Warp, Weft, and Way

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

The Heart of Deference

Section 2A/6 of the Mencius tells us that the heart of deference (辭讓) is the starting point of ritual. I’ll try to convince you that this is a puzzling claim, and then suggest a solution to the puzzle.

The puzzle is that ritual obviously mobilises motives other than deference, and calls for behaviour that is not simply deferential. Think of the way that grief takes on ritualised shape in funerals: this is not just an extension of deference. So, why did it make sense to the author or authors of Mencius 2A/6 to say that deference is the starting-point of ritual?

Continue reading “The Heart of Deference”

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Confucianism, Ethical Theory, Human nature, Mencius, Psychology | 78 comments

Your Xing and What You Do

This post sketches part of the argument in my paper “The Warring States Concept of Xing,” which is just out in Dao 10.1 (Spring 2011). “Xing” is commonly translated as “nature,” though “spontaneous character” would be better.

There’s this idea that (in Warring States terms) it can be your xing 性 to do something even though you have no tendency to actually do it. This idea is badly wrong. And no one would take it seriously if they weren’t misreading the Mencius.

The big problem is that the Mencius seems to say that it is our xing to be good, and that people who study the Mencius are mostly trained to think that that claim somehow stands for or summarises everything else the collection has to say about human nature. And trying to interpret the claim so that it does stand for all that leads to some major interpretive troubles. Continue reading “Your Xing and What You Do”

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Chinese philosophy - 中國哲學 - 中国哲学, Human nature, Mencius | 15 comments