I’m now officially moved. My new address is:
At some point, I’ll set the “auto-redirect” feature on here at this address, but I’ll wait a bit to do that. See you there.
…please stand by.
I’m packing up and moving. I’m actually already there, but setting up the new blog has proven to be a bit of a pain. Things will be quiet here for a bit while I’m setting up the new spot. As soon as it is done, I’ll post the new URL here, and I’ll likely set up a redirection system to take people automatically there.
I’ve been making by way through Benjamin Schwartz’ The World of Thought in Ancient China (1985). I’m currently moving through the chapter on Mencius and Xunzi, and found an interesting little section that deals (albeit quickly) with the issue of choice-theoretic models of selfhood, which was the subject of my post below this one on Fingarette and Confucius. Schwartz agrees with Sam (see comments in post below this one) that Mencius differs from Confucius on the centrality of choice. See below the fold.
Peony at her blog asks a very good question: just how similar would Confucius be to Kierkegaard? More pointedly – is Confucius just an ancient version of Judge William from Either/Or, imploring the reader to get off his or her butt and finally make a choice or a leap into the authentic life of being socially embedded within roles? I find this to be a fascinating question and I’d like to think a bit more about it here. I’ll do it by situating the question within the context of Herbert Fingarette’s writing. Fingarette, I believe, upon hearing this question would take his shoe off and slam the table with it like Khrushchev while repeatedly yelling “NO! NO! NO!” Let’s walk this through below the fold and see how it shakes out.
I’m in the middle of getting my syllabus organized for my Chinese Philosophy course. I’m trying something new this time. Typically, I just have students read each book from cover to cover, and we try as a class to undergo the messy business of constructing the text’s meaning as we move from chapter to chapter (messy but fun!). This time I’m going to try a thematic approach, just to see how it works. So, in the Analects, perhaps one day we’ll read a collection of aphorisms on ren, and another day we’ll do the same for xiao (and so on for other key concepts).
Now, I have a firm grasp of what passages link up with what themes within the Confucian authors, but I’m less skilled at this for Taoism. So I need the help of the Taoists lurkers. See below:
It is unavoidable that philosophy professors look out into a class and catch those students who sit there with their best impression of the gum-chomping “WTF is all of this s&*(t for, anyway?” pose. Well, sometimes they actually say it verbally too, or text it under the table to the student on the other side of the room. I always think of those students when studies come out that suggest that philosophy, as a job, actually rocks. Here’s the latest, from the Wall Street Journal, which ranks philosophy as the #12th best job in existence.
Word to your mother.
Happily, quite a few threads have emerged in the local blogosphere as a result of the “reading group” Peony and I started on Bell’s East Meets West. Below the fold I have listed them all, starting with the most recent. Show the love!
I’m working my way though the Mozi (I’m doing some course preparation on it). Of the people I know who have read it, many of them complain about its style, but I rather like it. Sure, it lacks the poetical flair of the Analects, but Mozi was a different kind of guy, representing a different set of interests. In any case, I’m going to try to make note here of aspects of the work that stick out to me for one reason or other. One of the first things to jump out at me is in Chapter 16, on “Impartial Caring.” This is a central plank in Mohist ethics, but I’m having a tough time getting my head around some of the fundamentals here (at least those below the immediate surface).
I’ve been reading Mozi this week (prepping a course I’ll be teaching), and when I started taking notes to the section “Rejection of Destiny” Mozi’s discussion of how to justify or confirm the truth of a belief (or practice) made me think of Daniel Bell’s way of talking about justifying the normative standards within cultures (how many people have reminded me of Bell lately?). I’ll explain below.
I’ve been a bad boy. I jumped ahead and read the last chapter of Bell’s book, where he lays out his own recipe for “Chinese Democracy.” I don’t feel qualified to suggest whether his proposal would work in the contemporary Chinese context, but the idea itself is an interesting one. I am at least certain of one thing: it would have just about every good, down-home, corn-fed anti-intellectualist American (the majority of them) running screaming for the exits.
Racism truly makes me sick. There are few things that get me more upset than it. With that in mind, this whole “Barack the Magic Negro” debacle has my stomach twisted. Not so much that the song exists — this is to be expected, given the number of racists in the country — but rather due to the refusal off the RNC chair candidate (who distributed it) to reject it. It says to me that he’s made a political calculation and determined that a certain degree of racism is simply seen as a badge of honor among Republicans. As a result, it’s not politically wise to disavow one’s racism. After all, them uppity Negros (and their uppity Negro lovin’ liberal friends) just need to take personal responsibility for their comical level of defensiveness, right? It’s not the RNC’s fault they can’t take a joke. Yglesias has a good post on this, worth the read.