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« New Year's Yi Jing Blogging: Be Careful of that Tiger's Tail! | Main | You Can't Legislate Filiality »

January 07, 2013


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Singer has made many contributions in the NYTs but I'm not sure he has defended the utilitarian indiference principle there.

If you read on the comments to the article, you would have find many disagree with Stephen Asma's position on universal love, some even quoted Mozi. I would agree more with one commenter on this question;

"I prefer Einstein to Asma, Cicero and co. “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space… Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”

As I see it Confucious is by no means the dominant sage of Chinese philosophy. He would rank below Laozi and Han Feizi. He had a view of past utopia and the Confucian scholar since has essentially frozen his doctrine to stasis.
After all Asma prefer nepotism which you have condemned as unConfucian. Looking at today's global turmoils, aconomic and natural ones, one wonder whether universal love for humanity is needed to solve those related problems if we are to survive as a specie.

Whether one is a Christian or a Confucian, one can always find quotes from the Bible or Analect to support their positions even if you are opposed to their philosophies. I find the quoting of sages unenlightening. As for the question of universal love I find that you misread it completely, for Confucius considered loyalty to emperor/state above loyalty to family/filial piety, and they above self love. To Asma we possess limited amount of empathy or love, thus we are like misers counted out coins of love to those close to us and rebut those farther out. This is the philosophy of present age, of individualism, of libertarianism, and of course Tea party. For what is closest to us but our self, self love above all. It consider tax as a burden and any sharing anathema, our jobs more important than global warming, our immediate wants more important than future generation. Very unConfucian if you ask me.

While I agree that simply quoting passages from classics can sometimes devolve into a parlor game, the statement, "...Confucius considered loyalty to emperor/state above loyalty to family/filial piety," is, on the face of it, untenable without some sort of textual support. Can you provide some references to demonstrate how this interpretation is rooted in pre-Qin texts?

Although Mencius put love bewteen father and son before justice between ruler and subject, Zhongyong reverse the order. History is full of stories of conflict between filial piety and obligation to law, most resolve the irreconcilable conflict by commiting suicide. Confucians since Han dynasty have put Zhung/loyality over Hsia/filial piety. Myth has Yu who became emperor by engineering water diversion for flood control passing his house but never stopped to see his wife and son put priority of flood control/common good over family and personal interests.

As you likely know, Zhongyoung is generally understood to have been produced in the Han Dynasty, i.e. after Qin, a time when Confucian ideas are being appropriated by the state, and melded into a statecraft that includes Legalism (儒表法里). It is not surprising that then we will find interpretations which try to reverse the sense of the Analects and Mencius for purposes of the state. Thus, I think the characterization that I have "misread it completely" is itself based on an incomplete consideration of the political context of the classics.

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