American Philosophical Association
Eastern Division Meeting, Boston
December 30, 2004
"Heaven may not change its mind--and if Heaven refuses to change its mind, there is no escaping its mandate" (Yamashita: 73).
There are passages in Ogyu Sorai's works, like the one quoted above, that seem to emphatically express the view that "Heaven" (J: ten / C: tian) has a will, that it is essentially an agent. Indeed, many scholars have adopted this interpretation. For example, Maruyama Masao writes, "[Sorai] replaced the rational Way of Heaven with a nonrational Will of Heaven" (Maruyama: 112). In other words, tian is a "personified heaven," and the so-called "Will of Heaven" represents an "autonomous personality" (96; 210). Similarly, Yoshikawa Kojiro writes that, for Sorai, "heaven has volition" (Yoshikawa: 250). However, there are reasons to be cautious about adopting this view.
I argue that when Sorai speaks of the "mind" (perhaps better rendered "spirit") of Heaven, he is best understood as employing a metaphor that implies complexity, mystery, and activity, but not intentionality. At least, this "mind" or "spirit" is not analogous to that of humans. "How can Heaven be akin to the spirit of humans?" (Benmei II; Najita: 115). At times, Sorai even suggests a naturalistic conception of Heaven: "Gazing at its vast and hazy blueness, it seems dusky dim, far and high. . . . The heavenly bodies are fastened to it. Wind and rain, cold and heat, travel through it" (Benmei II; Cf. Najita: 114 ).
Sorai steers a course between the Song Confucian's view of Heaven as static and knowable (a view that he explicitly rejects), and a view of Heaven as intentional (a view he never unequivocally expresses). Comparing Sorai's conception of Heaven with that of Xunzi, this paper seeks to bring together seemingly incompatible passages under a single consistent, and philosophically interesting, interpretation.
8 th Asian Studies Conference Japan
Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan
June 19, 2004
The Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy
Asilomar Conference, Pacific Grove, California
June 22, 2004
With the globalization of ideas, questions regarding the applicability of Western style human rights are pressed upon all peoples. Many East Asian leaders remain skeptical about the appropriateness of Western conceptions of human rights in East Asian contexts. Arguing that these East Asian leaders are having a positive influence on international moral discourse, I outline and defend a set of philosophical (largely Confucian) premises that I see as informing their positions.
While many reluctant East Asian leaders have now accepted the proposition that human rights can be regarded as "universal," this acknowledgement raises the questions, "Which purported rights are truly universal?" and "In what sense are they universal?" Far from being an admission of philosophical defeat, I argue that addressing these questions enables these East Asians leaders to adopt the more nuanced position. This "tempered universalism" actually requires substantial concessions from the West, both philosophically and politically. It undermines both the moral realist perspective that is often assumed in assertions regarding human rights, as well as the supposition that "negative rights" can be used to trump "mere aspirations" such as economic development and welfare.
Such a nuanced understanding of rights can facilitate constructive cross-cultural engagement, and thereby forward the effort to make meaningful progress on international moral causes. Further, this strategy is not a matter of mere prudence. It respects the fundamental moral tenet that the application of any moral principle must be attuned with requirements of justice--or what a Confucian would call yi (appropriateness).
"Artifice and Virtue in the Xunzi."
- 12th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy, Beijing, July 23, 2001.
"The Status of Rites and Virtues in Xunzi."
- Invited paper. Xunzi Conference, University of Michigan, March 10, 2001.
"The Concepts of Li and Lei in the Xunzi: Constructive Patterning of Categories"
- 9th Annual East-West Center Participants' Conference, Honolulu, February 9, 2000.
Last Date Modified: 08/21/2007
Kurtis Hagen, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org