Work in Progress

Xunzi on the Role of Military Tactics in Ordering the State – under review

Chapter 15 of the Xunzi is framed as a debate between Xunzi and his interlocutor over the question of the crucial points of military affairs. Therein, the interlocutor focuses on a range of specific military tactics familiar to anyone knowledgeable about early Chinese military texts. Xunzi, though, refuses to be drawn into a discussion of military strategy, arguing instead that such practical questions are of secondary (and derivative) importance. Rather, he returns to a theme explicit in other chapters, that a heavily normative sense of community, itself based on a particular set of allotments and divisions that arise out of rituals and yi (義), provides the best chance for a long-lasting, flourishing state. And, in order for such a state to exist, it must be ruled by a virtuous ruler. In Xunzi’s rhetoric, once such a virtuous ruler is in place, not only is his own people’s loyalty assured, he has nothing to fear from any enemy, for his enemy’s subjects will flock to him rather than following their own ruler. Thus, no matter how tactically advanced or militarily skilled the officers and troops of his enemy, the virtuous ruler has nothing to fear.
Such a view may well seem overly optimistic, even Pollyannish. Herein, I endeavor to provide the most plausible interpretation of Xunzi’s views, an interpretation that recognizes the idealism present in this chapter, but seeks to demonstrate that while his rhetoric may at times be look absurd, his position is not as idealistic nor is his dismissal of military tactics as complete as initially appears. His fundamental argument remains, however, that the quest for order cannot be fulfilled simply by coming to a deep understanding of military tactics.

Xunzi’s Virtue Jurisprudence – In Progress

Recently, there has been a resurgence of studies of virtue ethics in the Western world, and there are those who have used this as a framework for understanding early Confucian ethics. There have also been those who have used these insights as a stepping stone for understanding Confucian political philosophy as a version of virtue politics. What I argue in this paper is that it may be profitable to extend the virtue based analysis of Confucianism, and in particular Xunzi, even further and understand his theory of law as a version of virtue jurisprudence. In doing this, I first lay out a thin description of virtue jurisprudence and demonstrate why it is that it makes sense to understand Xunzi’s legal thought in these terms. I then develop an understanding of Xunzi’s particular thick conception of virtue jurisprudence, which has important differences from contemporary Western versions and analyze how a better understanding of Xunzi’s theory may be useful for those advocating virtue jurisprudence today.

The Four Sprouts and the Seven Feelings – What would Mengzi (Mencius) Say? – In Progress

This paper looks at Mengzian ideas of virtue in an attempt to understand the relationship between the four sprouts of virtue (四端 si duan) found in the Mengzi and the seven feelings discussed in the Lijing 禮經 and elsewhere. This is important because it gives us a way of examining the relationship between emotions and ethics, and if the four sprouts do carry the normative force that Mengzi seems to think they do, then by comparing them with the seven feelings we may be able to determine wherein lies this normative force and why the seven feelings lack it.
I argue that the four sprouts have a connection with the heart/mind that is absent in the feelings. Further, because the four sprouts give one a basis of other regarding factors to take into consideration when deciding on any action, they can be seen as a normative guide for the feelings, as a way of determining whether or not one should follow the dictates of one’s other emotions. This then fits in with our natural tendency to think that there are some times when one should follow their feelings and sometimes when one should go against them. In addition, it gives us an actual way to go about determining when we should follow our feeling and when we should not. As such, we can think of the four sprouts as more fundamental to right action than the seven feelings, as a sort of normative foundation upon which to build conceptions of how one should act.