Tue 18 Feb 2014
The following paper is forthcoming in a special edition of Philosophical Topics on comparative studies of happiness, edited by my colleagues Edoardo Zamuner and Timothy O'Leary.
I set out to write a general explanation of why happiness is not an especially prominent topic in early Chinese thought but quickly concluded the topic was much too ambitious for a single journal article. I found that most of my points could be made more effectively through a careful study of a single ethical system. The result is a detailed, and I hope informative, exploration of Xunzi's ethics with a relatively unusual orientation, offering an interesting interpretive twist on the grounds for Xunzi's views.
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Happiness in Classical Confucianism: Xunzi
This essay contributes to comparative inquiry concerning happiness through a case study of Xunzi, a major Confucian thinker. Xunzi's ethical theory presents values and norms that fill the role of happiness indirectly, through the ideal figure of the gentleman. However, his working conception of psychological happiness and individual well-being turns on aesthetic values that go beyond the universal prudential values to which his ethical theory appeals. Hence I argue that his implicit conception of happiness actually revolves around a way of life grounded in what Susan Wolf has called ‘reasons of love.’
Download full draft of the paper here.
Mon 26 Aug 2013
In the 2013–2014 academic year, I will be teaching the following:
PHIL2470 Moral Psychology in the Chinese Tradition (update: Tuesdays 10:30-12:20, CPD 2.45)
PHIL2443 Xunzi (update: Tuesdays 13:30–15:20, CPD 2.45)
PHIL1034 Ethics and Politics, East and West (update: Mondays 12:30-14:20, LE1—note that this is a different time from 2012-2013)
Wed 21 Aug 2013
This summer I finally completed the revised version of the companion paper to my 2011 article "Emotion and Agency in Zhuangzi." The new paper is entitled "Wandering the Way: A Eudaimonistic Approach to the Zhuangzi."
The more recently completed paper was actually written first and is cited in the 2011 article and a few other places. An earlier version was presented at a conference in 2009, but because plans for an anthology based on the conference fell through, there was a long delay before I finally submitted the paper to a journal. It is now forthcoming in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.
The new paper uses textual materials from the Zhuangzi to construct a "eudaimonistic" Zhuangist ethical ideal. By "eudaimonistic" here, I refer to a conception of the good or ideal life that is grounded in a view of human flourishing or healthy functioning. I suggest that Zhuangist eudaimonism is distinct from virtue ethics, in that the conception of human flourishing involved does not center around virtues, as they are usually understood.
Wed 21 Aug 2013
In 2008 I published a preliminary study of conceptions of xu 虛 (emptiness, blankness, insubstantiality) in the Zhuangzi. I've recently completed a follow-up study tying the Zhuangzi concept of xu to Foucault's notion of "ethical work," the tasks or practices by which agents reshape themselves to become ethical adepts. Along the way I make a few remarks as well about how the concept of "flow" popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi might relate to Zhuangist ideals. There's still a lot more to say about the practical side of Zhuangist thought, but I hope this latest study helps to fill in a few more pieces of the puzzle.
An extended abstract and a preprint of the full paper can be found here.
Mon 1 Apr 2013
A revised version of my paper "Xunzi Versus Zhuangzi: Two Approaches to Death in Classical Chinese Thought" is now available in Frontiers of Philosophy in China 8.3 (2013), 410–427.
An updated preprint of the paper (May 2013) is available here.
This paper originated as a talk given at a research workshop entitled "Death: Philosophy, Therapy, Medicine on April 23, 2010. The workshop was sponsored by the "Philosophy, Therapy, and Medicine" research cluster of HKU's Centre for the Humanities and Medicine. The workshop was organized by my colleague Barbara Dalle Pezze.
An abstract follows. (Read more...)
Thu 21 Feb 2013
Another interesting conference coming up this spring is the International Conference on Nature and Value in Chinese and Western Philosophies to be held at Rutgers University on April 4–5, 2013. The conference is advertised as the Inaugural Rutgers Workshop on Chinese Philosophy, so let's hope it turns out to be the first in a series of stimulating events. Tao Jiang, Steve Angle, and Ruth Chang are the organizers. (Kudos to them, as organizing an event of this scope is always a lot of work.)
My talk will be on the plausibility of naturalistic approaches to ethics in the Chinese tradition and where they lead us in terms of a contemporary ethical standpoint. I argue that some version of Chinese naturalism may be defensible, but that the ethical position that emerges from critical reflection on Chinese naturalism doesn't look at all like conventional duty ethics (whether consequentialist or deontological) and sets aside core moral notions such as duty and obligation. Although the resulting view has eudaimonistic components, I don't think it can be appropriately classified as a form of virtue ethics, either.
A provisional abstract of the paper follows.
Thu 21 Feb 2013
Update: The full author's manuscript of "The Mohist Conception of Reality" is now available for download here.
The paper will appear in a forthcoming anthology on Chinese metaphysics edited by Chenyang Li, Franklin Perkins, and Alan Chan.
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I'll be speaking next month at a conference on metaphysics in the Chinese tradition at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The conference is "Conceptions of Reality: Metaphysics and Its Alternatives in Chinese Thought," scheduled for 29-30 Mar 2013. Much thanks to Prof. Chenyang Li for organizing this event. I'll be talking about how Mohist thought sets the agenda for much of early Chinese metaphysics. A preliminary abstract follows.
Thu 24 Jan 2013
My recent study of fundamental concepts and models of early Chinese logic and philosophy of language appears in History and Philosophy of Logic 34.1 (2013), 1–24, and is available here. An abstract follows.
Mon 10 Dec 2012
"Landscape, Travel, and a Daoist View of the 'Cosmic Question.'" This paper is to appear in the anthology Landscape and Travelling East and West: A Philosophical Journey, edited by Hans-Georg Moeller and Andrew Whitehead (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).
The paper is based on a talk I gave at “Landscape and Travelling—East and West." Académie du Midi, Alet Les Bain, France, May 28–June 1, 2012. The original abstract for the talk was the following.
Sun 30 Sep 2012
I've just completed an extensively revised draft of a longish (15,000 words) article on the philosophy of language and logic of the Xunzi. The article will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming Dao Companion to Xunzi edited by Eric Hutton. (Much thanks to Eric for taking on this massive project.)
Besides a detailed summary of Xunzian views on language and logic, the article tries to situate these views in the broader context of early Chinese thought. As a result, the discussion touches on a wide range of fields, obviously including philosophy of language and philosophy of logic but also philosophy of mind, epistemology, action theory, ethics, and political philosophy. In a way, the article can be read as a concise introduction to early Chinese "analytic" philosophy.
A central theme of the chapter is Xunzi's theory of "rectifying names" or "right names" (zheng ming 正名).
Also included is an extensive treatment of one of the most prominent interpretive controversies concerning Xunzi: whether his stance is that of a "realist," who holds that the dao (way) is predetermined by tian 天 ("heaven") or nature, or a "conventionalist" or "constructionist," who holds that the dao is a product of human conventions, among other factors. I argue for a conventionalist reading, while acknowledging a sense in which Xunzi can also be construed as a kind of weak realist.
To download a full-text preprint of the chapter, click here.