ISCWP Seeking Commentators for Pacific APA

Yang Xiao writes: The board of ISCWP is glad to announce that we are going to have two panels at APA Pacific Division Meeting in April 2015 in Vancouver, Canada (see below). Here is the link to the information about the meeting:

We still need two volunteers to chair the two panels, and seven volunteers to be the commentators on the seven papers. Details are below. Please let me know as soon as possible, but no later than October 10th!

ISCWP Panels at APA Pacific Division Meeting in April 2015


Panel #1: History, Atonement, and Care Ethics: Comparative Perspectives


Chair #1: _______________________


  1. Billy Dean Goehring (University of Oregon)


“Sima Guang and Machiavelli: A History Lesson”


What role should history play in politics? With regard to Marxism, Cornelius Castoriadis claimed that we could not but be Marxists insofar as we could not ignore history, but that because we could not ignore history we could no longer be Marxists. Whatever our attitude toward Marxism, the problem of the political value of history is a live one, and this question itself has quite the history.

Sima Guang and Niccolò Machiavelli proffer solutions to this problem that are, in certain ways, strikingly similar. Both held that history offered a sort of mirror for the present, and indeed, both wroteprincipum specula, works that explicitly put history in the service of political practice and governance. Both Sima Guang’s Zizhi Tongjian and Machiavelli’s Il Principe offer a history to be repeated. Our problem—Castoriadis’s problem, vis-à-vis Marxism—concerns what “repeating history” means.

Althusser asks how Machiavelli can praiseRomulus and condemn Caesar for the same crime—in this paper I ask the same of Sima Guang: how can he both praise Liu Bang and condemn Han Xuandi for the use of capital punishment? Neither thinker wants history to be repeated literally—both view history as being principled, and the close examination of these principles enables one to more deftly navigate the political condition of the present.

In this paper I address this problem by recalling Machiavelli’s notions of virtù and fortuna, as well as Sima Guang’s “one dao, three de, five cai,” addressing scholarship concerning both. This paper compares the two political historians not for comparison’s sake, but because they might be instructive for political thought today. If both Sima Guang and Machiavelli transformed history into a history lesson, those who struggle with Castoriadis may benefit from a lesson in history lessons.


Commentator #1: ____________________



  1. Mathew A. Foust (CentralConnecticutStateUniversity)


“Making Amends with Confucius and Royce”


This essay is a comparative engagement of the thought of Confucius (551BC-479BC) and the American pragmatist and idealist Josiah Royce (1855-1916), both of whom devote significant attention to the importance of making amends after one has acted wrongly.


For Confucius, an essential part of moral uprightness (zhi 直), and of being humane (ren仁), is having a sense of shame (chi耻) – i.e., taking oneself to task for wrongdoings and rectifying one’s character and behavior.  In Analects 7.3, Confucius cites his proving unable to reform when he has done something wrong as one of four potential failings that are “a source of constant worry” to him, while in Analects 15.30, Confucius remarks, “To make a mistake and yet to not change your ways – this is what is called truly making a mistake.”


In chapters of The Problem of Christianity (1913) entitled, “Time and Guilt” and “Atonement,” Royce argues that although all of our acts are irrevocable, acts of atonement on the part of individuals and communities alike can help to restore the character of those guilty of moral failings and reconcile relations shattered as a result of wrongdoings.  Moreover, individuals and communities might actually be stronger following deeds of atonement than they would have been had no act of wrongdoing occurred in the first place.


Although Confucius and Royce do not offer identical treatments of atonement, it is argued that compelling conceptual overlap allows for their philosophies to be mutually elucidating.  Moreover, it is shown that the insights of Confucius and Royce with respect to making amends can be fruitfully brought to bear on contemporary scholarly debate (e.g., Linda Radzik’s Making Amends: Atonement in Morality, Law, and Politics [2009]) concerning the nature, conditions, and value of atonement.


Commentator #2: ______________



  1. Ian M. Sullivan (University of Hawaii at Manoa)


“What Are Other People If Not Hell?: The No Exit Objection and Intimate Relations

in Care Ethics and Confucianism”


Jean-Paul Sartre famously observed in No Exit that “hell is other people.” This sentiment is compatible with, if not a driving force behind, much of modern ethical theory, where rule-based theories and rights-based protections isolate and defend persons from each other. In rejecting the absolute authority of rules and the rights-based discourse as well as adopting notions of relationally constituted persons, care ethics and Confucianism find themselves faced with what Vrinda Dalmiya calls the No Exit Objection: either intimate relations are constitutive of who we are and thus we cannot leave them, or we can leave intimate relations that become exploitative or abusive and these relations are not constitutive of who we are. In this paper I address this objection and articulate aconception of the relationally constituted self that is simultaneously true to lived experience and capable of meeting this demand for relationally constituted agency. While care ethics focuses on the dyadic relationship of carer to cared-for, Confucianism recognizes the multiplicity of role relations at work in any given situation. This field of interconnected and interdependent relations focused in the self mitigates against the “all or none” understanding of constitutive relations that troubles feminists engaging care ethics. It is indeed possible to sever or transform a constitutive relation, because no one relation will be wholly constitutive of one’s self, or put otherwise, other constitutive relations can be leveraged against one or a few particularly “hellish” relations. This paper not only contributes to the ongoing dialogue between Confucianism and care ethics, but it provides a nuanced articulation of the relational self that is at once both constituted by relations with others and an individuated person.


Commentator #3: ________________



Panel #2 “Non-Confucian Political Philosophy and its Contemporary Relevance”


Chair #2: __________________



1.Eirik Lang Harris (City University of Hong Kong)

“Shen Dao’s Conception of the Law and the Dao”


Although Shen Dao is perhaps best known, via Han Feizi, as a theorist of positional power勢, a close reading of the remaining fragments indicate that he was deeply interested in the law 法 and the Way 道. Previous discussions of the relationship between the law and the Way in Shen Dao’s political philosophy have focused on determining whether he was a natural law theorist or a legal positivist. However, this is an artificial dichotomy that takes as an unstated premise that the Western debate over the law has laid out and classified legal theories according to their natural kinds. However, such a premise seems quite unwarranted, and early Chinese legal theorists certainly did not see themselves as working with such divisions.

As such, this paper does not focus on fitting Shen Dao into any Western mold, but rather endeavors to examine how Shen Dao himself talks about the relationship between the law and the Way. This involves coming to better understand his conception of the Way, which I argue he sees more in the light of the underlying set of natural laws that serve as the organizing principles of the universe and of human political organization. On his account, if the ruler is to be successful at implementing laws, he must recognize the restrictions that the natural world (which includes basically unchangeable human dispositions) places on what sort of laws will be effective.

This discussion of the role of law, particularly in light of human dispositions allows us to recognize that he has something to contribute to contemporary debates in political theory, from debates between situationalists and virtue theorists to discussions of the role of morality itself in political organization.


Commentator #4: ______________


  1. Youngsun Back (CityUniversityof Hong Kong)

“Mozi’s jian’ai and Political Philosophy”


This paper examines Mozi’s doctrine of Jian’ai . The secondary literature on Mozi’s jian’ai has been written primarily based on the Mengzian contrast between Mozi’sjian’ai as “love without distinctions” and Ruist ren (仁benevolence) as “love with distinctions.” Accordingly, the focus has been on the difference in the scope, intensity, and sequence of love. In this paper, however, I argue that Mozi’s jian’ai is not only different from Ruist ren in its scope, intensity, and sequence, but, more importantly, it is fundamentally different in kind.

One of the most important aspects of Mozi’s discussion of jian’ai is that it is a socio-political doctrine rather than a personal, self-cultivationalist one. Mozi, as a socio-political activist, began from the perspective of the state and developed a form of state consequentialism. In developing his overall political theory, he utilizes the conception of jian’ai in a unique fashion. As A. C. Graham puts it, it is an unemotional caring for others; we should take care of others, regardless of our feelings toward them. Mozi’s claim is that in caring, we should follow the objective standard like maxims, instead of unreliable standards like feelings. I argue that these two different views came from their different stances in dealing with the problems of the day. Mozi was confident that by shaping moral actions of individuals based on the needs of the state he could bring about immediate change throughout the world, something which the Ru were unable to do.


Commentator #5: _____________________


  1. Henrique Schneider (Karl Franzens Universität Graz)

“Hanfei on History and Political Philosophy”


An interesting feature of Hanfei’s philosophy is his dismissal of traditional philosophies, notably of Confucianism, because they focused on a too distant past as normative entity, not understanding that “as times change, government changes”. Yet Hanfei himself doesn’t seem shy of learning from history, since he constantly looks to the past in order to learn for the present. How can a reader reconcile this dismissal of traditional philosophies because of their interest for the past with Hanfei’s interest for it?

This paper is concerned with Hanfei’s idea of what history is and how it can be used to learn from. I make three claims about Hanfei’s relationship with history:

First, Hanfei distinguishes between tradition and history. The first is a normative framework directed toward its own continuation, whereas the second is a factual timeline during which episodes happen. These episodes can be used to learn about the relationships between them and their context; they have an empirical value that can be assessed by careful analysis.

Second, Hanfei sees the past as an interdependent development of different timelines, for example of human society, technical developments, warfare, agriculture, philosophy or statecraft. He analyzes the functions of these interdependencies and their effects on his proposals for state management. He is especially interested in the evolution of technology and its effects on governing. Directing his focus on how technology changes the unique propositions of leadership, Hanfei is interested of how a ruler can anticipate and use new technology.

Third, the past is also seen as a possibility for studying how the Dao took and changed its course and how rulers and states adapted (or not) to this. There is something to learn here too, for a monarch must be able to navigate the Dao, so looking back in history is seeing how the Way manifests and how to react to it is valuable.

In these three claims it becomes apparent that for Hanfei, history is not there to be emulated or anchored normatively but is an empirical ground to learn and to test his own methods of governing.


Commentator #6: ________________


  1. John Rapp (BeloitCollege)

“Anarchism or Nihilism: Lessons From Daoist Anarchists for Post-Modern Critical Theory”


Radical anarchist critiques of the state based on the writings of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi lasted from at least the 3rd century BCE through the early 4rd century CE. During the 9th century CE, Wu Nengzi revived this critique of all forms of rule as in reality run by and for the interests of state office holders.  Ultimately, however, influenced by Buddhism, he retreated from the Daoist stance against serving in office, arguing that one could participate in government service as long as one was not attached to it as something real or valuable. This attitude will be compared with that of post-Modernist thinkers who claim to oppose all “meta-narratives” that can too easily lead to new dominating discourses and who instead call for people just to take an “ironic stance” toward all forms of authority. Critics of such thinkers note that such an attitude denying any overarching values can too easily skip into nihilistic acceptance of authority and perhaps explains why some seminal thinkers related to post-Modernist thought had shady pasts as collaborators with or apologists for varieties of authoritarian regimes. So a style of thought whose original goal was liberation may in the end have no way to consistently criticize participation in oppression. This presentation examines the question of whether radical critiques of all ideologies of rule have to degenerate into nihilism or whether, by returning to the Daoist embrace of the undifferentiated whole, such a slide into passive acceptance of authority can be prevented.


Commentator #7: __________________




Posted by: Yang Xiao <>

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