Book Of Interest: Perkins, Doing What you Really Want

Oxford University Press has published Doing What You Really Want: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mengzi by Franklin Perkins. In this book, “Franklin Perkins presents a coherent, systematic, and accessible explanation of Mengzi’s philosophy. He covers everything from the place of human beings in nature to human psychology and philosophy of emotions to the various way in which we can deliberately change and cultivate ourselves.” To find this book in both paper and online versions click here.

4 replies on “Book Of Interest: Perkins, Doing What you Really Want”

  1. (Sequel: Doing what you really really want)

    From p. 201:

    Anyone can be like Yao or Shun. Mengzi explains:

    “Just do it and that is all. There is a person here whose strength is not enough to lift a chicken, so he is considered a person without strength. If today he lifts a hundred jun, he is considered a person with strength. So then if one lifts a weight like the strongman Wu Huo did, they are considered a Wu Huo and that is all. Now, how can people be troubled by not being able? It is just they do not do it. Walking slowly behind elders is called respect. Walking hurriedly ahead of elders is called disrespect. Now walking slowly— can that be something a person is unable to do? It is what they do not do! The way of Yao and Shun is filial piety and filial respect and that is all.” (M 6B2)


    Elsewhere in the book, FP always translates tì as “fraternal respect.” Here xiàotì is translated as “filial piety and filial respect.”

    I don’t know if that’s intentional or just a reflection of an unresolved question. I submit that xiàotì here is best translated, “filial piety and respect for elders.” The problems with using “fraternal respect” in the Mengzi passage above are that (a) respecting one’s elder brother is not something everyone can do. Shun couldn’t do it. The most important people couldn’t do it: rulers by the traditionally favored primogeniture. And (b) walking behind elders illustrates elder-respect generally.

    On the latter point I think this passage from the Lǐjì (Jìyì) is illuminating:

    Anciently, the sovereigns of the line of Yu honoured virtue, and highly esteemed age [齒]; the sovereigns of Xia honoured rank, and highly esteemed age; under Yin they honoured riches, and highly esteemed age; under Zhou, they honoured kinship [親], and highly esteemed age. Yu, Xia, Yin, and Zhou produced the greatest kings that have appeared under Heaven, and there was not one of them who neglected age. For long has honour been paid to years under the sky; to pay it is next to the service of parents [親].
    Therefore, at court among parties of the same rank, the highest place was given to the oldest. Men of seventy years carried their staffs at the court. When the ruler questioned one of them, he made him sit on a mat. One of eighty years did not wait out the audience, and when the ruler would question him he went to his house. Thus 弟 was recognised at the court.
    A junior walking with one older (than himself), if they were walking shoulder to shoulder, yet it was not on the same line. If he did not keep transversely (a little behind), he followed the other. When they saw an old man, people in carriages or walking got out of his way. Men, where the white were mingling with their black hairs, did not carry burdens on the roads. Thus 弟 was recognised on the public ways.
    Residents in the country took their places according to their age, and the old and poor were not neglected, nor did the strong come into collision with the weak, or members of a numerous clan do violence to those of a smaller. Thus 弟 was recognised in the country districts and hamlets.
    According to the ancient rule, men of fifty years were not required to serve in hunting expeditions; and in the distribution of the game, a larger share was given to the more aged. Thus 弟 was recognised in the arrangements for the hunts.
    In the tens and fives of the army and its detachments, where the rank was the same, places were given according to age. Thus 弟 was recognised in the army.
    The display of孝弟 in the court; the practice of them on the road; their reaching to the districts and hamlets; their extension to the huntings; and the cultivation of them in the army, (have thus been described). All would have died for them under the constraint of righteousness, and not dared to violate them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.