6 Matching Annotations
  1. Nov 2017
    1. the secular spiritual transformation that comes from single-mindedness. When someone’s striving for a cherished goal becomes a life-mission, be it mastering a musical instrument or fine art, or putting heart and soul into building a business, or putting a public policy in place (a new drunk-driving ban or universal health care) they often come to embody their goal. “He is his company.” “She has become her music” (“and she writes the songs”).  Certainly in religion this is what is meant by terming someone holy or a living saint. This is also the secular goal of Confucian practice, to make li (behavioral ritual) yi (character). One accomplishes this transformation by complete and intense concentration of thoughts and behavior, and by “letting go” of one’s self-awareness or ego in the task. The work takes over and one becomes “possessed” by it, either in an uplifting way, or as in the need for exorcism, rehab, or at least “intervention” by friends and family. When morality sets the goal and means here, we term their culmination “moral exemplarism.”
  2. Oct 2017
    1. If this last view is correct, then moral education is an extremely subtle and context-sensitive task, more like teaching an appreciation for literature than teaching someone how to follow a set of rules. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Confucians such as Mengzi have emphasised the importance of studying poetry and history in educating a person’s moral sense.
    2. What is ethical deliberation like? Two paradigms have dominated modern Western accounts of moral reasoning: the application of rules, and the weighing of consequences. Both paradigms treat moral thinking as analogous to scientific reasoning, either in being law-like or in being quantitative. The former is most commonly associated with Kantian ethics and the latter with utilitarianism. However, Mengzi’s view of moral reasoning seems closer to that of Aristotle, who warned that it is wrong to seek the same level of precision in ethics that one expects in physics or mathematics. A rival philosopher asked Mengzi whether propriety requires that unmarried men and women not touch hands. When Mengzi acknowledged that it does, his interlocutor triumphantly asked: ‘If your sister-in-law were drowning, would you pull her out with your hand?!’ Mengzi’s opponent obviously thought that he had Mengzi trapped, but Mengzi replied: ‘Only a beast would not use his hand to pull out his sister-in-law. It is propriety that men and women not touch hands, but to pull her out when she is drowning is discretion.’ This is representative of Mengzi’s approach to ethics, which emphasises the cultivation of virtues that allow one to respond flexibly and appropriately to fluid and complex situations.
    3. ome aspects of Mengzi’s thought are no longer plausible for us today. For example, he believed that the precise details of the ritual practices and etiquette of his particular culture are hard-wired into our nature. However, the extent to which ancient Chinese debates over human nature parallel 20th-century psychological theories is striking. Skinnerian behaviourism is similar to Mozi’s view that human motivations are almost infinitely malleable, and so can be adjusted to be socially useful. Yang Zhu’s position finds its counterpart in the former fad for thinking that evolutionary theory dictates an egoistic conception of human nature.
    1. Meanwhile, David Schmitt, an evolutionary psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and founding director of the International Sexuality Description Project, reports that East Asian men and women from Confucian-diaspora countries exhibit worldwide lows in short-term mating behaviour  – that is, they have a particularly low appetite for sexual variety. Given that rates of cuckoldry are, by international standards, exceedingly low in China, the desire for chastity is likely inherited from the preferences of parents. Studies using the Parental Influence on Mate choice scale, developed by the evolutionary social psychologist Abraham Buunk of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, show that East Asian parents have almost twice the influence on their children’s mate choice as do Dutch and European Canadians.
    2. David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, found in a study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology in 1990 that Chinese men ranked chastity the third most desirable trait after health and desire for children. By contrast, African, Eastern European, Western European and South American groups ranked chastity at or near the bottom of 18 total preferences.