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Tan, Sor-Hoon. Why Equality and Which Inequalities?: A Modern Confucian Approach to Democracy
2016, Philosophy East and West 66(2): 488–514
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Wilson Lee
Abstract:

Abstract: This article challenges the conventional view that Confucianism has no place for the value of equality by shifting the focus from direct justification of equality (Why equality?) to concerns about actual social and political problems (Which inequalities are objectionable?). From this perspective, early Confucian texts endorse some inequalities, in particular those based on virtue, while objecting to others, especially socioeconomic inequalities. Confucians do not consider equality or inequality as inherently valuable, but evaluate them in relation to issues of good government.

Comment: Coming from a Confucian perspective, the paper examines the relation between equality and democracy with implications for both reconstructing Confucian political philosophy for today and democratic theory as such. This is an important point of dialogue for Anglophone political philosophers to have a more objective picture of Confucian political philosophy instead of the usual imperialist caricatures. The point of dialogue is also being explored by a Singaporean scholar in Singapore (despite having been once a crown colony its scholarship is unfortunately very much ignored in the Anglophone world), whose work and life lies at the intersection of Chinese and Anglo-European intellectual traditions.

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Tsai, George. The morality of state symbolic power
2016, Social Theory and Practice, 42(2):318–342
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Added by: Ten-Herng Lai
Abstract: Philosophical interest in state power has tended to focus on the state’s coercive powers rather than its expressive powers. I consider an underexplored aspect of the state’s expressive capacity: its capacity to use symbols (such as monuments, memorials, and street names) to promote political ends. In particular, I argue that the liberal state’s deployment of symbols to promote its members’ commitment to liberal ideals is in need of special justification. This is because the state’s exercise of its capacity to use symbols may be in tension with respecting individual autonomy, particularly in cases in which the symbols exert influence without engaging citizens’ rational capacities. But despite the fact that the state’s deployment of symbols may circumvent citizens’ rational capacities, I argue that it may nonetheless be permissible when surrounded by certain liberal institutions and brought about via democratic procedures.

Comment: This paper is not about objectionable commemorations in particular, but sets out to explore how any political symbols can be justified at all in a liberal democratic state. This should be a preliminary to any discussion we have about statues and monuments. A particular point of interest is that, according to Tsai, the state ought to engage with its citizens through rational persuasion. This will be relevant to latter discussions regarding the nature of moral education, and the role emotions play in it.

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