Mohism and Motivation

(Originally posted 1 Nov 2008, revised 14 Mar 2010)

The preprint linked below is an extensively revised version of a paper on motivation in Mohist thought first posted here in November 2008.

I argue that, contrary to the prevailing consensus that the Mohists have a thin, crude moral psychology, in fact their approach to motivation is rich, nuanced, and highly plausible. The paper gives a detailed account of the Mohist conception of action and motivation, which in my view is widely misunderstood. The footnotes take issue with a long list of familiar claims about Mohist moral psychology that I contend are unsupportable.

The paper will be included in Ethics in Early China (HKU Press, 2011), an anthology I am co-editing with Dan Robins and Timothy O’Leary. It also amounts to a condensed version of one chapter of my forthcoming book The Philosophy of the Mozi.

PDF file here.