“Confucian Role Ethics: A Challenge to the Ideology of Individualism” by Roger T. Ames (17 Jan)

In the introduction of Chinese philosophy and culture into the Western academy, we have tended to theorize and conceptualize this antique tradition by appeal to familiar categories. Confucian role ethics is an attempt to articulate a sui generis moral philosophy that allows this tradition to have its own voice. This holistic philosophy is grounded in the primacy of relationality, and is a challenge to a foundational liberal individualism that has defined persons as discrete, autonomous, rational, free, and often self-interested agents. Confucian role ethics begins from a relationally constituted conception of person, takes family roles and relations as the entry point for developing moral competence, invokes moral imagination and the growth in relations that it can inspire as the substance of human morality, and entails a human-centered, a-theistic religiousness that stands in sharp contrast to the Abrahamic religions.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 17 Jan 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Roger T. Ames, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker: 

Roger T. Ames is Professor of Philosophy and editor of Philosophy East & West. His recent publications include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (1993); Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (1996) and Tracing Dao to its Source (1997) (both with D.C. Lau); the Confucian Analects (1998) and the Classic of Family Reverence: A Philosophical Translation of the Xiaojing (2009) (both with H. Rosemont), Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong, and A Philosophical Translation of the Daodejing: Making This Life Significant (with D.L. Hall) (2001). He has also authored many interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture: Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China: Thinking Through the Narratives of Chinese and Western Culture (1995), and Thinking From the Han: Self, Truth, and Transcendence in Chinese and Western Culture (1997) (all with D.L. Hall).  Recently he has undertaken several projects that entail the intersection of contemporary issues and cultural understanding.  His Democracy of the Dead: Dewey, Confucius, and the Hope for Democracy in China (with D.L. Hall) (1999) is a product of this effort. Almost all of his publications are now available in Chinese translation, including his philosophical translations of Chinese canonical texts. Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (2011), his most recent monograph that evolved from the endowed Ch’ien Mu lectures at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is an argument that this tradition has a sui generis vision of the moral life. He has most recently been engaged in compiling the new Blackwell Sourcebook of Chinese Philosophy, and in writing articles promoting a conversation between American pragmatism and Confucianism.

[Public Lecture] The Perilous Seduction of the Ideal: Why We should Resist the Allure of Moral Homogeneity by Dr. Gerald Gaus (14 Aug)

Political philosophers are accustomed to conceiving of their activity as a philosophical elaboration and defense of a specific theory of justice. We seek the one, best, theory of justice — or account of moral social life — by which to order our common existence. Like Plato, who continues to cast a spell over our profession, the deep conviction is that the best state would, in a deep sense, be a morally homogenous one. Our current, real-world communities, characterized by disagreement and moral dispute, may be the best we can attain, but fall far short of the ideal or perfect. Like Plato, we see the moral community as a person writ large; if a just person is moved by a well-thought out and consistent theory of justice, so too must a just community. And the most just community would be one that is moved by the best theory of justice.

In this lecture I suggest that this ancient pursuit of the ideal, while seductive, is perilous. The moral life of a society is better understood as normative system of a very different type: what I call a “complex normative system,” in which the very diversity and disagreements of the participants sustain the community’s moral life. I argue that societies that do not concur on the best theory (or principles) of justice are better able to sustain a “moral constitution” that all can endorse than those that have settled on what they see as the one, best or true, theory.

Public Lecture.
Date: Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Time: 4-6pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 Level 5)
Speaker: Gerald Gaus, James E. Rogers Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona

About the Speaker: Gerald Gaus is the James E. Rogers Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, where he directs the program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law. He is the author of a number of books, including On Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (2008), Contemporary Theories of Liberalism (2003), Justificatory Liberalism (1996) and Value and Justification (1990). He was a founding editor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics. His most recent book is The Order of Public Reason, published by Cambridge in 2011. His main area of work is social and political philosophy, though he rejects the dominant highly idealized and objectivist moral suppositions of the field. His work focuses on how a society can achieve a public moral framework that is freely endorsed by diverse normative perspectives. For more, see his website www.gauz.biz.

“Moral Reasons and Reasons to Be Moral” by Andres Luco (3 May)

If you have a moral duty to do something, does it necessarily follow that you have a reason to do it? Contrary to most moral philosophers, I contend that the answer is “no.” I defend the view that morality and practical rationality are independent systems of normative evaluation. Thus, there can be a moral reason that an agent should do X, while the agent has no practical reason to do X. This view is supported by three sets of considerations: (1) intuitions about the possibility of rational evil, (2) the common experience of being alienated from one’s moral duties, and (3) the fact that moral norms have the function of promoting behaviors that are group-beneficial, but not necessarily beneficial to any particular individual.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 3 May 2012
Time: 2-4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 Level 5)
Speaker: Andres Luco, Assistant Professor, Philosophy Group, Nanyang Technological University
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker: Andres Luco is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Group at Nanyang Technological University. He has previously taught philosophy at North Carolina State University and the University of Cape Town.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.