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by: Orpha Hickle
Orpha Hickle

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Bryan Norden

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Bryan Norden
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Date Created: 10/28/15
Excerpt from BW Van Norden Virtue Ethics amp Consequentialism in Early Chinese ThoughtNew York Cambridge University Press forthcoming Chapter 5 Part II The exegetical study of the history of Western philosophy is frequently used to inform contemporary philosophical discussions There are contemporary Aristotelians like Martha Nussbaum and contemmporary Kantians like Christine Korsgaard to name just two examples Obviously it would be nothing more than necrophiliato reproduce without alteration some historical position Historical change illuminates limitations of previous philosophies I am an admirer of Hegel myself but I must acknowledge that history did not end with the Prussian state of his era nor pace Francis Fukuyama has it ended yet And contrary to what sometimes passes for indubitable truth philosophy does make some progress just through discussion and argumentation In some ways we now understand Hume39s view of the role of reason and emotion in ethics better than he or his contemporaries could have because we have become clearer than they could have been about the distinctions between emotivism psychologism prescriptivism error theories ideal observer theories and other positions Generally speaking if we wish to engage in the quothistorical retrievalquot of earlier philosophical views our goal should be to produce a position that is in Lee Yearley39s formulation quotcrediblequot and quotappropriatequot1 Our interpretation should be quotcrediblequot in the sense that it is plausible for us today A credible appropriation of an earlier philosophical view is one that is a quotlive optionquot for contemporary thinkers given our knowledge of cultural diversityhistorical change modern science and at least some of the values and institutional forms that have been emphasized as a result of the Western Enlightenment But at the same time historical retrieval should result in a position that is quotappropriatequot in the sense that it is faithful to the philosophy that inspires it It must be recognizable as being at some fundamental level a version of the original philosophy A third criterion not explicitly mentioned by Yearley but I think implicit in what he says Yearley quotConfucianism and Genrequot p 140 Of course we may choose not to engage in historical retrieval at all is that the resulting position be quotinspiringquot By this grandiose term I mean simply that it should be clear why the reconstructed position offers something distinctive and valuable to ongoing philosophical debates Ruism has already been the subject of several efforts at historical retrieval Perhaps the two most noteworthy have been the postmodern approach championed by Roger Ames and the late David Hall and the approach of the socalled quotNew Confuciansquot whom I discussed briefly in my Introduction In my personal opinion for whatever that is worth the New Confucians and the postmodernists are each right about certain things The New Confucians are right that Ruism can and should change in certain respects in order to be a plausible contemporary position In particular Ruism must be consistent with some version of democracy and with modern science As the New Confucians would agree this does not mean that Ruists should accept whatever form of democracy or whatever uses of modern science happen to be current Ruism can be used to constructively inform and critique democracy and even the ethics of scientific research and application And the postmodernists are right that any faithful interpretation of Ruism will not attribute to it any sort of Cartesianism Ruists are not metaphysical dualists nor are they epistemological foundationalists I worry however that both of these approaches fail to produce accounts of Ruism that are sufficiently faithful or inspiring As l have argued New Confucianism sees Ruism through the lens of Buddhistinfluenced quotNeoConfucianismquot And the resulting position offers little that is inspiring beyond such sound but vague advice that humans should aim at quota more allencompassing wisdomquot I find postmodernism a similarly distorting framework Readings of the original texts that make it seem that Ruists advocate creativity unconstrained by human nature Heaven and tradition seem very forced to me And precisely because the postmodern interpretation of Ruism renders it so similar to Rortian pragmatism it offers nothing inspiringly new to contemporary debates Simply put we already have one Rorty Why do we need another who just happens to have written in Classical Chinese But as Mozi says quotthose who condemn another39s view must offer something in its place If one condemns another39s view without offering something in its place this is like adding water to a flood or flame to a fire Such appeals prove to have no meritquot2 Part II The Road Left Behind I would like to begin by discussing some of the limitations and blindnesses of Ruism as an ethical system These weaknesses must be overcome if Ruism is to be a plausible philosophical alternative for us today Ruism is ethically limited by having a monistic conception of value sexist assumptions about gender roles a very strong form of quotepistemological optimismquot which can lead to intolerance and a hegemonic conception of the role of virtue in government In place of these limitations Ruism can and must learn from the West to place a greater emphasis on pluralism feminism epistemological humilityor falllibalism and procedural justice A Monism vs Pluralism The claim that Ruism is monistic is easily misunderstood Monism is not the same as generalism Generalism is a position on a spectrum with particularism at the other extreme Ruists are generally speaking closer to the particularist end of the spectrum than are generalists like say Kant In describing Ruists as ethical monists I also I do not mean to deny that they recognize some variety in ethically valuable lives The lives of the nobles who teach and serve in government the farmers who plough the fields that produce food for everyone the craftsmen who produce tools and ritual vessels the merchants who facillitate the trade of goods and the wives of all of them who raise the children weave silk and manage household affairs all have value and are necessary for the functionining of society However Ruists are monists in the sense that the valuable roles are very limited and are hierarchically organized from most to least exalted 2 llIozi 16 quotImpartial Caringquot p 64 nobles farmers craftsmen and merchants Nobles are quotgreat peoplequot while the others are quotpetty peoplequot The hierarchy is in principle fluid and meritocratic Sage King Shun began as a farmer The operative word here though is began Because of his Virtue he could not help but rise to become an official and then King Instead of being ethically monistic Buism should become pluralistic But pluralism like monism is aterm that is easily misconstrued In particular pluralism is importantly different from skepticism and relativism 3 The ethical skeptic would say that we do not knowwhat really has value quotPerhaps being a serial killer is good or perhaps being an emergency room nurse is good Who39s to sayquot shrugs the skeptic The relativist in contrast with both the skeptic and the pluralist says that value depends on the point of the view of the evaluator For the ethical relativist ethical terms like quotgoodquot function implicitly like quotshortquot quotHe39s shortquot quotNo he39s notquot quotWell I meant from the perspective of the other people on his basketball team he39s short Of course from the perspective of people of average height like you and me he39s tallquot Ethical relativists can have different views about what the relevant perspective is for judging value Cultural relativists say that ethical value depends on the perspective of some particular cultural group So for example slavery is wrong when judged from the perspective of contemporary mainstream US culture but right when judged from the perspective of Hellenic Greek culture Subjectivism is a special case of relativism in which the relevant group for evaluating claims is each particular person So the subjectivist would say that the views of a culture or subculture are not the relevant perspective for judging value Instead we must appeal to each individual person39s perspective Nonphilosophers sometimes conflate relativism with one of two very different positions moral isolationism and vulgar relativism Bernard Williams coined the label 3 Berlin quotAlleged Relativism in EighteenthCentury European Thoughtquot in The Crooked Timber of Humanity quotvulgar relativismquot to describe the position that all ways of life are equally good This is an unattractive position because it implies that even the most cruel and intolerant lives are good The life of a serial killer of Adolph Hitler of an abusive pimp are these really on a par with the lives of skilled and dedicated social workers nurses and kindergarten teachers Even aside from this philosophers tend not to regard vulgar relativism as a serious position since it is not clear that it is coherent If there are some lives that are not good then it is clear that declaring a particular way of life good has some content But if all lives are good what content does this claim have Good as compared to what If all lives are good what would it mean to say that any life is bad Mary Midgley came up with the term quotmoral isolationismquot to describe the view that one should not pass judgment on members of other cultures As with vulgar relativism many philosophers doubt that moral isolationism is coherent On what grounds is judging another culture ruled out in principle I should not judge another culture if I am ignorant about it but this is different from saying that I should never judge at all And how does one decide what counts as a quotculturequot for this purpose Contemporary anthropologists would object strongly to the suggestion that any culture has clearly defined boundaries Can ljudge other US citizens Presumably but what if the fellow American in question is of EastIndian descent Does this automatically put her in another culture l have a friend who fits into that cultural category she has never visited India has no interest in Indian culture only comments on Indian culture to make jokes about how silly she thinks it is and the only lndian language she speaks is English with a Boston accent If I can judge her how different would she have to be before I couldn39t judge her If I can39t judge her does that mean that BWVN can only judge fellow Americans who are of joint Polish and Dutch descent Finally and most fundamentally if we say that one cannot judge other cultures what are we to say when other cultures judge us Genuine pluralism is neither skepticism nor relativism The pluralist says that there are multiple kinds of value and that they are not reducible to one kind of value She typically adds that it is impossible to instantiate all of these values in one life or in one society at least not to the same degree Pluralism is not skepticism because the pluralist thinks we do not have any serious doubts about at least some kinds of goods Only a dogmatic monist or an extreme skeptic could deny that a good school teacher and a good police officer both lead worthwhile lives Pluralism is also not relativism because the pluralist does not say that the value of either of these lives depends on our or our culture39s point of view about them If our culture does not appreciate the value of a good school teacher then our culture is simply ignorant about a certain sort of value the pluralist asserts4 And pluralism is not quotvulgar relativismquot because it judges some ways of life to lack value Just because many things have value that does not mean that everything does A concrete example may help Suppose a friend is contemplating whether to go on to graduate school to get her doctorate in mathematics or to begin a career as a painter She realizes that the demands on her time and energy of being a committed mathematician or painter will preclude her being even reasonably successful if she tries to do both so she has to choose one She comes to us for advice If we are a skeptic we will tell her that some philosophers like Plato have presented good arguments that a life of theoretical contemplation is best but other philosophers like Nietzsche have argued for the supremacy of creativity over theory The arguments seem equally strong so unfortunately we do not know what the right choice for her is or even whether there is a right choice In contrast if we are subjective relativists we will tell her that whichever life she decides is best is best relative to her perspective We may have our own opinion about her choice Perhaps we think that mathematics is dull while art is stylish and exciting But asking someone else for opinions about ethical value is like asking someone else what you should order for dinner I like Spam Honestly But that doesn39t mean you should eat it If our friend tells us that her parents think 4 Relativism is often confused with skepticism In short skepticism says that you do not know that the way things seem to you is the waythey really are Subjective relativism says that the waythings seem to you isthe waythey really are Cultural relativism says that the waythings seem to a given culture is the way they really are If relativism is true there is nothing beyond your own or your culture39s perspective for you to be wrong about Pluralism says that we knowthat there is more than one kind of value whether cultures or people can see this fact from their perspective or not becoming an artist is frivolous we should respond quotIt is frivolous relative to their perspectivequot Finally if we are a pluralist we will tell her that both lives have value and are fine choices If her parents do not appreciate the value of being an artist that is unfortunate but they are wrong Then if we are also particularists we will look for details of her situation that may help her make her choice Does she find that although she has better than average talent in both she has much more apptitude for mathematics than for painting Does she perhaps admire artists more than mathematicians but personally get more satisfaction out of teaching and researching mathematics Mathematicians generally make their most important research contributions before the age of thirty What does she think of studying mathematics now and keeping open the possibility of returning to painting later in life The pluralistic particularist if she has zth quotwisdomquot will be skillful at knowing what questions to ask quot3 Sexism vs Feminism Becoming pluralistic is one way in which Ruism should overcome its ethically monistic tradition Sexism is another aspect of this monism Just as men39s roles are highly constrained and hierarchically evaluated so are the roles of women Women do have indispensable roles to play in Ruist society And even within the context of Ruist texts women are sometimes singled out for praise including times when they are ethically superior to their male relatives Kongzi was quite willing to meet with Nanzi a woman who was politically infuential even though the meeting scandalized his disciple Zilu 628 And Kongzi is reputed to have praised Lady Ji of Lu for her knowledge of the rites5 Mengzi tells an anecdote in which a wife and concubine have a much better developed sense of shame the basis of righteousness than does their husband 4833 And the stories told of Mengzi39s mother reprimanding him including taking the side of Mengzi39s wife against him suggest that women were viewed as independent 5 Raphals quotA Woman Who Understood the Ritesquot and sometimes superior ethical agents6 On the other hand neither Kongzi nor Mengzi questions the fundamental distinction in gender roles between men and women Kongzi took no female disciples and championed tradition Mengzi said that the the roles of husband and wife are marked by quotdifferentiationquot and that a proper mother advises her daughter as she leaves to join her husband39s family for the first time that she must be obedient 3A4 382 So instead of being sexist Ruism must learn to become feminist Some work has already been done in the direction of creating feminist Fluism7 There is nothing I think essentially sexist about Ruism Ruism emphasizes the importance of acting in accordance with our roles But it is not a requirement of Ruism in itself that these roles be static or attached to specific genders This is illustrated by the Ruist Li Zhi who provides an unorthodox but challenging defense of the equality of women by appealing to yinyang cosmology There are also ways of constructively rereading the Ruist tradition so as to provide resources for feminism The stories involving Kongzi and Mengzi that I mentioned are good examples of sources that stress the ethical capacity of women In addition my feeling is that some of the Odes represent a distinctive female perspective that has been ignored or deemphasized by the mainstream commentarial tradition but can be recovered For example we hear across the millennia the voice of an abused wife in the ode quotThe Ladquot She sings of how kind he was to her at first A simplelooking lad you were Carrying cloth to exchange it for silk But you came not so to purchase silk You came to make proposals to me But after she goes to live with him his behavior changes 5 These stories are collected in an appendix to DC Lau39s Mencius 7 See eg Li Chenyang The Sage and the Second Sex When the mulberry tree sheds its leaves They fall yellow on the ground Since I went with you Three years have I eaten of your poverty And now the full waters of the Qi Wet the curtains of my carriage There has been no difference in me But you have been double in your ways It is you Sir who transgress the right Thus changeable in your conduct For three years l was your wife And thought nothing of my toil in your house rose early and went to sleep late Not intermitting my labours for a morning Thus on my part our contract was fulfilled But you have behaved thus cruelly She hopes for the support of her bloodrelatives but they mock her My brothers will not know all this And will only laugh at me Silently I think of it And bemoan myself8 Ruists have always looked to the Odes for ethical guidance including properly training our emotions Why should they not be used to attune us to the plight of physical and emotional abuse Mengzi teaches us about the importance of extending r n l 8 Mao 58 Translation modified from James Legge For another example of a woman bemoaning the sadness of her life see quotCypress Boatquot Mao 26 quotbenevolencequot Becoming more sympathetic to the suffering of women including the ways in which this suffering has been accentuated by mandated gender roles is an important extension of benevolence C Epistemological Optimism vs Fallibalism Ruism at its best encourages some kinds of tolerance and humility Both Kongzi and Mengzi remind us that when others fail to appreciate us or respond to us as we hope and expect we should look for the cause within ourselves rather than blaming others Furthermore an overlooked passage in the Zuo Commentary provides an insightful and canonical defense of the right of the people to criticize their government A man of Jing rambled into a village school and started discoursing about the conduct of the government In consequence Ran Ming proposed to Zichan to destroy the village schools But the minister said quotWhy do so If people retire morning and evening and pass their judgment on the conduct of the government as being good or bad I will do what they approve of and I will alter what they condemn They are my teachers On what ground should we destroy the schools l have heard that by loyal conduct and goodness enmity is diminished but I have not heard that it can be prevented by acts of violence It may indeed be hastily stayed for a while but it continues like a stream that has been dammed up If you make a great opening in the dam there will be great injury done beyond our power to relieve The best plan is to lead the water off by a small opening In this case our best plan is to hear what is said and use it as a medicinequot9 In general the use of punishment and violence is always regarded as the last measure 9Zuozhuan Duke Xiang 31 Translation modified from James Legge to be employed by anyone who genuinely follows the Ruist Way The large prison population in the US and the use of violence against the Tianan Men Square protestors would have been condemned by Kongzi or Mengzi However the tolerance of Ruism is limited in certain important ways by what Thomas Metzger has labeled quotepistemological optimismquot Metzger coined this label to describe what he saw as a facet of the Neo and New Confucian worldviews the confidence that knowledge can be obtained10 Metzger saw this as distinguishing Ruism from at least modern Western thought Pace Metzger epistemological optimism has also been one aspect of Western modernity In different ways rationalists like Descartes and empiricists like Bacon believed that by following the right method knowledge could be given a firm foundation This confidence in method is part of what postmodernism is rightly reacting against However it is also true that a significant strand in the Western tradition has challenged Western epistemological optimism on the grounds that certainty in one39s convictions is ethically and politically dangerous11 Epistemological optimism is potentially dangerous because if I believe that my methodology guarantees truth a natural conclusion is that l have nothing to gain from a genuine dialogue with others If epistemological optimism is true then my failure to convince others could only be because they are perversely obstinate A natural practical conclusion to be drawn is that they should be silenced lest they seduce others with their errors Likewise if I know with certainty what the right course of action is it seems that only cowardice could prevent me from taking the most seemingly extreme measures if these are dictated by the right The problem of course is that others are often subjectively certain of the rightness of their actions when we know they were mistaken the pagans who threw Christians to the lions the Christian knights during the 0 Metzger Escape from Predicament This trend has a long pedigree Augustine stressed the fact that reason is corrupted by original sin Consequently we cannot fully trust our own reason nor can we hope to persuade everyone else Augustine recognizes that this has political implications Thus when Augustine distinguishes the City of God from the City of Man he is calling into question the possibility of one order for both ethics and government Crusades the lnquisitors during the Counterreformation the Nazis the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution the Weather Underground pick your favorite example I would not recommend that Ruism become epistemologically pessimistic A general skepticism about values is as ethically crippling as dogmatism Consider a BuddhoConfucian scholar like Tan Sitong who went to his death fighting for good government in China or Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Protestant minister who was executed by the Nazis for trying to save Jews Would either of these have had such courage if they had thought Well I don t knowwhether oppressing others is really bad I mean sure it seems that way to me But who s to say Fanatical certainty in one s own convictions is ethically dangerous but I worry that the hottub skepticism fashionable today may be dangerous in its own way Ruism should instead embrace epistemological fallibalism the claim that we can know that some things are true but that we cannot generally speaking have absolute certainty Living up to epistemological fallibalism is what Aristotelians would describe as a quottheoretical virtuequot since it deals with the capacity of the mind to know However it is intimately connected with quotpractical virtuesquot It requires great humility courage and discipline to actually acknowledge in practice that one is fallible All of us fail at this some of the time and many of us fail at it persistently even while we are mouthing support for openmindedness12 Epistemological fallibalism does not require perfect impartiality As Kant argued theoretically and as Kuhn illustrated historically perfect impartiality is impossible However epistemological fallibalism does require sympathetic understanding and dialogical argumentation Sympathetically understanding the positions of our interlocutors requires that we see why they as rational fellow human beings see the world as they do Their errors must be explicable as something other than the expressions of their vices This is true even perhaps especially when we find their views abhorrent In general if you do not understand why large numbers of people are 2 In the original draft of this chapter I wrote quotopponentquot where l have quotinterlocutorquot now Ironically in describing my interlocutors as quotopponentsquot which suggests that they must be vanquished like enemies in battle I illustrated a failure to understand sympathetically and argue dialogically attracted to a position with which you disagree you have not thought carefully enough about it To invoke the language of Thomas Kuhn one has to develop the habit of learning to see the world through alternative paradigms There are of course limitations to sympathetic understanding It is ethically dangerous to come to see the world as a white supremacist And it would be naive in many cases to rule out the use of hermeneutics of suspicion to expain people39s beliefs But part of treating another human with respect is acting as ifhe is rational After all we are not fully rational ourselves but we expect our views and our arguments to be treated as serious positions not as symptoms of our hidden motivations So the decision to completely abandon a hermeneutics of restoration in regard to interpreting any particular text or individual must be made rarely and reluctantly For the majority of cases in which sympathetic understanding is a goal we must combine that understanding with dialogical argumentation To argue dialogically is to respond to the arguments and objections of our interlocutors in a manner that is not satisfying only for us but also in principle intelligible and persuasive from the perspective of our opponents Dialogical argumentation also requires that we solicit the responses of our interlocutors to our own objections and arguments Again as a general rule if you do not know what your opponent would say in reply to your arguments you do not have good reason for holding your own beliefs None of this can be done perfectly completely or algorithmically On most vexing questions we will never persuade most of our opponents The most we can hope is that we have responded to their objections in ways that oughtto convince them But we can never be certain that we have done so since there is no definitive test of when they ought to be convinced Likewise there is no test to be sure that we have adequately understood alternative positions And we cannot call into question everything all the time or consider every possible alternative position Consequently it requires zhi wisdom to know when systematic understanding and dialogic argumentation have reached a tentative conclusion And then it requires zhi again to know when dialogue should be reopened D Virtue and Procedural Justice As l have presented it Ruism is a form of virtue ethics Virtue ethics is an ethical approach for individuals but it also has political implications Minimally if any form of virtue ethics is right it seems that it is a requirement of any legitimate political system that it make it at least possible to become virtuous As John Dewey observed it is self contradictory to hold that there is no virtue without thought and choice but then to deny most men access to the social conditions necessary for these things13 More substantially we might see it as an obligation of a political system to promote virtue However this obligation is I think more likely to need to be balanced against other desiderata of a political system For example it might very well be that encouraging virtue is in tension with the demand to avoid too extreme an epistemological optimism Perhaps encouraging virtue to a certain high degree is warranted only if we are quite certain that doing so will not discourage alternative ways of life that might be for all we know virtuous For example many people in our society act as if they were quite certain that promoting at the least some version of Christianity is an ethical obligation of government On the other hand many intellectuals in academia seem to take it as one of their primary educational tasks to disabuse their students of the last shred of religious belief or at least Christian belief Both of these groups have far more confidence in their access to ethical truth than do Beyond permitting or encouraging virtue Ruism in common with some versions of Western virtue ethics envisions a constitutive role for virtue in governing Kongzi hoped to train virtuous individuals who could be trusted with government power including a very wide degree of discretionary authority To be sure Ruist Kings and their ministers are limited in their actions by ritual and tradition But the whole point of being particularistic is that these constraints are flexible depending on the specific circumstances The attraction of this political particularism is of course that a genuinely virtuous and wise government official has the authority needed to achieve the 3 Quoted in Westbrook John Dewey and American Democracy good The danger is that those with lessthansagacious virtue may misuse their authority either by giving in to the temptations of bribes of wealth power or favors or through simple error the wellintentioned judge assuming that he need not investigate any further because the answer seems quite clear to him Wang Yangming is reported to have ordered summary executions of prisoners relying upon his li ng zhf Ei U his innate perfect ethical understanding to tell him whether they were guilty14 Did he decide correctly Perhaps I have enough faith in Wang that I assume that in such cases he only let his liang zhi operate on evidence of some kind But were I one of those prisoners I would have wished for more What more Procedural justice obtains when there are public rules that are followed consistently Procedural justice is an institutional good that has been underemphasized by Ruists historically Obviously some procedural rules are worse than nothing No matter how consistent one is in applying quottrial by ordealquot to suspected witches it39s a bad idea But many of the procedures surrounding due process in US courts or how to resolve a Constitutional crisis over votecounting or even how to get a driver39s license provide individuals with some protection against the arbitrary use of authority It is easy to underestimate the value of procedural justice by pointing out that it not infrequently fails in one of two ways Sometimes procedural justice fails when precisely because it is followed it fails to achieve either efficiency or substantive justice or both Anyone who has had significant dealings with either their state department of motor vehicles or the post office is aware that the problem is typically not that procedural justice is flouted but that it is followed to the point of madness In addition we can all cite our own personal favorite case of the guilty going free or the innocent being punished despite procedural justice Ruists would also emphasize another way in which procedural justice can fail procedural justice cannot exist without at least minimally virtuous individuals to 4 Ivanhoe Ethics in the Confucian Tradition The phrase liang zhi comes from Mengzi 7A15 For Mengzi himself it refers to one39s sprouts of virtue which must be cultivated to grow into fully developed virtues for Wang it refers to the complete and perfectlyformed goodness that all of us possess from birth but which is obscured in most of us by selfish desires implement it Rules against taking bribes are meaningless unless enough people have the yf that makes them ashamed to be bribed or ashamed to not enforce the punishments when others violate the rules Furthermore a Ruist who had read Wittgenstein would note that a rule does not tell you how or when to apply it15 No matter how much case law there is and no matter how specific the statutes a judge needs zhi to know when and when not to sustain an objection or exclude evidence But there is an important difference between minimal and sagacious virtue As Han Feizi pointed out in his criticism of Ruism government cannot rely on having sages since they are so rare And my own experience with academic politics where as the saying goes the battles are so ruthless because the stakes are so insignificant has given me increased appreciation for the protection given by clear rules that people are just too ashamed to violate This is why I have entitled this subsection quotvirtue and procedural justicequot For while I think Ruism gives too little emphasis to procedural justice and places too much confidence in the discretionary authority of the supposedly virtuous I think it is right that procedural justice requires at least minimal virtue to operate16 In summary in order to be credible or plausible for us today Ruism must adapt to become compatible with democracy and modern science as the quotNew Confuciansquot have stressed as well as with pluralism feminism epistemological fallibalism and procedural justice Part III The Road Ahead l have discussed some of the ways that Ruism should learn from the heritage of the Enlightenment But is Ruism also inspiring for us today What does Ruism have to 5 David Wong does in fact make just this point See Wong quotFieasonsquot 5 I do not mean to suggest that the Fiuist tradition has been completely ignorant of procedural justice One of the achievements of Han Dynasty philosophy was to synthesize Fiuism with elements of quotLegalistquot thought including a more procedural approach to government This was philosophically brilliant historically significant and on the whole socially beneficial offer modernity This depends on which Ruist philosopher we are talking about of course Here I shall limit myself to a discussion of the possible contributions of a Neo Mengzian virtue ethics A Human Nature and SelfCultivation 1 Mengzian Naturalism Mengzi39s conception of human nature and self cultivation especially when it is distinguished from the later School of the Way interpretations of it is both plausible and challenging The notion that we have innate but incipient tendencies toward virtue and that these tendencies have a natural pattern of development is perhaps unique As I shall explore more below Mengzi39s position can also be defended from some of the objections that have been levelled against it As Maclntyre points out the tendency among modern Western ethical views is to dispense with the notion of potentiality17 Human nature is reduced to mere uncultivated actuality Consequently modern Western ethical views from Hobbes to Moore and beyond emphasize discovery models of selfcultivation Ironically this makes them similar if only in a bare structural way to the School of the Way approaches The earlier virtue ethics approaches of the West which Maclntyre champions do stress the transition from potentiality to actuality However Aristotle himself had like Xunzi an almost pure reformation model Human nature has no or nothing more than the most inchoate tendencies toward virtue We must be reshaped through habituation and ritual in Xunzi39s case so as to acquire virtuous feelings perceptions and dispositions Ironically those in the Western Platonistic tradition often have developmental aspects to their thought that give them some structural similarity to the Mengzian position For Plato and to some extent for Augustine and Aquinas becoming virtuous is just discovering something you already quotknowquot But this discovery occurs as a result of a developmental process and as in the 7 Maclntyre After Vin ue case of Mengzi one starts out from birth with the first stage in the process already completed However as the postmodernists would be quick to point out Platonists are quite different from Ruists of any variety For Platonists ethical cultivation is still discovery rather than development And Platonists always place a greater emphasis than do Ruists on theoretical activity both in ethical cultivation and in the life that one leads as a result of having been cultivated In contrast for Mengzi as we have seen ethical cultivation has a much more significant emphasis on carefully guiding and training the emotions Furthermore the general issue of how to become a better person has received little attention in AngloAmerican philosophy in the last century Philosophers have almost conceded this topic to psychologists and pop selfhelp gurus This is unfortunate both because philosophers had traditionally addressed this sort of question even in the West and because the particular argumentative and systematizing skills that philosophers are trained in might help enrich this discussion I hope we can see a revival of philosophical interest in techniques of ethical cultivation and selfcultivation and along with it discussions of human nature I also hope that along with this revival of discussion of ethical cultivation will come increased attention to the rhetoric of persuasion Contemporary AngloAmerican philosophers are often phenomenally good at tight logical argumentation They are also typically good at quotsilencingquot others in debate But silencing is not the same as persuading If we silence someone in debate we have produced an argument which he does not know how to answer But this does not entail that he has come to believe our conclusion Much less does it entail that he will be motivated to act differently On the other hand if we persuade someone she actually has come to accept the truth of our 18 conclusion There is of course no guarantee that persuasion will lead to action But 8 l have in mind here rational persuasion in which we get someone to accept our conclusion for good reasons I realize there are many complex and disputed issues regarding how to distinguish rational persuasion from other kinds I do not have the space to enter into these issues here I will limit myself to the observation that we all do in fact distinguish between cases of someone being persuaded justifiably action seems more likely than it does in cases in which persuasion has not occurred In general if we philosophers want to make a difference in the world we have to get better at persuading arguing in ways that actually have a chance at changing the minds of other This will involve such things as developing a better sense for how our arguments affect the emotions of others In other words how can we use cognitive extension to enable affective extension It will also involve actually listening to and understanding how most other people think Ruists like all intellectuals have sometimes ascended to rarified heights from which the voices of quotthe peoplequot are inaudible But Ruists have generally been quotpublic intellectualsquot and very successful ones for over two thousand years The difference between silencing and persuading is related to the difference between two styles of ethical reasoning A modern metaphor may help to illuminate the distinction l have in mind Contrast theoretical physics and engineering ln theoretical physics one attempts to arrive at highly general claims often through deductive proof Equations in theoretical physics give the general relations of force to mass and acceleration energy to mass gravity to mass and distance etc In contrast in engineering one is faced with a concrete problem and attempts to find a specific solution For example a civil engineer may be asked to design a bridge that spans a river She will need to know what kind of vehicles of what weight and number will use the bridge how many lanes of traffic the bridge is to accomodate how wide the river is what the budget and timetable for completing the bridge are etc She will then design a particular bridge given these particular constraints and these particular desiderata Now is ethical reasoning more like theoretical physics or more like engineering I suspect that many philosophers have had physics in the back of their minds as a paradigm for what methodology ethics should employ both should be general abstract and formulated in clear rules But thinking of ethical reasoning as like engineering may be more accurate If ethical reasoning is something that we actually employ in our lives then we are dealing with particular desiderata and particular constraints The focus on and their being persuaded unjustifiably This is so whether we can agree on a general account of what marks this distinction these particulars may give us solutions that are both more faithful to the context and more likely to persuade others The ethicsasengineering metaphor is multidimensional Cf Chapter 3 VD Another dimension of similarity is revealed when we consider the relationship between theoretical physics and engineering To a certain textent the two are independent Some results in physics have no engineering applications or their applications are not discovered for years And engineering in a broad sense existed long before physics as an autonmous discipline did However the two fields are related Concrete engineering problems how does one aim a canonball correctly stimulated the development of kinematics and dynamics in the early modern era Conversely engineers continually make use of results from physics in designing bridges lighting systems etc Similarly taking an ethicsasengineering approach does not rule out more abstract and general discussions of ethics completely For example I think much of my discussion of Mengzi in this chapter is fairly abstract But while I certainly may be mistaken in the wayin which I have carried out this discussion I do not think it is impossible in principle to have a fruitful general discussion of what the desirable features of a virtue ethics are As our earlier discussion of the limitations of Ruism suggests Mengzi39s position must be modified in certain ways His primary metaphor for ethical cultivation is the cultivation of plants Even within particular plant species there is some variation Because of conditions of sun shade wind and rain this flower grows tall in one direction while another flower is shorter and turns in another direction Still paradigmatic instances of plants do not differ too much One stalk of hearty healthy millet is pretty much like any other one And the sprout of a willow tree does not grow to become a mullberry tree no matter how we manipulate its environment or cultivate it So Mengzi39s sprout metaphor suggests that there is one proper course of human development and one proper goal This is an example of Ruist monism Instead we should come to think of human ethical cultivation in pluralistic terms One aspect of this pluralism is the recognition that our choices among good lives endow the things we choose with agentrelative value because they become our aspirations Had Lance Armstrong decided to retire from competitive cycling after he developed testicular cancer I do not think he would have been making an unworthy choice He could have led some other sort of worthwhile life But once he decided to return to competitive cycling and enter the Tour de France succeeding in his chosen way of life came to have special value precisely because it was his choice Good lives will be similar in certain respects Specifically each will manifest to some degree the Mengzian cardinal virtues But these manifestations can take quite different forms in different kinds of good lives I hope these claims will become somewhat clearer as I discuss the Mengzian cardinal virtues and conceptions of human flourishing below A2 Responses to Some Common Objections to Mengzi39s View Even when Mengzi39s position is modified in the direction of pluralism the appeal to human nature as a foundation for ethics invites several kinds of objections Obviously I cannot definitively refute the more powerful of these objections in the space of one chapter However I would like to sketch the beginnings of responses to these objections because it is often assumed that they are definitive and unanswerable I want to at the least motivate a reasonable doubt that the case against Mengzian naturalism has been proven Ob39ection Becoming virtuous cannot be natural because as Mengzi acknowledges it typically requires education and a cultural context conducive to it Something similar to this objection was formulated by X nzf EU 9 Response Natural characteristics and activities can require nurturing and education in order to develop even among nonhuman animals20 For example in order to realize its nature 19 See Xunzi s essay Human Nature Is Bad in Headings 20 Graham both notes this fact and anticipates the response I outline here Graham quotBackgroundquot pp 2829 It seems likeythat by Xunzi s time the notion of Xing had shifted in meaning so that Mengzi and Xunzi are at least in part arguing at crosspurposes But this does not entail that Mengzi and Xunzi have not significant disagreement over human nature See Van Norden Two Views of Human Agencyquot a cat must receive not only water and food of sufficient quantity and quality but also the nurturing of another cat usually its mother for at least two and usually closer to six months after birth in order to have a good chance of survival21 Furthermore cats are unlikely to learn how to hunt and eat their prey unless shown how to hunt by other cats22 80 for cats as for humans a healthy environment involves active nurturing and even education by other members of their species6 Consequently it is a misunderstanding to claim that a trait cannot be natural simply because it requires a certain level of nurturing or education in order for it to develop Ob39ection The effort to derive conclusions about what humans should do or what characteristics they ought to have from claims about human nature violates the factvalue distinction or the isought distinction Something like this seems to be one of Chad Hansen s major objection s to Mengzi s view Mencius confuses his implausiby sic specific moral psychology with normative theory 24 In standard philosophical terminology Mencius is trying to get an oughtfrom an is 5 Response Hume is often taken to have established the isought distinction in his A Treatise of Human Nature However it is controversial what this distinction is whether it even exists and even whether Hume himself wished to endorse it26 One way of explaining the 21 Morris Catwatching pp 9192 22 Although it is clear that there is an inborn killing pattern with kittens this pattern can be damaged by unnatural rearing conditions Conversely really efficient killers have to experience a kittenhood that exposes them to as much hunting and killing as possible Morris p 96 see also Morris pp 7778 23 For an intriguing discussion of whethercats also have cultures see Thomas Tribe especially pp 109118 2 Daoist Theory p 168 25 Daoist Theory p 180 emphasis in original 26 See Hume Treatise llli1 for the locus classicus Mackie presents a sympathetic account of Hume39s view but acknowledges that it quotleaves open the possibility that there should be objectively prescriptive moral truths quot Hume s p 63 Searle quotHowquot is a famous but controversial argument that the isought gap can be bridged Gewirth quotlsOughtquot reviews a variety of arguments that the gap can be bridged Porter Flecovery 4348 discusses some Thomistic perspectives on this issue distinction is that one cannot validly derive any conclusion that is evaluative from any set of premises that are completely nonevaluative ie have no evaluative content whatsoever27 Now Mengzi would have violated the distinction thus interpreted if he regarded the notion of human nature as completely nonevaluative but then attempted to draw evaluative conclusions from that conception of human nature However it seems clear that Mengzi regards the notion of human nature as already evaluative For Mengzi to say that X is an aspect of human nature is to say that it is good for humans to develop X But then Mengzi is not attempting to derive an evaluative conclusion from a set of purely descriptive premises Rather he is deriving some normative conclusions from others One might then present a followup objection that Mengzi ought to use only a valueneutral conception of human nature But is there such a conception James Wallace has argued that any quotstudy of living creatures as such including modern biology inevitably involves normative considerationsquot8 After all in describing and classifying animals we do not focus on injured specimens or even the statistically most common specimen since in many species the majority of newborn animals do not survive to adulthood And even if Wallace is wrong about biology Mengzi is not trying to do biology as we understand it On what grounds do we deny Mengzi in principle any appeal to a philosophical anthropology which includes a specifically normative conception of human nature Consequently even if there is a factvalue dichotomy Mengzi does not violate it because he is not attempting to deduce normative claims from nonnormative ones Ob39ection Mengzi s view of human nature is logically circular because a natural way of life is defined in terms of a thing s potential and healthy conditions of 27 The is ought distinction is too big an issue to address adequately here I shall content myself with observing that if we phrase the distinction as I did above then I believe that it is true However it then seems trivial Consider an analogy I cannot derive any conclusions about dolphins from any set of premises that make no reference to dolphins This does not show anything interesting about the ontological status of dolphins or about the semantic status of claims made about them 28 Wallace Vin ues p 18 development but a thing s potential and its healthy conditions of development are identified in terms of the resulting natural way of life AC Graham seems to reject Mengzi39s view for this reason9 Response This objection assumes that there is something suspect about adjusting theoretical concepts in light of one another However I subscribe to the now common view that we must accept some version of theoretical holism For example in physics the concepts of space time mass and energy are interrelated Consequently the shift from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics required a simultaneous adjustment of our understanding of each of these concepts in the light of the others A further holism is introduced if we reject as I think we should the myth of the given In other words our observations are nottheoretically innocent and incorrigible reports or pure senseexperience Rather all our observations are theoryladen made in terms of some background theoretical beliefs The Michelson Morely experiments were taken to provide empirical evidence for Special Relativity But even the most basic observations involved in these experiments eg the absence of interference patterns were comprehensible only against a background of theoretical beliefs Holism does not I think make our theories contentless and subjective We can evaluate our comparatively theoretical beliefs in the light of comparatively empirical evidence and some conceivable theoretical adjustments can be ruled out as ad hoc or otherwise implausible We also interpret and evaluate putative evidence in the light of our theoretical commitments30 Similarly the relationship between our understandings of a healthy environment 29 Cf Graham pp 1415 30 As Quine famously wrote it is folly to seek a boundary between synthetic statements which hold contingently on experience and analytic statements which hold come what may Any statement can be held true come what may if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system of our statements Even a statement very close to the experiential periphery of our system can be held true in the face of recalcitrant experience by pleading hallucination or by amending certain statements of the kind called logical laws Conversely by the same token no statement is immune to revision WVO Quine Two Dogmas of Empiricism in From a LogicalPoint of View 2nd rev ed Cambridge Harvard University Press 1980 p 43 and of human nature are holistic since we interpret each in the light of the other This does not mean that every adjustment of the two notions is equally plausible Furthermore empirical data can lead us to modify our understandings of these two concepts For example it was commonly believed at one time that homosexuality is the result of an abnormal childhood sexual development and that it was part of a larger fabric of psychological problems However evidence suggests no correlation between either of these factors and homosexuality These factors do not make it impossible to continue to hold that homosexuality is unnatural but they do make it considerably less plausible Consequently the mere fact that Mengzi39s key concepts are interdefined does not entail that they are empirically vacuous or viciously circular Ob39ection The notion of naturalness assumes a teleological worldview which is metaphysically implausible Response Mengzi s worldview is teleological in the sense that living things at least are intentionally created by Heaven to meet certain standards However an appeal to human nature does not require a worldview that is teleological in this particular way All that naturalness requires metaphysically is that there be for a given kind of living thing certain facts about its pattern of development to maturity its characteristics and activities when mature and the environmental conditions that allow for these Evolutionary theory could be used to provide a non teleological explanation for why these facts obtain In particular Mengzi s conception of human nature asserts that humans have incipient dispositions toward benevolence righteousness a sense of shame and some other virtues Biology offers three evolutionary explanations for why we find such ethical dispositions in humans and some other animals despite the fact that such inclinations often seem to reduce the likelihood of their owner s survival kin selection reciprocal altruism and group selection31 To understand the mechanism of kin selection suppose that I am disposed to share my resources with my own kin and to 31 Charles Darwin adumbrated all three of these explantions in his Descent of Man Part I Chapters 45 pp 100138 risk my life to protect them Even if these dispositions make it less likely that I will survive to pass on my genes these dispositions make it more likely that my kin will survive to pass on their genes and kin are genetically quite similar Consequently ethical dispositions end up being more likely to be transmitted Reciprocal altruism occurs when animals perform some services for one another under the following conditions there is a cost to the performer of the service but a benefit for the receiver and there is a timelag between performing the service and receiving it back oneself Reciprocal altruism can be adaptive if there is a sufficient degree of reliability that others will reciprocate It is possible for reciprocal altruism to occur among purely selfinterested animals However such an arrangement is highly unstable Effective longterm employment of reciprocal altruism is facilitated by dispositions such as honesty loyalty and benevolence Consequently insofar as reciprocal altruism increases a creature s chance of survival the dispositions that support it will be selected for32 Group altruism is the most controversial of the three mechanisms many biologists deny that it occurs However Darwin himself argued that a tribe among whom dispositions such as courage are comparatively more common is more likely to survive than its neighbors and hence the members of the tribe are more likely to pass on the genes that account for these dispositions Consequently we do not need a specifically teleological metaphysics in order to make sense of Mengzi39s view In fact while evolutionary biology does not entail the details of Mengzi39s position it does provide a nonteleological explanation of why humans could have quotsprouts of virtuequot Ob39ection The only kind of ethics that respects the dignity of a person is one that grounds all morality in a human39s free choices A person should of course make informed choices that take into account information about her own psychology as well as facts about the culture of which she is a part and its history and traditions However it is not only illegitimate but also morally objectionable to attempt to arrive at any 32 The classic paper on this topic is Trivers quotEvolutionquot conclusions about what one ought to do based on anything external to one39s own freely choosing will Some philosophers will make this point by saying that a morality that tries to judge human choices by anything external to that choice is quotheteronomousquot or that a person who tries to shift the responsibility for her choices to anything beyond herself is quotinauthenticquot I think that it is partly this intuition that leads Roger Ames to describe a position like the one find in Mengzi quotrepugnantquot33 Response Any ethics of human nature suggests that we are ethically bound by something other that our own freely choosing will so such an ethics must be heteronomous in the technical Kantian sense or inauthentic in the Sartean sense However many of us are unsatisfied with Kantian or existentialist foundations for ethics Charles Taylor has brilliantly documented the way in which the conception of a self that stresses quotautonomyquot and quotauthenticityquot is the product of a parochial historical progression in the West34 Taylor also gives powerful arguments that it is ultimately incoherent to suggest that moral value comes solely from free individual choice After all if nothing has value independently of our choices what difference does it make what we choose But it seems that it often does make a great deal of difference what we choose This is why our choices are often momentous35 At the very least I would say that an ethics of human nature like 33 Ames quotMenciusquot p 74 Ames does not use this as the basis for a criticism of Mengzi but instead as a motivation for reading Mengzi in an alternative way 34 Taylor Sources The fact that our current conceptions of quotautonomyquot and quotauthenticityquot and the ethical intuitions that go with them are very recent Western inventions should make us cautious about accepting any interpretation of native Chinese philosophythat like that of Hall and Ames appeals to similar intuitions 35 To illustrate our radical freedom to choose Sartre gives the example of young man in France under the Nazi occupation trying to decide whether to stay and care for his aged mother or go and join the Resistance Most of us would share Sartre39s intuition that there is no one quotrightquot choice in this situation And when I say quotmost of usquot I do not include most Fiuists who I think would almost certainlyfavor staying to care for one39s aged mother However as Taylor observes we can imagine a number of other choices eg leaving one39s mother to open a candy shop in Paris that would seem like simply wrong choices even if the young man freely chose them See Sartre quotExistentialism and Humanismquot and Taylor The Ethics of Authenticity Mengzi39s is a helpful corrective to the extreme emphasis on individual choice found in many modern Western moral views In addition there is a way in which an ethics of human nature can satisfy part of the intuition that may underly the view that heteronomy is bad Since an ethics of human nature is based on facts about our characteristics needs and processes of development as human beings it is not imposed on us as something alien to us as embodied natural creatures This will not satisfy a strict Kantian or his cousin the Sartean existentialist but it may help address one intuition that leads people down those paths Consequently Mengzi39s view is indeed inconsistent with a radical view of human autonomy but this is not necessarily a disadvantage of Mengzi39s view There is good reason for rejecting the sort of emphasis on radical autonomy that Mengzi39s view challenges Ob39ection Study of other cultures has demonstrated that there is no such thing as human nature or at least that there is insufficient content to human nature to provide a basis for any substantive ethical claims A similar line of argument to this was used by the Chinese Mohists prior to Mengzi36mquotquot quot quot m s quotVes e m rsasaquot quot 39 s quot ssquot ItLlraI aquot quot 39 gy39 Response Aquot 9 sa 9 mequot s often used in a facile way it is potentially much more powerful than the previous objections we have considered However anthropological opinion on this topic has vacillated Nineteenthcentury anthropology largely ignored the great variety in what appear to be healthy and successful ways of life in favor of Procrustean developmental patterns that located contemporary Western cultures at the apex and relegated other cultures and earlier stages in Western culture to lower rungs on the latter ln reaction against this twentiethcentury anthropology of which the work of Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict is paradigmatic has stressed crosscultural variety to the point of suggesting sometimes that human nature is 36 See Nivison quotWeakness of Willll p 83 and quotPhilosophical Voluntarismquot p 130 and the Mohist essay Impartial Caring in Headings especially pp 712 infinitely malleable37 However many of the paradigmatic studies that were used to support this claim have been shown to be unreliable including Mead s study of adolescent sexuality in Samoa Benedict s studies of Japanese culture Benjamin Whorf s study of the Hopi language and Branislaw Malinowski s supposed counterexample to the Oedipus Complex among the Trobriand38 As a result some have come to agree with anthropologist Donald E Brown who has made the admittedly controversial claim that whatever the motive may be for resisting the idea that there is a human nature whose features shape culture and society its intellectual foundations have all but collapsed 39 Equally controversial is Brown s claim that there is some evidence for a list of universal or nearly universal characteristics of human societies the use of narrative and poetry facial expressions such as smiling and crying marriage in some form incest taboos especially against motherson incest rituals of some form to mourn the dead rules of some kind regulating theft and the use of violence and others40 More recently psychologist Paul Ekman has concluded on the basis of decades of empirical research that the facial expressions of seven emotions are universal across cultures anger happiness fear surprise disgust sadness and contempt41 Interestingly the Record of Rites gives a list of seven quotpassionsquot four of which clearly overlap Ekman39s list happiness anger sadness fear love dislike and desire I think we should walk away from this controversy with at least two lessons 37 See Mead Coming Benedict Patterns Brown Human chapter 3 38 See Freeman Margaret Malotki Hopi Spiro Oedipus Brown Human chapter 1 39 Brown Human p 144 40 Brown Human chapter 6 41 Ekman Emotions 2 Liji quotLi yunquot Interestingly the term quotdislikequot w can coverthe senses of quotdisgustquot and quotcontemptquot In addition quotdesirequot does not make Ekman39s list but this is because the Chinese notion of quotpassionsquot is a broader concept than that of quotemotionsquot Finally I find it hard to believe that quotlovequot is not a universal human emotion So there is perhaps even more correspondence between the two lists than there seems at first First anthropological studies are relevant to the issue of whether there is a human nature and if so what its content might be so it would be irresponsible for those working on ethics of human nature to ignore them Second it is premature to conclude that the nonexistence of human nature has been demonstrated the controversy is very much a live one Let me stress again that I know I have not definitively refuted any of these objections to Mengzi39s conception of human nature much less answered every possible objection However I hope I have at least made clear that a NeoMengzian model of human nature and a developmental picture of ethical cultivation are defensible and worthy of further philosophical exploration and elaboration MB The Virtues In the West Plato provided one of the most influential lists of the cardinal virtues wisdom justice courage and moderation Aristotle divided virtues into two broad classes intellectual virtues and virtues of character However he gave a longer and potentially openended list of virtues Aquinas adopts Plato39s list of four virtues but specifies that these are the four natural virtues which must be supplemented with the theological virtues of faith hope and love Aquinas then skilfully explains how other virtues are quotpartsquot of one of these cardinal virtues There are two principles by which these thinkers assure the completeness of their lists On the one hand they tie specific virtues to human psychological faculties This is perhaps most prominent in Plato for whom wisdom is the excellence of the rational part of the soul courage is the excellence of the quot39spiritedquot part of the soul moderation is the excellence of the appetitive part of the soul and justice is the excellence achieved when no part of the soul tries to do the job of any of the other parts The other principle for assuring the completeness of the lists is dividing human life into spheres of action and experience Aristotle emphasizes this to a greater degree than does Plato So courage is the excellence that deals with situations in which significant goods are at risk especially one39s life while quothumilityquot is the excellence that deals with situations in which social honors are at stake For Plato these would both count as quotcouragequot since they are excellences of the spirited part of the soul Nonetheless it would be an oversimplification to claim that Plato only uses the psychological faculty principle while Aristotle only uses the spheres of experience principle They and Aquinas appeal to both principles but to varying extents The flexibility and power of Plato39s list of cardinal virtues especially as expanded by Aquinas has been welldemonstrated However I think that the Mengzian list of cardinal virtues is also illuminating and is more intuitive in some ways In the case of both Mengzi and his School of the Way followers the division of virtues is almost exclusively in terms of spheres of experience Mengzi does mark a division among human faculties On the one hand there is the heart the quotgreater partquot of oneself which is the seat of our cognitive emotions on the other hand there are the sense organs the quotlesser partquot of oneself which are the seat of our physical desires 6A15 Mengzi could have associated virtues with the proper fuctioning of each of these faculties but I see no evidence at all that he or his School of the Way followers did so Instead the Mengzian virtues are grouped according to the aspects of human action and experience to which they correspond I will now sketch how I think this correspondence works I think I am being faithful to Mengzi39s general intutions but I should stress that I am doing historical retrieval here rather than historical exegesis So I claim license to go beyond what Mengzi says explicitly Humans are beings that are social distinct expressive and temporal 1 ln saying that humans are social I mean that living well for humans involves to at least some degree participation in a community Consequently one sphere of human experience is assisting others 2 While humans are social they are also distinctfrom one another Ruists since Kongzi himself have acknowledged the commonsense intuition that at some level Yan Hui is not Zigong ln saying this I do not assume anything like radical individualism Part of a person39s distinction from others is provided by her standing in particular relationships with other people part of myidentity is that I am the son of CRVN for example 80 another sphere of human experience is having an identity as distinct from society 3 The kind of sociality that humans have requires the expression and appreciation of meaning through symbols and beauty In every human society we know of and in every human society we can concretely imagine people use gestures expressions body language and objects in addition to spoken language in order to convey meaning and facilitate interactions of various kinds This is especially although not exclusively true in those interactions that distinguish people from others In addition the kinds of interactions humans have can be done skilfully hence beautifully or clumsily hence distastefully43 Thus one sphere of human experience is the production and appreciation of the beautiful 4 Finally humans live in a world that is temporal it undergoes change The results of this change are sometimes predictable I will almost certainly lose in thisjiujitsu match because I have lost every single other time But even predictable change can require great skill We know usually whether the launch of a satellite into orbit will be successful but the prediction of this requires immense intellectual talent and training Other times we cannot predict the results of change with certainty so we must learn to think and act as best we can under conditions of uncertain change The Yijing seems tailormade for advising us in such openended situations 80 one sphere of human experience is change and the difficulty of predicting the results of change Each of these four spheres of human activity and experience corresponds to one of the four Mengzian cardinal virtues Sphere of Experience Virtue Chinese Name and Virtue Intuitive Standard English Label English Name 3 The movie Four Weddings anda Funeralillustrates the British ritual of the best man giving a wedding speech that is intended to be witty risque and to cast the groom in an unfavorable light We see one character give a speech that achieves these goals skillfully and charmingly while another character fails at the same task in a clumsy and embarrassing way At one level we could say that the second character fails to properly assist others or that he violates the practices that allow people to maintain their individual identities and relationships Perhaps more plausibly we could saythat he fails to respond to the demands of the complex and fluid situation that he faces But this character knows what generally speaking is demanded of him in this situation and he is properly motivated to achieve it He simply is lacking in the skiIto gracefully navigate this social situation Assisting Others Benevolence r n 1 Benevolence Maintaining Distinction from Righteousness yi Integrity Others Producing and Appreciating Propriety HE Refinement Beauty Change and Uncertainty Wisdom zth Wisdom As we begin to think about the Mengzian virtues in this broader way the limitations of some of the standard English labels become especially evident so I have supplied some alternative intuitive English names for two of the virtues I would argue that there is not a unity of these virtues but an interdependence among them One person may have benevolence to a greater degree than she has integrity while in another person the opposite is the case This may have been true of Liu Xiahui and Bo Yi respectively However a deficiency in any one virtue limits the extent to which one can have the other virtues To pick an extreme case suppose we try to imagine someone who has a high degree of benevolence yet has only minimal wisdom This person might have a disposition to sympathize with the suffering of others and to act on this sympathy but without wisdom this disposition will fail to reliably result in effective assistance Simply put as wellintentioned as one may be how can he actually help anyone if he doesn39t know how to do so or even what would count as quothelping in this situationquot If your partner repeatedly misses work because of a drinking problem and you sympathize with her what should you do Cover up for her Ignore the problem Tell her she has to sober up or move out The wise person either knows the answer or at least knows that he doesn39t know the answer and knows how to start finding out the answer It is perhaps tempting to say that although the wellintentioned person would be more effective if he were also wise he could still be deemed to be benevolent just on the basis of his sympathy and good intentions But remember that virtues are excellences that enable one to lead a flourishing life The sympathetic but foolish person has a disposition that if it contributes to a flourishing life at all does so only accidentally and sporadically At this point one might object that realistically speaking no one is merely sympathetic without any trace of wisdom I think this is true but it just goes to show the interrelationship of the virtues Anything recognizable as sympathy would have to be accompanied by some degree of wisdom To the extent that sympathy was part of the excellence of benevolence to that extent it would incorporate wisdom because without wisdom it could not contribute to living a flourishing life So if we characterize them abstractly we can recognize Mengzi39s four cardinal virtues as characteristics that are necessary in any society In addition many aspects of Mengzi39s specific characterizations of the virtues seem to me at the very least worth taking seriously 1 Consider quotbenevolencequot we humans do generally have a very strong disposition toward agentrelative concern for our family members friends and members of our communities I do not think the Mohists present a good argument for overriding this disposition and I think Thomas Nagel among others diagnoses what is generally wrong with such arguments44 2 Regarding quotrighteousnessquot or quotintegrityquot Some have objected to a sense of shame as a motivation for virtuous action but I agree with Williams that any properly functioning virtuous agent would have a sense of shame45 3 The parts of Mengzian quotwisdomquot are acknowledged to be virtues in the Western traditions as well But I find it more intuitive to think of wisdom as a disposition that enables the proper functioning of the other virtues rather than being as it is for Aristotelians the master virtue itself 4 Finally as Joel Kupperman has pointed out Ruists have much to offer by drawing the attention of philosophers to living a life that is beautiful46 In addition I suggest that they are superior to some Western philosophers who have stressed beauty and style such as Nietzsche and Foucault because Ruists like Mengzi have a more robust and plausible conception of how beauty must fit in with other aspects of human life such as benevolence and integrity 4 Nagel View from Nowhere 5 Williams Shame and Necessity 5 Kupperman quotNaturalness Revisitedquot IIIC Human Flourishing 1 Ritual Ritual is a topic that has received almost no attention among secular philosophers in the West Yet as I noted in my discussion of Kongzi ritual is potentially a very powerful transformative social force In particular we and I now limit my discussion to the contemporary United States since that is the nonChinese culture I know best have a society increasingly marked by fragmentation and a lack of civility These are the sort of problems that ritual at its best can help address A wellfunctioning communal ritual gives people a sense of belonging to a larger group This both expresses and reinforces a commitment to working for the wellbeing of the group and to dealing with disagreement and conflict in a peaceful and respectful way But precisely because we are a pluralistic and comparatively ritualpoor society the preservation and development of rituals presents special problems In order for a ritual to function a significant number of people must participate in it and must feel about it in the right way If one creates a new ritual ex nihilo or even revives a long ignored ritual it will frequently fail to achieve these two conditions In addition even rituals that are successful for certain groups may become divisive in other ways If we allow schoolsponsored prayer it will alienate and offend one portion of the population But if we disallow it we alienate and offend another portion And both sides seIf righteously assume that the other is being narrowminded and unfairly foisting their beliefs on others One alternative is to aim to produce rituals for selfselected groups leaving participation voluntary Thus Christians celebrate Christmas Jews celebrate Hannukah and some AfricanAmericans celebrate Kwanzaa The problem is that by its very nature this approach fails to develop rituals that link diverse groups together Generally speaking the more a ritual is in Geertz39 formulation a model for and a model of the more effective it will be in shaping behavior But to the same extent the ritual wiII express values that will offend some segment of the population It is tempting to dismiss the problem as intractable and conclude that rituals must always be of limited and perhaps everlessening significance in a society such as our own However I submit that one of the most significant problems in our society is a feeling of alienation Humans need to feel quotat homequot in their communities The failure to feel quotat homequot makes it difficult for people to sustain their commitments to social participation and to acting for the good of others But I do not have a principled solution to the problem of how to reconcile rituals with pluralism The most we can do is to recognize the power of rituals judge them on a case by case basis always keeping an eye on how rituals include or fail to include others and work for their creation and preservation when we feel it will be benefitial C2 Living Well Let39s review A fairly limited number of candidates for quotthe good lifequot have been proposed Aristotle dismissed as candidates for human flourishing the lives dedicated to wealth physical pleasure and social prestige Instead he considers as serious candidates the quotpractical lifequot of virtuous activity with others aimed at the good of the community and the quottheoretical lifequot of research and contemplation of general truths I pass by in respectful silence the mountain of literature that already exists on why there seems to be an unresolved tension between these two candidates in the Nicomachean Ethics and whether the two actually can be reconciled Aquinas agrees with Aristotle in rejecting wealth physical pleasure and social prestige and adds arguments against fame and bodily health He takes seriously the two candidates that Aristotle considers but ultimately argues that the human good can only be found in the beatific vision of God Artistic production has been deemphasized by those in the Aristotelian tradition For Aristotle himself it counts as a sort of poi sis quotmakingquot and hence is considered banausic and unfit for the highly cultivated However the Romantic tradition in the West has been more sympathetic stressing the value of the appreciation and production of painting sculpture music poetry and other imaginative literature One of the values of studying Chinese philosophy is that it can offer us alternative conceptions of flourishing ways of life As we have seen for Ruists theoretical understanding is a means to achieving other goods rather than an ultimate goal In addition Ruists have had great respect for artistic production and appreciation particularly in calligraphy painting music and poetic composition This is often because of the assumption that aesthetic appreciation can guide our emotions in appropriate ways Furthermore in later Ruist appreciation of art often merges with a quotDaoistquot reverence for the ethical value of skilful activity One of the most famous stories in the quotDaoistquot Zhuangzi is about Butcher Ding whose skilful dismembering of an ox carcass amazes a ruler When questioned Ding explains that he does not rely upon quotskillquot but instead follows the Way Through years of intensive practice Ding has learned to stop seeing with his eyes and to intuitively follow the natural structure of the ox39s body as he carves This kind of practice is remarkably effective But Zhuangzi seems to hold it up as an instance of a kind of activity which is valuable in itself and not just for its effects This became one of theinspirations for the Zen Buddhist ideal of skilful activity as overcoming the false dichotomy between self and the rest of the world Hence archery calligraphy the martial arts painting swordsmanship and flower arrangement all became activities that could potentially be stimuli to and manifestations of enlightenment The character Lin Daiyu in Dream of the Red Chamber expresses this view in regard to playing the Qin a sort of zither I realized that playing the Qin is a form of meditation and spiritual discipline handed down to us from the ancients47 The essence of the Qin is restraint It was created in ancient times to help man purify himself and lead a gentle and sober life to quell all wayward passions and to curb every riotous impulse When you play your Soul may now commune with the Divine and enter into that mysterious Union with the Way48 7 Cao Story of the Stone vol 4 p 152 chapter 86 8 Cao Story of the Stone vol 4 p 154 chapter 86 If we find something plausible in the meditative view of artistic activity which I do at least then we can broaden our list of flourishing lives to include the life of skillful activity Thus the skilful archer basketball player and actor take their place beside the astronomer the philosopher the senator and the dean49 Perhaps most distinctive of Ruism though is the view that there is great ethical value simply in life with one39s family and friends Passing the time of day with one39s friends playing with one39s children going on a picnic attending a religious service then having a leisurely brunch for Plato or Aristotle these are only means to some higher goal But why should they not be the goal Or at the very least why should social activities like these not be an indispensable part of living well l have been struck by how some philosophers I know in the grip of an Aristotelian or Platonistic conception of human flourishing assume without question that the best and most important part of human life is intense intellectual activity and philosophical debate They seem at a loss when ask them how their love for and life with their partner friends and family fits into this conception It is typically not that these more personal aspects of their life are unimportant to them it is that the only framework for thinking about human flourishing that they know relegates it to insignificance But in doing so it impoverishes their understanding of their lifeand of human lifein general The following passage probably fabricated long after the time of Kongzi unfortunately50 suggests the Ruist conception of human flourishing that I personally find 49 Keep in mind that for a Mengzian the exercise of skill should be in the context of a life that also manifests benevolence and righteousness Consequently the actor who skillfully portrays the humanitarian character but is cruel off the stage is leading a bad life by Mengzian standards Can Mengzi provide a compelling explanation of Whysuch a skilled but cruel actor should cultivate benevolence Can any virtue ethical account do so This is a challenging question that I hope to turn to in a later work 50 I think that Steven Van Zoeren is correct in suggesting that the earliest sections of the Anaeats quotare characterized by sayings with no narrative context at all or relatively simple contextsquot while in later passages quotwe find narratives of complexity and sophisticationquot Poetry and Personality p 23 This passage Anaeats 1126 seems to be one of those passages that shows great narrative sophistication ibid pp 603 It is clearly though a tremendously interesting passage which is worth at least an most attractive and inspiring Zilu Zengxi Ranyou and Zihua were seated in attendance The Master said to them I am older than any of you but do not feel reluctant to speak your minds on that account You are all in the habit of complaining I am not appreciated Well if someone were to appreciate your talents and give you employment how would you then go about things Zilu spoke up immediately If I were given charge of a state that could field a thousand chariots even one hemmed in between powerful states suffering from armed invasions and afflicted by famine before three years were up I could infuse it with courage and a sense of what is right The Master smiled at him and then turned to Ranyou You Ranyouquot he said What would you do Ranyou answered If I were given charge of a state sixty or seventy or a least fifty or sixty square liin area before three years were up I would see that it was materially prosperous As for instructing the people in ritual practice and music this is a task that would have to await the arrival of a gentleman The Master then turned to Zihua You Zihua What would you do Zihua answered It is not that I am saying that I would actually be able to do so but my wish at least would be to devote myself to study I would like perhaps to serve as a minor functionary properly clad in ceremonial cap and gown in charge of ancestral temple events or diplomatic gatherings article or book chapter on its own Here only cite half of it to illustrate in a cursory way the Fiuist conception of human flourishing Me too The Master then turned to Zengxi You Zengxi What would you do Zengxi stopped strumming upon the zither and as the last notes faded away he set the instrument aside and rose to his feet I would choose to do something quite different from any of the other three What harm is there in that the Master said Each of you is merely expressing your own aspirations Zengxi then said In the third month of spring once the spring garments have been completed I should like to assemble a company of five or six young men and six or seven boys to go bathe in the Yi River and enjoy the breeze upon the Rain Altar and then return singing to the Master s house The Master sighed deeply saying I am with Zengxi


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