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).
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?
Readers, lurkers and comment makers, lend me your ears: Peony, Bill Haines and I will be organizing a virtual “reading group” (which will take place both here and at Peony’s place, Tang Dynasty Times) focusing on Daniel Bell’s 2000 work East Meets West. The book deals with a very timely topic and is written in dialogue form, making the work accessible to both academics and non-academics alike. See below the fold for more information on the book and the reading group schedule. Hopefully many of the lurkers here will take up the opportunity to buy the book and read along, hopefully joining in on the online conversation. The more the merrier!
I tend to prefer readings of texts that make people more radical. I’ll just admit it — I don’t smoke anymore, and I don’t drink much anymore, so it’s one of my remaining vices. What can you do. Specifically, in the present case, I tend to prefer readings of Xunzi that have him arguing that morality or goodness is externally imposed upon the agent by the creative hand of the sage, not something that can be discovered and nurtured in the agent in the sense that Mencius seems to suggest. But now I’m not so sure.
Trying to make sense of what Xunzi’s philosophy on the whole means can run into some pretty basic difficulties, at least in my less than knowledgeable (when it comes to Xunzi) case. The reason for this stems from a difficulty in making clear what Xunzi is up to at the most fundamental level. It’s tough to attempt more sophisticated readings of finer points when the more basic and general points are still unclear. One of them concerns Xunzi’s take on xing (human nature), whether it is bad (e) and whether yi (duty, righteousness, appropriateness) is innate. The problem: if yi is innate, it seems that xing is not e, and that puts him in bed with Mencius, a person Xunzi doesn’t want to be sleeping with.
I’m reading Kohlberg’s old Moral Development and Behavior (1976) for today’s virtue ethics seminar. It can be tough to re-read Kohlberg again, especially after the post-Gilligan “Kohlberg is wrong!” and “Kohlberg is a tool of patriarchy!” memes thrown at you for so many years. As a result, I found myself not so much focusing on Kohlberg, but trying to figure out where Confucius would fit in all of this. I have some guesses. ‘
I’ll admit it — I have a hard time getting my head around situationalism with respect to its attempt to attack the notion of character as it plays out in virtue ethics. Sometimes I have a hard time grasping what it is that they (the situationalists) are precisely arguing for, whereas at other times I guess I just don’t see what the big deal is. My worst confusion, though, is understanding how it all plays out for the Confucian. On this latest question, as I’ll discuss below, I have pretty much no idea what to say. Frustration set in.
Hey Folks: I’m in the middle of putting together a rough schematic blueprint for a paper I’d like to begin developing for this Confucius-Virtue Ethics seminar I’m participating in. A part of the paper would deal with the concept of min (“people,” “populace,” “masses”) in early Confucianism (perhaps in part contrasting it with the notion of xiao ren (“petty” or “little” people). What I need to get hold of are more articles/book chapters that deal with the concept of min. Does anyone out there know of any? I already know of Hall and Ames brief discussion of it in Thinking Through Confucius. Are there any other references that those of you who are familiar with the secondary literature can think of? Thanks in advance!
In May Sim’s new book, Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius (2007), she lays out (in a footnote on pg. 25) her suggestion that jen has three senses. Two of these are commonly argued for in the literature, but she wants to add a third. My question here is how Sim would handle a specific passage vis a vis her three fold definition of jen.
Today in the seminar Steve Angle mentioned one of my favorite passages (not that this narrows things down much) — 12.9. Within it, Confucius lays out a claim about the force of virtue (de) in an excellent person (junzi), suggesting that this force has the capacity to transform (in some way) the “petty person.” But the passage is, in my opinion (and as I noted to Steve) unclear to me, and it contains a number of unanswered questions about the relationship of moral exemplars and those they influence.
One question that frequently comes up in Confucian scholarship is the role of the family. Most commentators are agreed (though not all to the same degree) that the family is the center of Confucian philosophy, but not all agree about the status of that role. For some it is more important than others, some seeing it as a replaceable aspect of the philosophy, and others seeing it as necessary.
At the very start of Jiyuan Yu’s new(ish) book, Confucius and Aristotle (2007), Yu sets out to talk about the relationships between various Aristotelean and Confucian concepts (such as de, arete, eudaimonia, dao, ren). At the very start of the chapter, Yu discusses what he takes to be the ground floor of both systems, eudaimonia and dao. The questions I have about this are similar to questions I’ve already raised in other threads concerning Aristotle but here are related to Confucius, so some of what I say here will sound familiar.