Winner: Shu-shan Lee, “ ‘What Did the Emperor Ever Say’—The Public Transcript of Confucian Political Obligation,” Dao 19. 2: 231-250
What is the Confucian conception of political obligation? While there is a widespread view
that it demands people’s absolute obedience to their rulers, there are also scholars arguing
that it includes people’s duty to correct rulers. In this award-winning essay, Shu-shan Lee
shows that the former lacks textual support, while the latter confuses Confucian scholar-
officials’ political duty with commoners’ political obligations. Instead, Lee argues,
convincingly, that imperial Confucian political obligation is a conditional theory of
paternalistic gratitude: common people’s obedience to their rulers is an expression of, and
thus is conditional upon, their rulers’ benevolent care for them. This ground-breaking
conception of Confucian political obligation results from Lee’s careful study, integrating
multi-faceted perspectives, philosophical and historical, theoretical and empirical, and
ancient and contemporary. It is the type of research that Dao aims to promote.
Dao has established “The Annual Best Essay Award” since 2007. In addition to a certificate of achievement, the award comes along with a prize of US$1,000. The award winners are noted in the website of the journal as well as the website of Springer, the publisher of the journal. The award ceremony is held each year at the American Philosophical Association Annual Meeting (Eastern Division) in January, where a special panel on the theme of the award winning essay is held. The critical comments and the author’s responses to them presented at the panel, after review and revision, will be published in the last issue of Dao each year.
The selection process consists of two stages. First, a nominating committee of at least three editorial members, who have not published in Dao in the given year, is established. This committee is charged with the task of nominating three best essays published in the previous year. These three essays are then sent to the whole editorial board for deliberation. The final winner is decided by a vote by all editorial board members who are not authors of the nominated essays.