TOC Asian Philosophy 21:1

Here follow full citations and abstracts to the latest issue of Asian Philosophy, including Chris Fraser’s “Emotion and Agency in Zhuāngzi” and for those interested in the “morality vs. prudence” thread, Wong Wai-ying’s “The Moral and Non-Moral Virtues in Confucian Ethics,” among others.

Dasti, Matthew R.. 2011. Indian Rational Theology: Proof, Justification, and Epistemic Liberality in Nyāya’s Argument for God. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):1-21.

In classical India, debates over rational theology naturally become the occasion for fundamental questions about the scope and power of inference itself. This is well evinced in the classical proofs for God by the Hindu Nyāya tradition and the opposing arguments of classical Buddhists and Mīmāṁsā philosophers. This paper calls attention to, and provides analysis of, a number of key nodes in these debates, particularly questions of inferential boundaries and whether inductive reasoning has the power to support inferences to wholly unique entities (like God). Further questions probed involve the supposed connection between structured objects and agential creators, and the status of examples used in traditional inference. Further, it calls attention to and defends what may be called an epistemological liberalism, championed—paradoxically perhaps—by Nyāya, and opposed by Buddhists and Mīmāṁsakas.

Slakter, David. 2011. On Mātsyanyāya: The State of Nature in Indian Thought. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):23-34.

This paper calls attention to mātsyanyāya, or state of nature theories, in classical Indian thought, and their significance. The focus is on those discussions of mātsyanyāya found in the law books, political treatises and the Mahābhārata epic. The significance and relevance of mātsyanyāya theories are shown through a comparison with early modern state of nature theories and an elaboration on the possible place of rights and dharma in mātsyanyāya and the consequences of this for classical Indian political theory.

Schroeder, John. 2011. Truth, Deception, and Skillful Means in the Lotus Sūtra. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):35-52.

This article seeks to broaden contemporary scholarship on the Lotus Sūtra by arguing that it is a philosophically critical, self-reflective text struggling with problems of truth in Buddhist discourse. While all Lotus Sūtra scholars agree that the doctrine of skillful means is a central teaching in the text, there is a common tendency to frame skillful means as a passive vehicle (or ‘means’) for expressing truth rather than an active philosophical critique of truth. This article argues that the Lotus Sūtra uses skillful means as a distinct form of criticism within a larger debate over the nature and efficacy of Buddhist practice, and that it raises important issues about truth that are shared by other important Buddhist thinkers and texts such as Nāgārjuna, Lin-chi and the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa. It analyzes key passages and parables without reducing the ethical teachings of the Lotus Sūtra to simplistic versions of utilitarianism, paternalism, or relativism, and without dissolving the critical elements that make the Lotus Sūtra a genuinely philosophically interesting text.

Hongladarom, Soraj. 2011. The Overman and the Arahant: Models of Human Perfection in Nietzsche and Buddhism. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):53-69.

Two models of human perfection proposed by Nietzsche and the Buddha are investigated. Both the overman and the arahant need practice and individual effort as key to their realization, and they share roughly the same conception of the self as a construction. However, there are also a number of salient differences. Though realizing it to be constructed, the overman does proclaim himself through his assertion of the will to power. The realization of the true nature of the self does not lead the overman to seek the way to be released from saṃsara as does the arahant. On the contrary, he rejoices in the eternally recurring situation. The arahant, however, has totally relinquished any attachment to the self, constructed or otherwise. The arahant does not care about the Eternal Recurrence, as he only focuses on the present moment. Finally, they are both beyond good and evil, but in a substantively different way.

Wong, Wai-ying. 2011. The Moral and Non-Moral Virtues in Confucian Ethics. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):71-82.

The question ‘How should one live?’ reflects the central concern in the ethics of Socrates. The answer to this question is not merely related to the concepts of obligation and duty, which constitute the major problems of modern moral philosophy, but it can also be considered from the prudential point of view. Therefore both the moral and non-moral realms contribute to a good life. Although there is little doubt concerning the existence of the non-moral realm in Confucianism, yet the relationship between the moral and the non-moral realms has not been carefully examined. Obviously the nature of the existence of the non-moral realm can be clear only if the question whether the non-moral virtues can be defined in terms of, or reduced to, or overridden by moral virtues is resolved. This paper attempts to scrutinize the relationship mentioned so as to determine the status of prudence within the ethics of Confucianism.

Nuyen, A. T.. 2011. Balancing Rights and Trust: Towards a Fiduciary Common Future. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):83-95.

If the current trend is any guide, it looks like we are heading towards a future in which relationships are determined and regulated by rights. In addition to the ‘universal human rights’ declared soon after the Second World War, other ‘universal rights’ have been declared and added to the list of rights, such as the rights of the child, the rights of indigenous peoples and so on. A question arises as to whether a world in which our relationships are governed entirely on the basis of rights is an appealing one. I want to suggest that if our common future is regulated entirely by rights then we are moving in the wrong direction. By contrast, Tu Wei-ming believes that if Confucianism flourishes, we will move towards a society based on trust rather than rights, or what he calls a ‘fiduciary society’. I will argue that while Tu’s Confucian fiduciary society is perhaps an impractical ideal, a move towards it will provide a necessary counter-balance to the relentless march towards a rights-based society.

Fraser, Chris. 2011. Emotion and Agency in Zhuāngzi;. Asian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East. 21(1):97-121.

Among the many striking features of the philosophy of the Zhuāngzĭ is that it advocates a life unperturbed by emotions, including even pleasurable, positive emotions such as joy or delight. Many of us see emotions as an ineluctable part of life, and some would argue they are a crucial component of a well-developed moral sensitivity and a good life. The Zhuangist approach to emotion challenges such commonsense views so radically that it amounts to a test case for the fundamental plausibility of the Daoist ethical orientation: If the Zhuangist stance on emotion is untenable, then other aspects of Daoist ethics may founder as well. In this essay, I explore what I call a Zhuangist ‘Virtuoso View’ of emotion and its connections with human agency, attempting to show that at least one version of a Zhuangist approach to emotion passes the ‘basic plausibility’ test. I begin by describing the Virtuoso View and sketching its theoretical foundation, which involves claims about human agency, the self, psychophysical hygiene, the good life, epistemology, and metaphysics. Next, I defend the Virtuoso View against three objections, namely that it abandons intentionality, that it interferes with a good life, and that it yields a schizophrenic conception of agency. I argue for three major theses. First, the Virtuoso View is easily intelligible and largely defensible. Second, it reflects a crucial insight into a fundamental dichotomy at the core of human agency: the unavoidable conflict within a self-aware human agent between an internal, engaged perspective and an external, detached one. Third, I suggest that certain problems or conflicts arising from the Virtuoso View actually reflect inherent features of the human predicament and thus are not mere conceptual defects. Hence even if we do not find the Virtuoso View wholly convincing, we can nevertheless gain much insight from it.

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