Those who see Confucianism as a premodern imperial ideology or a traditional religion have no problem characterizing its social ideal as inherently hierarchical, as this is fairly typical of such systems of thought. From this perspective, rather than valuing equality Confucianism takes for granted inequalities among people, and justifies social hierarchies and unequal distribution of power, resources, prestige, and other goods as part of its ethics and its ideal of good government by sagely kings, the justification sometimes involving metaphysical claims (...) about cosmic and religious hierar-chies.1 While some reject Confucianism for its supposed opposition to egalitarianism from perspectives that consider equality a.. (shrink)
Confucianism’s long historical association with despotism has cast doubts on its compatibility with democracy, and raise questions about its relevance in contemporary societies increasingly dominated by democratic aspirations. “Confucian democracy” has been described as a “contradiction in terms” and Asian politicians have appropriated Confucianism to justify resistance to liberalization and democratization. There has been a lively debate over the question of whether democracy can be found in Confucianism, from ancient texts such as the Analects and Mencius, to Confucian institutions such (...) as those recommended by Song dynasty Huang Zongxi. Philosophers have examined similarities and differences between Western ideas, such as autonomy, liberty, and rights, that are central to democratic theories on the one hand and Confucian ideas of virtue, ren , yi , li , zhi , exemplary person and authority. Scholars have studied the biographical accounts of prominent Confucians to understand the Confucian ideal person and society. Works arguing that there are elements of democracy in Confucianism, or that some Confucian ideas could provide the basis for a contemporary Confucian democracy, differ in the kind of democracy they choose as models. Liberal democracy was the model of earlier works; with increasing criticisms of liberal democracy in the past decades, a growing number of works arguing for Confucian democracy seek alternatives to liberal democracies, many proposing some kind of communitarian democracy as having affinity with the Confucian philosophical orientation. Besides conceptions of democracy that view it in terms of political systems, Dewey’s conception of democracy as the idea of community and primarily a moral ideal has also inspired attempts to reconstruct Confucian democracy. (shrink)
Employing the distinction between the authoritarian (based on coercion) and the authoritative (based on excellence), this study of the understanding of authority in the Analects argues against interpretations of Confucianism which cast Confucius himself as advocating authoritarianism. Passages with key notions such as shang 上 and xia 下; fu 服 and cong 從; quan 權 and wei 威, are analyzed to illuminate ideas of hierarchy, obedience, and the nature of authority itself in the text. The evidence pieced together reveals the (...) Master to be authoritative rather than authoritarian; and the social order to which he aspired is one based on excellence rather than on coercion. The article then considers why teachings which present a model of authority as authoritative ended up as often identified with authoritarianism and concludes with some thoughts about how Confucianism might be rescued from authoritarian practice. (shrink)
Whether the Pragmatic conception of democracy is applicable outside the United States of America is a question that had already been raised even during Dewey’s life time. His visit to China, in particular, has been seen as proof that “the Pragmatic method” for bringing about democracy is inherently flawed.3 However, even if it was a failed experiment, China’s past encounter with Dewey’s Pragmatism should not be seen as absolute proof that Chinese democracy can never be Pragmatic. When an experiment fails, (...) one examines what went wrong or did not turn out as expected, and uses the additional information to improve on the next experiment. This paper reconsiders the failed “Dewey experiment” together with China’s .. (shrink)
The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Chinese Philosophy Methodologies presents a new understanding of the changing methods used to study Chinese philosophy. By identifying the various different approaches and discussing the role, and significance of philosophical methods in the Chinese tradition, this collection identifies difficulties and exciting developments for scholars of Asian philosophy.
American philosopher John Dewey spent more than two years in China (1919–1921). During and after his visit, he wrote some fairly perceptive and insightful commentaries on China. These were published in periodicals such as the New Republic, Asia, and the China Review, and sometimes in newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun. However, there is hardly any discussion of Chinese philosophy in Dewey’s published works or even his papers and correspondence. Among his rare mentions of Chinese philosophy was an article published (...) in 1922, “As the Chinese Think,” which discussed the teachings of Lao Zi and Confucius (M13 : 217–27).1 This was an attempt to improve Western (or at least American) understanding of Chinese attitudes .. (shrink)
This paper examines attempts to find a conception of justice in early Confucian contexts, focusing on the concept of yi (translated as ?appropriateness?, ?right?, ?rightness?, even ?justice?) in the Mencius. It argues against the approach of deriving principles of dividing burdens and benefits from the discussions of concrete cases employing the concept of yi and instead shows that Confucian ethical concerns are more attentive to what kinds of interpersonal relations are appropriate in specific circumstances. It questions the exclusive emphasis in (...) justice-centred ethical discourse on assessing actions, and even more narrowly actions of governments and other public institutions, and their consequences regarding distribution of rights and material resources and goods. Instead of applying some abstract principles of justice, whether of equality or some other priorities according to individual characteristics, distributive problems are approached from the perspective of the effect of any proposed distribution on interpersonal relationships. Principles of justice treat opportunities, resources, and goods that are supposed to be distributed as possessions or potential possessions of individuals always competing for resources and goods. Confucians treat them not as objects to be possessed by one and denied to others, but as facilitators of personal cultivation effecting appropriate interpersonal relationships constituting harmonious communities. The Mencius offers a different perspective on distributive problems by shifting our ethical attention from ?who gets what?? to ?how should we relate to others?? within a different conception of the good life and the ideal society or polity. (shrink)
This paper examines attempts to find a conception of justice in early Confucian contexts, focusing on the concept of yi in the Mencius. It argues against the approach of deriving principles of dividing burdens and benefits from the discussions of concrete cases employing the concept of yi and instead shows that Confucian ethical concerns are more attentive to what kinds of interpersonal relations are appropriate in specific circumstances. It questions the exclusive emphasis in justice-centred ethical discourse on assessing actions, and (...) even more narrowly actions of governments and other public institutions, and their consequences regarding distribution of rights and material resources and goods. Instead of applying some abstract principles of justice, whether of equality or some other priorities according to individual characteristics, distributive problems are approached from the perspective of the effect of any proposed distribution on interpersonal relationships. Principles of justice treat opportunities, resources, and goods that are supposed to be distributed as possessions or potential possessions of individuals always competing for resources and goods. Confucians treat them not as objects to be possessed by one and denied to others, but as facilitators of personal cultivation effecting appropriate interpersonal relationships constituting harmonious communities. The Mencius offers a different perspective on distributive problems by shifting our ethical attention from ‘who gets what?’ to ‘how should we relate to others?’ within a different conception of the good life and the ideal society or polity. (shrink)
It is often remarked that East Asian polities have been hierarchical and the “elite” category continues to figure prominently in works on Chinese society and politics. Many scholars believe that hierarchy and elitism are deeply rooted in Confucianism, which served as the state orthodoxy in imperial China and provided the “psycho-cultural construct” of the way of life in other East Asian cultural communities as well. It is therefore not surprising that some should believe that if modern Confucian societies are to (...) be democratic at all, elitism must be reconciled with democracy. In contrast, elitism is commonly a pejorative term in liberal democracies today, especially the United States, notwithstanding the portrayal of these polities by political scientists as cases of “democratic elitism.”. (shrink)
The ascendency of science in modern times makes it commonplace to accept that science presents the only true and correct image of reality. This has led to naturalization attempts in various domains, from epistemology, metaphysics, to philosophy of mind, and ethics. Naturalistic ethics may mean different things depending on what we consider natural. David Copp equates it with the empirical – emphasizing the relevance of empirical evidence to justification – while admitting that what is empirical is itself problematic.David Copp, Morality (...) in a Natural World , p. 254. One might count as empirical that which can be observed by our physical senses, or more narrowly that which can be studied by the natural sciences. Modern scientific naturalism limits the natural to what can be successfully explained by science but a more liberal naturalism may define as natural whatever does not contradict the laws of nature without necessarily being accountable .. (shrink)
This collection contributes to current debates and explores new topics of engagement between Feminism and Confucius’s teachings, variously interpreted. Besides care ethics and role ethics, questions of gender oppression and education, it includes essays on epistemology and environmental ethics.
In their responses to James Tully’s article “Deparochializing Political Theory and Beyond,” Garrick Cooper, Charles W. Mills, Sudipta Kaviraj and Sor-hoon Tan engage with different aspects of Tully’s “genuine dialogue.” While they seem to concur with Tully on the urgency of deparochializing political theory, their responses bring to light salient issues which would have to be thought through in taking this project forward.
This paper argues for the pragmatic construction of Confucian democracy by showing that Chinese philosophers who wish to see Confucianism flourish again as a positive dimension of Chinese civilization need to approach it pragmatically and democratically, otherwise their love of the past is at the expense of something else Confucius held in equal esteem, love of learning. Chinese philosophers who desire democracy for China would do well to learn from the earlier failures of the iconoclastic Westernizers, and realize that a (...) Chinese democracy cannot come about by ignoring or dismissing such an important part of China's history, its Confucian tradition. The best chances for democracy in China lie in transforming that tradition without destroying it. Eagerness to learn from others must be united with a proper appreciation of one's own past to nurture democracy as a way of life. (shrink)
Developed here is a Confucian balance between two key democratic ideals, liberty and community, by focusing on the Confucian notion of li (ritual), which has often been considered hostile to liberty. By adopting a semiotic approach to li and relating it to recent studies of ritual in various Western disciplines, li's contribution to communication and its aesthetic dimension are explored to show how emphasizing harmony without sacrificing reflective experience and personal fulfillment renders li a concept of moral empowerment of free (...) individuals in community. (shrink)
This paper explores the Confucian veneration of the past and its commitment to transmitting the tradition of the sages. It does so by placing it in the context of the historical trajectory from the May Fourth attacks on Confucianism and its scientistic, iconoclastic approach to “saving China,” to similar approaches to China’s modernization in later decades, through the market reforms that launched China into global capitalism, to the revival of Confucianism in recent years. It reexamines the association of the Pragmatism (...) of John Dewey and Hu Shih with the scientistic iconoclasm of the May Fourth Movement and argues that a broader scrutiny of Dewey’s and Hu’s works, beyond the period when Dewey visited China, reveals a more balanced treatment of tradition, science, and modernization. Pragmatists believe in reconstructing, not destroying, traditions in their pursuit of growth for individuals and communities. Despite a tension between the progress-oriented historical consciousness that Dewey inherited from the Enlightenment and the historical consciousness underlying Chinese historiographical tradition , it is possible to reconcile the Pragmatic reconstruction of tradition with the Confucian veneration of the past. This paper argues for a Pragmatic Confucian approach to Chinese traditions that is selective in its transmission of the past and flexible enough in its “preservation” to allow for progressive change. (shrink)
The family could be mobilized as a political resource for economic 'development'. What kind of family would be compatible with a knowledge-based economy? We argue that authoritarian Confucian familism is incompatible with the knowledge-based economy; but it is possible to construct a different model of the ideal Confucian family which will be compatible with such an economy: a family ideal that emphasizes internal strengths of relationships rather than building barriers to keep out 'undesirable influences', that advocates a respect for authority (...) that is authoritative rather than authoritarian. (shrink)
This chapter explores the relevance of Dewey’s philosophy of democracy for China within the context of Dewey’s historical visit to China and continuing debates about his influence among the Chinese. Dewey’s pragmatism illuminates certain problems in the contemporary discourses about China’s democratization, including questions whether Chinese culture is an obstacle to democratization and the strengths of a Deweyan approach to articulating a Confucian democracy that could work in China. Dewey’s emphasis on experimentation in social reforms and his fallibilism regarding the (...) political institutions of democracy open up new possibilities for China’s democratization and suggest where one might look to discover the indigenous conditions—the varied experiments being conducted in local governance and civil society—from which a Chinese democracy might be born. (shrink)
This is the introduction to the content of the jounrnal's special issue (vol. 4 no. 1 / January 2013) celebrating the tenth anniversary of the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy (ISCWP), which includes five peer-reviewed articles by ISCWP members.
Huang, Junjie, and Jiang Yihua, eds., New Explorations of Public and Private Spheres: Comparison of East Asian and Western View Points 公私領域新探:東亞與西方觀點之比較 Taipei 臺北: National Taiwan University Press 國立台灣大學出版中心, 2005, 303 pages.
For most contemporary liberals, politics concerns distribution in social arrangements based on consent, guided not by unified notions of the good life, but by notions of justice or rights prior to and neutral towards conceptions of the good. ;This liberal demarcation between politics and ethics assumes an ideal of individual autonomy that has little meaning to Confucianism. However, Confucianism is authoritarian. Confucianism views individuals and societies differently, but nevertheless avoids subordinating either to the other. Via communitarian critiques of liberal democracy (...) and John Dewey's conception of democracy that bridges the liberal-communitarian divide, the author argues that a Confucian democracy is possible in which politics and ethics are inseparable without being oppressive. ;Chapter one sets the problem within recent debates over liberal democracy global norm, the liberal-communitarian debate, and John Dewey's philosophy. ;Chapter two discusses a conception of social individuals that offers an alternative to the liberal conception of the autonomous self. Comparing Dewey's views with constructed Confucian conceptions, the chapter shows that recognizing individuals as inherently social does not subordinate individuals to some collective entity totally separate from its individual members. ;Through an understanding of their conceptions of communities as nonexclusionary and requiring individual creativity, chapter three explores the resources in Dewey's, pragmatism and early Confucianism for guidance on building democratic communities in which individuals flourish together. The operative conceptions of the good life in such communities would be neither imposed completely from above, nor begin entirely from below. ;Chapter Four compares Confucian and Deweyan ethico-political orders in which ethics and politics are inseparable. It suggests that, while Confucianism for most of its history has not explicitly advocated "government by the people," its emphasis on "government for the people" provides a Confucian argument for democracy. ;Chapter five examines how Confucians balance freedom with authority, and draws from early Confucianism and Dewey's philosophy an alternative ideal of human freedom in contrast with the liberal ideal of individual autonomy. ;In conclusion, the dissertation considers some difficulties and strategies of bringing about a Confucian democracy. (shrink)
In the current crisis of liberal democracy, Confucianism has been cited as offering superior alternative models of government. With the resources from Dewey’s Pragmatism, this paper defends democracy, which should not be equated to de facto liberal democracies, as desirable for Confucian societies. It examines the affinities between Confucian and Dewey’s conception of the person and community and argues for an understanding of democratic values that brings together Dewey’s democratic values and Confucian ideals of personal cultivation and virtuous governance.
Ritual (li) is central to Confucian ethics and political philosophy. Robert Neville believes that Chinese Philosophy has an important role to play in our times by bringing ritual theory to the analysis of global moral and political issues. In a recent work, Neville maintains that ritual ‘needs a contemporary metaphysical expression if its importance is to be seen.’ This paper examines Neville's claim through a detailed study of the ‘ethics of ritual’ in one of the early Confucian texts, the Xunzi. (...) This text has sometimes been read as offering a form of naturalism in its discussions of ‘heaven (tian)’ as analogous to Western, even modern, concept of ‘nature,’ while other interpreters insist that tian is a normative notion. Does this concept of tian offer a metaphysical ground for ethics of ritual advocated in the text? If so, what kind of metaphysics is it? Does Confucian ritual ethics need any metaphysical grounding? There is no specific metaphysical theory in the Xunzi and passages which could be referring to or implying metaphysical assumptions are open to hermeneutical debates. Even if metaphysical assumptions are necessary or beneficial to an ethics of ritual, the paper argues that the ‘metaphysical flexibility’ of the text could work to its advantage in remaining relevant in contemporary context. The conclusion explores some possible directions for further exploring the metaphysics of ritual in a modern understanding of Xunzi. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophers working on Chinese Philosophy, Confucianism in particular, disagree about the status of metaphysics in early Confucianism. Some maintain that metaphysics are absent by pointing to the overwhelming emphasis on practical concerns – ethical and political – in the early Confucian texts. Others insist that even if there were no explicit metaphysical discussion or theorizing, metaphysical assumptions are inevitable. However do these assumptions point to one definite metaphysical system, or are they so vague and ambiguous that different mutually incompatible (...) metaphysics could be constructed from them and attributed arbitrarily to the early Confucians? The latter situation would weaken the connection between ethics and metaphysics in early Confucianism but could work to its benefit insofar as contemporary viability is concerned, since "metaphysical flexibility" means that in case whatever metaphysical assumptions made by early Confucian thinkers turn out to be unacceptable today in some way, it would then be possible to substitute a different acceptable or more defensible metaphysics to support the ethical claims, if one believes that any viable ethical claims require a coherent and viable metaphysics. (shrink)
Chinese philosophy views experience as intrinsically aesthetic. This world view could be elucidated through a consideration of John Dewey's aesthetics and features of Chinese art. Dewey's philosophy of art starts with an understanding of experience as 'live processes' of living creatures interacting with their environment. Such processes are autopoietic in being self-sustaining, ever-changing, capable of increasing complexity, capable of generating novelty, direction and progress on its own. Its autopoietic character is a precondition of the aesthetic in the process of experience. (...) An aesthetic experience is rhythmic, focused, consummatory, and reaches beyond the transitory boundaries of concrete existence. The aesthetic is not confined to what is conventionally identified as art. Most important, the ethical-political, the natural and the cosmic all have an aesthetic aspect, as the paper attempts to show by examining classical Confucianism. (shrink)
Learning from Chinese Philosophies explores early Confucianism and Daoism in order to engage today’s problems. By bringing into thoughtful play Confucian ideas of self and society and Daoist understanding of situated self, the author uses the debate between the two philosophies to argue for her understanding of Confucian moral thinking and Daoist metaethics. According to Lai, Daoist metaethics question dichotomous frameworks and discuss the unity of opposites enabling dynamic interplay of nonantagonistic polarities. Lai not only rejects comparisons of Confucianism to (...) consequentialist and deontological moral theories, but also the view that Confucian ethics is a form of virtue ethics. Instead, she argues that the Analects is a manual for moral decision making that requires skills “to unravel and analyse the complex features of particular situations and to pick out those which are morally relevant.” Together, Confucianism and Daoism offer views of interdependent relationality that help to reconceptualize contemporary problems and criticize existing thinking and practices. Lai applies what she has learned from these two Chinese philosophies in a critique of feminist care ethics. Despite a few flaws, this is a clearly written work with stimulating interesting ideas and it lives up to the promise of demonstrating the continued relevance of Chinese philosophies. (shrink)
Despite contemporary Confucianism’s aspirations to be a world philosophy, there is an ethnocentric strand within the Confucian tradition, most glaringly exemplified in Han Yu’s attacks on Buddhism. This paper re-assesses Confucian ethnocentrism in the context of contrary practices that indicate a more pragmatic attitude among Confucians toward cross-cultural interactions. It argues that while the ethnocentric tendency serves as constant reminder of the need for vigilance, and recognition of the difficulties of crossing cultural boundaries, there are nevertheless resources within Confucianism for (...) constructing an ethics of communication that is urgently needed to deal with the moral problems of cultural pluralism. The paper analyses the role of various common Confucian virtues such as ren(benevolence, co-humanity), yi (appropriateness), li (ritual), zhi (wisdom) in communication, and argues that a virtue of flexibility is implicit in Confucius’s insistence of bugu and could contribute significantly to a Confucian ethics of communicative virtues. (shrink)