This post expands a question I asked once in the old Discussions section.
It is sometimes said that the (or a) Ruist picture of moral psychology stresses family because Ruists stress the development of moral sensibilities starting with people’s earliest relationships, which are their childhood relationships at home. So … what about household servants?
Confucius’ remark at Analects 1.6 is often cited to show that he thought proper moral development begins with filial piety and then extends that attitude to ever-larger groups of people (ever less intensely). I shall argue that the remark does not display such a view. Confucius did not in general envision moral progress as extension.
In the most recent issue of the Journal of Moral Education (45:2), Michael Slote published “Moral Self-Cultivation East and West: A Critique.” Here is the abstract:
Moral Self-Cultivation plays an important, even a central role, in the
Confucian philosophical tradition, but philosophers in the West, most
notably Aristotle and Kant, also hold that moral self-cultivation or
self-shaping is possible and morally imperative. This paper argues that
these traditions are psychologically unrealistic in what they say about
the possibilities of moral self-cultivation. We cannot shape ourselves
in the substantial and overall ways that Confucianism, Aristotle, and
Kant say we can, and our best psychological data on moral education
and development indicate strongly that these phenomena depend
crucially on the intervention of others and, more generally, on external
factors individuals don’t control.
I would be very interested in hearing thoughts in response to this argument. If anyone does not have access to the article and would like a copy, please contact me via email.
As part of our Templeton-St. Louis funded “Varieties of Well-Being” project, Owen Flanagan and Wenqing Zhao are inaugurating an international blog on well-being in different cultural traditions. We desire to engage in public outreach and to advance the cause of cross-cultural philosophy of well-being. In addition, we seek to help create a passion among people in and outside academia for learning from, not just about, other traditions. An international blog on comparative well-being is designed to share the fruit of the project with broader, international audiences.
We hereby invite you, as someone with experience of multicultural worlds, to write a short essay (200-450 words) on well-being that involves a comparative or cross-cultural aspect. It can be based on your own cultural experience or something that you have observed; a story, a moment or a piece of thought that showcases the variety of cultural norms for living a good life. Details follow below!
Here are some reasons to think that Youzi did not regard family as the root of humanity or of the Way. (I used to think he did.)
Most of my argument focuses on defending a view held by Soothill, Leys, Chin, and maybe Lau and Slingerland: that by 弟 in Analects 1.2, Youzi meant elder-respect, a virtue commonly associated specifically with life outside the family. It would follow that according to 1.2, only one of the two parts of the root of humanity is specifically a family virtue. If 孝 and 弟 have something relevantly in common for Youzi, family isn’t it.
Did Confucius think that if one of us has general virtue, or some particular virtue such as courage or filial piety, that general or particular virtue will have a substantial tendency to spread directly to the people around her, even if she holds no government position?
Here I’ll survey Confucius’ statements in the Analects and conclude that the answer is No. Confucius probably did not hold that view. (I gave the opposite reading in both my published papers on Chinese philosophy.)
Erica Lucast Stonestreet’s review at NDPR of Nancy E. Snow (ed.), Cultivating Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2015) highlights Ted Slingerland’s contribution to the volume, nicely bringing Chinese philosophy into this broader conversation.
This conference should be of interest to anyone working on issues in comparative thought and philosophy. A terrific lineup of speakers and panelists (if I do say so myself). -HS
Over the last decade, the newly emerging field of “experimental philosophy” has posed a challenge to the claim that professional philosophers’ judgments about philosophically important thought experiments are universal. Rather, in a growing number of studies, it has been shown that people in different cultural groups – Asians and Westerners, males and females, people of high and low socio-economic status, people with different personality types, people of different ages, people with different native languages, etc. – have different intuitions about cases designed to explore what people think about knowledge, morality, free will, consciousness and other important philosophical issues. However, the extent and sources of this variation remain by and large unknown. The goal of this conference is to bring together anthropologists, psychologists, comparative philosophers, and experimental philosophers in order to further our understanding of the similarities and differences in the lay understanding of, on the one hand, knowledge, and, on the other, agency and person across cultures. Furthermore, we hope to sketch new avenues of research for philosophically sophisticated cross-cultural studies of the concepts of knowledge, person, and agency.