A new essay called “In Defense of Hierarchy,” the joint responsibility of several of us but largely written by Julian Baggini, has been published at Aeon. It is the fruit of discussions at a conference sponsored by the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center, and is an interesting example of comparative or what some folks are now calling cosmopolitan philosophy. Enjoy!
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Eirik Lang Harris, The Shenzi Fragments: A Philosophical Analysis and Translation, Columbia University Press, 2016, 173pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780231177665.
Reviewed by Franklin Perkins, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Cambridge University Press has published East Asian Perspectives on Political Legitimacy: Bridging the Empirical-Normative Divide, edited by Joseph Chan, Doh Chuli Shin, and Melissa S. Williams. More details and table of contents here.
Columbia University Press has also published Eirik Harris’s outstanding study of the Shenzi fragments — congratulations, Eirik!
Eirik Lang Harris, The Shenzi Fragments: A Philosophical Analysis and Translation (Columbia University Press, 2016)
Read on for details on the book, as well as a code that can be used for a 30% discount on the book.
I am posting this on behalf of Eirik Harris and Henry Schneider:
Chinese Legalism was at its peak in the Qin and Qing eras. Chairman Mao started what would be a brief revival of the ideas of Hanfei and Shang Yang. What role do the ideas of Chinese Legalism / Realism play today? Eirik Harris (City University of Hong Kong) and Henry Schneider (University of Graz) want to explore contemporary applications of Early Chinese Realist / Legal / Administrative / … / thought.
Interested scholars are welcome to participate. At the moment, Eirik and Henry are interested in organizing different panels for both the APA Pacific 2017 (Seattle) and the ICSP 2017 (Singapore). With time, a more ambitious working and publication program can emerge. Scholars, students and all interested people should contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. If you want to submit papers for the above mentioned panels, you are more than welcome.
Someone said to Confucius, “Master, why don’t you engage in government?” The Master said, “The Book of Documents says, ‘Filial! But be filial, and a friend to your brothers, thus contributing to government.’ Why then do that other kind of ‘engaging in government’?”
I’ll suppose for the sake of argument that the reported exchange is authentic, and argue that it is not significant evidence of Confucius’ views. Confucius is not aiming to communicate his views here.
Sungmoon Kim’s new book, Public Reason Confucianism: Democratic Perfectionism and Constitutionalism in East Asia (Cambridge, 2016) has just been published. Congratulations, Sungmoon! Here are links to the CUP website and Amazon. Cambridge has also made available a form that anyone can use to get a 25% discount; click here. Here is the book’s description:
Recent proposals concerning Confucian meritocratic perfectionism have justified Confucian perfectionism in terms of political meritocracy. In contrast, ‘Confucian democratic perfectionism’ is a form of comprehensive Confucian perfectionism that can accommodate a plurality of values in civil society. It is also fully compatible with core values of democracy such as popular sovereignty, political equality, and the right to political participation. Sungmoon Kim presents ‘public reason Confucianism’ as the most attractive option for contemporary East Asian societies that are historically and culturally Confucian. Public reason Confucianism is a particular style of Confucian democratic perfectionism in which comprehensive Confucianism is connected with perfectionism via a distinctive form of public reason. It calls for an active role for the democratic state in promoting a Confucian conception of the good life, at the heart of which are such core Confucian values as filial piety and ritual propriety.
Loubna El Amine discusses Confucianism, human rights, and related topics–and even mentions this blog–in her recent Washington Post piece, “Are ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ Western colonial exports? No. Here’s why.”
The new issue of Perspectives on Politics (14:1, March 2016), available here, contains several articles of interest:
- Loubna El Amine, “Beyond East and West: Reorienting Political Theory through the Prism of Modernity”
- An extended discussion of Daniel Bell’s The China Model, with articles by Baogang He, Victoria Tin-bor Hui, Leigh Jenco, Andrew Nathan, Lynette Ong, Thomas Pangle, and Joseph Wang.
I have just started reading Larry Israel’s book Doing Good and Ridding Evil in Ming China: The Political Career of Wang Yangming (Brill, 2014), and it looks excellent. Larry posted something about it on the Readers’ Discussion section of the site, but it deserves a main post!
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Henry Rosemont Jr., Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family, and Religion, Lexington Books, 2015, 190pp., $85.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780739199800.
Reviewed by Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee, University of Hawaii, West Oahu
This book has ten chapters and can be roughly divided into two parts: the first five chapters focus on the discussion of many problematics of the Western notion of individualism; and the second half is devoted to the Confucian role-based alternative. This book can be seen as a culmination of Henry Rosemont Jr.’s decades of work in the field of comparative philosophy. His critique of Western individualism along with his search for Confucian spirituality as an alternative stretches back to his early works such as A Chinese Mirror: Moral Reflections on Political Economy and Society (Open Court, 1991), “Human Rights: A Bill of Worries” (in Confucianism and Human Rights, Columbia University Press, 1998) and Rationality and Religious Experience: The Continuing Relevance of the World’s Spiritual Traditions (Open Court 2001). Against Individualism is a natural progression of all these early groundworks that Rosemont has laid along the way.
The latest issue of The China Journal has some book reviews that will interest many:
- Review Essay: Modernity and the Chinese Moral Crisis, by Andrew B. Kipnis (reviewing Moral China in the Age of Reform, by Jiwei Ci; and The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination, by Haiyan Lee.)
- Bryce Kositz reviews Politics and Traditional Culture: The Political Use of Traditions in Contemporary China, by Janette Ai (Singapore: World Scientific, 2015).
- Vanessa L. Fong reviews Ordinary Ethics in China, edited by Charles Stafford (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).
Bai Tongdong of Fudan University has review Daniel Bell’s The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2015) at NDPR. Read on for the link and for the full review.
I am happy to announce the publication of Leigh Jenco’s new book; congratulations!
Leigh Jenco, Changing Referents: Learning Across Space and Time in China and the West (Oxford University Press, 2015): 304 Pages; ISBN: 9780190263812
Globalization has brought together otherwise disparate communities with distinctive and often conflicting ways of viewing the world. Yet even as these phenomena have exposed the culturally specific character of the academic theories used to understand them, most responses to this ethnocentricity fall back on the same parochial vocabulary they critique. Against those who insist our thinking must return always to the dominant terms of Euro-American modernity, I argue and demonstrate that methods for understanding cultural others can take theoretical guidance from those very bodies of thought typically excluded by political and social theory.
When I was in Taiwan last week, friends there recommended that I should look at the new book 《公民儒學》 (Civic Confucianism) by Norman Teng 鄧育仁, recently published by National Taiwan University Press. Professor Teng, who received his PhD a number of years ago from Southern Illinois University, is now a researcher at the Academia Sinica; I had a chance to meet him and talk with him at length about his book and future research projects while I was there. The book is fascinating. He proposes that in this age of democratic pluralism, a “civic philosophical 公民哲學” approach should be to seek serious dialogue among philosophical traditions, in the spirit of egalitarian democracy. In particular, he is interested in how we should think about Confucians and Confucianism in a pluralistic, democratic society like Taiwan. His book combines a number of innovative methodological approaches (e.g., paying special attention to the ways that early Confucians use narrative reflection and the reframing of premises, rather than explicit deductive logic, which techniques can then be applied in the present day as well) in order to explore a particular means of developing a form of democratic Confucianism today. He draws extensively on John Rawls in some chapters; that, plus his emphasis on a rootedness in the actual experience of Taiwan’s democratic society, suggests some very interesting comparisons between Teng’s work and that of Sungmoon Kim (whose work on modern Confucian democracy is rooted in the experience of South Korea). In any event, well worth serious attention for those of us thinking about the future of Confucianism.
The next session of the Columbia University Seminar on Neo-Confucian Studies will convene Friday, November 6, 2015 from 3:30 to 5:30pm in the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.
Eske Mollgaard will present the paper “Can Confucians Universalize Themselves?” Please contact the organizers for a copy.
All are welcome to attend. Please join us after the seminar for dinner at a location to be announced.
Kang Xiaoguang is an interesting contemporary Chinese social scientist, public intellectual, and promoter of a particular brand of Confucianism; I wrote about him a bit in Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy. I have now learned that there is an English-language book about him: Monika Gaenssbauer, Confucianism and Social Issues in China — the Academician Kang Xiaoguang: Investigations into NGOs in China, the Falun Gong, Chinese Reportage, and the Confucian Tradition (Projectverlag, 2011). I will have to take a look!
Daniel A. Bell’s new book, The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (Princeton, 2015) has been published. Amazon is here. Unsurprisingly, the book is occasioning considerable discussion. One early review is here. Comments (and references to other reviews) are welcome!
A thought-provoking post at China Policy on various strands in current Chinese discourse about “values” (Confucian, universal, civilizational, and otherwise).
Jaeyoon Song’s important study of Song dynasty political thinking, Traces of Grand Peace: Classics and State Activism in Imperial China, now has a webpage and is scheduled for publication in November. Congratulations, Jaeyoon!
An interesting-sounding lecture that touches on the possible “new life” to be found in the Neo-Confucian compendium, Reflections on Things at Hand; June 18th at Taiwan Normal University:
主講人：朱浤源教授 （中央研究院 近代史研究所）、呂榮海律師 （蔚理法律事務所）
主持人：潘朝陽教授 （國立臺灣師範大學 東亞學系）
地 點：臺師大誠大樓九樓 政治學研究所多功能會議室
At a recent event in China, a colleague — relatively new to the China scene — asked me why there was so much interest in the topics of “livelihood” on the parts of the Chinese scholars at our interdisciplinary conference Here is a partial explanation: “On Xi Jinping’s Thought Regarding People’s Livelihood.”
For those in Taiwan, this lecture on the future of cross-straits relations from a Confucian perspective may be of interest; it is announced as the first in a new series of lectures of Confucian perspectives on contemporary civil society issues):
Daniel Bell’s latest New York Times op-ed: “Teaching ‘Western Values’ in China” grapples with some of the difficulties with teaching and researching both “Western” and “Chinese” values.
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Sungmoon Kim, Confucian Democracy in East Asia: Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press, 2014, 321pp., $29.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781107641211.
Reviewed by Loubna El Amine, Georgetown University
Sungmoon Kim’s book offers an important and passionate defense of democracy, especially as it applies to East Asian countries. It moves the current debate on the topic from the question of whether democracy is relevant to, and compatible with, the East Asian context, to the question of “the particular mode of Confucian democracy” that is suitable for East Asia (247). In other words, the starting premise of Kim’s inquiry is the simple fact that democracy does already exist in that part of the world, including in South Korea, Taiwan, and (“arguably,” according to Kim), in Hong Kong (247). The question then is, what form of democracy does, will, and should work in East Asia?
According to the Guangming Daily, “the interpretation of Confucian political philosophy” was one of the ten “hot” areas within Chinese academia in 2014. According to the newspaper’s staff, one of the key questions that scholars sought to answer was “What conceptual resources does the Confucian tradition have that can assist with the design of institutions in today’s China 儒家传统对今日中国之制度设计有哪些可资借鉴的思想资源？” For those with Chinese, some more details, and the other nine hot areas, are below. (It is item 3 on the list.)
This is a call for submissions to a special issue of the journal Educational Philosophy and Theory, which will be edited by Liz Jackson and Timothy O’Leary of the University of Hong Kong.
The Umbrella Movement, a student-led series of protests, occupations and collaborations across different social groups, has permanently altered the social and political landscape of Hong Kong. In marked contrast to the depoliticized, capitalist orientation that predominated in the public sphere in the past, the Umbrella Movement is marked by youth performance of alternative values of collaboration, accountability, and communitarian care. Participants in the Umbrella Movement, both students and educators, are finding new ways to nurture experiential learning in student-authored contexts, in contrast with the teacher- and test-centered education historically customary in Hong Kong. Resistance to the conservative political values of Hong Kong, that preclude local youth democratic participation in revising and reshaping the society, lies at the heart of this movement.
This Special Issue of Educational Philosophy and Theory examines the Umbrella Movement as not only a political movement, but also an alternative form of education that is framed by student resistance and the desire by young people to reclaim their cultural, social, and political world.
An article by Roger Ames, “儒学与世界文化秩序变革 (Confucianism and the Transformation of the International Cultural Order)” appeared in People’s Daily on Nov. 7.
This Forum, featuring five Hong Kong University faculty (ncluding philosophers and political theorists) is well-worth watching!
Many readers of this blog have been following the recent demonstrations in Hong Kong with interest, and several days ago Kai Marchal posted some insightful remarks about demonstrators’ motives and inspirations and their relation to Confucianism. Kai specifically noted the absence of explicitly Confucian political ideals from the demonstrators’ public rhetoric.
The following is the text of a short talk I gave at a public gathering organized by HKU students on the street in Admiralty next to Hong Kong government headquarters on October 1, China’s National Day.
An interesting take on Xi Jinping’s frequent expressions of reverence for China’s past.
An interesting article examining the CCP’s motives for promoting Confucianism has been published: Shufang Wu, “The Revival of Confucianism and the CCP’s Struggle for Cultural Leadership: a content analysis of the People’s Daily, 2000–2009,” Journal of Contemporary China 23:89 (2014), pp. 971-991. Abstract follows, with the key line in bold.
The Global Contest for the Future of Government (new Foreign Affairs article).
I thought this was interesting, though Malik clearly undermines his own implied connection between Buddhism and the bigotry late in the article. Worth a quick read perhaps? Here’s a little bit to get you started:
There is perhaps no religion that Western liberals find more appealing than Buddhism. Politicians fawn over the Dalai Lama, celebrities seek out Buddhist meditation, and scientists and philosophers insist that Buddhism has much to teach us about human nature and psychology.
Even some of the so-called New Atheists have fallen for Buddhism’s allure. For most of its Western sympathizers, Buddhism is a deeply humanist outlook, less a religion than a philosophy, a way of life to create peace and harmony.
The Rohingya people of Myanmar take a very different view of Buddhism. The Rohingya are Muslims who live mostly in Rakhine, in western Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh. Early Muslim settlements there date from the seventh century. Today, in a nation that is 90 percent Buddhist, there are some eight million Muslims, of whom about one in six is Rohingya.
For the Myanmar government, however, the Rohingya simply do not exist…
I am very happy to announce the 2nd Rutgers Workshop on Chinese Philosophy, which will be held on Friday, April 11, on the topic “Xunzi on Authority.” Four scholars of Chinese philosophy will present papers, each followed by a critical commentary from a member of the Rutgers University Philosophy Department. Attendance (including lunch) is free but requires an advance RSVP so that we know how much food to get. Please read on for details!
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!
Special Issue: The Basis for the Legitimacy of the Chinese Political
System: Whence and Whither? Dialogues among Western and Chinese
March 2014; Vol. 40, No. 2
Perhaps these events are a little distant from Chinese philosophy, but I wish I could attend!
- A Constitution without Constitutionalism? Paths of Constitutional Developments in China
- Dictatorship and Information: Autocratic Regime Resilience in Communist Europe and China
- The Rights Defence (weiquan) Movement in China
“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)
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.
As Steve and Manyul announced last month, with each new issue of Dao the blog will host a discussion of one of the issue’s articles, and the journal will make that article freely available online. Here I’m kicking off the series with a discussion of Loy Hui-chieh’s “On the Argument for Jian’ai” (Dao 12.4, available here).
Loy’s article treats the Mohists’ main argument for inclusive care (jiān ài 兼愛), focusing on the role played in it by appeals to virtues such as filial piety that are inevitably partial. Fundamental to his treatment is the view (which I share) that inclusive care did not require absolute impartiality—it did not imply that we have equal obligations to all people, or that we should treat them the same, or feel the same about them. Loy thus undermines one common sort or argument against the Mohists, that inclusive care is incompatible with the partial virtues and is therefore morally dubious. However, this does not mean that the Mohists’ own appeals to the partial virtues succeed, and Loy goes on to argue that they do not. I’ll sketch Loy’s argument, and then make critical comments on two points.
Eirik Harris reports: We’re hosting a conference on “Confucianism, Law, and Politics in Korea: Past and Present” here at CityU that might interest some of the Warp, Weft and Way readers. The Conference poster with list of speakers and topics is here: http://www6.cityu.edu.hk/ceacop/kpcp/conference_poster.jpg
A new book titled The East Asian Challenge for Democracy: Political Meritocracy in Comparative Perspective, coedited by Daniel Bell and Chenyang Li, has just been published by Cambridge University Press. It is an interdisciplinary work with contributions by leading historians, social scientists, and philosophers. It is the first book in decades to examine the rise (or revival) of political meritocracy and what it will mean for political developments in China and the rest of the world. It also reminds us that there are political alternatives to electoral democracy and military dictatorship. Here is the link on amazon, where you’ll see a brief endorsement from me (among other people).
‘Tis the season for reviews of works in Chinese philosophy to be published, apparently! The latest issue of The China Journal has reviews of three recent works in our field, along with much else of interest:
- Leigh Jenco reviews Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspective, edited by Fred Dallmayr and Zhao Tingyang; she finds much to like about several of the included articles, though has misgivings about the introduction and some of the editorial choices.
- Jason Clower reviews The Thought of Mou Zongsan by N. Serina Chan; Clower emphasizes its usefulness as a reference on the sprawling writing and thinking of Mou.
- John Makeham reviews China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom by Tongdong Bai; Makeham emphasizes the book’s idiosyncracies.
Tze-ki Hon’s review of my latest book, Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism (Polity, 2012) has been published “on-line first” in Dao. (If your library subscribes to Dao, you should be able to get to the article, though quite possibly not through the link I just gave.) The review’s final paragraph reads:
While Angle may not be completely faithful to MOU Zongsan, he succeeds in drastically changing the image of New Confucianism. Instead of an abstract philosophy in the ivory tower, he transforms New Confucianism into a political theory for promoting tolerance, diversity, and equality. While it is still early to tell whether New Confucianism will have a strong impact on twenty-first century Chinese politics, it is clear that the three parts of a healthy society that Angle describes—the ethic subjectivity, the rights of the public, and the communicative acts based on rituals—are essential to building a fair and open political system in China. They directly address the new political condition of contemporary China where individuals aggressively demand recognition of their unique personality, inalienable rights, and full participation in the communicative lifeworld.
Many thanks to Tze-ki for his generous and probing review!
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
Erin M. Cline, Confucius, Rawls, and the Sense of Justice, Fordham University Press, 2013, 354pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780823245086.
Reviewed by Bryan W. Van Norden, Vassar College
A video produced by CCTV, featuring Daniel Bell, Zhang Xudong. M.D. Nalapat, Einar Tangen, Tu Weiming, and Zhang Jianfei, Mayor of Changsha at the Yuelu Academy in Changsha. (Stick with it: I feel that it gets more interesting as it goes along.) Comments welcome.
A couple of years ago, we had some discussion on this blog of the idea of Confucian “fundamentalism,” sparked by comments of Peng Guoxiang, in response to criticism from some Confucians of plans for a large church in Qufu, near the ancestral home of the Kong family (Confucius’s family). (See also the discussion of Ralph Weber’s later post, as well.) At that time, some commentators on the blog said that they felt “fundamentalism” was inapt. Prompted by having to write a review of Jiang Qing’s A Confucian Constitutional Order: How China’s Ancient Past Can Shape Its Political Future (Princeton, 2013), I would like to revisit this general question, being more specific both about what “fundamentalism” means and about the target of my analysis: not the broad group of signers of earlier petitions, but specifically Jiang Qing as he represents himself in this new book.
International Conference: “The Classic of Documents and the Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy”
Princeton University, May 17-18, 2013
The conference is open to the public. It will focus on a series of case studies on individual chapters from the Shangshu, with an emphasis on rhetoric and ideology. Those interested in attending should email Martin Kern (firstname.lastname@example.org) for preregistration and further information.
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.
In this guest post, Ralph Weber of the University of Zurich shares with us his English translation of an opinion piece just published in Germany (as “Politik, Konfuzianismus und konfuzianische politische Philosophie in der VR China heute.” In: Widerspruch – Münchner Zeitschrift für Philosophie, Nr. 56, 2013.) Please direct comments to Dr. Weber.
The Politics of ‘Confucian Political Philosophy’
Ralph Weber, University of Zurich
In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Confucius, the Master, is “standing tall” again, as a People’s Daily headline put it (13 January 2011), referring to a ten meter bronze statue which since January was standing right next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, before it was dislocated to a less prominent spot in April 2011 for reasons as yet unknown. Not to be mistaken, the statue was not the latest version of the Goddess of Democracy, which students had erected in June 1989 as a symbol of protest and reform. The Confucius statue was not erected against the Chinese government; it had been put there with official endorsement – something that only decades ago would have been unthinkable – and surely it was also dislocated again with official endorsement. The short but prominent appearance of the Confucius statue at one of the most symbolic places in all of China showcases the wavering attitude of the Chinese government on what to do with Confucianism and perhaps reveals once more how split the government is in terms of doctrine and ideology.
NDRP has published a review by BAI Tongdong of Fudan University of my recent book, Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Towards Progressive Confucianism (Polity, 2012). Many thanks to Tongdong for this generous review!
I’d like to take this opportunity to respond very briefly to a couple of the things that Tongdong says in his review. He feels that both Mou Zongsan and I, in our related but separate ways, have left largely unaddressed the question: “can Confucianism make any constructive and systematic contributions to fundamental issues in political philosophy other than being only a “cheerleader” (a sincere one, as Angle tries to show) of liberal democracy?” This is related to some of the other critical remarks he raises late in the review, including the suggestion that in my chapter on human rights, I rest content with the current “responsibility to protect” doctrine, and also Tongdong’s questions about how “Confucian” Progressive Confucianism is.
A month ago I noted that Sungmoon Kim’s review of Fred Dallmayr and ZHAO Tingyang, eds. Contemporary Chinese Political Thought: Debates and Perspectives had been published at NDPR. My own review for Dao of the same book has now been published on-line first, and should be accessible to those with institutional access to Dao. I’ll paste the first couple paragraphs, as well as the penultimate paragraph (which makes a fairly self-standing point), below.