…through November 30. Read more for details.
|Free access to top and new journals in Applied Ethics and Philosophy||Visit us at springer.com|
…through November 30. Read more for details.
|Free access to top and new journals in Applied Ethics and Philosophy||Visit us at springer.com|
Scroll all the way down for the Dao link.
BTW, there’s an interesting little exchange in the current Dao volume between Steve Angle and Fan Ruiping about Angle’s review of Fan’s book in the previous volume.
Enjoy. Thanks should go to Yong Huang for the info and link.
This is a great opportunity for folks who do not normally have unfettered access to Dao. I’d certainly be interested in any reactions to my exchange with Fan.
Another possibility is to see whether anyone has thoughts they would like to share on Sungmoon Kim’s essay “Self-Transformation and Civil Society: Lockean vs. Confucian,” which won the 2009 Dao Best Essay award, and which will be the subject of a panel at the upcoming Eastern APA. Any thoughts?
By the way, Kim’s essay has been set for open access since it was selected as the best essay. All essays that win the award are set for open access permanently.
I have been very disappointed that nobody else has taken up Steve’s invitation to discuss Kim’s essay, but very glad for the chance to offer my thoughts on a prominent paper on a very important topic. Or am I too late? I am not at all sure I have understood Kim’s piece, but here are my belated thoughts.
Kim’s project is to offer a clear philosophical expression and defense of the widespread sense, at least in East Asia, that liberalism fails in ways that Confucianism does not, so that this view can be discussed rationally. That seems to me to be among the most valuable philosophical projects anyone could undertake these days. As an admirer of both Confucius and liberalism I applaud the effort, and I’m grateful for it.
Kim’s thesis is a challenge to liberalism. His main argument is that Locke is one of the less antisocial liberals, but Locke’s moral psychology is basically antisocial, so liberalism’s psychology is basically antisocial. Liberalism thus “pits people against society.” Confucianism does better.
(It is not clear to me what Kim means by “liberalism.” He might mean the view that society should guarantee certain basic liberties to individuals. Or he might mean something more specific, so that in attacking liberalism he is not necessarily attacking basic liberties.)
If I understand correctly, the basic picture of the antisocial moral psychology is as follows: social virtue is that the black boot of “reason” dominates the inner hitler that is our passional nature. Or in more detail: A great passion of the very young is the prideful desire to dominate others (386f, 393). To make such creatures into fit members of society their fathers must first establish absolute domination over them, to be relaxed gradually (386). The child’s prideful passion for domination undergoes a minor transformation into (or the picture confuses it with?) a desire to be thought well of (387f), which is a key source of virtue. The experience of the father’s domination stamps the domination relation into the child’s psyche in the form of reason’s domination of the passions (387, 399); a domination that depends on a “severe morality of self-denial” (386), i.e. practice in refraining from acting on one’s immediate passions. The habit of this “self-control” is liberalism’s conception of virtue (388, 399). In it the passions are dominated but not much changed (393). In sum, liberalism’s social virtue is simply a sublimated version of the antisocial passions that generate it.
As a reading of Locke, this strikes me as mistaken. Kim’s interpretive argument for his reading seems to me very bad. But none of that matters much: Kim’s overall thesis, and the important issue, is not about Locke; it is about liberalism. Aside from the reading of Locke, is there a reason to think liberalism depends on the antisocial picture of moral psychology?
So far as I can see, Kim does not try to say how liberalism might be bound to the antisocial picture.
Does liberalism tend to give rise to the antisocial picture? I would think not, if only because free discussion promotes truth, and the antisocial picture is implausible.
Does liberalism depend on the antisocial picture? One is familiar with arguments for liberalism (basic liberties) that do not seem to presuppose any antisocial psychology. At first glance liberalism would seem to be an expression of mutual respect. Rawls offers to justify liberalism to us on the basis of our sense of fairness (our willingness to act on principles we would all agree on), rooted psychologically in our natural concern for those close to us. Mill argues on the basis of utilitarianism and the necessary protocols of social epistemology. (I think Rawls and Mill are both roughly right.) Locke argues on the basis of divine law.
Is liberalism committed to the antisocial view in some other way? One could imagine arguing as follows: (a) respect and caring are moral concepts, and (b) liberalism refuses to use moral concepts in its psychology; therefore (c) liberalism will not hold that respect and caring are in our nature; therefore (d) liberalism is driven to the antisocial view. But Kim does not suggest this argument, premises (a) and (b) are false (see e.g. Locke), and the inference to (d) is implausible.
It is easy to see how someone (such as Locke) who is trying to give a psychological analysis of moral growth, and whose conceptual scheme for psychology derives from a reductionist project, might end up telling a story that sounds a little inhuman in places, to casual inspection. Kim may be hinting that that problem is somehow liberalism’s fault, when he says, “as Locke clarifies, the single greatest problem posed to modern political theorists was the fragmentation of the self into a bundle of passions, that is, the complete loss of rational and moral individual agency, driving the (now liberated) ‘individuals’ to the state of nature (indeed, the state of war)” (388). I assume that Kim does not mean that modernity meant the end of individuality and the beginning of war, but I do not know what he does mean. He also holds that Locke “never challenges the very Hobbesian (or Cartesian) epistemology that conceives the individual as originally discrete, monadic, and essentially narcissistic” (394).
Kim also holds that liberalism tends to distinguish the “private” and the “public” in such a way as not to allow intermediate or mixed cases or a third category. So liberalism tends to have to regard e.g. the family as either simply public or simply private. If Kim’s premise were true, it would certainly be a problem. Offhand the premise seems to me implausible. Granted, perhaps it is fair to say that the key terms of any view are likely to be distorted and oversimplified, so that any view is responsible for the associated distortions (though we should still distinguish). On such grounds a Confucian might have to grant that Confucianism is bound to a view of virtue modeled on paternal domination, or a view of rightness that is vertical rather than horizontal.
Kim proposes Confucianism as a positive alternative to “liberalism.” His main point is that the Confucian picture of moral growth and virtue supplements “self-control” with adherence to the li 禮, which adherence expresses mutual respect. This idea somehow helps Confucianism avoid the picture of virtue as one inner hitler suppressing another.
How does it do that? Perhaps Kim is trying to answer when he says, “Junzi 君子is distinguished from a Lockean gentleman, not because he is completely insulated from the lure of self-love (amour-propre), but because he, instead of sublimating it through stringent self-mastery, dissolves it by rendering the self porous to others in the ritualistic relations across multilayered life realms, thus allowing no reified inner/outer distinctions. The Confucian moral self is ‘relational’ precisely in this sense” (398f). I think Kim might mean that unlike the liberal conception of virtue, the Confucian conception involves genuine respect for others. (I wonder why this would be thought to mean that others’ selves have seeped into my own self – as though I can’t respect you without partly being you – in other words, as though it were axiomatic that in some sense people can respect only themselves.)
Perhaps Kim’s answer is that unlike liberalism’s laws, the li 禮 are flexible, not rigid or cumbersome (398). Hence they can be felt as, and even be, personal expressions of actual attitudes, so that they can solidify our genuine respect. A natural objection is that what distinguishes Confucianism from other views is not the valuing of respectful interaction, but rather a cumbersome and alienating excess in the codification of respectful interaction. Kim does not say why he thinks Confucianism finds the mean and liberalism cannot.
“If his tender mind be fill’d with a veneration for his parents and teachers, which consists of love and esteem, and a fear to offend them: and with respect and good will to all people; that respect will of itself teach those ways of expressing it, which he observes most acceptable.” -Locke, Education, § 67.
“Thus bowing to a gentleman, when he salutes him, and looking in his face, when he speaks to him, is by constant use as natural to a well-bred man, as breathing; it requires no thought, no reflection.” -Locke, Education, § 64.
Is there something about liberalism that conflicts with li 禮? I am not sure what exactly Kim is referring to when he speaks of li 禮 (outside the context of early China). He says the li 禮 are ideally performed spontaneously, and tend to catch on like wildfire. Is he thinking of something that would be problematic for liberalism, because it would tend to die out in liberal society? Is he thinking of enforcing something that a liberal would not enforce (such as strictures against flag-burning)? He doesn’t say. He says li 禮 is “not as rigid as legal arrangements,” and in a footnote he says Confucianism supports a kind of “communal authoritarian anarchism” (391). Is Kim thinking of li 禮 as a substitute for law, or for some law? Perhaps the Bill of Rights? And what is this proposed substitute? I can’t tell.
After all this, I have the nagging feeling that I have missed the point of Kim’s piece. Perhaps its underlying complaint is simply that liberalism leaves some things out. It leaves some things unaddressed, or only minimally addressed, so that liberalism cannot be our whole guide. “Yes,” answers the liberal. But Kim adds, “Liberalism needs a moral psychology so that it can check whether liberal society is workable.” The liberal replies, “Liberalism needs to consider moral psychology to check on certain points, but it does not inherently need to choose any particular theoretical model.”
I am thankful to Bill Haines for his very sophisticated comments on my paper. Overall, Haines is very critical of my paper but interestingly I generally agree with him, particularly his statements on liberalism, which makes me wonder if my argument in the paper was not clear enough. Therefore, in this response, let me clarify my intended position. Whether or not it makes sense to Haines (or any other participants of this blog) is of course another matter.
First, Haines recapitulates my main argument as “that Locke is one of the less antisocial liberals, but Locke’s moral psychology is basically antisocial, so liberalism’s psychology is basically antisocial. Liberalism thus “pits people against society.”” It is a misunderstanding though. It is far from my core argument that “liberalism pits people against society.” My intention was to critically revisit this conventional wisdom held by many critics of liberalism (including its Confucian critics) and show that liberalism as social practice has its own moral psychological mechanism to civically connect private individuals to society. The first part of my paper was to demonstrate such a liberal moral psychology, which generates a characteristically liberal mode of civility (i.e., inward civility or sociability).
Am I saying that “liberalism’s psychology is basically antisocial and liberalism depends on the antisocial picture of moral psychology”? Of course not. Quite the contrary. Liberalism is not antisocial. What is antisocial is the natural man’s archaic passions before he has been transformed into a liberal gentleman by means of a certain moral psychological mechanism of the kind Locke (and people like Adam Smith) endorses. Liberalism is a social (or sociable) practice and to the extent that it is a civil theory (not merely a description of the state of nature), it is a moral theory. So, liberalism does not depend on the antisocial picture of moral psychology, not does it “give rise to antisocial picture.” To say this is simply absurd. It may begin with the antisocial passions. To repeat, liberalism is what is produced after overcoming the antisocial passions of the natural man. Liberalism is possible only where there are liberal civil gentlemen. Locke’s guiding assumption is the clear distinction between natural and civil and liberalism he creates is a very special kind of civil theory-practice. Locke’s ultimate concern is how to safeguard liberal civil life from the destructive force of the state of nature.
Now, Haines claims that I misinterpret Locke because I completely dismiss the importance of divine law in Locke’s political theory. In the state of nature, men are rational and moral. I don’t think my interpretation of Locke is “mistaken”. I admit, though that it is too secular-oriented (as are Leo Strauss, C. B. Macpherson, and Nathan Tarcov). However, there is indeed a tension between Locke’s modern psychology in the Essays and his moral transcendentalism in other works (including the Second Treatise). I am not a philosopher so it would be beyond my capacity to resolve this tension (In note 5, I make some attempts though). One thing is certain: the moral transcendental statement that man is rational and moral does not contradict the psychological statement that man is often driven by antisocial passions. Locke, as a natural law theorist, believes man has transcendental moral potentials, but he never reduces liberalism to Christian moralism by saying that the best way to overcome men’s social predicaments is to live according to God’s command. For Locke, something secular, something mundane, or something less heroic should be found, which can be workable for every ordinary citizens in the civil society. Hence his secular moral psychology in the Education, at least in my view.
Haines also claims that as Mill and Rawls best demonstrate, liberalism is an expression of mutual respect and is deeply rooted in our sense of fairness. Again, am I denying this? Not really. But I hope that it can be agreed that unlike early liberals such as Locke and Smith, later liberals struggle less with the power of antisocial passions. In fact, they rarely pay attention to them. I chose Locke as the representative liberal because his theory, in my view, offers the classical liberal confrontation of such dangerous passions. This, however, does not mean that liberalism does not possess profound moral resources.
Finally, am I ultimately arguing that “unlike the liberal conception of virtue, the Confucian conception involves genuine respect for others”? The answer is no, but I do admit that the concluding section in my paper may give an impression that I patronize Confucianism over liberalism. So let me clarify my intended position by partially correcting my somewhat problematic conclusion. My intended argument was that unlike the liberal conception of virtue that is too much power oriented and thus relies solely on the youwei 有爲 of rational self-control, its Confucian counterpart that is formed by the practice of the li is much wuwei 無爲 oriented, given that power not the basis of its formation. Since it is not psychologically rooted in the power (even self-controlled power), I think, Confucian li-mediated civility is less susceptible to the rebellion of the inner demon. I’m not sure that Confucian civility therefore involves genuine respect for others. But I believe Confucian civility does deal with (quite effectively) antisocial passions. Whether Confucian civility better deals with antisocial passions than liberal civility—which cannot be a philosophically pre-judged but should be empirically tested—is arguable.
In sum, I agree much of Haines’ statements on liberalism. Only difference between him and me was while I understand liberalism as social practice, he understands it primarily as a philosophical theory or idea. To emphasize, liberalism in my understanding is a social practice that has been produced after the so-called “Hobbes Problem” has been successfully overcome. My goal was to compare two different modes of civility. If I sounded like patronizing Confucianism over liberalism, it was not my intention and I am willing to accept any criticism for that.
Once again, I appreciate Bill Haines for his pointed comments and also for giving me an opportunity to clarify my position.
Thank you, Sungmoon! It may be a few more days before I can reply, but I certainly shall.
(Just below this comment I’m posting a self-contained discussion of Locke.)
Thank you again, Sungmoon. I appreciate your graciousness about what may seem to you a complete failure to understand your paper. I think your reply largely bypasses what I said and asked above, or at least what I meant, so I shall try to repair my unclarity. I stand by my original comments, for the most part.
Directly to the main points in your reply, in brief:
(1) I did not think or mean to suggest that you think liberalism is an antisocial pratice,
(2) nor that my disagreement with your reading of Locke is based on the role of God; though I did mean to suggest that the background of his political liberalism is not presumptively typical.
(3) My questions on li禮 were mainly not about the quantitative empirical matter of results, but rather more basic coneptual questions, such as: what, roughly, do you mean by li禮, and what about li might seem to promise better results?
(4) Yes, more often than not I was taking “liberalism” to be a name for ideas, rather than the social practice they would pick out. What social practice do you mean?
—For example, a reader might imagine that by “liberalism” you mean “any practice of legally guaranteeing basic liberties based on the shared conviction that all political norms, or all norms, are grounded wholly on individual rights.” (I mean rights conceived not very abstractly. For even utilitarianism can be conceived as grounded in each sentient being’s right that her feelings be taken into account.) Locke might be thought to be a liberal in that sense. I think people don’t often use use “liberalism” in that sense, and I suspect such “liberalism” is uncommon.
I agree when you say, “it is far from my core argument that ‘liberalism pits people against society.’” But the announced purpose of the paper is to defend roughly that view. The abstract says that recent scholarship has challenged the view that Western liberalism “pit[s] the individual against society,” and your project is to “meet” that challenge to the view, by presenting a “sophisticated Confucian critique of liberalism.” (Again on 384: Confucianists ought to “refocus their criticism of liberalism and provide a more sophisticated version of it.”) Specifically, you will claim that liberalism on the better understanding of it, the view of recent scholars and classic texts, involves “a method of self-control” that “comes back to the problem it set out to overcome,” which is (the need to get rid of) “antisocial passions entailing a vicious politics of resentment.” Confucianism differs from liberalism in incorporating ritual propriety (383).
I take it that the catch-phrase “pits the individual against society,” old or new, is not meant literally as the view that liberalism is a practice of being antisocial, the view you disavow in some paragraphs above. The abstract invites the reading that your new version is figurative just in that “pits” is figurative for “inadequately unpits”; though in your blog comment above you say Confucianism deals “quite effectively” with antisocial passions, and that you think the question whether it does a better job than liberalism is not a matter for the sort of argument I have been trying to find in the paper, for it can only be judged by empirical test. What exactly is the Confucian criticism of liberalism your paper is presenting? Anway I’ve been taking your charge all along to be something subtler than the bare claim that liberalism doesn’t quite effectively deal with our antisocial passions: I’ve been taking it as the claim that liberalism’s moral psychology is (or if you like, liberalism’s conception of virtue is based on) what I called “the antisocial picture,” a picture you find in Locke and I don’t, a picture that gives reason to suspect that liberalism doesn’t deal quite effectively with antisocial passons. Here it is again; part of it is the “method.”
–1. The view that children’s passions are originally in large part antisocial (aiming pridefully at domination).
–2. A method of moral training centered on:
(a) getting the child to internalize in a Freudian way the form of domination (see 4), by dominating the child and then gradually relaxing the domination as the pattern is internalized, and
(b) appealing to a mildly transformed version of the passion for domination (called “desire for reputation”).
–3. A method of continuing to train oneself: a “severe morality of self-denial.”
–4. The view that the result is a habit of self-denial or self-control, domination by “reason” over a set of passions that is not much changed from the original set, but somewhat sublimated and/or disempowered.
–5. The conception of autonomy and virtue as the habit described in 4.
(–6. Li禮is not part of the training or the virtue, or not a main part.)
I think you agree with views 1 and 4, except that you add that the result in 4 would be unstable, as the habit in 4 is only the enemy in thin disguise (domineering over domineering). By “a method of self-control” you mean 3 and the habit in 4, and I think you may also include 2. Anyway the picture hangs together.
I think you might say the distinction between reason and passion is problematic in some way beyond contributing to the above picture; but I don’t know how.
In truth I am not sure what to attribute to you. Anyway I’ll argue today, below, that Locke rejected all 6 or 7 points.
I’ll postpone the following to another day :
(a) my argument that (on either account of Locke’s moral psychology) the connections you find in Locke between liberalism or politics and his moral psychology are not in Locke, or not hardly; and
(b) further discussion of the one really important question: how what you call the “liberal conception of virtue” or mere self-control might correctly be associated with liberalism or Confucianism.
LOCKEAN MORAL PSYCHOLOGY
Sungmoon, you offer Locke’s moral psychology as a representative sample to stand for liberal moral psychology in general, or at least the better liberal moral psychology.
Here I shall argue: regarding li禮, Locke’s views and emphases were the ones you highlight as distinctively Confucian. Further, I shall argue, Locke thought our natural passions are not prideful or aiming at domination. The training he recommended is all about developing and changing (not suppressing) our passions, by expanding our understanding; leading us to be “in love with … virtue.” His conception of virtue, arising from his education, is not reason dominating passions. His education is not in any large part about internalizing the character of dominion, nor about appealing to a slightly modified version of that passion in the child. Locke did not advocate “a morality of severe self-denial.”
Aside: to follow the paper’s interpretive argument, one has to know that there “Locke 1980” usually means “Locke 1999”; reference numbers for the Essay refer to Book II and do not fit Nidditch.
My references to the Essay are to this: http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/locke/locke1/Book2b.html#Chapter XXI
The other key works are here:
———-1. Original Antisocial Passions
You offer two or three passages to show that Locke thinks we are naturally and originally prideful and domineering:
First, you twice quote Education §103, where Locke says that children “love power and dominion” more than they love liberty, and that their love of dominion is the root of most of our ordinary and natural vices (386f).
His point, I think, is that the very young are are always demanding this or that action, this or that object (§§104,5). Rather than thinking that small children aim at a condition of dominion, Locke thinks they are moved only by the immediate. Further, they lack steady passions altogether: they are always flying from one inclination to another, tiring quickly of everything (§167, §74, §128; cf. Essay II.XXI passim). Parents who regularly humor the ephemeral demands for “grapes or sugar-plums” will train this childish shortsightedness into serious passional habits; they will “corrupt the principles of nature in … children;” they will have “poison’d the fountain,” and will regret the wilfulness and “ill humors which they themselves infus’d and fomented in” the children (§§35,36). By similar practices children are “taught pride, vanity and covetousness, almost before they can speak” (§130). Misapplied punishments and rewards can “teach them luxury, pride, or covetousness, etc.”(§52). “I desire to know what vice can be nam’d, which parents, and those about children, do not season them with, and drop into ’em the seeds of, as soon as they are capable to receive them?” (§37).
Hence Locke’s claims about children are not always claims about what is natural or original. For example, he says he has “frequently observed in children” a tendency to mistreat small animals, birds, butterflies, etc. “This delight they take in doing of mischief … especially the pleasure they take to put anything in pain” is “a foreign and introduced disposition, an habit borrowed from custom and conversation.” Good training will replace this passion with “the contrary and more natural temper of benignity and compassion” (§116).
In §107 Locke distinguishes “natural wants” from “wants of fancy”. Natural wants are those which “reason alone … is not able to fence against, or keep from disturbing us.” He lists “pains of sickness and hurts, hunger, thirst, and cold, want of sleep and rest or relaxation of the part weary’d with labour, are what all men feel and the best dispos’d minds cannot but be sensible of their uneasiness.” In §118 he adds curiosity. In the Essay he makes a similar point, contrasting those natural desires, put into our constitution by God, with the “fantastical uneasiness (as itch after honour, power, or riches, &c.) which acquired habits, by fashion, example, and education, have settled in us” (Essay II.XXI.34,46).
Let’s turn to the other one or two passages you offer to show that Locke thinks we are naturally and originally prideful and domineering:
Footnote 5 would seem to adduce Essay II.XXI.69; but II.XXI does not suggest the view. I think you may mean only to show that Locke does not think we are born fully rational and moral, which I grant.
On 386 you quote part of Treatise IX.123, showing that the adults in the state of nature often violate the natural law. You say, “The key phrase here is ‘being a king of himself’, the man’s narcissistic illusion,” and that by “narcissism” you mean “the psychological tenets of the Hobbesian archaic and domineering self … self-love understood in terms of vanity or pride … as opposed to … self-love that leads to self-preservation, not the desire to exceed others.” But Locke never uses the phrase ‘king of himself’. His phrase at IX.123, used in formulating a challenge to his theory, is “absolute lord of his own person and possessions,” alluding expansively to our rights in the state of nature (cf. II.4-6 for the rights and their limits and our permanent servitude). You may be right in n.5 when, noting that the view of human nature in the Treatise is benign, you say that we should not look to the Treatise for Locke’s psychology: “Locke’s view of human nature in STG (Chapters IV-VII) is not so much a psychological claim as a normative one.” I think you mean II.4-7, which gives no appearance of discussing human nature or psychology; but please consider e.g. VIII.111, which is not about the state of nature.
I am not sure whether you also mean to adduce the fact that Locke does not derive the authority of parents from the children’s contractual consent (386).
———-2. Passions, whether much alterable; and love of virtue
Now, although Locke does not hold that our emotional patterns are completely plastic (§§66,102), his education aims mainly at developing and changing our passions, not suppressing them (§66 again, and EssayII.XXI.71). He advises that the “love of dominion” he mentioned in §103 be “early weeded out” (§§105,110). He thinks our inclinations regarding food and physical comfort can be changed greatly (e.g. §5, EssayII.XXI.71). Children are to be “taught moderation in their desires” (§105), and trained out of excessive fears (§115). Tutors should raise curiosity “into a love and esteem of knowledge” (§195), and impart a “liking and inclination” to various kinds of knowledge, skill, and art (§72). Children should be taught to “take more pleasure in” maximal “deference, complaisance, and civility one for the other” than in “insolent domineering” (§109). Above all, in educating the young, “you must never think them set right, till they can find delight in the practice of laudable things” (§107). Teach a young person to place “his strength, his glory, and his pleasure in” virtue (§70) and be “in love with … the virtue they are directed to” (§107) and “in love with all the ways of virtue” (§58). And teach him “to love and be good-natur’d to others,” for this is “to lay early the true foundation of an honest man; all injustice generally springing from too great love of ourselves and too little of others” (§139).
Locke thinks virtue is in our own interest normally on earth, and more importantly in the afterlife. But he also thinks virtue is beautiful, vice ugly, so that visible examples of each can powerfully motivate and teach us (§82).
———-3. Reason, passion, and virtue, how related
Tellingly, Locke sometimes casts the distinction between reason and passion as a distinction between “foresight and desire” (§126), and says children easily distinguish reason from passion (§77). By “reason” in practical contexts I think he means good thinking about what is at stake in one’s actions (see §189). He assumes that we aim always at pleasure and the absence of pain for ourselves, and we gain more complex passions by developing clear views of what is at stake for us in this or that action, and a habit of attending to those views, feeling anticipatory pleasure or pain as appropriate. Thus he speaks of “placing one’s happiness in” pleasant types of outcome, or in the prospect of them, or things that promise them (Essay II.XXI, passim).
Locke’s reason is about understanding. Children retain only what they understand (§64). His education aims at reasoning and other techniques of expanding our sympathetic foresight. He says plausibly that children easily distinguish reason (thinking about consequences) from passion (§77). “It will perhaps be wonder’d, that I mention reasoning with children; and yet I cannot but think that the true way of dealing with them. They understand it as early as they do language; and … they love to be treated as rational creatures, sooner than is imagin’d. ’Tis a pride should be cherish’d in them, and, as much as can be, made the greatest instrument to turn them by. But when I talk of reasoning, I do not intend any other but such as is suited to the child’s capacity and apprehension. … There is no virtue they should be excited to, nor fault they should be kept from, which I do not think they may be convinced of; but it must be by such reasons as their age and understandings are capable of, and those propos’d always in very few and plain words. … The reasons that move them must be obvious, and level to their thoughts, and such as may (if I may so say) be felt and touch’d. But yet, if their age, temper, and inclination be consider’d, there will never want such motives as may be sufficient to convince them. If there be no other more particular, yet these will always be intelligible, and of force, to deter them from any fault fit to be taken notice of in them, (viz.) That it will be a discredit and disgrace to them, and displease you.” (§81; cf. §180).
I think Locke does not envision reason as a force or a lid holding down a mass of impotent but unchanging passions grumbling in the dark. He says we should not reify mental abilities such as the will (Essay II.XXI.6). But he does speak of two very important things that might be called “reason suppressing passions.” First, when we are moved by some inclination, we might stop for a while and think about what to do, rather than acting immediately on the inclination (Essay II.XXI). Doing so becomes easier with practice. Second, again, foresight can change what we desire at the moment; or as we might say, defeat or eliminate some passions (and generate new ones). Foresight repeated and acted on can create and destroy passional habits. Neither of these kinds of suppression is Freudian; neither would in general seem to invite the question, “How long can one, however virtuous in self-mastery, hold the cooling container of reason while antisocial passions continue to boil up?” (397).
Locke does say the “principle and foundation of all virtue and worth is that a man is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations, and purely follow what reason directs as best, tho’ the appetite lean the other way” (§33); and again, “He that has not a mastery over his inclinations, he that knows not how to resist the importunity of present pleasure or pain, for the sake of what reason tells him is fit to be done, wants the true principle of virtue and industry, and is in danger never to be good for anything” (§45). And yet he also says everyone can “govern his passions” and “hinder them from breaking out, and carrying him into action” (Essay II.XXI.55). That is, he uses roughly the same words for the bare autonomy one expects of every adult, and for the “principle and foundation of virtue.” Part of the solution might be that he is referring in one case to a bare ability, and in the other to a developed strength. More of the solution, I think, is that “principle and foundation” does not mean “essence and nature.” It means the first part, on which the whole is built – in this case a part one might focus on when educating children (or when theorizing about the will as in Essay II.XXI). “Teach him to get a mastery over his inclinations, and submit his appetite to reason. This being obtained, and by constant practice settled into habit, the hardest part of the task is over” (§200). Neither is Locke defining virtue when he says the “foundation of virtue” is a “true notion of God” and the habit of praying (§§136,139), nor when he says “true principle and measure of virtue” is “the knowledge of a man’s duty, and the satisfaction it is to obey his maker, in following the dictates of that light God has given him, with the hopes of acceptation and reward” (§61). Or if he is, that would help explain why he is not regarded as a significant moral philosopher.
———-4. Locke’s tools for training
Locke offers a large repertoire of educational devices. Like Confucius he specially emphasizes good company and the direct attractiveness of good examples: “Having nam’d company, I am almost ready to throw away my pen” (§ 70). “Of all the ways whereby children are to be instructed, and their manners formed, the plainest, easiest, and most efficacious, is, to set before their eyes the examples of those things you would have them do, or avoid; which, when they are pointed out to them, in the practice of persons within their knowledge, with some reflections on their beauty and unbecomingness, are of more force to draw or deter their imitation, than any discourses which can be made to them. …. And the beauty or uncomeliness of many things, in good and ill breeding, will be better learnt, and make deeper impressions on them, in the examples of others, than from any rules or instructions can be given about them” (§82).
Most of Locke’s devices for training children depend on the child’s basic obedience, which indeed he stresses. “If the love of you make them not obedient and dutiful, if the love of virtue and reputation keep them not in laudable courses, I ask, what hold will you have upon them to turn them to it?” (§42). But the relation between parent and child that he recommends is one based on mutual love and respect. For example, “he that will have his son have a respect for him and his orders, must himself have a great reverence for his son” (§71).
One important tool for a Lockean educator is the child’s “desire for reputation,” and on this point you contrast Confucius, citing Analects 12.20. “It is Confucius who clarifies that the desire for reputation cannot be a trustworthy foundation of a Confucian ren 仁-based civil society” (394).
What Confucius says at Analects 12.20 is that renown differs greatly from virtue, and those who have renown lack virtue. You and I agree that Confucius is not denying the possibility of prominent exemplars; he may mean rather to suggest that focusing on renown can pull one away from virtue, or that these are bad times.
Confucius is addressing a potential aspirant to virtue, presumably not a child; Locke is addressing third parties on how to develop in children a more direct love of virtue and its ways. “Reputation … is the proper guide and encouragement of children, ’till they grow able to judge for themselves, and to find what is right by their own reason” (§61).
Locke’s “reputation” is not the renown Confucius is talking about. In Locke, as you point out, “desire for reputation” is short for the desire to be thought well of and not to be thought ill of or fall into disgrace. Locke seems to be thinking mainly of how the young people are regarded among their immediate associates, especially their parents. This “reputation” is not concerned with differences in how much one is thought of, or by how many strangers; it is not the renown of 12.20, or the “being known” of e.g. 1.1, or the “recognition” you speak of at 387f in paraphrasing Locke.
Of course Locke insists on the difference between desiring “reputation” and desiring virtue (§61), though perhaps in family life, where children are under close observation, and their circumstances and qualities are not complex, their virtue and reputation tend to coincide more closely than did the virtue and renown of players in the public life of ancient Lu. And Locke is talking partly about feelings about wrong itself when when he writes, discussing punishment, “Shame of doing amiss, and deserving chastisement, is the only true restraint belonging to virtue. …’tis shame of the fault, and the disgrace that attends it, that they should stand in fear of, rather than pain” (§78, cf. §48).
Discussing §103, you write, “What is fascinating is that the desire to win approval from others has replaced the desire for mastery over them. As such, man’s unsociability has been transformed into the desire for mutual recognition” (387f). You do not offer support for that point. I believe you wish to suggest that the good effects of the desire for “reputation” count somehow as expressions of antisocial passion. In any case I wonder whether we can attribute to Locke the Freudian view that passions somehow secretly retain the aims of their antecedents.
Because the training changes rather than merely suppressing our inclinations, it can be cumulative without being burdensome. Hence I think it is misleading to say that once the young person takes over responsibility for it, it is “a severe morality of self-denial” (386). Of course, this is a question of degree. But when Locke sounds like he is recommending that parents severely deprive their children, he is often at pains (ouch!) to correct the impression. In sum: “He that has found a way how to keep up a child’s spirit easy, active, and free, and yet at the same time to restrain him from many things he has a mind to, and to draw him to things that are uneasy to him; he, I say, that knows how to reconcile these seeming contradictions, has, in my opinion, got the true secret of education” (§46).
———-5. Locke and Li 禮
A core point in your criticism of liberalism seems to be that it does not use li禮 as a main method of moral education, shown by the fact that Locke does not use li禮 as a main method. As I elaborated in my earlier blog comment, I am unsure what you mean by li 禮; but the obvious guess is that it is mainly good manners, which Locke also calls “good breeding” (§145).
Locke counts good breeding or manners as one of the virtues (§141), or alongside virtue as one of the two or three main aims of a good education, the third being knowledge of languages etc. (§70).
You suggest that Locke regarded manners as a mere by-product of good attitudes, not needing separate attention (388). You quote him as saying that once good nature and kindness are implanted, “fear not, the ornaments of conversation and the outside of fashionable manners will come in their due time” (§67). I think your quotation does not fairly represent Locke on the point at issue, for two independent reasons:
First, in what you do quote, your reader will imagine that Locke’s phrase “the ornaments of conversation and the outside of fashionable manners” means to disparage manners in general. I think he is just naming the relatively superficial parts of manners, not discussing the rest — as when he says in the same section, “I would not have little children much tormented about punctilio’s or niceties of breeding” — i.e. once they have, as he advises, been surrounded with examples of good manners, and taught how to dance. (Of dance he says there, “I know not how, it gives children manly thoughts and carriage, more than any thing.”)
Second, your quote omits the end of his sentence, which adds a requirement blocking your point: “… manners will come in due time, if when [the children] are remov’d out of their maid’s care, they are put into the hands of a well-bred man to be their governor.” Locke elaborates in various places, e.g. §93: “To form a young gentleman as he should be, ’tis fit his governor should himself be well-bred, understanding the ways of carriage and measures of civility in all the variety of persons, times, and places; and keep his pupil, as much as his age requires, constantly to the observation of them. This is an art not lo be learnt nor taught by books. Nothing can give it but good company and observation join’d together” (emphasis added; cf. §§143,147). Locke does not think breeding may be left to take care of itself: “That which requires most time, pains, and assiduity, is, to work into them the principles and practice of virtue and good breeding” (§70). As training in good attitues promotes good manners, so vice versa: for example, “another way to instill sentiments of humanity, and to keep them lively in young folks, will be, to accustom them to civility in their language and deportment towards their inferiors and the meaner sort of people, particularly servants” (§117).
Locke held a view you highlight in connection with Confucius (398): that manners are essential expressions of respect, as I meant to show by my quote a couple of weeks ago: “If his tender mind be fill’d with a veneration for his parents and teachers, which consists of love and esteem, and a fear to offend them: and with respect and good will to all people; that respect will of itself teach those ways of expressing it, which he observes most acceptable” (§ 67; cf.§143f). Similarly, in §141, Locke says ill-breeding can be avoided “by duly observing this one rule: not to think meanly of ourselves, and not to think meanly of others.”
You say the value of manners according to Locke comes down to this: “In a Lockean civil society, good manners or etiquette play the role of social lubricants through which otherwise mechanically tied individuals in civil society can be more deeply connected” (388). The lubrication metaphor seems at cross-purposes with “more deeply connected.” You say later that “the mutual impregnability, and thus mutual hostility, between individuals is the very baseline of Locke’s theorization of man and society” (393). By “baseline” do you mean only that in his theorization we each start out unmerged and hostile, possibly merging and loving later; or do you mean that in his theorization we stay unmerged and hostile? And what in practice would count as merging or interpenetrating? (You seem to associate the idea of our fundamental separateness with Descartes, and I think that was his view; but I am not sure how not conceiving people in abstraction from their bodies helps us think of people as mergeable. Is there a connection with your claim (393) that Cartesian epistemology regards people as prideful and domineering?)
Here we come to the crux. To give the key Confucian reason why self-control has to be supplemented with li禮, you quote Confucius: “Deference unmediated by … ritual … is lethargy, caution unmediated by… ritual … is timidity … boldness unmediated by … ritual … is rowdiness; candor unmediated by … ritual … is rudeness.” The operative point you find in the passage is that without li禮, “the borderline between virtue (e.g. candor) and vice (e.g. rudeness) is blurred. Their distinction is completely subject to the differing (often contrasting) subjective interpretations of the persons involved” (397). But Locke speaks at least as clearly when he says about style and breeding, “Courage in an ill-bred man has the air and escapes not the opinion of brutality: Learning becomes pedantry; wit, buffoonery; plainness, rusticity; good nature, fawning. And there cannot be a good quality in him, which want of breeding will not warp and disfigure to his disadvantage”( §93).
Perhaps Locke and Confucius do not in these passages capture all of what you had in mind. For a big part of what helps sociality be less subjective, i.e. more mechanical, is other sorts of rules of good behavior that are fairly clear in external terms, protecting mutual trust and security, such as rules about property. If your coffee cup migrates to my cupboard, the problem is not about the best place for the cup, nor about whether I am motivated by kindness. This is not just a matter of penal law; Locke regards it as prior to government.
LIBERALISM and WU WEI 無爲VIRTUE
Sungmoon, I unfairly suggested above that you hadn’t clarified your thesis. In fact you had clarified it at some length in your blog comment above:
“My intended argument was that unlike the liberal conception of virtue that is too much power oriented and thus relies solely on the youwei 有爲 of rational self-control, its Confucian counterpart that is formed by the practice of the li is much wuwei 無爲 oriented, given that power is not the basis of its formation. Since it is not psychologically rooted in the power (even self-controlled power), I think, Confucian li-mediated civility is less susceptible to the rebellion of the inner demon. … I believe Confucian civility does deal with (quite effectively) antisocial passions. Whether better … than liberal civility… should be empirically tested.”
I find this helpful. I disagree with the thesis as newly formulated. Here’s why:
1. Reason is in various ways a wu wei 無爲 sort of thing.
Those whose conception of reason is modeled on logic may be thinking of reason as those steps in thought that one can hardly help taking, steps one takes automatically, though the logic model can become an opaque and impotent machine. But there is another and I think more sensible paradigm. When I take the action of opening my eyes, I open myself to being shaped by the world around me. I let the world build models in my mind. Good thinking, I think, works like that; it works to let reality shape my views and attitudes. And if my view changes about whether A causes B, my attitudes will automatically change. Or if I think about (attend to) the effects of my actions on others or on my future self, in thus opening my eyes I will have my attitudes changed. This, I think, is the power of the Golden Rule: it’s hardly clear enough to be a rule, but any attempt to apply it involves thinking about other people’s point of view, and that thinking has an effect on our feelings.
2. Mechanical bourgeois liberalism supports wu wei 無爲 sociality.
In theory and to a large extent in practice, the core institutions of bourgeois liberalism relieve the individual of much of the task of self-control for sociality, partly by what Bentham called the “artificial identification of interests.” For example, Adam Smith proposed market capitalism as a device that trains us to be more virtuous even if we aren’t trying to be. It gives us discipline, makes us think about what other people need and want, aligns our practical interests, and reduces anxiety by increasing prosperity. Like Laozi’s sage, the hand guiding us to virtue is invisible. (Contrast the youwei 有爲 of statist or socialist planning.) Also a clear and well-proportioned penal code gives each person a special motive not to harm others, and works as a “safety valve” to relieve the inclination to revenge. The election of leaders channels the aim of political power toward leadership in the public interest. The rule of law, including the principle that legislators are not to exempt themselves, ensures that we are all in the same boat in a basic sense; and clear rules forestall conflict. Intellectual and personal freedom allows social institutions to avoid the task of deciding many things, and makes society a great automatic laboratory for discovering what is good and what is true.
(Of course it’s all a messy business and sometimes doesn’t work. I think Fareed Zakaria’s answer to Amy Chua is on point: The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, W.W.Norton.)
At least personal virtue tends to be in our interest even in the absence of full liberalism, at least if general social conditions are not too illiberal. Virtue isn’t a sacrifice or enemy we have to force upon ourselves in the public interest. For example, I do not agree that in his book on education Locke is “preoccupied” with supporting liberalism (393), or focusing on the needs of society (though one knows without opening the book that he recognizes that virtue is good for society). The little book was at first a set of letters to a friend who was a parent. My sense is that Locke’s mind is on the welfare of the children, which he assumes is a parent’s main concern. The legitimacy of promoting virtue is easily taken for granted.
Speaking of taking things for granted, there is an old worry that bourgeois liberalism makes the continuing job of governance and civilization so invisible that people can forget they have to help. For example, businesspeople can think regulation is unnecessary. Michael Kammen quotes from an 1888 speech to the Reform Club of New York by James Russell Lowell: “After our Constitution got fairly into working order, it really seemed as if we had invented a machine that would go of itself, and this begot a faith in our luck which even the civil war itself but momentarily disturbed. … I admire the splendid complacency of my contrymen, and find something exhilarating and inspiring in it. … this confidence in our luck with the absorption in material interests, generated by unparalleled opportunity, has in some respects made us neglectful of our political duties.” (Kammen, A Machine That Would Go of Itself, p.18)
3. Neutrality-“liberalism” isn’t worth the name and doesn’t exclude li.
If by “liberalism” we mean something involving the idea that the main lines of public affairs are to be governed by public discourse, and the idea that public discourse is supposed to be kept neutral in the sense that moral and religious ideas are excluded from it, then I would be inclined to think, first, that this “liberalism” is a mere philosophers’ fantasy which if realized would be an expression of mutual distrust, not particularly compatible with self-respect or intellectual integrity. But I’m not sure why in practice such “liberalism” would not be able to make heavy use of li, conceived as non-legally-binding forms of etiquette and other ceremony.
I suppose the reason for wanting to exclude moral and religious ideas (and not other controversial ideas we’re free to disagree about), is that moral and religious ideas are things people tend to fight about, things people take very seriously despite not having good reasons. Respect for reason, I think, is an important medicine; though religion and morality are, in the terms of the Euthyphro, hard to measure. Now, people may also fight about li of course, especially if they have to agree formally on what li to have. But liberal coexistence of feasts is so much easier than liberal coexistence of ideas that liberal philosophers hardly think about it. If your proposal were to have Thanksgiving and Spring Festival and Flag Day instead of Christmas and Eid al-Fitr, then I think ideas would be an obstacle.
4. The Confucian alternative is more youwei 有爲, insofar as it is an alternative.
I argue in a forthcoming paper (in Ethics in Early China, HKU Press) that much of the function of li as early Confucians saw it was to expand our sympathetic insight into what is at stake in our actions (and related matters). Engaging in ritual is attending to something like pictures. It supports foresight and far-sight. On that view, ritual’s function overlaps a great deal with the function of reason as Locke and I see it. Probably this is way too limited a view of the Confucian view of ritual.
The device can be pretty awkwardly youwei 有爲. Consider, for example, the rule that in in hard times the rulers’ environs should be kept a little shabby, and they should have less music (曲禮下, #93 at the Chinese Text Project).
Of course li is not a complete substitute for reason, and you don’t mean to suggest that it is. Not much insight can be generated merely by transmitting imagery, and there is the question of how the li are designed, updated, and checked for accuracy. If the imagery taken over from one’s predecessors (who took it largely from their predecessors, etc.) evolved in a social environment insufficiently free from “power,” i.e. with insufficient liberty and openness to test, insufficient checks and balances as it were, then the evolutionary process may not be such as to justify faith in the images (wu wei). One will have to check them more directly (有爲).
Just as the aim of reputation can distract from virtue because it aims at appearances (as you point out on 394), so the aim of using one’s behavior to depict e.g. grief and loss to the public can distract from one’s actual grief, a worry already prominent in early Confucianism. Much of what Confucius has to say about how to govern focuses on being an image of virtue for the public. This too can distract from virtue itself; though regarding oneself as being seen can also be helpful, and may be part of what Confucius has in mind in 12.2. Unlike Confucianism, I think, liberalism does not essentially emphasize reputation or the appearance of virtue.
In your account of your thesis, I’m not sure roughly what you mean by “li” and “Confucianism.” If by “li” you do indeed mean something to replace law, then I was wrong to say Locke emphasized the li you are talking about (unless perhaps in his grounding of liberalism in norms from Heaven that are not governmental laws, and that outrank government). In your paper, by “Confucianism” you seem to mean the ideas of Confucius in the Analects, and you say that Confucianism entails a kind of authoritarian communitarian anarchy. That sounds like a lot of meetings (有爲). I wonder whether you are thinking of “Confucian li-mediated civility” as a merely hypothetical practice. Perhaps not, since you suggest empirical testing.
If you mean an actual widespread practice, then I would like to know what practice you mean, so that I can have a view about whether current liberal practice lacks it, and if so, whether it lacks it for some reason having to do with liberalism or liberty. If li is in part (to borrow Locke’s words) “as it were, the language whereby that internal civility of the mind is expressed; which, as other languages are, being very much governed by the fashion and custom of every country, must, in the rules and practice of it, be learn’d chiefly from observation” (Ed.§143) – then we should not be surprised that people from the US and the PRC seem to each other deficient in some of the requirements of elementary respect for others.
5. Liberalism is not inherently alien.
Your near-identification of “rationality” with “power” above puzzled me at first. When I think of “power” as a negative (disparaging) term, I think of it as meaning “power without reason” or without consent, or kindness or consideration. I think you mean something like that – but what is absent, exactly?
I think I understand now, partly with the help of your recent and very thoughtful paper “Beyond Liberal Civil Society: Confucian Familism and Relational Strangership” (PEW Oct. 2010). I suspect that in your view the kinship between reason and “power,” and between both and law, is that these are all impersonal.
Not every distinction is a dichotomy (apples v. tables), and not every dichotomy denies full continuity (black v. white), but some are and some do. Some are even paradigms. All important things are profoundly problematic, and Confucianism arguably lacks some of them.
For Confucians, perhaps the main paradigm of good v. bad social relations is family v. strangers. (A bad government is as a stranger to the people.) Anyway, imagine someone raised up under that paradigm. For her, non-kin as such may symbolize the war of all against all, and she may be uneasy at the very idea of large-scale society involving mostly strangers, or people with whom her kinship is untraceable, and forms of organization that do not easly fit a family model (legislatures, banks). Reality strains her model. Surely our imaginary Confucian thinks the family model wants progressive watering down (and other adjustments) as we talk about progressively larger groups etc. So why can’t she just regard liberalism as a big wet family after all – universal brotherhood and all that? This extension of the family model is familiar in the West.
Universality, law, equality, etc. may sound to our Confucian as though they means strangerliness, for they make no reference to family. For that reason our Confucian may feel them as essentially alien, at least on a gut level, seeming to promise distrust and chaos. She can swallow the impersonal ideas and institutions, but only with a struggle and a grimace (有爲).
For a liberal, they may instead feel comforting, inclusive, and protective, like Rawls’ principle that society’s institutions have to give priority to the worst-off; while the family paradigm may seem kin to racism, incest, and in general xenophobia. Universality is easy to grasp and swallow, as it is the absence of distinctions (無爲.).
I am inclined to side with the liberal. For what is absent from universality is not just family. Strangership too is absent. The whole dichotomy is absent. However narrowly or broadly the family may be conceived, universality is not just about those outside the family. Universality is about everybody.
Many thanks for your further comments, Bill. They are very thoughtful and I’ve learned a lot from them. If I understand you correctly, you raise two points: 1) what I mean by the li and my understanding of Locke. Both points are very important and would require thorough textual investigation and contemplation. So let me think more about these issues. For now, I think I can offer only brief rejoinders. [* I now realize that Bill has just posted additional comments on November 28 but my rejoinder here is to his earlier post.]
1) Confucian Li:
I believe for Confucius li are not just good manners or etiquettes—by the way, in my view, for Locke, liberal civility consists of good manners/etiquettes, the formation of which itself is very daunting given man’s unsocial passions. Also, as I argued in my essay, Confucius would find “affectation,” which Locke considers a liberal virtue, morally despicable. For Confucius, li are basically what undergirded the culture (文) of the Zhou Kingdome that he took pains to restore yet creatively, and the li Confucius cherished in the culture of the Zhou (Xia and Shang had their own ritual systems) were rooted in the spirit of ren, which itself was rooted in filial and fraternal responsibility (孝悌/Hall and Ames’ translation), or simply filiality. I don’t think I can afford to explicate in this blog reply about all implicated issues—the nature of filiality, its complex relation to the li (not only family rituals [家禮] but also state rituals [邦禮]), and how filiality-originated/rooted li deal with unsocial passions. In my paper, I only dealt with the last issue (particularly resentment 怨) without explicit reference to filiality.
After reading your comments, I feel strongly a need to re-read Some Thoughts concerning Education. My initial thought, though, is that you read Locke’s natural man too benignly while I read him too harshly. Still, you can raise two criticisms: 1) Locke never talks about a natural “man” but only about a child who has to be educated—I confess that I “interpreted” the child to whose father Locke addressed in his letters as man generally. Of course, you can take issue of my “interpretation.” 2) I understood Locke in the Hobbesian strain while Locke was indeed a natural law theorist who had faith in man’s moral development. The major disagreement between us centers on this second point—how to understand “moral development” in Locke’s moral psychology.
First let me recapitulate my original argument and then see if I can answer you from there. I argued: 1) Locke’s natural man is a Hobbeisan passionate man who is (or is likely to be) unsocial; 2) to morally improve this archaic man (without which the social contract that creates a civil society would be impossible), Locke first strives to rationally control unsocial passions by means of stringent self-denial. After this, we have a kind of “moral” agency, however rudimentary it is. It is certainly a morally improved self—a rational self in the Platonic sense; 3) then, Locke attempts to invent characteristically modern liberal civility by making this rudimentary moral man sensitive to others. By means of education that operations on the desire for reputation, a rudimentarily moral self “grows” into a liberal citizen because of his desire to “be thought rational.” So, liberal civility (manners/etiquettes) is indeed grounded in so-called “inward civility” or “sociability”, one’s inner moral readiness to “engage” with others rationally or civically.
Therefore, when I say that liberal civility is based on self-denial or rational control, I don’t say that there is no room for moral development in liberalism. My point is that in liberalism moral development begins but not ends with overcoming the Hobbesian archaic self.
For Confucius, however, there is no such process of stringent rational self-control because he never posits man in such Hobbesian terms in the first place. My argument was that for Confucius unsocial passions are never a man’s natural state and thus they are not a moral problematic “to begin with.” For Confucius unsocial passions are generated in the actual social encounters with others and they (particularly resentment) can be “annihilated” (無化) by means of the li (I now admit that “annihilation” should further be clarified). In this regard, I doubt that 克己 is an independent self-development process in Confucian ethics apart from 復禮. Where there is no Hobbesian archaic self, I argue, 克己 is 復禮. And, again, unlike in the liberal ethical/civil system, in Confucianism (at least for Confucius) li are not just manners and etiquettes.
You challenge by saying that my assumption is wrong, that is, Locke does not posit the Hobbesian archaic self and his moral psychology does not begin with it. Your comments make me re-read Essays and Education, which I will. Just two points before my re-investigation of Locke: 1) when I say that Locke starts with the Hobbesian self, I do not mean that the Lockean natural man is nothing but aggressive or violent. Rather, unsocial passions are inherent in human nature and the natural man is thus susceptible to unsociability. (It is different to claim that thus man is inherently evil. Locke does not say this.) This susceptibility or natural proclivity necessitates liberal moral education that forms a rational moral self and then a rational civil person/citizen. Confucius does not think that unsociability is inherent in human nature and thus he does not start his moral philosophy with rational self-control. He only talks about the li, which he believes can annihilate resentment.
[* In the paper and here, my focus has been on Confucius. Mencius and especially Xunzi might say differently.]
I admit that my rejoinder does not do justice to your extremely careful, argumentatively meticulous, and philosophically rich comments (in fact, a series of comments). After all, my paper was far from my final say to liberalism and Confucianism; it was to begin my engagement with liberalism from various Confucian perspectives. It was also to raise more thoughtful philosophical discussion on them. I indeed a lot from your comments and I’d be happy to read and contemplate on your new post.
Hi Sungmoon! It is lovely to get such a detailed and thoughtful answer! Your answer helps me understand some things I had not understood before. I would like to respond to some points in it – usefully I hope.
You write, If I understand you correctly, you raise two points: what I mean by the li and my understanding of Locke.
Well, I had asked what you meant by “li” outside of early China, that is, for a 21st century criticism of liberalism. Some possible ideas are here:
Here are some of the other questions I had raised before my wuwei comment:
1. What do you mean by “liberalism”?
2. What is it about “li” that you think might be valuable?
3. Why do you think “liberalism” can’t have “li”?
4. How does not abstracting people from their bodies help us think of people as interpenetrable?
S: for Locke, liberal civility consists of …
My guess is that we shouldn’t read any political meaning into his calling it “civility” and “breeding,” though “civility” suggests cities and civilization, and “breeding” suggests hereditary feudalism. I have checked the dictionary and found that going back to the 1500s, one of the main meanings of the word “civility” is simply “Behavior proper to the intercourse of civilized people; ordinary courtesy or politeness, as opposed to rudeness of behavior; decent respect, consideration” (Oxford English Dictionary). That is the only common meaning today. Unfortunately the OED doesn’t say how common it was in Locke’s day.
Is there some place where Locke connects his conception of manners/etiquette with his political views as opposed to other political views?
S: Also, as I argued in my essay, Confucius would find “affectation,” which Locke considers a liberal virtue, morally despicable.
Locke says affectation is a bad and ugly practice, caused by the wrong kind of education, as he explains in §66. (I wonder what you think of Book 10 of the Analects!)
I haven’t noticed Locke using the notion of a “liberal virtue.” Is there some place where he distinguishes some virtues as being appropriate for liberalism, or for his political views as opposed to other political views?
S: Still, you can raise two criticisms: 1) Locke never talks about a natural “man” but only about a child who has to be educated—I confess that I “interpreted” the child to whose father Locke addressed in his letters as man generally. Of course, you can take issue of my “interpretation.”
That is very interesting – I hadn’t thought of that! Do you mean you were not aiming to report Locke’s actual views? Or do you mean that his real meaning is esoteric?
What you say here helps me with a puzzle about the term “self-transformation” (and “self-control”) in your title and your paper. In the paper what you have in mind (especially in liberalism) usually seems not to be self-transformation at all, but rather adults transforming children, or adults trying not to transform into something worse.
I think Locke’s views about the passions of children are mostly common sense and should not lead us to think he really means something else. And I don’t think he’s regarding them as evil. When small children make demands or disobey or cause other trouble, even if that’s the main thing they do, it’s mostly from thoughtlessness and energy. It’s not vice, and it’s not evil. It’s chaotic and it’s something for adults to work on. Small children are incapable of vice or virtue. Similarly, my cat makes demands, or requests. How often, and using what signals, depends on how I have been responding. If I have been too responsive, the cat asks for more of my attention than I want to give. I don’t think he ever becomes vicious or evil, because I don’t think he has enough depth for that. So I would not regard Locke’s attention to the limitations of small children, using their wish for approval to train them, as “this great interplay (a la Machiavelli) between vice and virtue.”
Locke attempts to invent characteristically modern liberal civility by making this rudimentary moral man sensitive to others.
I don’t think of sensitivity to others as being modern, or liberal, or invented. Am I misunderstanding you?
My point is that in liberalism moral development begins but not ends with overcoming the Hobbesian archaic self.
For Confucius, however, there is no such process of stringent rational self-control because he never posits man in such Hobbesian terms in the first place. My argument was that for Confucius unsocial passions are never a man’s natural state and thus they are not a moral problematic “to begin with.”
So if Confucius was right, your criticism of liberal practice can’t be right? Maybe liberalism can’t tame Godzilla, but that’s not a flaw if there is no Godzilla.
Human social practices (Confucianism, liberalism, etc.) all have to involve the same human species, right? Or maybe you’re not talking about social practices; maybe what you mean by “liberalism” and “Confucianism” is two sets of ideas about human nature and society.
Aside from the simple individualists your paper sets aside, and also aside from Locke, what liberal thinker begins with the Hobbesian archaic self? I do think an important strain in liberal thought is a recognition that people, especially leaders, can’t be relied on to keep themselves virtuous.
For Confucius unsocial passions are generated in the actual social encounters with others and they (particularly resentment) can be “annihilated” (無化) by means of the li …when I say that Locke starts with the Hobbesian self, I [mean] unsocial passions are inherent in human nature and the natural man is thus susceptible to unsociability.
Are these different?
C: [Our nature is such that] unsocial passions are generated in social encounters.
L: Our nature is such that we are susceptible to unsociality.
Locke and Confucius both see that unsocial passions are common. Locke says in several places that antisocial passions come not from nature but only from social encounters. I think Confucius never comments on that topic.
(By “unsocial” passions do you mean not just pride and dominion, but also hunger and thirst and other things that don’t have reference to other people but could bring us into conflict?)
The phrase “無化” does not appear in any early Confucian book or classic (in the sense of annihilation). What are you referring to?
In moral education, I think Locke stresses habituation, company, observation, 孝, and thinking. Thinking isn’t Locke’s first stage, and it isn’t all of any stage. (Recall that he says reason alone can’t control the natural passions, but he thinks a good education does control and reshape them.) I think that in connection with moral education, Confucius may stress books more than Locke does, and Locke may stress thinking and 孝 more than Confucius does.
One big difference may be that while Locke seems to have thought fathers should be intimately and lovingly involved with the moral education of their sons (at least in the gentlemanly class), Confucius may have thought a gentleman should be distant from his son.
Of course I perfectly understand if you have no time to respond to any of this.
Locke was a real person. Blood could be drawn from him with a well-aimed blow. Inhabiting Locke to do battle with Confucius in a cage is a gutsy enterprise.
Confucius is a myth. Without Chi-magic, I don’t think it is possible to get a grip on his “li 禮” or a stranglehold on his “he 和” to force a submission.
You don’t think Kim’s arguments have merit? He was not addressing either the Darwinian human specie or the Lockean child.
The goal of liberalism, I gather, is to inspire the child to become a moral member of society. The aspiration of Confucianism, according to Dr. Fung Yu-Lan, is the attainment of oneness with Heaven.
Kim and I disagreed about what Locke said. Kim drew a further conclusion about a “Confucian critique of liberalism.” I’m not sure what the argument there was supposed to be—e.g. what Kim meant by “li 禮” as relevant to a critique. I disagreed with the part of the argument I thought I might have found.
I don’t agree that the goal of liberalism is to inspire the child to be a moral member of society; I don’t know what it would be to be one with Heaven.
Kim and you disagreed not only about what Locke said but also about what “li 禮” meant. What could be the reason for the difference in your points of view?
Liberalism has room for diversity of opinion but Confucianism has none; especially, with regards to getting our viewpoints right. Do you agree?
No, we did not disagree about what “li 禮” means. In this discussion I made no claim about what “li 禮” means; I was only interested in what Kim meant by it in his argument. I made what I called a guess about what he meant (Nov.24:5). Kim disavowed that reading and said some things about “li 禮” (Nov. 28) that seemed to me not to propose a definition at all, but to suggest its irrelevance to a current critique of liberalism (Nov.30). That’s as far as we went on the topic of what Kim or anyone else meant by “li 禮” .
On whether “Confucianism” has room for different view: this isn’t something I’ve thought about. There are many different kinds of thing that people call “Confucianism”— out of context I think the word doesn’t refer to anything in particular. Views on what topic? At what level of generality? Confucius seems to me not to have been especially interested in views, as distinct from ways. There are also different kinds of thing that could be meant by “room” for different views. Confucius says to Zai Wo: if one year is enough for you, then fine. Different places may have different ways; elites may be told things that ordinary people are not; one should follow one’s father’s way at least until three years after he has died; one might give two people opposite answers to the same question; etc.
Ok, technically, you did not disagree with Kim about what “li 禮” means. I assumed you did disagree; otherwise, you wouldn’t have asked him to tell you what it means the way a freshman majoring in Chinese philosophy would. Anyway, you suggested that I take a look at the discussion here on account of its relevance to “our basic nature and its suppression” that I alluded to in my observation of the Kimmel kids.
In contrasting liberalism and Confucianism, Kim is comparing a Californian and a Mandarin orange in his attempt to convince us that the former does not have the quality of the latter that is better for our health. Obviously, you don’t buy it. So, what do you think the 2009 Dao Best Essay Award was for?
Kim argued that liberalism is based on the natures of the Lockean child and the Hobbesian man. While we know the rationales of the liberal’s moral psychology and political philosophy including the causes of their invention, we don’t have the same access to the reason why Confucius thought the way he did. All we have is some inkling of his situation, as a “man-in-society”, 2,500 years ago coupled with the postulations of pre-modern and contemporary disciples of Confucius. I would therefore have to conclude that the “natural state of man” according to Confucius is a fabrication.
As for “li 禮”, as a better means to annihilate unsocial passions ( to bring about “he 和”) upon which Kim’s entire Essay thesis hangs, we must wait for his “final say to liberalism and Confuciansim”. For now, I will have to go by what is actually practised in Confucian families (家禮) in terms of the rites of ancentral worship to bring about filiality, and by the state (邦禮) in terms of public ceremonies both in the East and the West to incite national cohesion (e.g. the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 1934 Nazi Party Congress documented in Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”)
CP> Ok, technically, you did not disagree with Kim about what “li 禮” means. I assumed you did disagree; otherwise, you wouldn’t have asked him to tell you what it means the way a freshman majoring in Chinese philosophy would.
I didn’t ask him to tell me what what “li 禮” means; I asked him to tell me what he meant by it. I wanted to know what his line of thought was.
Your rigor is impressive and instructive. I shall be mindful that there is a distinction between perception and the illusion of an authentic object of perception.
Apropos of a discussion of the possibility of a Confucian defense of freedom of expression, on another string –
Here’s why I had to ask specifically what he meant by “li 禮” . Central to the argument of the paper under discussion is this question: What would be the effect of Central to the argument of the paper under discussion is this question: What in modern society, or Locke’s England, would be the effect of a widespread focus on “li 禮” ?
It makes no sense to discuss this question without a somewhat clear agreed idea of what, in modern society or Locke’s England, would or could count as “li 禮” , at least for the sake of the argument. This would have to be stipulated, not argued about. There’s no such thing as knowing the answer. And there’s no way for the reader to guess what the author’s idea was. It was necessary to ask.
After all, even in the early Chinese context, the term was flexible and broadening: used to mean different things in different context. Maybe it originally referred mainly to sacrifices to ancestors, or public events centering on those? But by the time of the Analects that core, or root metaphor, seems usually not to be at the center of what’s usually meant.
I tried to suggest above that if we want to be able to use a term like “li 禮” for something that might have been encountered (and underemphasized or not) in Locke’s England or in the modern world, good candidates are: (a) what Locke calls “good manners” and “good breeding” – forms of social interaction that serve as expressions of respect and respectfulness (cf. the distinction between jing 敬 and gong 恭); and (b) what Locke calls the law of nature – duties (rights) prior to government that amount basically to forms of mutual respect on matters of larger immediate substance than good manners deals with.