In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

picture. The Chinese president Xi Jinping 習近平 has been tightening his grip on all aspects of Chinese life, including academic research and certainly religion. While serving the state, many scholars have retained some space for disinterested research into religion. That space is now shrinking, even as temples and churches are being torn down and surveillance and control over all forms of life is becoming more pervasive . We need further reflection and analysis on where this trajectory is heading. RICHARD MADSEN University of California, San Diego YONG HUANG, Why Be Moral: Learning from the Neo-Confucian Cheng Brothers. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014. 357 pp. US$95 (hb). ISBN 978-1-4384-5291-3 In the monograph under review, Yong Huang constructs a timely and innovative intervention in contemporary philosophical ethics. This text is self-consciously philosophical and does not approach Neo-Confucianism from the perspective of religion. The book begins with a clear and careful introduction, focused mostly on the methodological approach structuring the text. Huang first describes some of the contemporary landscape of comparative philosophical methodology, articulating specifically what he and others see as the poles of possibility: a textual approach and a constructivist approach. While the textual approach is interested in the historical situation of the text, the author’s intent, the initial conditions for the text’s reception, and so on, the constructivist takes a creative approach to constructing a philosophy inspired by the classic text/tradition in question, but is not bound by historical considerations. He describes the innovation of his own approach as situated between these two poles, doing something that is methodologically unique: I shall identify a number of important and controversial moral issues in the West to see what representative positions on each of these issues are, what problems there may be with each of these positions, and whether and how the Cheng brothers can have anything, not only new but also better, to say on these issues (p. 10). He addresses this work to contemporary English-speaking philosophers who are not familiar with Chinese philosophy. Assuming that capturing their attention will require situating the Chinese ideas in a context meaningful to western philosophers, he structures the text in terms of central western philosophical problems in ethics along with responses to these problems from the Cheng brothers: Cheng Hao 程顥 (1032–1085) and Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033–1107). He specifically claims that he chose the particular problems addressed in this text because he sees the Cheng brothers ’ responses as philosophically superior to western philosophical responses in these cases. His hope is that English-speaking western philosophers will find this interesting and persuasive, indicating a value for them in Chinese philosophy generally and Neo-Confucianism specifically. Each of the seven chapters focus on a specific problem in western philosophical ethics, and how we might use the Cheng brothers’ philosophy to understand a BOOK REVIEWS 181 Neo-Confucian answer to these problems. Chapter 1 addresses the question “Why be moral?” and the problems this question has generated for thinkers such as F. H. Bradley, Plato, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant. The Cheng brothers’ answer to this question, as he presents it, is that one should be moral because it is a joy to be moral. In the second chapter, he focuses on the objection of self-centeredness, often directed at virtue ethics, which he takes Neo-Confucian thought to be. But, because the Cheng brothers understand one’s own virtue to be intrinsically connected to developing the virtues and character of others, he argues that they are not susceptible to this objection. Chapter 3 tackles the classic problem of weakness of will, and uses the Cheng brothers’ distinction between knowledge from the intellect and knowledge from the heart, along with the method of acquisition for these types of knowledge, to demonstrate that weakness of will is not possible for someone with knowledge from the heart. Chapter 4 details the Neo-Confucian idea of love with distinction, using this to think through how to become moral. Chapter 5 takes on the western liberal distinction between the personal and the political , arguing that this distinction is not found in Neo-Confucianism, and that they rather favor li 禮 (rules...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
2050-8999
Print ISSN
0737-769X
Pages
pp. 181-183
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.