analects. It analyzes the range of meanings of ren across different conversations, paying special attention to its associations with other key Confucian terms such as li (禮 behavioural propriety) and zhi (知 understanding). Building on this analysis, the discussion focuses on ren in terms of how it is manifest in a person’s life. In particular, it expresses ren in terms of an exemplary life—a life lived well. The chapter also (...) dwells briefly on how this model of a good life can inform and enrich contemporary debates in ethics. (shrink)
This valuable collection of illuminating analysis of skill stories from the Zhuangzi, a 4th century BCE Daoist text opens up new lines of inquiry in comparative East-West philosophical debates on skill, cultivation and mastery, as well as cross-disciplinary debates in psychology, cognitive science and philosophy.
The Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics, edited by Lorraine Besser-Jones and Michael Slote, is unusual among the recent crop of handbooks, encyclopedias, and compendiums in philosophy in a couple of respects. First, as well as presenting up-to-date surveys of the field, the Companion includes a number of entries that also engage in argument and negotiate tensions between different positions—some even questioning the nature of virtue ethics itself. These chapters are particularly interesting as they demonstrate the use of philosophical methodology in (...) debates about VE. Second, the volume engages with non-Western perspectives on virtue theory and VE, with several chapters showing the... (shrink)