I’m just now finishing up my holiday visits and hosting responsibilities, so I’m starting to get caught up here at the blog. Holidays are exhausting! While I play catch up, I’d like to direct folks to a few conversations going on that are linked to our East Meets West reading group. Over at The Useless Tree, Sam takes issue with components of the “particularist” line I suggest Bell is following in the book, and Peony at Tang Dynasty Times continues the discussion (which has heated up a bit) about rights with a thread here. Show the love, use that mouse clicking finger.
A week or so ago I was talking to a friend of mine about Bell’s book and some of its arguments. At some point I suggested that some of the claims made, or the way in which the arguments were put, reminded me of a disagreement that John Stuart Mill and A.J. Ayer had over the status of mathematics. Surprisingly, when I got to pg. 128 in the book, Mill’s epistemology is given a positive mention. No surprise there!
At the end of the first part of the Bell’s book East Meets West, there’s a quick discussion of the “rights of the dead.” Perhaps it is the case, as Lo suggests to Demo, that dead people have rights as much as living people do. Most of the people here know that I have a thing for zombie movies – so I already have a pretty healthy respect for the dead (or the undead, as it were). Still, even for me it seems to be an odd idea to suggest that the dead have rights. It caused me to stop and think for a second: what the heck is a human right, after all?
An unmistakable sense of lightness has come over me. I wonder: am I no longer chained to the wheel of samsara? Have I achieved enlightenment? In alignment with the Tao? Seamlessly integrated into my role-ethical obligations? Nothing so grandiose, but somewhat analogous: I’m on sabbatical for the calendar 2009 year. I have a lot planned for the year — research articles, specifically — but first things first. A lot of cool reading! Below the fold I’ve listed the books that are in front of me in the “sabbatical pile” that has been building up for the last few weeks (regular and steady arrivals from Amazon mostly). I’m curious to know if anyone has an opinion on any of these books. Which one would you start with?
My house is innundated with family members right now, so as a result I’m, behind on my posts and replies on East and West. I’ll be back in a few days and at that point I’ll jump right back in (there are a few posts I already have in mind on Chapter 2.) For now, go to Peony’s place and check out her thread on chapter 2 of Bell’s work — “The Three Generations of Human Rights“. In the meantime, I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. As a gift, below the fold I’ve listed some of my favorite Christmas songs and YouTube links to them. Also, I’ve provided a link to the worst Christmas song. If you have a moment, leave a comment stating your own favorite Christmas song, and I’ll put up a YouTube link to it.
Reading Daniel Bell’s book it has struck me that his points about East-West human rights dialogue can be generalized to other areas of one’s life where successful communication between parties is required. The most immediate connection that came to my mind while reading was the teacher-student relationship – how should we, as teachers, approach our students with the lessons that we have prepared for them to learn?
I must admit, Barack Obama has me intrigued. He’s making me pay attention to him. His selection of cabinet members – and now his selection of Rick Warren to serve on Inauguration Day – is very interesting. It makes me wonder: is Obama reflecting a bit of what might be required of the Confucian Junzi?
Daniel Bell makes me think of Kierkegaard. Well, actually, I should be honest — everything, including salad croutons, makes me think of Kierkegaard. I’m the Existential version of that kid from the Sixth Sense — I see Kierkegaard (and Existential analogues) everywhere. It’s a strange phenomenological experience to be inside my head. This time I think it’s true, though. Bell’s discussion of “local knowledge” — and I owe this insight to Peony — sounds to me to have a real existential dimension. Well, maybe. I wonder if Bell has visited Copenhagen? Ah — I’ll explain below.
I’ve been trying to figure out a good title for a regularly made post that highlights good blog conversations going around around “teh internets.” I’ve settled on “Blog Love.” I’ll try to make a “Blog Love” post now and again (perhaps once a week) just to draw attention to some interesting conversations. For now: Alan at Frog in the Well discusses “Confucian Liberalism“, Alexus at Unpolished Jade discusses those rascally proto-Daoists in “Is Book 18 of the Analects a Mencian Addition?“. Use your mouse clicker, show the love.
Something caught my eye when I was reading East Meets West. “Lo” — who presumably is the stand in for Daniel Bell’s views — makes a claim that if America wants to shore up its moral authority in the international arena, especially when it comes to the attempt to export its own political and moral values, she will have to learn to say “I’m sorry.” This struck me on a number of levels, not the least of which was my sheer inability to conceive of the American government ever apologizing for anything whatsoever. As Elton John put it, “sorry seems to be the hardest word.” But why is it so important in the East/West context? And why is it so hard to say “I’m sorry”?
So far, one hundred pages into East Meets West, it strikes me that the one “drive home” point Bell wants to make is this one: the particular trumps the universal. Many of Bell’s other points about appropriate East-West discourse and human rights advocacy seem to rely on this fundamental principle. If this is indeed the “engine” that drives the car, it makes sense to start here and pop open the hood so we can take a look around (as Ross Perot might say).