Human Nature, Ritual, and History

Human Nature, Ritual, and History: Studies in Xunzi and Chinese Philosophy (Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, Volume 43)

Antonio S. Cua
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  • Book Info
    Human Nature, Ritual, and History
    Book Description:

    In this volume, distinguished philosopher Antonio S. Cua offers a collection of original studies on Xunzi, a leading classical Confucian thinker, and on other aspects of Chinese philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1597-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgment of Sources of Previously Published Materials
    (pp. xi-xii)
    • Essay 1 Philosophy of Human Nature (1976)
      (pp. 3-38)

      The topic of human nature has been an enduring preoccupation of major thinkers of both East and West. The underlying question pertaining to man’s nature, far from being an unambiguous question, appears to be flexible and responsive enough to accommodate varying and conflicting pictures of human life as answers to a common question. We are here confronted, perhaps, with a fluid notion rather than a determinate concept that admits of a neutral and precise formulation. The various constructions of the notion reflect, as it were, different moral visions or ideals of man in relation to others and to the cosmic...

    • Essay 2 Dimensions of Li (Propriety) (1978)
      (pp. 39-72)

      In recent years, the notion of li has received considerable philosophical attention.¹ Like ren (humanity) and yi (righteousness), li is a rich and fluid notion with a long history of evolution.² A Chinese brought up in Confucian morality might have acquired a fair comprehension of the uses and import of li in different circumstances of his life. A philosophical characterization and appreciation of the significance of this notion for contemporary moral theory and practice is a difficult task, but a welcome challenge. In general, the notion of li refers to a normative domain consisting of rites, ceremonies, decorum, courtesy, and...

    • Essay 3 Ethical Uses of the Past (1984)
      (pp. 73-98)

      The ethical use of the distinction between the past (gu) and the present (jin), of historical characters, situations, and events, is a familiar and prominent feature of early Confucianism. Henceforth, I shall refer to this feature as “the use of the historical appeal.” To a Western philosopher, the use of this appeal, instead of deductive argument, is highly perplexing and problematic. For most Chinese thinkers, “philosophy meant a kind of wisdom that is necessary for the conduct of life, particularly the conduct of government,” and “it sought to exercise persuasive power on princes, and . . . resorted, not to...

    • Essay 4 The Problem of Conceptual Unity (1984)
      (pp. 99-120)

      It is reported that Confucius once said to Zengzi, “My way has one thread that runs through it (Wudao yi yi guanzhi).”¹ The “way” (dao) here, it is widely acknowledged, refers to Confucius’s teachings. Zengzi construed this dao to consist of zhong (conscientiousness) and shu (consideration for others). There are at least two reasons for not accepting Zengzi’s interpretation as a guide to Confucius’s intention. In the first place, the interpretation, as it stands, is uninformative. We are not told anything about the object or goal of zhong. While it is unproblematic to construe shu as pertaining to the adoption...

    • Essay 5 The Unity of Virtues (1985)
      (pp. 121-137)

      One major legacy of the Lunyu (The Analects) is a complex ethical vocabulary for the assessment of personal character and conduct. In addition to terms for central notions of virtue (de), i.e., ren (humanity), li (propriety), and yi (rightness), the vocabulary contains a large number of terms for particular virtues, such as filiality, trustworthiness, loyalty, considerateness, uprightness, courage, respectfulness, friendliness, and integrity. While it appears unproblematic to construe terms for particular virtues as varying expressions, in appropriate contexts, of the concern for ren, li, and yi, there is a problem of the conceptual unity of these central notions of virtue....

    • Essay 6 The Possibility of Ethical Knowledge (1989)
      (pp. 138-159)

      This essay is an inquiry into the nature and possibility of knowing dao in the Xunzi. First, I offer a reconstruction of Xunzi’s conception of dao as the object of ideal ethical knowledge, and on this basis sketch a Confucian thesis on ethical judgments, for convenience labeled “practical coherentism” (section 1). This thesis is elaborated by way of focusing on the role of mind (xin), that is to say, the nature and method of deliberation requisite to the formation of sound ethical judgments (section 2). I conclude this study with suggestions for dealing with some problems in developing and defending...

    • Essay 7 The Ethical and the Religious Dimensions of Li (Propriety) (1999)
      (pp. 160-190)

      This essay presents a Confucian perspective on li. My main concern is the question, how can a Confucian moral philosopher move from the ethical to the religious dimension of li? The first section provides an analysis of the scope, evolution, and functions of li. The second section deals with the inner aspect of the foundation of conduct, the motivational aspect of li-performance. The third section discusses the outer aspect of the foundation of li, focusing on Xunzi’s vision of the triad of tian, earth, and humanity (can tiandi), an interpretation of his use of tian, shen, and shenming as expressing...

    • Essay 8 Ethical Significance of Shame: Insights of Aristotle and Xunzi (2002)
      (pp. 191-244)

      The principal aim of this paper is to offer a constructive interpretation of the Confucian conception of shame. We focus on Xunzi’s discussion as the locus classicus of the Confucian conception of shame as contrasted with honor. In order to show Xunzi’s conception as an articulation and development of the more inchoate attitudes of Confucius and Mencius, we make an excursion to Lunyu and Mengzi. Aristotle’s conception of shame is used as a sort of catalyst, an opening for appreciating Xunzi’s complementary insights. Notably, some scholars of Xunzi regard his achievement as comparable to that of Aristotle. Homer H. Dubs...

    • Essay 9 Practical Causation and Confucian Ethics (1974)
      (pp. 247-258)

      There are times in which a reflective moral agent experiences a state of perplexity over his status or existence within the world. This perplexity may be occasioned by his lack of understanding of the course of natural events in relation to his needs, desires, ideals, and aspirations. This experience may give rise to a more general attitude toward the world. In the manner described by Dewey, the agent “may find himself living in an aleatory world, his existence involves, to put it baldly, a gamble.” To him, “the world is a scene to risk; it is uncertain, unstable, uncannily unstable....

    • Essay 10 Moral Theory and the Quality of Life (1978)
      (pp. 259-280)

      In our world today we are faced with a difficult, multifaceted predicament regarding the character of our natural environment. Population growth; industrial waste; pollution of our soil, rivers, and lakes; extermination of wildlife pose a set of interrelated problems that have an important bearing on the quality of human life.¹ Thanks to the recent discussions on this ecological problem, we are beginning to realize that our “good earth” can no longer be viewed as a depository of unlimited resources to be irresponsibly exploited at the service of our increasing wants and expectations in improving our material well-being. If our present...

    • Essay 11 Confucian Vision and the Human Community (1980)
      (pp. 281-291)

      The conception of the unity and harmony of man and nature (tianren heyi) has been a pervasive feature in the history of Chinese philosophy. Of special interest to the inquiry concerning the relation between the individual and the community is the Confucian preoccupation with the problem of realizing this vision within human society. It is a concern with the possibility of transforming an existing social order, which already has established cultural tradition, into an order invested with the ethical ideal of ren, or humanity. In more concrete terms, ren is an ideal of the good life on the whole that...

    • Essay 12 Ethical Significance of Thomé H. Fang’s Philosophy (1987)
      (pp. 292-302)

      In The Chinese View of Life, Thomé H. Fang (Fang Dongmei) presents a highly original thesis on the unitary spirit of Chinese morality and moral thought.¹ A historian or textual scholar will probably find Fang’s exposition unpersuasive, but a philosopher sympathetic with hermeneutical method may find Fang’s thesis a promising experiment in creative hermeneutics, or in the familiar language of the Yijing, a deployment of shengsheng zhi li, i.e., an exhibition of the principle of creative vitality in philosophical reconstruction. However, from the analytical point of view, Fang’s thesis is interesting mainly in suggesting an integrative approach to classical Chinese...

    • Essay 13 Reason and Principle in Chinese Philosophy (1995)
      (pp. 303-316)

      Perhaps the best approach to the Chinese conception of reason is to focus on the concept of li, commonly translated as “principle,” “pattern,” or sometimes “reason.” While these translations in context are perhaps the best, explicating the uses of li is desirable and instructive for understanding some of the main problems of Chinese philosophy. Because there is no literal English equivalent, one cannot assume that li has a single, easily comprehensible use in Chinese discourse. This assumption is especially problematic in appreciating the basic concerns of Confucian ethics. A closer examination of the uses of li and “principle” reveals a...

    • Essay 14 Emergence of the History of Chinese Philosophy (1999)
      (pp. 317-347)

      This essay is an inquiry into the constructive challenge of Western philosophy to the development of the history of Chinese philosophy. The discussion focuses on the methodological aspects of three major works that appeared from 1919 to 1982. These works are remarkable, not only for illustrating the different Western philosophical assumptions and backgrounds of these writers, but also for their importance in Chinese philosophical education and discourse. As preliminaries, in section 1, I consider the idea of Chinese philosophy and samples of the critical-historical spirit of ancient Chinese thought. In section 2, I turn to three major works on the...

    • Essay 15 Xin (Mind/Heart) and Moral Failure: Notes on an Aspect of Mencius’s Moral Psychology (1999)
      (pp. 348-370)

      The following is a study of an aspect of Mencius’s moral psychology. The first section deals with xin (mind-heart) as the seat of the “four beginnings” (siduan) of the four Confucian cardinal virtues, e.g., ren (benevolence, human-heartedness), yi (rightness, righteousness), li (rites, ritual propriety), and zhi (wisdom). This discussion presupposes the vision of the Confucian dao, an ethical ideal of the unity and harmony of Heaven and humanity (tianren heyi). The second section examines Mencius’s account of moral failure with a Xunzian supplement. The essay concludes with some remarks on Mencius’s contributions to Confucian ethical theory.

      In an earlier paper,...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 371-388)
  8. Index of Names
    (pp. 389-394)
  9. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 395-400)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 401-406)