Peng Feng. Li Yu’s Theory of Drama: A Moderate Moralism
Abstract: This essay presents an interpretation of Li Yu’s theory of drama that takes it to be a moderate moralism that is different from Confucian radical moralism, Daoist radical autonomism, and the moderate autonomism of fiction. In addition to practical considerations, Li Yu’s moderate moralism of drama is based on his awareness of the ontological difference between drama and music, poetry, and fiction. Drama was seen by Li Yu as a synthetic art that includes music, poetry, and fiction. If radical autonomism is appropriate for the evaluation of music, radical moralism for poetry and prose, and moderate autonomism for fiction, then moderate moralism would be most appropriate in the evaluation of drama.
Comment: Peng gives an account of the development of Chinese drama according to a contrast between Confucian moralism, in which morality controls aesthetics, and Daoist autonomism, in which aesthetics are autonomous from morality. He argues for an understanding of Li Yu’s theory of drama as a moderate moralism that evaluates drama according to a possible, yet contingent and unnecessary relation between moral and aesthetic virtue. This text is appropriate for a course on aesthetics and/or Chinese philosophy. It is particularly useful in discussions of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics.