Environmental ethics is both a moral philosophy and an applied ethics. This duality has led some people to feel confused about environmental ethics’ identity and to cast doubts on its legitimacy. This paper, by distinguishing and exploding environmental ethics’ two patterns of inquiry (the moral philosophy pattern and the applied ethics pattern) and their characteristics, tries to resolve the discipline’s identity crisis and to argue for its legitimacy.
This paper asks what should be the basis of a global environmental ethics. As Gao Shan has argued, the environmental ethics of Western philosophers such as Holmes Rolston and Paul Taylor is based on extending the notion of intrinsic value to that of objects of nature, and as such it is not very compatible with Chinese ethics. This is related to Gao’s rejection of most—if not all—Western “rationalist” environmental ethics, a stance that I grant her for pragmatic reasons (though I remain neutral about it theoretically). Gao argues that the Daoist notion of living in harmony with nature can instead become the basis of a Chinese environmental ethics. However, the involved Daoist conception of living in harmony with nature is, in my view, based on an aesthetic property. The paper argues that despite the appeal of the Daoist view for a Chinese environmental ethics, an aesthetic property cannot provide the basis for a global environmental ethics. The paper also considers another version of Daoist environmental ethics, which does not rely on an aesthetic notion, but I argue that it too fails as such a candidate. As an alternative, the paper considers and applies contemporary Western thinkers on gratitude (such as Robert Emmons and Elizabeth Loder), proposing that gratitude to nature (environmental gratitude) can indeed provide the needed basis.
In this article, I will examine the concept of xujing 虛靜 (emptiness and stillness) in Daoism and its relationship with the aesthetic appreciation of nature and environmental ethics. Firstly, I will examine the Chinese philosophical understanding of nature through the concept of qi. I point out that qi is characterized by four interrelated features, which are emptiness, creativity, vitality, and stillness. Xujing are also aesthetically appreciated as the objective features of qi. Secondly, I will discuss why, as the objective features of qi, xujing are considered to be features that have aesthetic value. I argue that empathy is the reason why emptiness as the objective feature of qi is regarded as having aesthetic value. Thirdly, I will discuss how the aesthetic concept of emptiness helps contribute to the construction of place-based environmental ethics.
Against the background of a short meditation on the contrasting ways in which landscape has been represented and idealized in Eastern and Western painting traditions, the article will try to show, using some striking examples, that the development of landscape painting in the last two centuries reflects the changing relationship of humanity and nature, leading in both the East and in the West to either the expression of a nostalgic longing for nature to be back as it once was, or to a gloomy expression of the vanishing of nature amidst the modern, technological world. Connecting to both the concept of “harmony,” which is a key concept in Eastern aesthetics, and to some recent reflections in Western philosophy on the relationship of nature and technology, a post-nostalgic conception of nature and natural beauty is defended, in which nature and technology are no longer seen as opposing categories, but rather as poles that are intertwined in an ever-lasting process of co-evolution. It is argued that we should not so much strive to go “back to nature,” but rather to go “forward to nature” and establish a new harmony between human and non-human nature and technology. The article ends with some reflections on the role artists and aestheticians may play in this transformation.
With a focus on The Great Learning (Daxue 大學), this paper explores the specific exegetical or hermeneutical methodology adopted by James Legge in his translation of this Confucian canonical text. It begins with an analysis of the translation theory endorsed by Legge, comparing his translation with those of Ku Hung-ming and Wing-tsit Chan. The second part aims to explicate the hermeneutic dilemma faced by Legge in his dealing with this text. It looks at the intellectual context in which Legge’s scholarship on the Chinese classics had developed, as well as the academic standard he was required to maintain throughout his translation. Overall, Legge’s familiarity with Qing scholarship makes it interesting to determine where and why he follows or rejects Zhu Xi. Given Legge’s Christian missionary background and the sense of mission pervading Zhu Xi’s commentary, we conclude that Legge’s affinity with Zhu Xi is much more subtle and complex than previously speculated: the difference in their approach to Confucian texts cannot be reduced to a contrast between construction and deconstruction or between canonization and decanonization.
From the academic frontier of modernity and postmodernity, the author aims at exploring the fission between modernity and postmodernity and also the characteristics of postmodern cultural media from a philosophical vantage point. This paper illustrates three aspects of Western modernity: individual modernity, social modernity, and instrumental modernity, and it also clarifies the issues in modernity, starting by explaining three forms of the cultural fission: avant-garde, modernism, and postmodernism. The paper then demonstrates that the rise of postmodernity represents a new transformation and new characteristics of contemporary Western spirit, namely, the collision and compatibility of various concepts, in which popular culture and high culture, mass culture and elite culture, fashion and games as well as noise and silence have constituted an uncanny landscape of cultural media. This eerie landscape displays the indeterminacy of language, culture, art, consciousness, and aesthetics. From the perspective of theoretical innovation, the author proposes that the postmodern cultural media always displays its commodity and instrumentality, plays and entertainment, anti-culture and anti-art, replication and fabrication logically and practically as an outcome of post-industrial society. In conclusion, three critical issues are addressed: personal spiritual belief, the development of mass culture, and aesthetic principles. The postmodern cultural media has deeply influenced traditional culture, aesthetics, and how they are evaluated, resulting in cultural conflicts and a humanistic dilemma in the world of contemporary capitalism.
In his Autobiography, John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century British political philosopher, portrayed his On Liberty as being “a kind of philosophic text-book” dedicated to a single truth, that is, “the importance, to man and society, of a large variety in types of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions.” The Mill of On Liberty may seem to be a pluralist who tends to prefer difference per se to goodness of a uniform pattern, many-sidedness to conformity, and eccentricity to mediocrity. This paper seeks to challenge this argument by paying close attention to the text. It argues that the Mill of On Liberty was far from a single-minded pluralist. Two divergent positions are found throughout his reasoning: one is a pluralist idea that an individual’s own plan of life is the best, no matter how base or licentious it might be; the other is the belief that there exist a limited number of ideal ways of life which define what the good life is. The two positions are, if not mutually exclusive, at least in important aspects indicative of some profound tension at the center of Mill’s thought.
The relationships between Hilary Putnam and the pragmatists (especially William James and John Dewey) are obvious but subtle. To shed some light on this issue, the author will explore a key issue that not only stands as Putnam’s main inheritance from the pragmatists, but that also illuminates the relationships between them more clearly than any other issues. This key issue is the understanding of perception and the philosophical position that arises from this understanding. The author argues that in adopting Dewey’s transactionalism (or interactionalism), Putnam advances from James’ insight to Dewey’s, a shift that is particularly manifest in Putnam’s attempt to add another layer of meaning to what he refers to as the second na?veté that he detects and appreciates in James’ natural realism.
In Phenomenology of Perception, both intellectualism and empiricism were blamed for not grasping consciousness in the act of learning. This was, Merleau-Ponty thought, due to an objective volatilizing of the subjective role of the lived body in perception. In order to overcome the difficulties in the tradition of learning and the philosophy of consciousness, Merleau-Ponty’s next important step was to take maximal grip as a central case of learning. To him, learning as being-in-the-world, basically has to be sketched out in embodied and socially contextualized situations. Drawing upon this asymmetrical identity from Merleau-Ponty, our argument in this paper is that learning is best understood as a phenomenon that involves the learner’s engagement with the world and her intention to make sense of its structures. A new perspective is thus employed to present learning as an embodied and socially embedded phenomenon, which is always projected by habitual experience and involves transcendence. These characteristics of learning are brought together in an integral and comprehensive way and have relevance to studies of learning in institutions and in daily experience.