Thursday, June 9, 2011

My follow up comment to Boylan

I've been reading The Stone for a couple of weeks now and they do have a few very good articles but a few really bad ones as well. I felt that Boylan's article completely misrepresented Confucius and responded to those misrepresentations in the comments section to Boylan's article. Boylan has written a follow up article which responds to those criticisms. However, in the follow up article, not only does he continue to get Confucius wrong, now he manages to misrepresent Aristotle. Here's his follow up article and my response:

I made one of the comments regarding the Golden Rule and Confucius. It is true that the rule is not a "driving foundational force behind Confucian ethics" but neither is it a driving foundational force in almost all of western non virtue theoretic oriented approaches. The main point is that such a rule is not at all conflicting with a Confucian ethics, which if we are to agree with you that such a rule is not community relative, seriously undermines your interpretation of Confucian ethics as inherently community relative.

I think you have also managed to get Aristotle wrong alone with Confucius in this response. I'm no expert on Aristotle but I had always thought that for Aristotle, there is an ordering outside of the community. That ordering is the telos of mankind. The ideal virtues of a man is different than those for a dog. Likewise, some men, are more or less virtuous not because they more or less conform to the values of their community but because their virtues conform to their natural telos, their functional end. The more eudemonia or flourishing the ordering of virtues produce for that person, the more his hierarchy of virtues conforms to its natural order.

Confucius's conception of human nature as being essentially the same for people across societies is also very problematic for a community relative interpretation of his ethical ideas. As the Analects 17.2 says, men are by nature the same, only through practice and living different lives do they come apart. Confucius says elsewhere that if a Sage lived amongst barbarians, the barbarians would voluntarily adopt the Sages ways (and thus becoming virtuous) and not the other way around. See Analects 13:19 and 15:5 for example. There are many other passages that suggests Confucius and Confucians after him believed that the roles people played in society had a natural and non community relative grounding. Additionally Confucius repeatedly offered praise to past heroes for overthrowing the conventions and values of their time. See Analects 2;23, for example. This heavily suggests that he believed that societies' conventions should conform to the way human beings are in some natural way (The Way) and its associated roles (and the values conducive to those roles), not the other way around.

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