Category Archives: comparative philosophy

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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Wang Chong as Philosopher: A Preview

I have recently (since I began working on these Wang Chong posts) been working on a longer work on Wang Chong’s philosophical thought, tentatively titled “Wang Chong as Philosopher”–I’ll likely come up with something better as I go along.  Anyway–I thought that this would be a good place to give a short account of the project, before I get into some of the issues I’m working through in future posts.

I engage with Wang Chong as philosopher, rather than as social critic, political thinker, or historical figure.  Certainly, aspects of these features of Wang Chong’s work must be considered in any study of Wang’s thought, but I focus mainly in this project on the philosophical thought of Wang, as it reveals itself through the method he advocates, his arguments and conclusions, and the sometimes startling ways these arguments can help to inform certain positions and debates in contemporary philosophy.

Thus, my purpose is in some sense historical, but in a larger sense it is an attempt to reflect along side of Wang Chong, thinking about solutions to pressing philosophical problems in ways that often import Wang’s thinking to solve contemporary problems and vice-versa.   I necessarily consider Wang outside of his historical and cultural context, assuming that philosophical method and arguments need not be tied to particular historical and cultural contexts (as we regularly do with philosophers such as Kant or Plato, and to a somewhat lesser extent with religious philosophers like Aquinas, Augustine, or Avicenna, whose central theological motives are often seen as archaic and therefore historically and culturally bound).

One way of seeing the intent of this work, then, is that of thinking through contemporary philosophical problems through the lenses of and with the aid of Wang Chong, a unique and penetrating ancient Chinese thinker, whose method and arguments can be of immense use in contemporary philosophy.  Wang approaches subjects from ethics and politics to metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and philosophical method, in an often very different way than his contemporaries and near-contemporaries in the earliest and most widely studied (by philosophers in the west) period of Chinese thought. Wang Chong’s thought is well suited to inform contemporary debates in ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of language, and contemporary philosophical concepts can also help illuminate Wang’s own project.

Keep an eye out for much more on Wang here on Unpolished Jade in the coming days and weeks!