Episode 6 of “This Is the Way”: Partiality and Justice

Episode 6 of This Is the Way is on Tao Jiang’s book. We don’t cover every one of the fascinating issues raised in the 516 pages of Professor Jiang’s volume, but we do cover some of the core topics, including (1) tensions between impartialist justice and partialist humaneness, and (2) Zhuangzi and freedom. A short description follows, with the usual supporting materials.

It seems clear that special relationships give rise to strong attachments and responsibilities that are at the heart of human lives. But it also seems that considerations of justice can require us to give equal consideration to a stranger. What do we do when there is a conflict between considerations of partiality and impartiality?

In this episode we explore these questions with a special guest, Professor Tao Jiang who is a professor of religion and philosophy at Rutgers University and also the director of the Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies. We explore the themes of humaneness, justice and freedom that forms the core of his book, Origins of Moral-Political Philosophy in Early China (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Key passages

The Duke of She said to Confucius, “Among my people there is one we call ‘Upright Gong.’ When his father stole a sheep, he reported him to the authorities.”

Confucius replied, “Among my people, those who we consider ‘upright’ are different from this: fathers cover up for their sons, and sons cover up for their fathers. ‘Uprightness’ is to be found in this.”

(Analects 13.18, modified from Edward Slingerland’s translation)

Some terms and references mentioned in the episode

Tao JIANG, Origins of Moral-political Philosophy in Early China
Mohism (the school of thought associated with “impartial care”)
Analects 13.18 (Upright Gong)
Guan Zhong 管仲 (c. 720-645 BCE)
Analects 14.16
Analects 15.24 (Confucius’s Golden Rule)
Shu 恕 The Golden Rule, empathy, reciprocity, the principle of reversibility
Great Learning 12 (the more role-specific or partialistic formulations of the Golden Rule)
Legalism (Fajia 法家)
Wm. Theodore de Bary, The Trouble with Confucianism (see also de Bary’s The Liberal Tradition in China)
Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 (1610-1695)
Ziran 自然 (spontaneity, being natural)
Zhen 真 (authenticity)
You 遊 (wandering, roaming)
Fangwai 方外 (outside the life-world)
Fangnei 方內 (inside the life-world)
Zhuangzi, chapter 3, the Cook Ding (“Butcher”) passage
Xiang 相 (mutual, mutually; as in xiangwang 相忘 “mutual forgetting”)
Laozi 老子 (also known as the Daodejing 道德經)

One reply

  1. I don’t know. I cannot read, speak or understand Chinese. Maybe that is the point. Or, one… However, to claim ANY way, as THE way is, IMHO, rather shallow.
    I am unsure how partiality and justice may be paired, insofar as the first does not, as a practical matter,conclude with the second….often, outcome is oppositional.
    Good luck with this!

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