A last minute adjustment has me teaching a short section of American Culture in addition to my Chinese Philosophy course. As a result, I’m trying to burn some CDs with classic American tunes that deal with American themes, cities, regions, and so on. The ones I’ve thought of so far I have below — if you can think of a few, please feel free to add them below!
Archive for January, 2009
Over at Useless Tree, some thinking about the recent grim economic situation from Confucian and Taoist perspectives. At With Four You Get Eggroll, things are a bit more light-hearted with some reflection on how to give someone the finger in China. At Tang Dynasty Times the issue of moral-aesthetic sensibility in ancient Asian thought is discussed. At Granite Studio, you’ll find some interesting thoughts about taking sides in history. Lastly, over at Within Reason you’ll find Adam engaged in one of his favorite recent pastimes — defending Facebook against Nay-Sayers (like myself).
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The concepts of Yi and Zhi in the Analects are not easy to understand — harder still is to understand how they are related to one another. Typically, Yi is taken to mean “appropriateness” and Zhi is taken to mean “native stuff” or “basic stuff”. But there are times when Yi is said to be “the basic stuff” too. Which is where the confusion starts for me — not that I wasn’t confused before that too, of course.
I really dislike it when teams or members of teams are unsportmanlike. It seems to me that if you are a true player of a game, you are aiming for internal goods within the game itself, never external goods. Internal to the game are skills and a sense of honor among the practitioners of the sport. You compete with yourself to get better and always recognize and have respect for your opposition. To fail to’do so — to aim instead for riches external to the game, or for the adoring yell of the crowd, is unseemly. Worse yet, to humiliate your opposition as a method of attaining those external goods is nothing short of a disgrace. That’s why this story really got under my skin:
At Frog in a Well, Alan has up a post on what might arguably be my favorite (or close to favorite) saying in the Analects — 13.23. If you know the passage, you know that 13.23 waxes poetic about the evils of conformity and the need for people to strive for a harmony of difference in relationships. In speaking of “harmonies of difference” 13.23 speaks to my uber-liberalism. So much so that it functions like a hypnotic song that succeeds at playing all the right notes needed to lull me into a quiet interpretative stupor and submission. In other words, maybe I interpret 13.23 in the way that I want and ignore possible readings that may not be as friendly to my cushy liberal conceptual scheme. With this in mind, let’s put it out on the table and see what this aphorism is really saying. Hopefully it turns out well for me. After all, it’s one of my Facebook quotes and I’d hate to have to take it down.
In the last two years or so, my wife and I have noticed a difference in the way waiters and waitresses ask if we are satisfied with our dining experiences. It’s a change that really drives us nuts – we cringe when we hear it – and only last night it struck me: in the dining world, Confucianism is on the wane, and Mohism is in ascendance.
Everyone: sorry about the problem with posting Chinese characters in posts/replies, the new WordPress blog platform didn’t support them initially. The problem should be solved now, so go ahead and paste them in.
There are a decent number of sayings in the Analects that cause me to scratch my head. One of them is 4.3. It says: “The Master said: It is only the one who is ren who can love and hate others.” My natural reaction to often to find it odd to suggest that ren would be “required” to hate or to love. It seems to me that just about anyone can hate — people do it all the time, and not just ren. So what does it mean?
I’d like to give out a “shout out” to my wife’s new blog, With Four You Get Eggroll. Her main aim with the blog is to highlight and chronicle our experiences in Beijing this semester. She’ll also blog on a variety of other topics as well. At times she also plans on making posts here and there that relate to topics in her field. Christie is a social psychologist but her specialization is in the sub-field of cross-cultural psychology. In the last few years she has taken an interest in the East-West cultural divide, and so she may put up some thoughts on this from time to time.
Don’t miss the post she made here discussing the strange political discussion she had today with the guy who installed our security system. Strange stuff!
I have been perplexed for a while about the meaning of the Chinese term min (typically understood as “the people”) as it is used in the Analects. What exactly does it signify – and is the term consistent with the positive virtue-based language in the text, such as virtue and exemplary person? Are there virtuous or exemplary min? If not, why? I’ll try a stab at laying out at least some beginning questions.
I just put out a “Blog Love” post, but I wanted to give a special “shout out” to highlight an excellent post, “Zhuangzi is Not a Relativist! (Or Wishful Thinking?)” over at Solipsist’s Dilemma, a blog run by a philosophy student of mine. Will has just recently been digging into the Zhuangzi for the first time and in his post he thinks through some of the more fundamental questions about this enigmatic text.
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Tao Te Ching 63 offers some good practical advice. When I discuss this poem with students, I am often struck by how fiercely their heads nod in an affirmative direction that indicates that their present dispositions, with respect to the subject of this poem, are not only decidedly non-Taoist, but moreover that they recognize that this may not be a very good thing.
Warning: a very long, very rambling, stream-of-consciousness post is below the fold.