I’m reading Kohlberg’s old Moral Development and Behavior (1976) for today’s virtue ethics seminar. It can be tough to re-read Kohlberg again, especially after the post-Gilligan ”Kohlberg is wrong!” and “Kohlberg is a tool of patriarchy!” memes thrown at you for so many years. As a result, I found myself not so much focusing on Kohlberg, but trying to figure out where Confucius would fit in all of this. I have some guesses. ‘
Archive for July, 2008
One of Chu Hsi’s aphorisms in Learning to Be a Sage stuck out to me, and I’m not sure if it is the translation that seems peculiar, or if there’s an idea there that I’m not picking up on. Click below for the passage: hopefully there are a few Chu Hsi’ers out there who can help.
The book is finally out. Yesterday I actually held a copy of it in my hands. It was an odd feeling, I must admit.
I’m re-reading Eric Hutton’s “Character, Situationism, and Early Confucian Thought” (Phil Studies, 2006) and starting to wonder…am I a situationist about Confucianism? I’m starting to wonder if I have begun to walk down this dark path. (Also, note that Alexus just put up today an excellent post on possible situationism in the Analects).
Some of you may have noticed an increase in posts on “min” lately. Not surprising, I’m trying to puzzle out a subsection of a possible paper, and I still have many questions about the concept. This time, I’m wondering how legitimately we can apply Confucius’ “moralization” of ren to the treatment of min. Depending on which way we answer the question opens or closes a lot of interpretative doors.
I’ll admit it — I have a hard time getting my head around situationalism with respect to its attempt to attack the notion of character as it plays out in virtue ethics. Sometimes I have a hard time grasping what it is that they (the situationalists) are precisely arguing for, whereas at other times I guess I just don’t see what the big deal is. My worst confusion, though, is understanding how it all plays out for the Confucian. On this latest question, as I’ll discuss below, I have pretty much no idea what to say. Frustration set in.
Last week there was considerable discussion of Mencius 7A35 in the seminar. It seemed to me that just about everyone agreed on a general interpretation of the passage. Much as the conversation was interesting (as the reading brought up important issues about Mencius), I just couldn’t convince myself that they were reading the passage right.
Hey Folks: I’m in the middle of putting together a rough schematic blueprint for a paper I’d like to begin developing for this Confucius-Virtue Ethics seminar I’m participating in. A part of the paper would deal with the concept of min (“people,” “populace,” “masses”) in early Confucianism (perhaps in part contrasting it with the notion of xiao ren (“petty” or “little” people). What I need to get hold of are more articles/book chapters that deal with the concept of min. Does anyone out there know of any? I already know of Hall and Ames brief discussion of it in Thinking Through Confucius. Are there any other references that those of you who are familiar with the secondary literature can think of? Thanks in advance!
I’m off to Boston for the weekend to see the family members who “evacuated” NYC a few years ago. Be back Sunday night — I owe Bill and Stephen some responses to posts.
Shirong Luo gave an interesting talk last night on the concept of xiao (filial piety) and how it related to care and respect. I found it to be an interesting talk and I jotted down a number of questions on my pad about it. In this post I’ll highlight one of them (at some point I might try to outline another in a separate post). It concerns self and identity and extending the notion of the physical body as a gift from one’s parents to understanding one’s social body as a gift as well (from one’s cultural lineage).
Many times when I read ancient texts I am struck by the similarity of concerns that they had and the ones we presently have. At the very least, encountering these sorts of historical continuities leads to make a person a bit less smug about the wisdom of his/her own generation, given that we (or at least I) tend to spout off (false) platitudes about how it was (better) “back in the day.” When you learn that back in the serious day the same problems existed that you claim didn’t exist so much for you and your peers — well, you start to entertain the notion that reconstructed memories can be an amazing thing. Anyway — in this case I’m thinking of Chu Hsi and his frequent complaints about education, below.
Right at the start of the Mencius, story 1A7 brings to light, I think, some very interesting questions concerning how we should understand the notion of “right” action. Particularly, 1A7 makes me wonder whether, for Mencius, action “assessment” (what is appropriate or Yi) and action “guidance” come apart, or whether they should be closely aligned (if not identical). Towards the end I speculate whether Mencius and Confucius wind up differing on this question. Below I’ll try to puzzle out my thoughts on this. It’s a meandering post, so bear with me.
My friend Adam is co-directing a conference (the 10th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum) this fall (November 14th to 16th at Towson University in Maryland) on the theme “The Ethics of the Family” (natural topic for a Confucius paper!). The call for papers is still going on, and Adam posted a link to the call in a thread, but I figured I’d move it up to a full post so it wasn’t hidden. I presented at the conference two years ago (on integrating Confucius into core ethics courses) at Dartmouth, and found the environment and conversation to be very productive and stimulating (and fun, which is always a plus at a conference!). I’d present this year myself, but I think this present NEH seminar has used up my “away from wife and family” vouchers for 2008. Well, probably for 2009 too.
For more information on this year’s call for papers, click here. Adam can be reached at email@example.com if you have any questions.