Mar 2020, Volume 15 Issue 1

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    Carl Mitcham

    WANG Xiaowei

    This essay discusses the possibility of conceptualizing a Confucian notion of human dignity. Previous discussions on this topic have been either historical or reconstructive, the former discussing mainly how Confucianism considers dignity and the latter exploring the possibility of conceptualizing a Confucian human dignity as an alternative to Kant’s Menschenwürde. This essay focuses on mainly the latter effort. Specifically, I critically evaluate professor Ni Peimin’s celebrated attempt at reconstructing Confucian dignity in the context of Kant’s Menschenwürde, arguing that Ni’s work offers us novel and original insights on human dignity but fails to be coherent in several senses. On the other hand, Kant’s Menschenwürde may well lack motivation in particular circumstances, and gives no credit to moral efforts. Building upon this criticism, I further Ni’s discussion of the “four hearts” and propose a revised version of Confucian dignity.

    NI Peimin

    Using the opportunity of responding to Wang’s critiques, this short article clarifies a number of important points related to the topic of human dignity. It argues that, only in moving beyond his a priori reasoning by assuming humans to be rational agents can the Kantian theory of dignity be applied to actual humans; only in taking our moral potential as a recommended way of human self-identification can the is-ought dichotomy be resolved; only in respecting human dignity can punishment be justified; and only from its function in shaping our visions and attitudes can a teleological metaphysics be helpful.

    ZHU Qin

    Developing moral imagination is a central yet challenging learning outcome for students in professional education programs for fields including engineering. This paper introduces theories of moral imagination in early Confucian ethical thought and explores what implications can be drawn from these theories for engineering ethics and professional education. Rather than appealing to pre-determined principles, early Confucians advocated a moral particularism and argued that moral actors need to exercise their imaginations to discern diverse factors and constraints present in moral situations. They need to “extract” from moral situations possible reasons for certain actions. Texts such as the Analects should be read as manuals or logs of decision-making rather than as prescriptive guidance or descriptive anecdotes. The moral actions we take in different situations are influenced by the special roles we play in these situations. The nature of a particular role relationship often evokes feelings and expectations characteristic of that relationship. Cultivating and educating our imaginations allows us to draw on diverse human abilities, assess multiple moral strategies, and identify the most suitable (rather than simply calculating “the best”) option that helps to activate our moral selves and grow our relationships with others. Early Confucians proposed a variety of methods for developing moral imaginative capabilities including reflective observation of social interactions, moral thought experiments, analogical extension of familial relations, and the “as-if” rituals. This paper ultimately considers the possible implications of these theories for teaching and learning ethical conduct in engineering, given the increasing interest of the engineering profession in humanitarian engineering and cross-cultural collaboration and the two fields of engineering practice often encompass incomplete knowledge and diverse values.

    TENG Fei

    The emergence of the Anthropocene creates a new set of conditions for understanding the relationship between human power and the natural world. These conditions include an increasingly humanized and de-natured natural world, and greater responsibilities of stewardship for human beings. In current literature, there are diverse views on the meaning of the Anthropocene and the role of modern technology in future earth stewardship. Post-natural thought regards the Anthropocene as representing the end of nature, and thus appeals to disenchantment with respect to the idea that nature is an external moral norm. Although this approach correctly addresses the significance of locality and the mutuality between humans and the environment, it fails to provide us with adequate normative boundaries for preventing the endless artificialization of nature. Alternatively, this article defends the position that Confucianism is a more plausible philosophical ground for earth stewardship in the context of the Anthropocene. The Confucian approach is an inclusive humanism which is established on the cosmological ideal of realising the virtue of shengsheng 生生 (life generation) in all beings. Moreover, Confucian ethics draw much attention to the self-regulation of human beings as virtuous persons. This is indeed what is needed in the age of the Anthropocene.

    JIA Lumeng, HUNG Ching

    Based on the argument that technologies mediate human experience and praxis, the idea of technology accompaniment has been suggested as an approach to developing human-tech relations. In light of this idea, this paper argues, firstly, that when technologies inevitably have moral relevance in influencing human perceptions and actions, the constitution of a moral subject has much to do with shaping technological mediation deliberately and creatively. While there is not always a direct connection between what humans know and what humans do, technological mediation can help to strengthen people’s motivation to do the right thing. Subsequently, we examine two approaches that have often been suggested for realizing subject-constitution-with-technology: one is Technology Assessment, and the other is Mediation Design. Although the former can equip people with knowledge about technological mediation, it is relatively weak when it comes to directly producing moral behavior. In contrast, the latter not only exerts a more direct impact on user behavior but may also improve people’s moral knowledge. Nonetheless, both approaches face the general challenge of moral education. As moral knowledge does not guarantee moral behavior, knowing facts and theories about technological mediation may not lead to subject constitution as a result of the development of the human-tech relationship. To overcome this difficulty, an extension of the latter approach is proposed. The design of meta-mediation has great potential to shift users’ attention to the aforementioned mediating effect of technology-in-use and, thereby, users’ subject constitution can be enabled.

    TAN Mingran

    Based on Zhu Xi’s statement that Laozi’s teachings were very cruel, Wang Fuzhi condemned Laozi as a crafty, petty person in his Confucian commentaries. Yet, he had to understand the Laozi or Daodejing sympathetically when he commented on it in Laozi Yan老子衍 (Extended Commentary on the Laozi). As a result, he showed inconsistency in his criticism and evaluation of the author. Some scholars have noted this problem but have not shed ink analyzing it. This essay finds that Wang Fuzhi’s ambiguous attitude toward Laozi results from his Confucian prejudice against other schools and his failure to grasp the breadth and depth of Laozi’s thought. From the perspective of Heaven, Laozi promoted accommodation and non-interference in self-cultivation and governance, summed up by the maxim that “the sage manages affairs without deliberation, and spreads teachings without words.” In contrast, Wang Fuzhi stuck to the distinction between Confucianism and Daoism, and tried to use humanity and ritual propriety to supplement that which Heaven does not provide; as such, he criticized Laozi as crafty and irresponsible. Wang Fuzhi’s criticism neither hits the mark regarding Laozi’s weakness nor maintains a concordance with his earlier sympathetic appraisal in Laozi Yan; the reason for this is that Wang Fuzhi could not fully grasp Laozi’s thought from a Confucian and anthropocentric perspective.

    Francesco Orilia

    This paper examines the moral theory presented by Castañeda in his 1974 book The Stucture of Morality and illustrates its usefulness in dealing with some intercultural phenomena concerning women and children rights which globalization has brought to the fore. In particular, Castañeda’s crucial distinction between moral codes and the moral ideal is highlighted. Moreover, the role that freedom and happiness play in his framework is discussed and further elaborated by appealing to Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive freedom and current empirical studies on happiness.

    ZHANG Ligeng

    “Internal relation” is a significant term in both Wittgenstein’s early and later philosophy. The term is used in relation to many problems, including our topic here, “aspect-seeing.” Some scholars have attempted to present a persuasive interpretation of this terminology; however, Wittgenstein’s remarks on “aspect-seeing” somehow thwart their approaches. The obstacle lies in the relata involved: Which terms are connected by an internal relation in the perception of an aspect? In this paper, I review the existing interpretations and present two proposals, one of which is conservative and the other slightly more radical. I argue that Wittgenstein makes divergent use of the distinction between “internal/external relations,” and that this may reveal the potential ambiguities of the words “internal” and “relation.”

    YU Yang