Category Archives: Books of Interest

Confucianism as Virtue Ethics in the Sinophone World

Almost 15 years ago when I spent a year in Beijing, much of it spent writing Sagehood, there was relatively little engagement with the idea that Confucian ethics might be helpfully understood through the lens of “virtue ethics.” Quite a lot has changed since then in the Chinese-speaking philosophical world. (OK, that’s an understatement; I’m confining myself to the question of virtue ethics for today.) Consider these 2020 articles:

  • Tang Wenming 唐文明, “美德伦理学、儒家传统与现代社会的普遍困境——以陈来《儒学美德论》为中心的讨论 [Virtue Ethics, The Confucian Tradition, and the Universal Predicament of Modern Societies—Taking Chen Lai’s Confucian Virtue Theory as Focus]” (On-line publication on 《儒家网》 here)
  • Yang Guorong 杨国荣, “德性、知识与哲学进路——由黄勇新著《当代美德伦理——古代儒家的贡献》引发的若干思考 [Virtue, Knowledge, and the Philosophical Road Ahead—Some Thoughts Prompted by Huang Yong’s Contemporary Virtue Ethics—Contributions from Ancient Confucianism]” (On-line publication on 《儒家网》 here)

Each of these essays, in turn, reacts to a fairly recent book-length publication, also in Chinese, exploring the subject in depth. (Details on the contents of Chen Lai’s book are here; Huang Yong’s are here.)

You might reasonably expect given what I’ve written so far that I’d now go on to explain and engage with the details of Prof. Tang and Prof. Yang’s take on virtue ethics and Confucianism. Alas, it’s all I can do right now to find time to share this much! Perhaps after classes are over….

New Book: Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought

Leah Kalmanson’s new book, Cross-Cultural Existentialism: On the Meaning of Life in Asian and Western Thought, has been published by Bloomsbury!  A brief description of the book:

Engaging in existential discourse beyond the European tradition, this book turns to Asian philosophies to reassess vital questions of life’s purpose, death’s imminence, and our capacity for living meaningfully in conditions of uncertainty.

Inspired by the dilemmas of European existentialism, this cross-cultural study seeks concrete techniques for existential practice via the philosophies of East Asia. The investigation begins with the provocative writings of twentieth-century Korean Buddhist nun Kim Iryop, who asserts that meditative concentration conducts a potent energy outward throughout the entire karmic network, enabling the radical transformation of our shared existential conditions. Understanding her claim requires a look at East Asian sources more broadly. Considering practices as diverse as Buddhist merit-making ceremonies, Confucian/Ruist methods for self-cultivation, the ritual memorization and recitation of texts, and Yijing divination, the book concludes by advocating a speculative turn. This ‘speculative existentialism’ counters the suspicion toward metaphysics characteristic of twentieth-century European existential thought and, at the same time, advances a program for action. It is not a how-to guide for living, but rather a philosophical methodology that takes seriously the power of mental cultivation to transform the meaning of the life that we share.

Click here for more information about the book.

New Book: Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought

Alexus McLeod and Joshua R. Brown’s new book, Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought, has been published by Bloomsbury! A brief description:

Contemporary scholars of Chinese philosophy often presuppose that early China possessed a naturalistic worldview, devoid of any non-natural concepts, such as transcendence. Challenging this presupposition head-on, Joshua R. Brown and Alexus McLeod argue that non-naturalism and transcendence have a robust and significant place in early Chinese thought.

This book reveals that non-naturalist positions can be found in early Chinese texts, in topics including conceptions of the divine, cosmogony, and apophatic philosophy. Moreover, by closely examining a range of early Chinese texts, and providing comparative readings of a number of Western texts and thinkers, the book offers a way of reading early Chinese Philosophy as consistent with the religious philosophy of the East and West, including the Abrahamic and the Brahmanistic religions.

Co-written by a philosopher and theologian, this book draws out unique insights into early Chinese thought, highlighting in particular new ways to consider a range of Chinese concepts, including tian, dao, li, and you/wu.

Click here for more information.

New Book: Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts

Rina Marie Camus’ new book, Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts, has been published by Rowman & Littlefield. A brief description about the book:

Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts explores the significance of archery as ritual practice and image source in classical Confucian texts. Archery was one of the six traditional arts of China, the foremost military skill, a tool for education, and above all, an important custom of the rulers and aristocrats of the early dynasties. Rina Marie Camus analyzes passages inspired by archery in the texts of the Analects, Mencius, and Xunzi in relation to the shifting social and historical conditions of the late Zhou dynasty, the troubled times of early followers of the ruist master Confucius. Camus posits that archery imagery is recurrent and touches on fundamental themes of literature; ritual archers in the Analects, sharp shooters in Mencius, and the fashioning of exquisite bows and arrows in Xunzi represent the gentleman, pursuit of ren, and self-cultivation. Furthermore, Camus argues that not only is archery an important Confucian metaphor, it also proves the cognitive value of literary metaphors—more than linguistic ornamentation, metaphoric utterances have features and resonances that disclose their speakers’ saliencies of thought.

For more information about the book, please click here!

New Book: Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought

Alexus McLeod and Joshua R. Brown’s new book, Transcendence and Non-Naturalism in Early Chinese Thought, has been published by Bloomsbury!  A brief description:

Contemporary scholars of Chinese philosophy often presuppose that early China possessed a naturalistic worldview, devoid of any non-natural concepts, such as transcendence. Challenging this presupposition head-on, Joshua R. Brown and Alexus McLeod argue that non-naturalism and transcendence have a robust and significant place in early Chinese thought.

Click here for more information about the book.

New Book: Canda, The Way of Humanity: Confucian Wisdom for an Opening World (Teachings of the Korean Philosopher, Haengchon)

Edward R. Canda’s new book, The Way of Humanity: Confucian Wisdom for an Opening World (Teachings of the Korean Philosopher, Haengchon), has been published by University of Kansas Libraries!  See here for more information.

New Book: Bo, Cross-Tradition Engagement in Philosophy

Bo Mou’s new book, Cross-Tradition Engagement in Philosophy: A Constructive Engagement Account has been published by Routledge! A brief description:

This book presents a systematic unifying-pluralist account—a constructive-engagement account—of how cross-tradition engagement in philosophy is possible. The goal of this constructive-engagement account is, by way of reflective criticism, argumentation, and methodological guiding principles, to inquire into how distinct approaches from different philosophical traditions can talk to and learn from each other for the sake of making joint contributions to the contemporary development of philosophy.

Click here for more information about the book.