THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY
Welcomes: AARON STALNAKER (Indiana University)
With responses from: TIMOTHY CONNOLLY (East Stroudsburg University)
Please join on January 24, 2020 at 5:30 for his lecture entitled,
Dependence, Autonomy, and the Varieties of Relationship
ABSTRACT: This talk places master-student relations in the context of Confucian social theory, focusing on issues of obedience, remonstration, and respect for different sorts of authorities. I survey early Confucian accounts of the good society centered on role relations, personal development, and flourishing, both individual and communal. I then examine the question of autonomy within these relationships, looking closely at remonstration, obedience, and disobedience. The talk concludes with a broader discussion of human dependence, placing Confucian conceptions in dialogue with Eva Feder Kittay, Martha Fineman, and Alasdair MacIntyre. All three, like the Confucians, see dependency relations as central to human life and the problems of politics, in sharp contrast to most liberal views that imagine a social contract between autonomous, free, and equal individuals. Confucians view extreme dependence as a special case of the pervasive interdependence of all human beings on each other, with family relations serving in many respects as the model for other relations.
Despite contemporary American resistance to dependence as servile (and thus incompatible with freedom and autonomy), dysfunctional, or lazy, it is an essential condition of human life. None of us could flourish or even survive without care, assistance, and cooperation from others, especially in childhood and old age but also throughout the whole lifespan. As these Confucians argue, dependence on other people is socially and individually good: it satisfies our strong desires for connection to others, as well as many of our other desires, through the practices supported and wealth produced and distributed through efficient, just social cooperation.
Furthermore, despite contemporary American suspicions to the contrary, deference to experts and even to other social authorities is often good. In the case of students, it provides the most effective path to cultivating one’s own autonomy. And general social deference smooths social relations and helps society function, as long as people perform their role-specific duties well. Early Rú accounts of the varieties of authority, as well as the ritual propriety appropriate to different sorts of hierarchically ordered relations, help us to see that deference is quite different from objectionable obsequiousness or lack of judgment.
DATE: January 24, 2020
TIME: 5:30-7:30 pm
PLACE: Rm. 101, 80 Claremont Ave, Columbia University