Welcomes: ALEXUS MCLEOD (University of Connecticut)
With responses from: ANDREW MEYER (Brooklyn College, CUNY)
Please join us at Columbia University’s Religion Department on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2nd at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:
“The Madman of Chu: The Problem of Mental Illness and Self-Cultivation in Early Chinese Texts”
ABSTRACT: In Confucian and Zhuangist texts of the Pre-Han and Han period, we see characters described as “crazy, mad” (狂 kuang), and find descriptions or discussions of madness or mad persons—most prominently the infamous Jieyu, “Madman of Chu”. I argue that madness is seen by Confucians and Zhuangists as a kind of moral deformity that moves one outside of the boundaries of ritual and society and thus full personhood—a fact that leads the Confucians to shun mad people, and the Zhuangist to praise them. Madness is seen not as a 病 bing (disorder, illness), but instead as based on a cultivated choice. Continue reading →
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.
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.
Paul Fischer (Western Kentucky University; currently visiting at Fudan) writes with information about a workshop on Chinese self-cultivation, to be held at Fudan on July 1. All are welcome! Please contact Dr. Fischer with any questions.
Friend of the blog, Scott Barnwell, shares part 4.3 of his extensive study of classical Daoism.
You will find a lengthy PREVIEW below — footnote links send you to the article posted on his own blog. Comments are welcome here; please address comments to Scott.