Sagehood: The Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy

Paperback | April 15, 2012

byStephen C. Angle

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Neo-Confucianism is the sophisticated revival of Confucian theorizing, responding to challenges from Buddhism and Daoism, which began around 1000 C.E. and came to dominate the Chinese intellectual scene for centuries thereafter. What would happen if we took Neo-Confucianism and its centralideal of sagehood seriously as contemporary philosophy? Sagehood represents supreme human virtue: a flawless, empathetic responsiveness to every situation in which one finds oneself. How could this be possible? How might one work toward such a state? According to Neo-Confucians, we should all striveto become sages, whether or not we ultimately achieve it. Taking neo-Confucianism seriously means to explore the ways that its theories of psychology, ethics, education, and politics engage with the views of contemporary philosophers. Angle's book is therefore both an exposition of Neo-Confucian philosophy and a sustained dialogue with many leading Westernthinkers - and especially with those philosophers leading the current renewal of interest in virtue ethics. The book's significance is two-fold: it argues for a new stage in the development of contemporary Confucian philosophy, and it demonstrates the value to Western philosophers of engaging withthe Neo-Confucian tradition.

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Neo-Confucianism is the sophisticated revival of Confucian theorizing, responding to challenges from Buddhism and Daoism, which began around 1000 C.E. and came to dominate the Chinese intellectual scene for centuries thereafter. What would happen if we took Neo-Confucianism and its centralideal of sagehood seriously as contemporary phi...

Stephen C. Angle is Professor of Philosophy and Eastern Studies at Wesleyan University.

other books by Stephen C. Angle

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:312 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:April 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199922233

ISBN - 13:9780199922239

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Table of Contents

DedicationPrefaceChronology and Dramatis PersonaePart I: Keywords1. Sheng/Sage1.1 "Sage" in the Confucian Tradition1.1.1 Historical Survey1.1.2 Neo-Confucianism1.1.3 Shengren versus Junzi1.2 Western Ideals1.2.1 Greece1.2.2 Contemporary Saints and Heroes1.3 Concerns About Sagehood1.3.1 Is Sagehood Realistic?1.3.2 Is Sagehood Desirable?2. Li/Coherence2.1 First Steps2.2 Subjective and Objective2.2.1 Nature and Subjectivity2.2.2 Settled Coherence and Objectivity2.3 Li and Qi2.4 One and Many2.5 Normativity and Creativity3. De/Virtue3.1 Virtue as a Bridge Concept3.2 Early "De"3.3 Neo-Confucian "De"3.4 Final Thoughts4. He/Harmony4.1 Early Classical Sources4.1.1 Complementary Differences4.1.2 Natural Patterns and Creativity4.2 The Zhongyong ("Doctrine of the Mean")4.3 Song Neo-Confucianism4.4 Wang Yangming: Summary and Initial Engagement4.4.1 Harmony, Coherence and One Body4.4.2 A Contemporary Example4.4.3 PoliticsPart II: Ethics and Psychology5. The Scope of Ethics: Dialogue with Slote and Murdoch5.1 Balance and Harmony in Slote's Agent-Based Ethics5.1.1 Caring, Humaneness (Ren), and Empathy5.1.2 Two Kinds of Balance5.1.3 The Motivation for Overall Balance5.1.4 Agent-Basing5.1.5 Reverence5.2 Murdoch on the Importance of a Transcendent Good5.2.1 Unity, Mystery, and Faith5.2.2 Selflessness5.3 Conclusion: The Scope of Ethics6. Challenging Harmony: Consistency, Conflicts, and the Status Quo6.1 Nussbaum and Stohr Against "Harmony"6.2 Imagination6.3 Maximization6.4 Residue6.4.1 Complicating the Picture6.4.2 Grief versus Regret6.5 Dimensions of Dilemmas6.6 Emotional Vanilla?6.6.1 Myers's Challenge6.6.2 Neo-Confucians on Anger6.6.3 Conclusions7. Sagely Ease and Ethical Perception7.1 Wang Yangming on Analects 2:4; the Centrality of "Commitment"7.1.1 Commitment in Classical Texts7.1.2 Commitment in Wang Yangming7.1.3 Deepening Our Commitment7.2 Connecting "Commitment" to "Unity of Knowledge and Action"7.3 Cua on commitment to realizing a harmonious world7.3.1 Active Moral Perception7.3.2 Creativity Revisited7.4 A Fuller Picture7.4.1 Murdoch on M and D7.4.2 Intrusions of the Self7.4.3 "True Vision Occasions Right Conduct"Part III: Education and Politics8. Learning to Look for Harmony8.1 Stages of Ethical Education8.1.1 Lesser Learning8.1.2 Establishing a Commitment8.1.3 Matur(ing) Commitment8.2. Practices of self-improvement8.2.1 Spiritual Exercises8.2.2 Ritual8.2.3 Reading8.2.4 Attention - First Steps8.2.5 Reverence8.2.6 Further Implications8.2.7 Reverence and Coherence8.2.8 Self-Restraint and Quiet Sitting8.2.9 Conclusion9. Engaging Practices9.1 The Nature of Commitments9.2 Stages and the Accessibility of Sagely Ideals9.3 Attention Revisited9.4 Imagination and Fantasy9.5 Dialogue9.6 Faith and Belief10. The Political Problem10.1 Introduction: The Trouble with Sagehood10.2 Sage and Politics in Song-Qing Neo-Confucianism10.2.1 Sage-King ideal10.2.2 Limits and Guidance10.2.3 Ritual10.2.4 Institutions10.2.5 Vaulting Ambition: Rulers Who Think They are Sages10.3 Confucian Soft Authoritarianism10.4 Separating the Moral from the Political?10.4.1 Yu Yingshi and Xu Fuguan10.4.2 Mou Zongsan11. Sages and Politics: A Way Forward11.1 Perfection and Fallibility11.2 Reverence and Ritual11.3 Perfectionism and Institutions11.3.1 Moderate Perfectionism11.3.2 Confucian State Perfectionism11.3.3 Specificity and Particularism11.4 Participation11.4.1 Three Arguments11.4.2 Implications and Objections11.5 Laws and Rights as a System of Second Resort11.5.1 Rule by Law11.5.2 Law and Morality11.5.3 A Confucian ApproachConclusion: The Future of Contemporary ConfucianismsBibliographyIndex LocorumGeneral Index

Editorial Reviews

"Throughout the book, Angle makes good use of recent empirical studies. His book is very accessible for readers with a wide variety of backgrounds. Philosophers with no background in Chinese thought will find challenging and interesting discussions of many issues relevant to their own work.Furthermore, I think this book is also quite appropriate to assign to strong undergraduate students. I recommend it highly." --Bryan W. van Norden, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews