This coming Monday, Nov. 8, Anna Sun will be speaking on “Reviving Family Ritual: The Logic of Contemporary Confucian Rites in Urban China” at 10am CST. Details are here. Enjoy!
Confucian Ritual and Moral Education
By Colin J. Lewis
It is widely accepted that moral education is quintessential to facilitating and maintaining prosocial attitudes. What moral education should entail and how it can be effectively pursued remain hotly disputed questions. In Confucian Ritual and Moral Education, Colin J. Lewis examines these issues by appealing to two traditions that have until now escaped comparison: Vygotsky’s theory of learning and psychosocial development and ancient Confucianism’s ritualized approach to moral education. Lewis argues first, that Vygotsky and the Confucians complement one another in a manner that enables a nuanced, empirically sound understanding of how the Confucian ritual education model should be construed and how it could be deployed; and second, just as ritual education in the Confucian tradition can be explicated in terms of modern developmental theory, this ancient notion of ritual can also serve as a viable resource for moral education in a contemporary, diverse world.
Larry Whitney at BU recently told me about fascinating videos of the Autumnal Sacrifice to Confucius at the Confucius temple in Tainan, Taiwan. Thomas A. Wilson video recorded the sacrifice in 1998 and it’s been posted on his website here.
Amy Olberding’s “The Moral Gravity of Mere Trifles” at LSE’s The Forum. She begins:
“Some of the most heated critiques of etiquette emphasize a tension between progressive political values and conformity to polite norms. Insistence on polite rules of interaction may, so the worry goes, stifle righteous dissent, suppress critique of the powerful, and mire us all in hidebound tradition. Better to forcefully call out injustice when we see it than abide by polite rules that sacrifice moral progress to surface social accord. In these critiques, etiquette can seem an enemy of salutary change and a barrier to justice. This reasoning, the early Confucians would argue, misses much about how etiquette works and what it contributes to moral life….”
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.
Bin Song, a graduate student at BU, writes:
We Boston Ruists will host a Ruist retreat this summer, July 1-3rd, at Boston University. Attached is the schedule, including all details of the retreat and logistics.
The initiative of this retreat was proposed by some friends in the Facebook group ‘Friends from Afar: a Confucianism group.’ I hope the retreat can be organized as a ‘middle’ sort of Ruism, aiming to propagate Ruist wisdom among ordinary American people but still not losing its scholarly virtuosity.
Anyone interested in learning more about the retreat, or in registering, should contact Bin Song (the information is on the attachment). Comments on this undertaking are of course welcome here.
A new book that may be of interest: James Flath, Traces of the Sage: Monument, Materiality, and the First Temple of Confucius (Hawaii, 2016). More information is here.