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Author(s) Unknown. Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary
1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn

Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

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Kwang-Myung Kim. Korean Aesthetic Consciousness and the Problem of Aesthetic Rationality
1998, Canadian Aesthetics Journal, 2
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Added by: Meilin Chinn

Abstract: Aesthetic emotions are reputed to be irrational, but, aesthetic emotions as mental phenomena bear complex relations to rationality. Emotions give us knowledge about the world. The aesthetic consciousness of Korean is the internal roots of the Korean’s mentality. The aesthetic consciousness and the mentality are inseparably related to each other. The aesthetic consciousness as the analogy of reason, in the context of A.G. Baumgarten plays a role to extend the logical world. Aesthetic rationality is the common sense or the communicative rationality of it. For the argument of universality we discuss the problem of aesthetic rationality. Since the modern aesthetics, the problem of aesthetic rationality came on the stage of aesthetics. Shamanism as the deep-rooted element of Korean mentality is the most authentic cultural legacy of Koreans. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and other religious elements influence the unique nature of the Korean character together with shamanism. They play a decisive role in determining the Korean mentality or consciousness. For Koreans, nature is a mirror of the self and a world of meditation which gives life, restoring all things to their proper state. As a peculiar color consciousness, Korean monochrome is characterized by vitality, spontaneity and unconcern for technical perfection. Korean art also tends to be devoid of an artificial movement and this reflects dislike of disturbance, deformation and convention.
If we are to consider Korean contemporary art from an international perspective, we must define what it means to be Korean, i.e. our cultural habits and artistic elements hidden in the artist’s unconsciousness. In this age of multiculturalism, the new interpretation on tradition makes it possible to merge the Korean art with the world stage. The extension of aesthetic emotion through experimentation shows us the change of aesthetic consciousness as a new possibility of interpretation.

Comment: Kim argues for aesthetic rationality, as a kind of aesthetic consciousness, at the heart of Korean identity. He traces its unique cultural legacy in Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism in order to account for the characteristic vitality and spontaneity in Korean art. This text is appropriate for an aesthetics course. It does not require a background in Korean philosophy, but at least an introductory knowledge of aesthetics would be beneficial.

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Li Zehou. The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition
2009, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
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Added by: Meilin Chinn

Publisher’s Note: The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition touches on all areas of artistic activity, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, and the “art of living.” Right government, the ideal human being, and the path to spiritual transcendence all come under the provenance of aesthetic thought. According to Li this was the case from early Confucian explanations of poetry as that which gives expression to intent, through Zhuangzi’s artistic depictions of the ideal personality who discerns the natural way of things and lives according to it, to Chan Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together to yield insight and enlightenment. In this enduring and stimulating work, Li demonstrates conclusively the fundamental role of aesthetics in the development of the cultural and psychological structures in Chinese culture that define “humanity.”

Comment: Li’s synthesis of Chinese aesthetic thought from ancient to early modern times. Li incorporates pre-Confucian, Confucian, Daoist, and Chan Buddhist ideas to discuss art and the central role of aesthetics in Chinese culture and philosophy. Government, self-cultivation and realization, and ethics are all approached here as aesthetic activities. This text is well-suited to an aesthetics or Chinese philosophy course in which there is some introduction to key philosophical concepts from Chinese philosophy. It provides excellent material for cross-cultural aesthetics.

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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)

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Olberding, Amy. A Sensible Confucian Perspective on Abortion
2015, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 14 (2):235-253.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner

Abstract: Confucian resources for moral discourse and public policy concerning abortion have potential to broaden the prevailing forms of debate in Western societies. However, what form a Confucian contribution might take is itself debatable. This essay provides a critique of Philip J. Ivanhoe’s recent proposal for a Confucian account of abortion. I contend that Ivanhoe’s approach is neither particularly Confucian, nor viable as effective and humane public policy. Affirmatively, I argue that a Confucian approach to abortion will assiduously root moral consideration and public policy in evidence-based strategies that recognize the complexity of the phenomena of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. What most distinguishes a Confucian approach, I argue, is a refusal to treat abortion as a moral dilemma that stands free of the myriad social conditions and societal inequities in which empirical evidence shows it situates.

Comment: This paper could be usefully coupled with the Ivanhoe paper it criticizes, but it does a good job of summarizing that view and so can also stand on its own. It's an especially useful example of how to apply Confucian principles to a vexed contemporary moral issue. It also provides a good model of a Confucian-inspired philosopher criticizing another on grounds internal to that tradition, which can be used to dispel the thought that Confucian particularism leads to an "anything goes" approach to moral problems.

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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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Added by: Nick Novelli

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, Philip J. Ivanhoe (eds.). Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought
2011, SUNY Press.
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Added by: Nick Novelli

Publisher’s note: Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought is the definitive exploration of a complex and fascinating but little-understood subject. Arguably, death as a concept has not been nearly as central a preoccupation in Chinese culture as it has been in the West. However, even in a society that seems to understand death as a part of life, responses to mortality are revealing and indicate much about what is valued and what is feared. This edited volume fills the lacuna on this subject, presenting an array of philosophical, artistic, historical, and religious perspectives on death during a variety of historical periods. Contributors look at material culture, including findings now available from the Mawangdui tomb excavations; consider death in Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions; and discuss death and the history and philosophy of war.

Comment: This volume contains a number of excellent essays on mortality as it appears in Chinese philosophy. It would be useful in a history of Chinese philosophy course, or to provide an additional perspective in a course on philosophy of death, immortality and the afterlife. Of particular value for this purpose is Tao Jiang's chapter comparing Linji Yixuan's views on immortality to those of William James, discussing the degree to which remembrance counts as immortality.

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Olberding, Amy (ed.). Dao Companion to the Analects
2014, Springer.
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Added by: Nick Novelli

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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Peng Feng. Li Yu’s Theory of Drama: A Moderate Moralism
2016, Philosophy East and West 66(1): 73-91.
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Added by: Meilin Chinn

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.

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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: 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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