Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Chan at Harvard on “Democratic Equality and Confucian Hierarchy”

Faculty Seminar with Joseph Chan – “Democratic Equality and Confucian Hierarchy”

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard will be hosting a seminar with Joseph Chan, who will present his paper, “Democratic Equality and Confucian Hierarchy.” Archon Fung will be the discussant. This event is co-sponsored with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, May 23 3:00-5:00pm
LOCATION: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

More information here.

May 13, 2017 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy | no comments

Jiwei Ci’s Upcoming Visit to Harvard

Philosopher Jiwei Ci from the University of Hong Kong will be spending a couple weeks at Harvard in November and giving a series of lectures. The details here here: Fairbank Democracy and China poster. There will also be a one-day conference on Friday, November 13 titled “Democracy and China: Philosophical-Poltical Reflections” with a number of speakers, and Prof. Ci’s commentary. (I’ll post details of that once it has been finalized.)

September 29, 2015 Posted by | China, Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Conference, Democracy | 4 comments

New articles on Democracy and on Confucianism

Two new articles in the latest China: An International Journal may be of interest, one on “Chinese democracy” and one on “Confucianism” and Chinese labor activism.

Continue reading “New articles on Democracy and on Confucianism”

December 20, 2014 Posted by | China, Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Confucianism, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy | no comments

Review of Chan, Confucian Perfectionism

This is a rich review of Joseph Chan’s important new book; the review is significant, in part, because it represents an engagement by someone from outside the Chinese philosophy world with contemporary Chinese thought. Wall is himself an advocate of perfectionism, which helps to explain why the cross-tradition engagement here is so fruitful.

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2014.08.16 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Joseph Chan, Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times, Princeton University Press, 2014, 256pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780691158617.

Reviewed by Steven Wall, University of Arizona

This is an unusual book. It is partly an effort to reconstruct and revive an ancient tradition of political thought, partly an exercise in comparing that tradition to western liberalism and partly a contribution to contemporary political theory. It does not fit into any well-defined disciplinary niche. Its unusual aims, in turn, present a challenge to the reviewer. Should the success of the project be assessed in terms of its fidelity to a tradition of thought that has shaped Chinese culture for over two millennia, or should it be assessed in terms of its contribution to contemporary political thought? No doubt the right answer to this question is that it should be assessed along both dimensions, but this answer does not tell us how much weight to give to each measure of assessment. My own assessment will not grapple with this problem, since I am in no position to gauge its success in remaining faithful to traditional Confucian ideas. Accordingly, this review does not offer a verdict on how well Confucian Perfectionism succeeds in its aim of staying true to Confucian political thought (leaving that judgment to others who are better placed to make it). It focuses instead on how well the view of politics that it presents hangs together and how well it contributes to an understanding of the political topics that it addresses.

Continue reading “Review of Chan, Confucian Perfectionism”

August 18, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Books of Interest, Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative Political Theory, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy | no comments

New Book: Democracy in Contemporary Chinese Thought

Excuse the lack of modesty, but I’d like to announce the publication of my new book, Democracy in Contemporary Confucian Philosophy.

Continue reading “New Book: Democracy in Contemporary Chinese Thought”

July 20, 2014 Posted by | Books of Interest, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy, Political Theory | 4 comments

The State of the State

The Global Contest for the Future of Government (new Foreign Affairs article).


June 18, 2014 Posted by | Comparative Political Theory, Democracy, Politics | no comments

Joseph Chan Lecture at Harvard

Friday, April 4, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Political Authority and Democracy: A Contemporary Confucian Perspective
Joseph Chan, Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Hong Kong
Harvard Law School, The Morgan Courtroom, Austin Hall Room 308
Sponsored by East Asian Legal Studies, HLS

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative Political Theory, Confucianism, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy, Lecture, Politics | no comments

Kim’s Confucian Democracy in East Asia Published

Sungmoon Kim’s new book, Confucian Democracy in East Asia: Theory and Practice has just been published by Cambridge University Press. According to my blurb on the back of the book:

Confucianism is neither ready-made for democracy nor inalterably opposed to it. As Sungmoon Kim shows in this important book, however, a Confucianism worth defending in the complex, multicultural East Asia of today both can and must incorporate a robust form of democracy. Kim deploys a wealth of careful arguments that draw from classical Confucianism, a wide range of Western political theorists, and the distinctive political culture of modern Korea. The result is a rich and provocative work that successfully bridges theory and practice. Anyone interested in the future possibilities for democracy and for Confucianism – whether conjoined or not – will have to take this book seriously.

Cambridge is offering a 20% discount to readers of this blog, though Amazon has the book discounted as well, and may be less expensive (depending on shipping options). In any event, congratulations, Sungmoon!

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Books of Interest, Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Confucianism, Democracy, Politics | 2 comments

BU Talk on Conceptions of Democracy

“Conceptions of Democracy on Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland”

Professor David Lorenzo, College of International Affairs, Chengchi National University, Taiwan and author of Concepts of Chinese Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

Tuesday, February 4, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Eilts Room, Department of International Relations | 154 Bay State Road, 2nd Floor

Boston University Center for the Study of Asia (BUCSA)


January 26, 2014 Posted by | Comparative Political Theory, Democracy, Politics | no comments

Rong Jian Critiques “New Authoritarian” Revival

China Policy is an impressive commercial website that has been sending me teasers…and the most recent one contains a bit I thought I’d share: a fascinating essay by a contemporary Chinese political theorist critiquing the idea that China ought to pursue a form of “new authoritarianism” that will lead ultimately to democracy. Instead, says Rong Jian, it may well lead to fascism. I think this link will take you to the page with the essay.

January 6, 2014 Posted by | China, Comparative Political Theory, Democracy, Politics | no comments

Meritocracy and Democracy

Meritocratic Ruists make two basic claims: first, that meritocracy is more historically faithful to Ruist tradition, and second, that it makes for a more effective government. In particular, it can avoid the problems of democracy, among which the ignorance and short-sightedness of voters are prominent. The claim goes that since voters generally understand the issues poorly and are unwilling to sacrifice their immediate interests for future gains, democracies make bad decisions. Without getting into whether these criticisms are accurate for the moment, I’m curious what people think of this line of argument against democracy. If it were true that democracy inevitably has such problems and there were good reason to think meritocracy would do better, would you support meritocracy?

Continue reading “Meritocracy and Democracy”

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative Political Theory, Contemporary Confucianism, Democracy | 52 comments

CFP: Human Development in Asia

Please see this site for more information, and a call for papers, concerning a conference to be held this summer in Japan on Human Development in Asia.

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Call for Papers (CFP), Comparative philosophy, Comparative Political Theory, Conference, Democracy, Japan | no comments

Essay by Yu Jianrong Criticizing “Rigid Stability”

The essay “Reassessing Chinese Society’s ‘Rigid Stability’: Stability Preservation Through Pressure, Its Predicament and the Way Out,” by Chinese scholar Yu Jiangrong, introduced and translated at the China Story website, is well-worth a read.

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Democracy, Philosophy in China, Politics | 4 comments

"When two go together"

This post proposes a book project, for anyone who wants it.

Two kinds of serious conversation

By “serious” conversations I mean conversations that work toward knowledge (at least for one party), or good decision (at least by one party), or designing something complex.

The serious conversations glimpsed in the Analects are mainly between a master and student. The Mencius is more concerned with how an adept should counsel a king. 1A7 looks like a handbook for that.

These two kinds of conversation get their shape and point from inequalities: unequal wisdom and unequal power. Between master and student, one side has the wisdom and the power. Between counselor and king, one side has the wisdom and the other has the power. The point of both conversations, as understood by all parties, is to transmit  some wisdom from the wiser party to the other — within constraints imposed by the powerful party, such as limited time.

One could do a study of these two forms of conversation in Confucian literature: the varieties of each and the guidance on how to do them well. That’s not my main proposal here.

Is it fair to say that when early Confucianism thought about serious conversation, these two are the main kinds it thought about?

Diomedean conversation

The Western tradition saliently values another kind of conversation, aiming more at discovering or creating than transmitting. Continue reading “"When two go together"”

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Comparative philosophy, Confucianism, Democracy, Education Models, Role Ethics | 4 comments

Daniel Bell on Meritocracy

Jiang Qing and Daniel Bell’s op-ed in the New York Times attracted a great deal of interest. Bell published another op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor a couple of days ago on the broader subject of meritocracy. This can illustrate how he differs from Jiang. I’m assuming he didn’t choose the headline (“What America’s flawed democracy could learn from China’s one-party rule”). The comments are also quite interesting.

Bell op-ed

July 26, 2012 Posted by | Comparative Political Theory, Democracy | 2 comments