Author Archives: David Elstein

Do Ruists overemphasize filial feeling?

I was at the APA in Washington DC last week, and it was great to get a chance to hear about some very interesting work in Chinese philosophy. A couple of papers got me thinking about the reasoning behind the emphasis on filiality (xiao ) in classical Ruism. Whether Ruism gives too much weight to filiality at the expense of other values has been debated recently, and an issue in Dao a year or two ago presented some of this debate. At the conference, I started wondering about a slightly different problem: do Ruists put too much faith in the assumption that someone who is filial will have other moral virtues as well? Is there good reason to think this is generally true? Continue reading →

Ruism and free speech

I’ve been giving some thought to this topic quite a bit, most recently spurred on by a response to an article by Daniel Bell that I’m writing for a Chinese journal. I won’t go into Bell’s argument in any detail, but I find significantly greater restrictions on speech accepted and even advocated by classical Ruists than in liberalism. On certain topics (criticizing the ruler/government) certain people (Ruists, or maybe the elite more generally) should speak out, though even here historically Ruists have generally accepted that they might be punished for doing so. On other topics, particularly those that might threaten social harmony and stability, they seem quite willing to ban certain kinds of expression. Continue reading →

Neo-Confucian Moral Perception

Steve mentioned Kai Marchal’s and Huang Yong’s papers on moral perception and motivation is his report from the Soochow University conference. I’ve been thinking about some of the issues raised in them, and since both of them (and Steve, who raises some of these issues in his book) contribute to the blog, this seems like the perfect chance to try to get clearer. I’m no expert on either Zhu Xi or Wang Yangming, so I’ll let others weigh in on the interpretive issues. I’m more interested in the general moral psychology/epistemology. Continue reading →

New association for the spread of Confucian ideas established in Taiwan

Here’s a couple of links to news stories (one English, one Chinese) on the establishment of the 大成至聖先師孔子協會, or “Association of the Most Sage and Venerated Late Teacher Confucius,” announced yesterday in Taiwan. There aren’t many specifics yet about what they plan to do and I haven’t found a website for the association itself yet, but I’ll post more information if I come across any.

English story

Chinese story

Must Ruists practice what they philosophize about?

For my first post here, I’d like to invite opinions on a contemporary issue. I’ve been coming across a common critique of contemporary Ruism and I’m curious what people think about it. As a preface, let me say that I’m close to giving up on various permutations of “Confucian” and “Confucianism,” so I hope you’ll all bear with my use of “Ruism” and “Ruist” instead.

The critique, which is generally directed against New Ruists, particularly Mou Zongsan, is something like this: the essence of Ruism is a social practice which aims not at developing theories, but realizing the Way in society. Making it into an object of academic study, so that it becomes an isolated practice of theorizing, is a mistake. The 20th century turn of making Ruism into a kind of philosophy and carrying out philosophical research in philosophy departments is emblematic of this mistake. Since Mou Zongsan is often considered the arch-theorist of New Ruism, he tends to get the brunt of this criticism. Continue reading →