Oxford University Press has just published my new book on early Confucian social thought, and what contemporary people might learn from it: Mastery, Dependence, and the Ethics of Authority. The publisher’s page is here. At present the cheapest way to purchase it is directly from Oxford, with a discount code for 30% off (AAFLYG6).
This comes with hearty thanks to Steve Angle and Bryan Van Norden, who were belatedly revealed as the press’s referees.
Routledge has published a collection of essays on role ethics edited by Tim Dare and Christine Swanton, which includes two essays on early Confucian ethics. More information is here.
The publisher’s description is as follows:
Although our moral lives would be unrecognisable without them, roles have received little attention from analytic moral philosophers. Roles are central to our lives and to our engagement with one another, and should be analysed in connection with our core notions of ethics such as virtue, reason, and obligation.
This volume aims to redress the neglect of role ethics by confronting the tensions between conceptions of impartial morality and role obligations in the history of analytic philosophy and the Confucian tradition. Different perspectives on the ethical significance of roles can be found by looking to debates within professional and applied ethics, by challenging existing accounts of how roles generate reasons, by questioning the hegemony of ethical reasons, and by exploring the relation between expertise and virtue. The essays tackle several core questions related to these debates:
What are roles and what is their normative import?
To what extent are roles and the ethics of roles central to ethics as opposed to virtue in general, and obligation in general?
Are role obligations characteristically incompatible with ordinary morality in professions such as business, law, and medicine?
How does practical reason function in relation to roles?
Perspectives in Role Ethics is an examination of a largely neglected topic in ethics. It will appeal to a broad range of scholars in normative ethics, virtue ethics, non-Western ethics, and applied ethics interested in the importance of roles in our moral life.
Hans-Georg Moeller and Dan Sarafinas discuss contemporary debates on “political correctness” and related moral and social issues. They point to concepts such as virtue speech (“virtue signalling”), civil religion, “profilicity,” and the role of critique to better understand their nature.
Philosophy today runs the risk of once more becoming the “handmaiden of theology” by being put in the service of civil religion. The Kantian concept of critique is revived to reflect on contemporary dogmatism and associated power structures that lead to phenomena such as “competitive wokeness” in entertainment (Taylor Swift) or the need to write “diversity statements” in academia. The idea of a therapeutic rather than a normative philosophy is suggested and it is explained how society, along with critique, evolves rather than progresses.
Why do we need to produce “virtue speech”? We need it to be competitive in society and to bolster our public profiles. A new profile-based identity paradigm, called “profilicity,” is on the rise. It is replacing other identity paradigms such as sincerity and authenticity and provides not only individuals but also institutions (political parties, companies, universities, etc.) with identity value.
Hans-Georg Moeller and Dan Sarafinas discuss contemporary debates on “political correctness” and related moral and social issues. They point to concepts such as virtue speech (“virtue signalling”), civil religion, and the role of critique to better understand their nature.
The phenomenon of virtue speech (“virtue signalling”) has become a central feature in recent outrage movements pervasive throughout the West. Virtue speech, which is implicitly tied to accusations of hate speech, is a form of moralistic discourse setting speech examples that make it difficult to openly discuss elements of our culture without falling into the trap of moralizing.
Civil religion plays a central role in the virtue speech, or political correctness, discourse. The history of the concept is discussed as well as the structure of the American form of civil religion and how tenets of civil religion are constantly being performed and re-enacted, particularly in current social media outrage movements.
There are many images and metaphors that might serve as cores of conceptions of something for which one could use the English word “role.” One way to look for some is to look at words from other languages. I’ll look here at two, one from Greek and one from old Chinese.
I’ve long been interested in Alice Crary’s work — her 2007 book is reviewed here — in part because of intriguing resonances between her ideas and some aspects of Neo-Confucianism that I find most attractive, such as the need to “discern patterns” in an “already moral world.” These issues come out even more strongly in her latest book, Inside Ethics, which is reviewed here. Rejecting an “ethically indifferent metaphysic” seems to me to be starting off in the right direction!
Call for Papers: The Cumberland Lodge Colloquium (Monday 26th September 2016) on “Population and Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Birth and Death” seeks paper proposals; the organizers are particularly interested in incorporating non-Western perspectives. See here for more details. The deadline to submit is July 3, 2016.
Ethics and the Professions – Good Practitioners in a Rising Asia
Friday, October 16, 2015, 12:15pm
S153, 1st Floor, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA
Kenneth Winston, Visiting Scholar, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School
Many Asian countries are in transition, as they struggle to meet the demands of a global world. This struggle is not only economic and political; it is moral. Simply put, it is a struggle to preserve what one believes to be of value in one’s own culture or tradition while responding to new circumstances and participating in new relationships. Thus, it often involves a hybrid of traditional beliefs and transplanted values, which makes Asian countries fascinating sites for the study of political and ethical development. In particular, emerging democratic aspirations and increasing commitment to standards of professionalism are constituent elements of the new moral environment in Asia. As a result, the ethical challenges faced by practitioners have a special urgency and demand close attention. This talk presents a general framework for thinking about these challenges, focusing on the kinds of moral competence professionals require in working for the good of others.