Confucian Role Ethics: A Challenge to the Ideology of IndividualismProf Roger Ames (University of Hawaii)
Geelong Corporate Centre, Level 4 Sally Walker Building (see reception), Geelong Waterfront Campus, Deakin University
1 Gheringhap Street
- La Trobe University
In the introduction of Chinese philosophy and culture into the Western academy, we have tended to theorize and conceptualize this antique tradition by appeal to familiar Western categories. Confucian role ethics is an attempt to articulate a sui generis moral philosophy that allows this tradition to have its own voice. I will use the aesthetic of the casting of bronzes as an analogy for person-making in the Confucian tradition. That is, this holistic philosophy is fundamentally an aestheticism, grounded in the primacy of relationality and a narrative understanding of person, and is a challenge to a foundational liberal individualism that has defined persons as discrete, autonomous, rational, free, and often self-interested agents. Confucian role ethics begins from a relationally constituted conception of person, takes family roles and relations as the entry point for developing moral competence, invokes a creative moral imagination and the growth in relations that it can inspire as the substance of human morality, and entails a human-centered, a-theistic religiousness that stands in sharp contrast to the Abrahamic religions.
Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, a Berggruen Fellow, and former Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i. He is former editor of Philosophy East & West and founding editor of China Review International. Ames has authored several interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture:Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China (1995), Thinking From the Han (1998), and Democracy of the Dead (1999) (all with D.L. Hall), and most recently Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (2011). His publications also include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (1993); Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (1996) (with D.C. Lau); the Confucian Analects (1998) and the Classic of Family Reverence: The Xiaojing (2009) (both with H. Rosemont), Focusing the Familiar: The Zhongyong (2001), and The Daodejing (with D.L. Hall) (2003). Almost all of his publications are now available in Chinese translation, including his philosophical translations of Chinese canonical texts. He has most recently been engaged in compiling the new Blackwell Sourcebook of Classical Chinese Philosophy, and in writing articles promoting a conversation between American pragmatism and Confucianism.
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