Bryan Van Norden's new translation of the _Mengzi _ is accurate, philosophically nuanced, and fluent. Accompanied by selected passages from the classic commentary of Zhu Xi--one of the most influential and insightful interpreters of Confucianism--this edition provides readers with a parallel to the Chinese practice of reading a classic text alongside traditional commentaries. Also included are an Introduction that situates Mengzi and Zhu Xi in their intellectual and social contexts; a glossary of names, places and important terms; a selected (...) bibliography; and an index. (shrink)
The classical Chinese philosopher Mengzi shares the idea with David Hume that virtue and vice are dispositions of character that arise from original qualities of the mind. Mengzi is guardedly optimistic that these original qualities can be extended to become fully formed virtues, while Hume is guardedly skeptical about this same enterprise. Yet these two thinkers have something to share with each other. In this essay I will use illustrations from Mengzi to sketch out an interpretation of (...) extending original moral qualities into the virtue of benevolence. I will chart two developmental stages on the pathway to fully developed benevolence, and I will attempt to superimpose Hume’s account of the passions and his double.. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that in Mengzi 2A2 Mengzi 孟子 proposes his method for cultivating righteousness by showing that on the way of achieving yi, such topics as the unperturbed hearts, cultivating courage, Gaozi’s 告子 maxim, and the flood-like qi 氣 ultimately converge. Toward this aim, first, I argue that Mengzi’s short remark “bi you shi yan er wu zheng, xin wu wang, wu zhu zhang 必有事焉而勿正, 心勿忘, 勿助長” can be read as his maxim for achieving (...) yi that structurally parallels with the preceding maxim of Gaozi that Mengzi quoted. It tells us that neither our blind obedience to the words nor our impetuous boost of qi is helpful for achieving yi; instead we should concentrate on the heart’s moral sentiments and perform righteous actions. Second, I argue that Mengzi believes that qi is crucial in one’s proper self-cultivation. The centrality of moral sentiment in his teaching redirects our attention to qi’s positive aspects—exemplified by the flood-like qi—though qi’s impulsivity often makes it appear negative. If the four sprouts are to accompany the spontaneous movement of qi, it can be said that properly expressed qi signals the moral health of one’s heart. Moreover, I show that strong positive qi not only constitutes moral sentiment that serves as a fair standard for self-examination but also leads the will to perform moral actions without delay. (shrink)
The role dilemma raises a problem for role ethic interpretations of Confucianism. The dilemma arises from the conflict between the demands and obligations of Humaneness and the demands and obligations of roles one occupies. Favoring the demands of Humaneness undermines a role ethic because roles and role-obligations no longer ground the ethic. However, favoring social role-obligations permits immoral and unjust role-obligations and allows for uncharitable readings of Confucianism.This paper examines how Mengzi resolves the dilemma. I argue that Mengzi’s (...) account of human nature privileges the demands of Humaneness; social roles are central but defeasible in light of Humaneness. I briefly discuss a prominent articulation of Confucian role ethics as well as the role dilemma. Then, after considering the technical resources within the Mengzi, I argue that Mengzi espouses an externalism about roles. Finally, I explore the relationship between Mengzi’s externalism and role e.. (shrink)
: This essay introduces a way of reading the Mengzi (Mencius) that complicates how we understand what Mengzi is recorded as saying. A pragmatic-strategic reading of the Mengzi is developed here, according to which Mengzi attends to and operates under important pragmatic constraints on speech. Based on a close reading of key passages, it is argued that truth-telling and descriptive accuracy are less important to Mengzi than guiding people along the Confucian path. This reading has (...) implications for our understanding of Mengzi’s philosophical positions and his methods of argumentation, as well as for our understanding of philosophical activity in general. (shrink)
This essay investigates the structure and meaning of the Mengzi’s 孟子 analogical inferences in Mengzi 6A7. In this chapter, he argues that just as the perceptual masters allowed the discovery of our senses’ uniform preferences, the sages enabled us to recognize our hearts’ universal preferences for “order and righteousness.” Regarding an unresolved question of how the sages help us understand our hearts’ preferred objects as such, I propose a spectator-based moral artisanship reading as an alternative to an evaluator-focused (...) moral connoisseurship view: the sages are moral artisans who refine their moral achievements, and people’s uniform approval of their achievements—firmly associated with “order and righteousness”—demonstrates our hearts’ same natural preferences for them. Furthermore, I argue that this chapter’s conclusion—we and the sages are of the same kind with natural moral preferences—implies the necessity of our transition from passive spectators to active moral performers for moral self-cultivation. (shrink)
Previous scholars seem to assume that Mengzi’s 孟子 four sprouts are more or less homogeneous in nature, and the four sprouts are often viewed as some sort of desires for or instinctive inclinations toward virtues or virtuous acts. For example, Angus Graham interprets sìduān 四端 as “incipient moral impulses” to do what is morally good or right, or “spontaneous inclinations” toward virtues or moral good. However, this view is incompatible with the recently proposed more sound views that regard (...) class='Hi'>Mengzi’s four sprouts as a particular type of emotions or feelings having some “cognitive” or “rational” aspects. In this essay I develop this new approach to Mengzi’s four sprouts, and specifically argue that respect in Mengzi should be considered neither as a moral desire nor as a behavioral tendency to do deferential acts but as some sort of ethical sensibility that is responsive to the relevant features of a worthy person. (shrink)
Mengzi believed that tyrannical rulers can be justifiably deposed, and many contemporary scholars see this as evidence that that Mengzi endorsed a right of popular rebellion. I argue that the text of the Mengzi reveals a more mixed view, and does so in two respects. First, it suggests that the people are sometimes permitted to participate in a rebellion but not permitted to decide for themselves when rebellion is warranted. Second, it gives appropriate moral weight not to (...) the people’s judgments about the justifiability of rebelling, but rather to certain affections and behaviors that closely track their life satisfaction. I contend that in both respects the permissions Mengzi grants the people fall short of a proper right of rebellion. I conclude that the more historical account of Mengzi’s “just revolt theory” suggests an intriguing division of justificatory labor, and note some of the advantages of this account. (shrink)
Mengzi (372–289 BCE), or Mencius, an early Confucian whose thinking is represented in the eponymous Mengzi, argues that human nature is good and that all human beings possess four senses—the feelings of compassion, shame, respect, and the ability to approve and disapprove—which he variously calls “hearts” or “sprouts.” Each sprout may be cultivated into its corresponding virtue of ren, li, yi, or zhi. -/- Here we explore why Mengzi thinks we possess these four hearts and their relation (...) to the cultivated virtues. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea of “following nature” in two classical Chinese thinkers, Mengzi and Zhuangzi. The goal is to complicate appeals to “following nature” in Asian thought and to problematize the very imposition of the concept “nature” on Zhuangzi and Mengzi. The paper begins by establishing some common ground between Mengzi and Zhuangzi, based on two points—both view harmony with tian (heaven/nature) as a primary aspect of living well, and both require a process of self-transformation to (...) reach this harmony. The second part of the paper argues that Mengzi and Zhuangzi give different answers to a similar question. That question is, what does it means to follow or be in harmony with tian? The essay concludes with some reflections on how “following nature” in Zhuangzi and Mengzi might apply to environmental ethics. (shrink)
We explore the central analogy behind Mengzi’s view of ethical cultivation. -/- Philosophers sometimes ask what makes a person’s life worthwhile or what conditions make for a good life. Mengzi’s answer involves cultivating our innate moral senses into fully ripened virtues of ren (humaneness), yi (rightness), li (propriety), and zhi (wisdom). This cultivation neither is individualistic nor can it happen in isolation: it requires a lifetime of meaningful interactions with other people. In short, one’s ethical cultivation is interdependent (...) with other people, one’s social environment, and whether (and how well) one reflects on the stirrings of their sprouts and extends their previous moral behavior to the current situation. (shrink)
This essay examines whether Confucian role ethics offers resources to identify and redress gender inequality and oppression. On its face, Confucian role ethics seems ill suited for this task for two reasons. First, a central tenet of role ethics is that a person is constituted by her roles. Because roles are constituted by norms that govern them, many social roles are, and have been, historically oppressive. Second, discussions of Confucian role ethics tend to avoid talk of autonomy, yet autonomy is (...) helpful in identifying and rectifying gender inequalities insofar as autonomy tracks the ways oppression disables individuals’ abilities to achieve personhood. My goal in this essay is to work... (shrink)
This volume serves both as an introduction to the thought of Mengzi and Wang Yangming and as a comparison of their views. By examining issues held in common by both thinkers, Ivanhoe illustrates how the Confucian tradition was both continued and transformed by Wang Yangming, and shows the extent to which he was influenced by Buddhism. Topics explored are: the nature of morality; human nature; the nature and origin of wickedness; self cultivation; and sagehood. In addition to revised versions (...) of each of these original chapters, Ivanhoe includes a new chapter on Kongzi's view of the Way. (shrink)
Mengzi 孟子 6A2 contains the famous water analogy for the innate goodness of human nature. Some evaluate Mengzi’s reasoning as strong and sophisticated; others, as weak or sophistical. I urge for more nuance in our evaluation. Mengzi’s reasoning fares poorly when judged by contemporary standards of analogical strength. However, if we evaluate the analogy as an instance of correlative thinking within a yin-yang 陰陽 cosmology, his reasoning fares well. That cosmology provides good reason to assert that water (...) tends to flow downward, not because of available empirical evidence, but because water correlates to yin and yin correlates to naturally downward motion. Substantiating these contentions also gives occasion to better understand the nature of correlative reasoning in classical Chinese philosophy. (shrink)
This essay explores some of the similarities and differences between the views of several Western and Chinese thinkers on the metaphysical status of moral qualities and how we come to perceive and appreciate them. It then uses this comparative analysis to identify and address some remaining problems in regard to these two issues. The essay offers a brief sketch of and introduction to the history of the study of moral qualities and moral perception in modern Western philosophy and takes the (...) views of John McDowell, W ang Yangming, and Mencius as the primary focus of its comparative component. It seeks to understand the views of these thinkers by a careful examination of the metaphors as well as the arguments they employ. (shrink)
I want first to present an overview of what I take to be Mengzi's own systematic ethics, which I shall approach as a version of "virtue ethics," and second to examine some of the standard arguments against Mengzi's position. -/- .
David Nivison has argued that Mèngzǐ 孟子 postulates only one source of moral motivation, whereas Mèngzǐ’s rival thinkers such as Gàozǐ 告子 or the Mohist Yí Zhī 夷之 additionally postulate “maxims” or “doctrines” that are produced by some sort of moral reasoning. In this essay I critically examine this interpretation of Nivison’s, and alternatively argue that moral emotions in Mèngzǐ, basically understood as concern-based construals, are often an insufficient source of moral action, and an additional source of moral motivation, specifically (...) a conviction or judgment of what is the right thing to do in a certain situation in question, is often necessary for one to complete a moral action. This implies that Mèngzǐ should be interpreted to postulate two sources of moral motivation just as his rival thinkers do, namely moral emotion on one hand and judgment and practical reasoning on the other. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue for a plausible account for moral luck in the Ruist tradition. In part one I will offer a preliminary framework for moral luck to establish an intersection between Ruist virtue ethics and its counterparts outside of Ruism. I will situate the term moral luck in a Ruist context. Although the term moral luck does not appear in The Mengzi the concept was known to Master Meng and is useful for comparison with its foreign (...) counterparts. In part two, guided by Thomas Nagle’s four categories for moral luck, I show where Ruist moral luck can be found in The Mengzi. I conclude by highlighting the contributions that Ruism offers to the broader moral luck discussion. (shrink)
Offered here is an interpretation of the ancient Confucian philosopher Mengzi's (372–289 B.C.E.) method of cultivating moral feelings, which he calls "extension." It is argued that this method is both psychologically plausible and an important, but often overlooked, part of moral life. In this interpretation, extending our moral feelings is not a project in logical consistency, analogical reasoning, or emotional intuition. Rather, Mengzi's method of extension is a project in realigning the human heart that harnesses our rational, reflective, (...) and emotional capacities in order to extend the feelings we already have to the appropriate objects for these feelings. It is argued that there are three main features of Mengzi's account that make it an attractive explanation of the cultivation of moral feelings. The first is the way Mengzi sees reasoning and philosophical reflection as an aid to, rather than the foundation for, moral development. The second is Mengzi's precision regarding the relationship between the basic moral feelings we start with (the "sprouts") and their corresponding virtues. The method of extension acts as a well-designed bridge between feelings and virtues. Third, Mengzi's account, unlike that of the Mohist Yi Zhi, whom he criticizes, pays special attention to the complexities and limitations of human psychology. In conclusion it is shown how a Mengzian understanding of the relationship between feelings and morality can answer some traditional challenges, especially Kantian ones, regarding the proper role of emotion in moral life. (shrink)
This essay examines the structural position of Mengzi’s 孟子 heart of compassion within his theoretical goal of teaching moral self-cultivation. I first investigate Kim Myeong-seok’s account that views ceyin zhi xin as a higher cognitive emotion with a concern-based construal. I argue that Kim’s conclusion is not sufficiently supported by the text of the Mengzi, but is also tarnished by the possibility of constructing a noncognitivist counter-theory of ceyin zhi xin. Instead, I suggest that David Hume’s causation-based approach (...) to sentiment provides an alternative route to reach the theoretical core of Mengzi’s ceyin zhi xin. People’s uniform moral sentiment as the effect of mental causation implies that there is a natural cause universally engraved in the human heart. As Mengzi’s practical teaching of moral self-cultivation begins with recognizing this heart of compassion, his focus is placed not upon the characteristics of the expressed emotion, but upon the universal presence of its natural cause in the human heart which demonstrates our moral potential to care for others. (shrink)
“The Archimedean point for moral life” discussed in this article refers to the starting point of one's moral reasoning and what ultimately makes moral life possible. The article intends to show that Mengzi's doctrine of the Four Beginnings may throw some light on our search for such an Archimedean point. More specifically, it argues for the following: Mengzi's doctrine of the Four Beginnings actually takes moral sentiments as the Archimedean point for moral life; Mengzi's view of the (...) starting point of moral reasoning and the ultimate ground for moral life not only can be empirically supported to a great extent, but also logically plausible. (shrink)
The nuggets of wisdom uttered by the old men of the various ancient schools of thought have been compiled into this series. Explanatory notes and English translation are added for the benefit of both Chinese and overseas readers fond of traditional Chinese culture.
_The Essential Mengzi_ offers a representative selection from Bryan Van Norden's acclaimed translation of the full work, including the most frequently studied passages and covering all of the work's major themes. An appendix of selections from the classic commentary of Zhu Xi--one of the most influential and insightful interpreters of Confucianism--keyed to relevant passages, provides access to the text and to its reception and interpretation. Also included are a general Introduction, timeline, glossary, and selected bibliography.
In this paper, I reveal systematic aspects of the moral epistemology of the Warring States Confucian, Mengzi. Mengzi thinks moral knowledge is 'internally' available to humans because it is acquired through normative dictates built into the human heart-mind. Those dictates are capable of motivating and justifying an agent's normative categorizations. Such dictates are linked to Mengzi's conception of human nature as good. I then interpret Mengzi's difficult discussion of courage and qi in Mengzi 2A: 2 (...) as illuminating the idea of 'internal' justification. The epistemology of courage is intimately related in 2A: 2 to its practice. Finally, I indicate at the end in outline the ways in which Mengzi and Gaozi are engaged in a dispute about moral epistemology that pits each of them against Xunzi and also against Zhuangzi. (shrink)