Confucian Political Ethics

Confucian Political Ethics

Edited by DANIEL A. BELL
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sr79
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    Confucian Political Ethics
    Book Description:

    For much of the twentieth century, Confucianism was condemned by Westerners and East Asians alike as antithetical to modernity. Internationally renowned philosophers, historians, and social scientists argue otherwise inConfucian Political Ethics. They show how classical Confucian theory--with its emphasis on family ties, self-improvement, education, and the social good--is highly relevant to the most pressing dilemmas confronting us today.

    Drawing upon in-depth, cross-cultural dialogues, the contributors delve into the relationship of Confucian political ethics to contemporary social issues, exploring Confucian perspectives on civil society, government, territorial boundaries and boundaries of the human body and body politic, and ethical pluralism. They examine how Confucianism, often dismissed as backwardly patriarchal, can in fact find common ground with a range of contemporary feminist values and need not hinder gender equality. And they show how Confucian theories about war and peace were formulated in a context not so different from today's international system, and how they can help us achieve a more peaceful global community. This thought-provoking volume affirms the enduring relevance of Confucian moral and political thinking, and will stimulate important debate among policymakers, researchers, and students of politics, philosophy, applied ethics, and East Asian studies.

    The contributors are Daniel A. Bell, Joseph Chan, Sin Yee Chan, Chenyang Li, Richard Madsen, Ni Lexiong, Peter Nosco, Michael Nylan, Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Lee H. Yearley.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2866-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Daniel A. Bell
  4. PART ONE: STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY

    • Chapter One CONFUCIAN CONCEPTIONS OF CIVIL SOCIETY
      (pp. 3-19)
      Richard Madsen

      Classical Chinese intellectual traditions (which were not confined to China proper, but had enormous influence throughout East Asia, particularly in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam) did not even have words forcivil society, much less a theory of it. In Chinese, for instance, the word forsociety(shehui) is a neologism from the West, introduced into China via Japan in the late-nineteenth century.¹ Though based on classical Chinese characters, it was a new combination of characters, used in a new sense, to name a modern phenomenon—the development in Treaty Port cities of a separate societal sphere of life that could...

    • Chapter Two CONFUCIAN PERSPECTIVES ON CIVIL SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 20-45)
      Peter Nosco

      Let me begin by explaining what I mean when I use the termscivil societyandConfucianism, since both terms are used in widely varying ways. I regard civil society as inseparable from voluntary associations, but I view these voluntary associations somewhat more narrowly than do some students of the subject. That is to say, where some¹ would regard civil society as comprised of all voluntary and noncoercive social groups—excluding principally only the family and the state, participation in which cannot be regarded as, under ordinary circumstances, elective—I do not include public religious associations or affiliations, which for...

    • Chapter Three CIVIL SOCIETY, GOVERNMENT, AND CONFUCIANISM: A COMMENTARY
      (pp. 46-58)
      Henry Rosemont Jr.

      In these remarks I should like to both compliment and complement Peter Nosco’s “Confucian Perspectives on Civil Society and Government,” adding a few perspectives of my own.

      First, importantly, I believe Professor Nosco correctly reads the classical Confucian canon as describing the ultimate goal of human life as developing oneself most fully as a human being to become ajunzior, at the pinnacle of development, asheng ren, or sage. And he is equally incisive in suggesting that treading the path (dao) of this human way (ren dao) must ultimately be understood as areligiousquest, even though the...

  5. PART TWO: BOUNDARIES AND JUSTICE

    • Chapter Four TERRITORIAL BOUNDARIES AND CONFUCIANISM
      (pp. 61-84)
      Joseph Chan

      Territory is a political concept. It does not simply refer to a geographical space, but to “the land or district lying around a city or town and under its jurisdiction,” as theOxford English Dictionarydefines it. The concept thus designates a relationship between a community of politically organized people and their space. In more exact terms, a territory is a geographical space that is under some kind of jurisdiction or control of certain people organized in the form of a political community. Similarly, the concept of territorial boundary does not simply refer to geographical boundaries; it denotes, rather, the...

    • Chapter Five BOUNDARIES OF THE BODY AND BODY POLITIC IN EARLY CONFUCIAN THOUGHT
      (pp. 85-110)
      Michael Nylan

      Neither the concept nor the term “Confucianism” existed until Jesuit missionaries in China felt the need to invent a Chinese counterpart for Christianity in Europe. Summaries of early “Confucian” teachings on a given issue, then, necessarily overlook one distinction important to early thinkers in China, while foisting on readers a second distinction anachronistic for the period: The termRu, now employed to translate “Confucianism,” originally referred simply to “classicists,” and early thinkers were quite careful to distinguish between the set of professional “classicists” (Ru), many of whom employed the body of teachings they had mastered to further their own ambitions...

  6. PART THREE: ETHICAL PLURALISM

    • Chapter Six CONFUCIAN ATTITUDES TOWARD ETHICAL PLURALISM
      (pp. 113-138)
      Joseph Chan

      As a tradition of thought, Confucianism began life in China more than 2,500 years ago. Although its core ideas can be traced back to the teachings of Confucius (551–479 b.c.e.), this tradition was never thought to be wholly created by Confucius himself. In fact, the original Chinese term of Confucianism,Rujia, makes no reference at all to Confucius. Confucius himself stressed that he was not an inventor of any radically new vision of ethics or ideal society, but only a transmitter of the old tradition—the rites and social values developed in the early Zhou dynasty (traditionally, mid-eleventh century...

    • Chapter Seven TWO STRANDS OF CONFUCIANISM
      (pp. 139-144)
      Lee H. Yearley

      Professor Chan’s essay is rich, clear, appropriately critical, and (when warranted) appropriately appreciative. I aim in what follows only to sketch out a few separable but related comments that may aid our understanding of his essay and the important issues he treats. My comments are made, then, in what I take to be the spirit of a comment fromThe Analectsof Confucius on the subject of who can be taught: “If I give out one corner and they don’t come back with the other three corners, then I don’t go on.”

      Let me begin with a methodological consideration—or,...

  7. PART FOUR: CONTEMPORARY FEMINISM

    • Chapter Eight GENDER AND RELATIONSHIP ROLES IN THE ANALECTS AND THE MENCIUS
      (pp. 147-174)
      Sin Yee Chan

      It is indisputable that traditional Confucianism endorsed patriarchy. However, the explicit subordination of women in Confucianism only started with the Han Confucian Dong Zhongshu (179?–104? c.e.). Dong aligned the female with the cosmic force ofyinand the male withyang. More importantly, he converted the complementary and equal relationship ofyinandyangas portrayed in theBook of Changesto a hierarchical relationship ofyangpresiding overyin.¹ The Neo-Confucians exacerbated this trend. Zhu Xi (1130–1200 c.e.) commented, “Good and evil can be applied to describe yin and yang. It can also be applied to describe...

    • Chapter Nine THE CONFUCIAN CONCEPT OF REN AND THE FEMINIST ETHICS OF CARE: A COMPARATIVE STUDY
      (pp. 175-198)
      Chenyang Li

      The purpose of this essay is to compare two philosophies that have seldom been brought together, Confucianism and feminism. Specifically, I will compare the concept ofRen, the central concept of Confucian ethics, and the concept of care, the central concept of feminist care ethics.² Originated from a feudal society, Confucianism has been typically patriarchal. It has a long history, and in some areas of the world it is so deeply involved in people’s lives that it may properly be called a religion. Like most religions, Confucianism has given little recognition to women. Feminist care ethics is relatively new. As...

  8. PART FIVE: WAR AND PEACE

    • Chapter Ten THE IMPLICATIONS OF ANCIENT CHINESE MILITARY CULTURE FOR WORLD PEACE
      (pp. 201-225)
      Ni Lexiong

      Military affairs refer to social activities that aim to secure or protect self-interest by means of organized armed force. Culture generally refers to two areas: the process of being civilized from a beastly state, and to the material and spiritual products of this process. Military culture can be understood as the material and spiritual products arising from military activities during the process of civilization. Chinese military culture thus refers to the material and spiritual products arising from military activities during the civilizing process of the Chinese nation, with the Han Chinese at its core.

      The main characteristics of Chinese military...

    • Chapter Eleven JUST WAR AND CONFUCIANISM: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD
      (pp. 226-256)
      Daniel A. Bell

      It might seem odd that the most modern of technologies—the Internet—should be filled with references to ancient Confucian thinkers. Yet that is exactly what happened in response to the Bush administration’s wars in/against Afghanistan and Iraq.² The theories of Confucians from what subsequently became known as the Warring States era were downloaded from computer to computer in Chinese-speaking households for the purpose of evaluating U.S foreign policy. But what exactly did classical Confucians say regarding just and unjust warfare? And does it make sense to invoke their ideas in today’s vastly different political world? Why not simply stick...

  9. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 257-258)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 259-273)