Category Archives: Ethical Theory

Crary the Neo-Confucian? NDPR Reviews Inside Ethics

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!

Harvard Lecture: Ethics and Professions in Asia

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.

Review of new book in Comparative Ethics

I was intrigued by Brandon Warmke’s recent review in NDPR of Judith Andre’s book Worldly Virtue: Moral Ideals and Contemporary Life. Apparently Andre makes considerable (and self-aware) use of Buddhist ideas as she argues that “the realities of our contemporary world require us both to re-interpret traditional virtues and to recognize new ones altogether.” Take a look!

Hansen’s MOOC on edX

Chad Hansen has created a MOOC on edX called “Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought,” available here. Here is some copy from the course description:

Think along with Classical Chinese masters as they explore and debate how and where we can find ethical guidance in nature.

We make ethical or behaviour guiding right / wrong judgments all the time but have you ever wondered where Ethics comes from, what it is about and why it is important? This course provides an introduction to traditional Chinese ethical thought and focuses on the pervasive contrast in the way Chinese and Westerners think about ethical guidance or guidance concerning what is right and what is wrong, good or bad.  Traditional Western orthodoxy uses the metaphor of a law – in its most familiar popular form, the command of a supernatural being backed by a threat of eternal punishment or reward – to explain ethical guidance. The Classical Chinese philosophers by contrast were all naturalists. They talked about ethical guidance using a path metaphor – a natural dào…

Huang’s Why Be Moral? is Published

I am excited to note the publication of Yong HUANG’s Why Be Moral? Learning from the Neo-Confucian Cheng Brothers, the fruit of many years of research. The SUNY Press site is here, and Amazon is here. Here is the editorial description:

Yong Huang presents a new way of doing comparative philosophy as he demonstrates the resources for contemporary ethics offered by the Cheng brothers, Cheng Hao (1032–1085) and Cheng Yi (1033–1107), canonical neo-Confucian philosophers. Huang departs from the standard method of Chinese/Western comparison, which tends to interest those already interested in Chinese philosophy. While Western-oriented scholars may be excited to learn about Chinese philosophers who have said things similar to what they or their favored philosophers have to say, they hardly find anything philosophically new from such comparative work. Instead of comparing and contrasting philosophers, each chapter of this book discusses a significant topic in Western moral philosophy, examines the representative views on this topic in the Western tradition, identifies their respective difficulties, and discusses how the Cheng brothers have better things to say on the subject. Topics discussed include why one should be moral, how weakness of will is not possible, whether virtue ethics is self-centered, in what sense the political is also personal, how a moral theory can be of an antitheoretical nature, and whether moral metaphysics is still possible in this postmodern and postmetaphysical age.

Versions of some of the chapters have been published or presented at conferences over the years, so Huang’s general approach is well-known. Now that we have a full, book-length presentation, there is sure to be renewed attention paid to Huang’s important arguments as they concern ethics, the goals and methodology of comparative philosophy, and the interpretation of the Cheng brothers. Discussion welcome!

Open Access to Harris on Aristotle and Confucius on Shame

With each published issue of Dao, we choose one article for discussion here on Warp, Weft, and Way, and Dao‘s publisher gives everyone free access to the article for a year. The next article to get this treatment is “Aristotle and Confucius on the Socioeconomics of Shame” by Thorian Harris. The article can be accessed here. Howard Curzer of Texas Tech is going to start off the discussion in a couple weeks with a précis; in the meantime, we encourage you to download and read the article, and then join in the discussion when it begins.

Loy on inclusive care and partial virtue

As Steve and Manyul announced last month, with each new issue of Dao the blog will host a discussion of one of the issue’s articles, and the journal will make that article freely available online. Here I’m kicking off the series with a discussion of Loy Hui-chieh’s “On the Argument for Jian’ai” (Dao 12.4, available here).

Loy’s article treats the Mohists’ main argument for inclusive care (jiān ài 兼愛), focusing on the role played in it by appeals to virtues such as filial piety that are inevitably partial. Fundamental to his treatment is the view (which I share) that inclusive care did not require absolute impartiality—it did not imply that we have equal obligations to all people, or that we should treat them the same, or feel the same about them. Loy thus undermines one common sort or argument against the Mohists, that inclusive care is incompatible with the partial virtues and is therefore morally dubious. However, this does not mean that the Mohists’ own appeals to the partial virtues succeed, and Loy goes on to argue that they do not. I’ll sketch Loy’s argument, and then make critical comments on two points.

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CFP: Living Ethically in the Global World

March 27-29, 2014 University of Alaska, Anchorage (UAA) Philosophy Department and UAA Ethics Center are jointly hosting a conference and convocation of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. We will gather around the theme “Living Ethically in the Global World.” Intentionally the broad theme allows for diverse papers engaging ethics and topics requiring ethical analysis. Rogers Ames will offer the keynote address on Confucian Role Ethics.

We are particularly hopeful that there will be broad participation from students and faculty with interest and expertise in non-Western perspectives.  We are eager to have participants from many countries and states.

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Is it Possible to be Too Yi 義?

Passage 3B10 in the Mengzi stood out during my last read through the text. In 3B10 Mengzi tells the story of Chen Zhongzi, who in seeking purity (lian 廉) refused to eat his mother’s food or live in his brother’s house (believing that his brother had not rightly [buyi 不義] attained his salary and home). Mengzi’s critique of Chen Zhongzi is that “only an earthworm could fill out [the values] he holds to” 蚓而後充其操, which I take to mean that living in the human world (i.e., a world of complex relationships) entails living a life where one cannot live to such a degree of purity and at the same time realize other (often more important) values. Mengzi seems to have similar sentiments about figures such as Bo Yi in passage 5B1. While he praises Bo Yi (and Chen Zhongzi in 3B10), being too lian 廉 or qing 清 is problematic for Mengzi. Continue reading →