Confucius’ remark at Analects 1.6 is often cited to show that he thought proper moral development begins with filial piety and then extends that attitude to ever-larger groups of people (ever less intensely). I shall argue that the remark does not display such a view. Confucius did not in general envision moral progress as extension.
In the most recent issue of the Journal of Moral Education (45:2), Michael Slote published “Moral Self-Cultivation East and West: A Critique.” Here is the abstract:
Moral Self-Cultivation plays an important, even a central role, in the
Confucian philosophical tradition, but philosophers in the West, most
notably Aristotle and Kant, also hold that moral self-cultivation or
self-shaping is possible and morally imperative. This paper argues that
these traditions are psychologically unrealistic in what they say about
the possibilities of moral self-cultivation. We cannot shape ourselves
in the substantial and overall ways that Confucianism, Aristotle, and
Kant say we can, and our best psychological data on moral education
and development indicate strongly that these phenomena depend
crucially on the intervention of others and, more generally, on external
factors individuals don’t control.
I would be very interested in hearing thoughts in response to this argument. If anyone does not have access to the article and would like a copy, please contact me via email.
Owen Flanagan and Wenqing Zhao write…
As part of our Templeton-St. Louis funded “Varieties of Well-Being” project, Owen Flanagan and Wenqing Zhao are inaugurating an international blog on well-being in different cultural traditions. We desire to engage in public outreach and to advance the cause of cross-cultural philosophy of well-being. In addition, we seek to help create a passion among people in and outside academia for learning from, not just about, other traditions. An international blog on comparative well-being is designed to share the fruit of the project with broader, international audiences.
We hereby invite you, as someone with experience of multicultural worlds, to write a short essay (200-450 words) on well-being that involves a comparative or cross-cultural aspect. It can be based on your own cultural experience or something that you have observed; a story, a moment or a piece of thought that showcases the variety of cultural norms for living a good life. Details follow below!
CALL FOR PAPERS
Final Submission Deadline: September 1, 2017; 500 word proposals will be received until October 15, 2016
Special Issue Title: Cross-cultural Studies in Well-Being, a special journal issue in Science, Religion & Culture, an international peer reviewed open access journal.
Guest edited by: Prof. Owen Flanagan and Dr. Wenqing Zhao, The Center for Comparative Philosophy, Duke University, Durham, NC USA 27708
Here are some reasons to think that Youzi did not regard family as the root of humanity or of the Way. (I used to think he did.)
Most of my argument focuses on defending a view held by Soothill, Leys, Chin, and maybe Lau and Slingerland: that by 弟 in Analects 1.2, Youzi meant elder-respect, a virtue commonly associated specifically with life outside the family. It would follow that according to 1.2, only one of the two parts of the root of humanity is specifically a family virtue. If 孝 and 弟 have something relevantly in common for Youzi, family isn’t it.
Did Confucius think that if one of us has general virtue, or some particular virtue such as courage or filial piety, that general or particular virtue will have a substantial tendency to spread directly to the people around her, even if she holds no government position?
Here I’ll survey Confucius’ statements in the Analects and conclude that the answer is No. Confucius probably did not hold that view. (I gave the opposite reading in both my published papers on Chinese philosophy.)
A new review on NDPR:
Flanagan, Owen. Moral Sprouts and Natural Teleologies: 21st Century Moral Psychology Meets Classical Chinese Philosophy, Marquette University Press, 2014, 119pp., $15.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780874621853.
Reviewed by Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
Erica Lucast Stonestreet’s review at NDPR of Nancy E. Snow (ed.), Cultivating Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2015) highlights Ted Slingerland’s contribution to the volume, nicely bringing Chinese philosophy into this broader conversation.
This conference should be of interest to anyone working on issues in comparative thought and philosophy. A terrific lineup of speakers and panelists (if I do say so myself). -HS
Over the last decade, the newly emerging field of “experimental philosophy” has posed a challenge to the claim that professional philosophers’ judgments about philosophically important thought experiments are universal. Rather, in a growing number of studies, it has been shown that people in different cultural groups – Asians and Westerners, males and females, people of high and low socio-economic status, people with different personality types, people of different ages, people with different native languages, etc. – have different intuitions about cases designed to explore what people think about knowledge, morality, free will, consciousness and other important philosophical issues. However, the extent and sources of this variation remain by and large unknown. The goal of this conference is to bring together anthropologists, psychologists, comparative philosophers, and experimental philosophers in order to further our understanding of the similarities and differences in the lay understanding of, on the one hand, knowledge, and, on the other, agency and person across cultures. Furthermore, we hope to sketch new avenues of research for philosophically sophisticated cross-cultural studies of the concepts of knowledge, person, and agency.
This clip (below) from Louis CK’s most recent interview on Conan made a splash on social networks. The whole thing is pretty funny, but the first minute or so reminded me of Mencius 1A7.
Part of what prevents the king in 1A7 from becoming a genuine king in that passage is his disconnect from his subjects. He feels the suffering of the ox and this tugs at his sprout of compassion. By contrast, he doesn’t see the suffering of his subjects, so he feels no sympathy for them and fails to treat them benevolently.
Louis CK raises the same general issue for children today and cellphone use. Continue reading “Louis CK and Mengzi”
Shame is an important idea in Confucianism, as several blog readers and contributors have noted. From the following review, it sounds like the position of this book’s authors might resonate well with Confucian perspectives in several respects (though the perspective of the reviewer might come even closer!).
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Julien A, Deonna, Raffaele Rodogno, and Fabrice Teroni, In Defense of Shame: The Faces of an Emotion, Oxford University Press, 2012, 268pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199793532.
Reviewed by Jason A. Clark, Institute for Cognitive Science, University of Osnabrueck
My Wesleyan University colleague Elise Springer’s new book, Communicating Moral Concern: An Ethics of Critical Responsiveness (MIT Press, 2013) has just been published, and I’d like to recommend it to all blog readers with interests in comparative ethics, especially if you are tempted by the idea that the job of moral philosophers — and indeed, our jobs as moral agents — are not exhausted by making determinations of what the “right action” is. Her view is that such “verdicts” have at most a small place in our daily efforts to live good lives, and this rich and fascinating book explores the rest of the terrain. In the words of one of my teachers:
“This book is simply spectacular. I am stunned by its originality, intellectual sophistication, philosophical maturity, and depth of vision. I learned new things from virtually every page. Philosophers have a huge bias in favor of examining already articulated judgments, and thereby ignore the incredibly difficult and important work of developing an articulation of what is the matter. Elise Springer persuasively argues that this work deserves sustained attention in its own right, and offers new conceptual tools for making sense of what we are doing at that stage.” — Elizabeth Anderson, John Rawls Collegiate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan
As if that wasn’t enough, in a few places Elise explicitly engages with Confucian ideas, and in general is very open to a broadly global scope of philosophical endeavor. I myself find a great deal of continuity between her work and current work at the nexus of Confucianism, moral psychology, moral education/cultivation, and virtue ethics, though I also find some of her key ideas very challenging to certain Confucian pieties. Finally, while it is only available in hardcover right now, at Amazon the price is only a little over US$30.00 :-).
The following article in this week’s New Yorker by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has been circulating in social networks:
Despite what many of us on this blog might initially wonder, the title of the paper does not refer to Mencius’s famous thought experiment. (Instead, it refers to the famous case of an actual child in a well that led to a worldwide media circus in the 1980s.) Nonetheless, the article may be of interest to those of us working in Confucian ethics and moral psychology.
THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY welcomes BONGRAE SEOK (Alvernia University), with formal responses by HAGOP SARKISSIAN (Baruch College, CUNY). Please join us in RM 101 IN THE DEPARTMENT OF RELIGION at Columbia University on November 11th at 5:30 for his lecture entitled, “Embodied Moral Psychology of Confucian Heart.” Continue reading “Bongrae Seok lecture at Columbia this Friday”