Manyul Im’s Chinese Philosophy Blog

… 名可名非常名 …

Mohism and Maximizing

In thinking about Mohism lately, I’ve wondered to myself if the fact that maximizing benefit (li 利) is not explicitly a part of Mozi’s doctrines makes a difference. Though it is clear that benefit is supposed to be the primary consideration in deciding what to do or what policies to adopt, there isn’t some explicit accompanying doctrine of producing the overall best state of affairs construed in terms benefit, as there is in classcial utilitarianism for example. This could divide into at least two questions: (A) Can it simply be assumed that if someone thinks beneficial consequences should be the primary motive for acting, or rationale for policy, that she also thinks maximizing such consequences should be the primary motive? (B) If maximizing consequences weren’t part of the Mohist view, would it still count as a form of consequentialism?

Obviously, in part I’m interested (in question B) because it makes a difference for how to categorize Mohism in the spectrum of types of ethical theory. But I’m also interested (via an answer to A) in whether there might plausibly be a systematic, primary role for consequence-reasoning that isn’t committed to some kind of maximizing rationality.

Any thoughts?

Advertisements

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Chinese philosophy, Comparative philosophy, Mohism | | 36 Comments