Throughout much of Chinese history, Mencius (372-289 BC) was considered the greatest Confucian thinker after Confucius himself. Following the enshrinement of the Mencius (an edited compilation of his thought by disciples) as one of the Four Books by Sung neo-Confucianists, he was studied by all educated Chinese. This book begins a reassessment of Mencius by studying his ethical thinking in relation to that of other early Chinese thinkers, including Confucius, Mo Tzu, the Yangists, and Hsün Tzu. The author closely examines (...) his ethical concepts and terms, showing how they were used in the Mencius and other texts. (shrink)
The paper presents a perspective on our relation to our environment that is inspired by Confucian thought and that stands in contrast to certain common strands in contemporary philosophical discussions. It conceptualizes our relation to what we encounter on a day-to-day basis primarily in terms of the way we experience and respond to situations, rather than to the objects affected in the situations. From this perspective, the contemporary philosophical distinction between a first- and a third-person point of view is often (...) not suited for describing our responses to situations. Instead, our responses to situations can vary along different dimensions, including the way we direct our attention, our thoughts and sentiments, our motivations, etc., and these variations admit of degrees. Such variations depend on various factors, such as the different ways in which one relates to the object affected in a situation and the kind of person one is. and cannot be adequately described in terms of a shift from one point of view to another. The paper discusses two examples, anger and compassion, to illustrate this alternative perspective, but the discussion can be extended to other areas such as gratitude. (shrink)
Through an examination of the problematic forms of pride highlighted in early texts and the traits to which they are opposed, the paper identifies three main dimensions of humility in early Confucian thought. These include a deflated self-conception, caution and fearfulness, as well as seriousness and awe. It then shows that the term jing 敬 is closely related to all three dimensions, and hence that this is the term in early Confucian thought closest to encompassing all the different aspects of (...) humility understood in a broad sense. (shrink)
The Chinese ethical tradition has often been thought to oppose Western views of the self as autonomous and possessed of individual rights with views that emphasize the centrality of relationship and community to the self. The essays in this collection discuss the validity of that contrast as it concerns Confucianism, the single most influential Chinese school of thought. Alasdair MacIntyre, the single most influential philosopher to articulate the need for dialogue across traditions, contributes a concluding essay of commentary. This is (...) the only consistently philosophical collection on Asia and human rights and could be used in courses on comparative ethics, political philosophy and Asian area studies. (shrink)
The use of the term hsing in the Meng-tzu is discussed, along with Mencius' views on jen-hsing. It is argued that while the use of hsing need not connote something unlearned and shared, Mencius did view jen-hsing in terms of certain unlearned emotional predispositions shared by all jen. He regarded jen as a species distinguished from other animals by its capability of cultural accomplishment, and felt that it is the presence of the emotional predispositions that makes this possible.
This chapter discusses the use of the term ming 命 in a number of key passages in the Mencius as well as the Analects, such as Mencius 5A8, 7A1 and 7A2. It proposes that the term is used primarily to convey a certain attitude toward occurrences which go against one’s wishes, to which one attaches significance, and which one cannot alter either literally or without conducting oneself improperly. In so responding, one is aware of the unavoidability of what has transpired (...) and is still emotionally affected by it, but one does not fixate on what has happened and is not overwhelmed by one’s emotional responses. One is not tempted to alter it by improper means, but at the same time one retains an active sense of engagement with one’s life, redirecting attention to other areas of life in which one can make worthwhile efforts. This attitude of acceptance is part of the self-cultivation process in that one should cultivate in oneself a general preparedness to so respond to such occurrences when they do arise. (shrink)
While the term qing is often translated as “emotions”, it differs from the contemporary notion of emotions in two respects. Its scope also includes such items as likes, dislikes and desires, and it is often used to refer not just to the actual responses of humans but also to the condition of the heart/mind that underlies such responses. The paper examines the evolvement of the term leading to this usage, and explores the different views of qing that evolved leading to (...) the Song-Ming Confucian view of qing as a basic part of the human constitution that needs to be properly nourished. (shrink)
The philosophical study of Confucian thought seeks to both understand the nature of Confucian thought in its historical and cultural context and relate it in an intellectually fruitful manner to contemporary philosophical discourse. Someone engaged in such a study will be pulled inward toward approximating the perspectives of the Confucian thinkers set in the context of their concerns and activities, and pulled outward away from the Confucians’ world of ideas to relate them to our present concerns and interests, specifically those (...) that characterize contemporary philosophical discourse. These two psychological forces, the inward pull and outward pull, can be combined in different ways in the psychological orientation that underlies such a study. This essay presents and discusses the merits of an approach that it describes as “studying Confucian thought from the inside out.” On this approach, the inward pull is maximally dominant, and even as the outward pull leads us to move beyond the Confucians’ own perspectives to relate their ideas to our present concerns and interests, we at the same time seek to do so in a way that is maximally continuous with their perspectives. Such an approach helps draw out the distinctive characteristics and insights of Confucian thought, and also furthers a direction of inquiry that the Confucian thinkers themselves advocate. (shrink)
The origin, content, argumentative basis, practical implication, and influence of Mencius' views of mind-heart and human nature are discussed. While the differences between Confucius and Mencius are acknowledged, it is argued that Mencius' view that human nature is good is consistent with and is a further development of basic ideas in Confucius' thinking. The basis of Mencius' view is not empirical generalization but inner reflection and personal experience, which reveal a shared natural endowment in human beings with a transcendental source. (...) In addition to a discussion of Mencius' views, the development of his ideas in the Sung and Ming and by contemporary Neo-Confucians is also considered. (shrink)
After discussing the use of le 樂 in early texts, the paper goes on to consider the nature of the idealized state of le in the Analects. It is a state akin to a state of tranquility, and is anchored in one's following the ethical path and one's affirming such a way of life. Because the different elements of the mind are blended together in an ethical direction, there is a sense of harmony and of ease. There is also a (...) sense of restfulness in that one is not inclined to move away from this state and, as a result, this state will endure. Furthermore, because the external conditions of life are viewed as of minor significance compared to the ethical, one is not subject to worries about such conditions. (shrink)
Some of the authors of the essays on Chinese philosophers prefer the pin yin system of romanization for Chinese names and words, while others prefer the Wade‐Giles system. Given that both systems are in wide use today, important names and words are given in both their pin yin and Wade‐Giles formulations. The author's preference is printed first, followed by the alternative romanization within brackets.