Worries About Sagely “Imagination” and Regret

I’ve been returning to Steve Angle’s fantastic book Sagehood recently, especially focusing on the parts in which he discusses the problem of moral remainder and his (Neo-Confucian) notion of sagehood.  Steve takes “imagination” to be a key solution to this problem, arguing that the sage’s imagination allows him or her to envision alternative ways a supposed dilemma might be solved so as to escape “unscathed” morally.  Alternatively, the sage is able through prior imagination to avoid (as much as possible) situations in which there are genuine and inescapable moral dilemmas that necessarily result in moral remainder.

Although I think Steve is certainly right about the Neo-Confucian view and the response that rests on the notion of imagination, I am less sure that sagely imagination will actually resolve the difficulty.  This is connected to another worry I have about the issue of sagely regret (or the lack thereof, according to Steve’s reading).  I call these ‘worries’ rather than ‘objections’ because I think that what Steve says about sagely imagination is right for the most part–I just worry about the elimination of regret from the sage’s inner life.

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9th Annual Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought–Next Week

So the MCCT is finally upon us–it will be happening next week, May 10 and 11, here at the University of Dayton and up the street in Fairborn at Wright State University.  Following is a rough schedule of events and speakers.

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Call for Papers: 9th Annual Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought



Dayton, OH

May 10-11, 2013


The Midwest Conference on Chinese Thought was created to foster dialogue and interaction between scholars and students working on Chinese thought across different disciplines and through a variety of approaches. Submissions are invited for papers on any aspect of Chinese thought, as well as papers dealing with comparative issues that engage Chinese perspectives. Possible themes for submissions include: examining how recovered texts reframe familiar issues and debates in early Chinese thought; texts, movements, and figures from neglected eras and traditions; the current renaissance of philosophy and religious studies in China.

This year’s MCCT will be held on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 at the University of Dayton and Wright State University, in Dayton, OH.

To facilitate blind review, please submit abstracts of 1-2 pages in length to Patricia Johnson at pjohnson2@udayton.edu by MARCH 15th.  For further inquiries about this year’s MCCT, contact Alexus McLeod at gmcleod1@udayton.edu or Judson Murray at judson.murray@wright.edu.

Some Thoughts on Convention and Ritual in Xunzi

I recently returned from the 2012 AAR Annual Meeting, at which I was involved with two excellent panels, on Confucian Ethics (I chaired a session featuring three excellent papers by Cheryl Cottine, Aaron Stalnaker, and Michael Ing), and on Comparative Chinese-Indian thought (I presented a paper on a panel including fantastic papers by Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Laurie Patton, and David Lawrence).  I presented a paper on Xunzi and the Mimamsa Sutra, and have been thinking further about this paper in the last couple of days.

Let me throw a particular issue out there that I’ve been thinking about recently, related to part of what I cover in this paper.  I considered the question of the source of ritual in Xunzi, and whether we ought to see Xunzi as endorsing a conventionalist view or a realist view of ritual.  One of my contentions in the Continue reading

Reading the Zhuangzi in a Zhuangist Way

Recently I’ve been working on a couple of articles on the Zhuangzi, and have been thinking about the critically important question of how we read the text, and how this influences our interpretations.  The last few times I’ve read the text through, I’ve tried to approach it in a much different manner than I used to, and this, I’ve found, has both opened up a deeper layer of meaning in the text, and perhaps most strangely, simplified its themes and arguments.  I want to talk briefly here about first, a way of reading the text, and second, a possible misunderstanding of some of the seemingly extreme claims made in the Zhuangzi. Continue reading

Wang Chong in the IEP

My article for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Wang Chong has just been posted, here.  Check it out!  (An outline of what I’m covering in the book, more or less…)

What is 天 Tian?

In Wang Chong’s essay Tan tian (談天) “Discussing Tian” (I leave it untranslated here so as not to beg questions), he (as usual) criticizes a number of common views concerning what tian is and what it does.  This discussion leaves open the question, however, of just what Wang himself thinks that tian is and does.  We get some indication of Wang’s view on this in other essays of the Lunheng, and a bit in the Tan tian itself, but for the most part we are left to piece together his position on tian, as he focuses much more on undermining incorrect positions than advancing his own concerning tianContinue reading