Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy Blog

… 名可名非常名 …

Confucius and Aristotle – book review

With much thanks to Patrick for the heads up, here is the link to Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews‘ review of Jiyuan Yu’s The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue, a book that is on our Shamelessly Brief Book Review list.

While I’m thinking of it, here’s something that occurred to me while I was at the APA meetings last week, listening to Stephen Angle and Michael Slote talking about Bryan van Norden’s book, Virtue Ethics and Consequentialism in Early Chinese Philosophy (also reviewed on Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here). I wondered how things would look if instead of trying to read Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, Xunzi, or other Chinese philosophers as virtue ethicists, Aristotelians, Humeans, Kantians, or consequentialists someone did a close comparative exegesis from the other direction: try to read Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Mill, Hursthouse, Slote, or some other Western philosopher as a Confucian, a ritualist, a Mohist, or Daoist. That’s probably a bit of the crank in me being tired of the philosophical taxonomy game that seems only concerned with assimilating Chinese philosophy into Western ethical theory.

On the other hand, I’m on record (comment #23) saying that “philosophy” is really a Western concept. So, maybe it’s really that I’m tired of the taxonomy game in either direction when it’s not clear what that gets us. So what if Mencius is more like Aristotle than Hume, or vice versa? Why not just try to understand Mencius as Mencian and just leave it at that? Am I just being cranky or missing something of value in the taxonomy enterprise?

By the way, this shouldn’t be construed as being about Jiyuan Yu’s book; I haven’t read it (nor have I formed any opinions about it yet!). Comments about Yu’s book or the review of it are, of course, welcome as well.

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Chinese philosophy, Comparative philosophy, Hermeneutics | 39 Comments