Category Archives: Mou Zongsan

Soochow/Academia Sinica Conference Report

The three-day conference and book symposium “Virtue and Luck: Virtue Theory and Chinese Philosophy” has now concluded, and I thought I might offer a summary and some thoughts. The idea that linked together the three quite distinct days’ activities was “virtue,” East and West, in ethics and in epistemology, pro and con. Continue reading →

Morality vs. Prudence in Confucianism?

Chapter 5 of my Sagehood book is concerned in various ways with the scope of ethics. On p. 92, I articulate some of my conclusions as follows:

…There is no morality-versus-prudence distinction. Instead, everything matters. The style and form with which one acts are important, though not in a way that can be detached from other aspects of the situations in which we find ourselves. There is, to be sure, a great emphasis on avoiding selfishness. But when everything matters, we are included: it is appropriate that we matter to ourselves, though we must be careful that we do not become so focused on our own immediate concerns that we view things in a skewed way.

In some recent discussions with colleagues, my claim that there is no morality-versus-prudence distinction (in either Neo-Confucianism or classical Confucianism, though the details and evidence will differ somewhat between the two cases) has met with some resistance. Continue reading →

Kant and Regional Differences of Interpretation

I think it might be worthwhile for us to reflect a bit on some of the regional differences in interpretation of the Chinese philosophers we all study. I was struck by two aspects of this recently. First, in the Conference and Book Symposium announcement that Kai Marchal wrote (though I posted it for him), Kai says: “Traditionally, Chinese scholars have argued that Neo-Confucian teachings are best understood within a Kantian deontological framework.” This interpretive trend is in part a result of Mou Zongsan’s influence, but some evidence that it is more complicated than that comes in two essays in the new anthology, Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously, edited by Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe. Two essays in this volume, by Qianfan Zhang and by Julia Tao, draw strong links between the idea of ren in early Confucianism and Kantian notions of the equal humanity or human dignity of all (among other things). At the very least, neither of these essays shows any direct evidence of the influence of Mou, and they can serve to suggest that the influence of the Kantian framework among Chinese scholars is widespread, indeed. Continue reading →