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  • Reply to Robert Neville
  • Bryan W. Van Norden

I am pleased, once again, to see how much Professor Neville and I agree about. He opposes a functionalist approach to ritual that is "reductive." I do, too. He speaks of the "attractiveness of aesthetic meaning" of ritual, whereas Durkheim talks about the "collective effervescence" it produces through its symbolic functions.1 The genius of Durkheim and Xunzi was to see that ritual has a social function, but that it cannot perform this social function unless it is imbued by its participants with some other meaning. And as a Neo-Kantian, Durkheim realized that something can get its meaning from humans and their practices without being an ignorant superstition. I am still not sure that Peirce gives us anything beyond this.

Neville wonders whether I would agree "that you don't have to be a historian or sinologist to be a Confucian philosopher." Absolutely! In fact, I would like to see more people writing for the intellectual public who apply Confucian thought to issues of public life. However, there are minimal intellectual standards that one must meet to do this job well.2


1. - Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. Karen E. Fields (New York: Free Press, 1995), passim, but see especially pp. 383-387. See also Robert F. Campany, "Xunzi and Durkheim as Theorists of Ritual Practice" (cited in my original review).

2. - Professor Neville refers approvingly to Tu Wei-ming's Centrality and Commonality. I encourage readers to compare Tu's book to Daniel K. Gardner, Chu Hsi and the Ta-hsueh: Neo-Confucian Reflection on the Confucian Canon (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), a book on a similar topic.