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Kongzi (Confucius), , . Analects (Selections)
2005, In: Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Second Edition). Edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden. Hackett.
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Summary: Selections from the Analects of Kongzi (Confucius), a foundational text in Chinese philosophy. It is split into twenty books recounting things that the Master (Kongzi) and his disciples said and did. Much of the rest of Chinese philosophy owes a debt, more or less explicit, to this work. Kongzi seeks the cultivation of virtue through ritual, so that worthy persons will occupy positions of power and influence. Society will thereby return to some of the splendor of the bygone ages of the legendary Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, as well as the more recent Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou dynasties.

Comment: The selections are best read in their entirety, as the work is holistic and difficult to interpret piecemeal. (So reading the whole text is better still!) It’s helpful to stress Kongzi’s particularism, as this makes sense of seemingly contradictory pronouncements he makes in different contexts. But if you’re looking to incorporate some Classical Chinese philosophy in a course without space for the whole thing, the selections from Book One include many key Confucian themes: ritual, the ideal of a junzi or gentleman, virtue, filial piety, and the appeal to tradition. Either way, it’s probably wise to give students some historical context to help understand the appeal of harking back to older traditions.

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Man, Eva Kit Wah, , . Female bodily aesthetics, politics, and feminine ideals of beauty in China
2000, In Beauty Matters, Peg Zeglin Brand (ed.), Indiana University Press, p169-196.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: A long and scholarly piece by Eva Kitt Wah Man covers the history of Chinese conventions governing female ‘beauty’ from Confucius through Maoism to the present day. Classical manuals provide highly specific requirements forc ourtesans and concubines. The shrunken, pulpy appendages produced by foot-binding practiceswere regarded as the most sexually stimulating features of the female body. In 1949, following the inauguration of the Communist regime, women were expected to shun ornament and make-up, to have short hair, wear party uniforms, and to look as much like men as possible. The ideal for the contemporary Chinese woman is quite a lot like the ideal for the courtesan of tradition, but the de-tails are drawn from western fashion magazines. Wah believes that such liberation, although it has its advantages, is mainly nominal and fosters confusion. She writes: ‘Although Chinese women today are developing new self-confidence, they do not seem to be aware of the fact that one can be-come a slave of the fashion industry, which merely repeats the bodily constraints of past times in a new form’ (p. 194). [review by Mary Mothersill, 2001 – Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 59 (2):211-214.] Feminist Review volume 75, pages145-147, 2003)

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Olberding, Amy, , . It’s not Them, it’s You: A Case Study in the Exclusion of Non-Western Philosophy
2015, Comparative Philosophy 6(2): 14-34.
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Abstract: My purpose in this essay is to suggest, via case study, that if Anglo-American philosophy is to become more inclusive of non-western traditions, the discipline requires far greater efforts at self-scrutiny. I begin with the premise that Confucian ethical treatments of manners afford unique and distinctive arguments from which moral philosophy might profit, then seek to show why receptivity to these arguments will be low. I examine how ordinary good manners have largely fallen out of philosophical moral discourse in the west, looking specifically at three areas: conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries that depressed philosophical attention to manners; discourse conventions in contemporary philosophy that privilege modes of analysis not well fitted to close scrutiny of manners; and a philosophical culture that implicitly encourages indifference or even antipathy toward polite conduct. I argue that these three areas function in effect to render contemporary discourse inhospitable to greater inclusivity where Confucianism is concerned and thus, more broadly, that greater self-scrutiny regarding unexamined, parochial western commitments and practices is necessary for genuine inclusivity

Comment: This article provides an excellent look at the reasons for the exclusion of Confucian philosophy from the Western tradition. It would be useful as a set-up in a course or part of a course on Asian or Confucian philosophy, or in the context of metaphilosophy or a discussion about race and culture in philosophy.

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Olberding, Amy (ed.), , . Dao Companion to the Analects
2014, Springer.
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Publisher’s note: This volume surveys the major philosophical concepts, arguments, and commitments of the Confucian classic, the Analects. In thematically organized chapters, leading scholars provide a detailed, scholarly introduction to the text and the signal ideas ascribed to its protagonist, Confucius.

The volume opens with chapters that reflect the latest scholarship on the disputed origins of the text and an overview of the broad commentarial tradition it generated. These are followed by chapters that individually explore key areas of the text’s philosophical landscape, articulating both the sense of concepts such as renli, and xiao as well as their place in the wider space of the text. A  final section addresses prominent interpretive challenges and scholarly disputes in reading the Analects, evaluating, for example, the alignment between the Analects and contemporary moral theory and the contested nature of its religious sensibility.

Dao Companion to the Analects offers a comprehensive and complete survey of the text’s philosophical idiom and themes, as well as its history and some of the liveliest current debates surrounding it. This book is an ideal resource for both researchers and advanced students interested in gaining greater insight into one of the earliest and most influential Confucian classics.

Comment: This volume provides an excellent overview of Confucius’ Analects, with a number of excellent essays by both Chinese and Western philosophers. It would be a good textbook to use for a course that is an introduction to Asian/Confucian philosophy, or individual chapters could be used to provide an additional perspective in more general courses on certain topics:

  • Hui Chieh Loy’s chapter on language and ethics would be useful in moral theory courses that focus on virtue ethics or the relation between epistemology and morality,
  • Bai Tongdong’s chapter could be taught in the context of comparative political theory (particularly potential justifications for authoritarianism),
  • and Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee’s chapter would be very valuable as part of an examination of care ethics and feminist philosophy.
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Rošker, Jana S., , . Classical Chinese Logic
2015, Philosophy Compass, 10(5): 301-309.
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Abstract: The present article provides an introduction to classical Chinese logic, a term which refers to ancient discourses that were developed before the arrival of significant external influences and which flourished in China until the first unification of China, during the Qin Dynasty. Taking as its premise that logic implies both universal and culturally conditioned elements, the author describes the historical background of Chinese logic, the main schools of Chinese logical thought, the current state of research in this area and the crucial concepts and methods applied in classical Chinese logic. The close link between Chinese logic and the Chinese language is also stressed

Comment: Presupposes some familiarity with Aristotelian and Fregean logic, as well as ideas in analytic philosophy of language (e.g., theories of reference). This would be a good piece for countering the prejudice that nothing worthy of being called logic was done in the classical Chinese tradition. It is also a good piece for expanding students’ imaginative horizons and showing them how their ideas of what logic is have been culturally shaped.

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Wang Bi, , . Clarifying the Images (Ming xiang)
2004, In Richard John Lynn (ed.). The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi.
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Summary: From Wang Bi’s (226-249) seminal commentary on the Yi Jing (I Ching) or Classic of Changes. Bi catalogues and explains the relationship between images, ideas, language, and meaning. A key text that continues to be of importance in Chinese aesthetics, philosophy of language, and hermeneutics.

Comment: This text requires a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy. It would be appropriate in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar on Chinese philosophy and/or aesthetics.

Related reading:

  • Ch. 26 of the Zhuangzi in Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters. A.C. Graham, trans. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2001.
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Wang, Robin, , . Dao Becomes Female
2017, In Garry, A., Khader, S.J. and Stone, A (eds.) New York: Routledge, pp. 35–38
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Abstract: Daoism, a Dao based and inspired teaching and practice, has been considered to be the philosophy of yielding in Chinese intellectual history. One important aspect of yielding is being rou 柔—soft, gentle, supple—which the Daodejing couples with the feminine. Not surprisingly, then, the female and femininity have enormous significance for Laozi and Daoism. To highlight this unique philosophical aspect of Daoism, this chapter will place femininity/the feminine/the female center stage to investigate Daoist thought and its possible contribution to feminist thought in a contemporary global setting. In this chapter I promote a somewhat female consciousness of Dao, or a Daoist female consciousness, which may expand, support, or alter feminist assumptions about femininity/the feminine/the female. The overarching focal point of this understanding lies in a depiction of the female and femininity as a cosmic force, a way of knowing, and a strategy for leading a flourishing life. The main points are that Dao does not govern actually existing gender relations—or, at least, that the social and political reality of gender relations is not modeled on Dao, because the patriarchy is not Dao. Highlighting the female or feminine aspect of Dao, or Dao as becoming female, is a feminist intervention, using resources from within classical Daoist thought in order to re-imagine or reconfigure gender for our time.

Comment: A useful way of introducing some feminist thought into a course on classical Chinese philosophy. It would fit well either in a unit on Daoism or in a unit on feminism. It would be tough to use this in a feminist course to introduce some Daoist thought; the chapter is tricky without some familiarity with the Daodejing

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