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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436 (Print)
ISSN 1673-355X (Online)
CN 11-5743/B
Postal Subscription Code 80-983

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, Volume 14 Issue 1

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Role as Norm, Role and Norm: Homer’s Hero, Hesiod’s Just City, and Plato’s Kallipolis
Michael Erler
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 14-28.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0002-3
Abstract   PDF (285KB)

Role as Norm, Role and Norm: Homer’s Hero, Hesiod’s Just City, and Plato’s Kallipolis

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When Virtues, Roles and Duties Fail: Early Greek and Chinese Accounts of Akrasia
Lisa Raphals 瑞麗
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 29-46.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0003-0
Abstract   PDF (361KB)

Both the Mohist canon and the works of Aristotle recognize that people sometimes fail to act according to virtues, roles and duties, what in a Western context is called akrasia or “weakness of will,” an important topic in both Greek and contemporary philosophy. I argue that questions of akrasia are treated different in the early Chinese and ancient Greek philosophy. Greek accounts focus on issues of will and control, while some Chinese thinkers treat akrasia as a lack of a skill, and the failure to act in the right way is less lack of will than lack of skill. I begin with a brief account of the problem of akrasia as first presented by Plato in the “Protagoras” and Republic, and developed by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics. I then turn to akrasia in an early Chinese context, focusing on a very different Mohist view of akrasia as lack of a skill. Finally, I contrast the “skill” the Mohists find lacking with a very different account of skill in the Zhuangzi.

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Patriotism in Early China
Michael Nylan, Allyson Tang, Zhijian Wang
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 47-74.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0004-7
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This paper considers the difference between the values attached to love of country in early China and in today’s world, through exploration of a series of concept clusters centered on “loyalty,” “glory,” “honor,” and “identity.” Using a wide array of sources, including legends about exemplary figures in antiquity, it assesses the extent to which patriotism or something like patriotism was a normative value in the distant past. It also outlines the appropriate limits of patriotism which the early thinkers insisted upon, thinking them useful guidelines for today.

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Honour and Kingship in Herodotus: Status, Role, and the Limits of Self-Assertion
Douglas Cairns
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 75-93.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0005-4
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The notion of timê (τιμή, normally translated “honour”) is a key concept when it comes to thinking about virtues, roles, and duties in ancient Greek ethics and society, both in popular and in philosophical terms. This discussion concentrates on the work of the fifth-century historian, Herodotus, where the idea of timê as the fulfilment of a specific role in society takes on particular and interesting inflections. In Herodotus, as in Greek generally, timê covers both the esteem that one receives from others and the claim to esteem that the individual him- or herself brings to bear in social interaction. Thus timê is both “deference” and “demeanour” (to use Goffman’s terminology). As a quality of an individual that commands others’ respect, timê also encompasses the roles that are bound up with one’s status. Roles and offices express, attract, and demand timê, but such demands are normally constrained by reciprocal respect for the timê of others. The office of the Persian king, however, appears at first sight to involve unconditional claims to recognition respect, powerful drives towards appraisal respect (in Darwall’s terminology), and only limited acknowledgement of either ethical norms or others claims as potential limitations to regal self-assertion. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the values of mutual respect that underpin the freedom enjoyed by citizens of Greek poleis are also felt by Herodotus to ground claims to freedom and independence on the part of those poleis themselves, claims that the historian’s narrative suggests are ultimately upheld by the gods and embedded in the structure of the cosmos itself.

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Drunkenness as a Communal Practice: Platonic and Peripatetic Perspectives
Jan Szaif
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 94-110.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0006-1
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Greek philosophers in general share a strong commitment to a life of reason and excellence. It is therefore surprising to see some of them argue in defense of symposiastic drunkenness. This essay investigates several such arguments. Its main source texts are books I and II of Plato’s Laws and a passage in the excerpts on Peripatetic ethics in the doxography of Arius Didymus. The arguments are analyzed and situated in a broader cultural and philosophical context. The Peripatetic passage approves of drunkenness as an aspect of certain established forms of communal activity, with the caveat that the virtuous person will not desire drunkenness for its own sake. While it is clear that the Peripatetic author grounds the need for communal activities in our social nature, he fails to justify the existence of communal activities that lead to drunkenness. Plato’s arguments, by contrast, sketch out and justify a new, non-traditional framework for certain highly regulated forms of communal drunkenness. His first main argument relates to the goal of testing and nursing self-control through exposure to wine, while the second is based on the idea that the rejuvenating force of wine renders mature men again susceptible to the formative influence of song and dance as vehicles of good ethical qualities.

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Socrates’ Humaneness: What His Last Words Meant
Yasuhira Yahei Kanayama
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 111-131.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0007-8
Abstract   PDF (356KB)

Confucius emphasises the importance of humaneness (ren 仁) and rites (li 禮). Socrates, on the other hand, is often interpreted as a person who places far more importance on rational thinking, even to the exclusion of natural human feelings, especially on the ground of his attitude towards the sorrow of his wife and friends on his last day as described in Plato’s Phaedo. Through clarifying two long-time riddles in this dialogue—namely, “What did Socrates mean by his last words, requesting Crito to offer a cock to Asclepius?” and “Was Plato really absent from the prison on Socrates’ last day, due to illness, as is mentioned by Phaedo?”—this paper argues that Socrates kept in mind the best interest of his wife and friends even at the moment of his death, and that his humane attitude is expressed in his last words, which were not only an expression of gratitude for Plato’s recovery from a critical illness but also an exhortation to his friends to continue their care of the soul.

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Emotional Attachment and Its Limits: Mengzi, Gaozi and the Guodian Discussions
Karyn Lai
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 132-151.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0008-5
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Mengzi maintained that both benevolence (ren 仁) and rightness (yi義) are naturally-given in human nature. This view has occupied a dominant place in Confucian intellectual history. In Mencius 6A, Mengzi’s interlocutor, Gaozi, contests this view, arguing that rightness is determined by (doing what is fitting, in line with) external circumstances. I discuss here some passages from the excavated Guodian texts, which lend weight to Gaozi’s view. The texts reveal nuanced considerations of relational proximity and its limits, setting up requirements for moral action in scenarios where relational ties do not play a motivational role. I set out yi’s complexity in these discussions, highlighting its implications for (i) the nei-wai debate; (ii) the notion of yi as “rightness,” or doing the right thing; and (iii) how we can understand the connection between virtue and right action in these early Confucian debates. This material from the excavated texts not only provides new perspectives on a longstanding investigation of human nature and morality, it also challenges prevailing views on Warring States Confucian intellectual history.

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“Athl-Ethics”: Virtue Training in Mencius and Aristotle
Rina Marie Camus
Front. Philos. China. 2019, 14 (1): 152-170.  https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-008-019-0009-2
Abstract   PDF (391KB)

The late Zhou of China and the Classical age of Greece both saw great impetus in intellectual thought and were marked by intense warfare. Being closely linked to warfare in antiquity, sports was a vital, commonplace activity whose jargon and practices naturally informed philosophical discourses. One can thus observe convergences between athletics and ethics in texts which took shape in these times and places, a phenomenon which I shall refer to as “athl-ethics.” In this paper, I separately examine and then compare athl-ethic phenomenon in Mencius and in the Nicomachean Ethics. Both texts are rife with sports metaphors. I regard the use of sports-derived imagery as a thin form of athl-ethicism. Sports, however, did more than inspire useful analogies. Physical training and competition were considered occasions for nourishing and practicing virtue. This generated thicker forms of athl-ethicism.

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