“Progressive Confucianism” by Stephen Angle (10 Jan 2012)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 10 Jan 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Stephan C. Angle, Professor, Wesleyan University, USA; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

In recent years, political philosophy has emerged as a key locus of debate for contemporary Confucian philosophers. This lecture surveys some of the competing approaches and then introduces a new alternative, “Progressive Confucianism.” According to Progressive Confucianism, ethical insight leads to progressive political change, which in turn leads to greater realization of our potential for virtue. The institutions advocated by Progressive Confucians are valued not because of their ancient pedigree but because of their capacity to assist in the realization of the fundamental human virtues that Confucians have valued since ancient times. Social structures that set barriers to the realization of virtue, therefore, need to be critiqued and changed. Progressive Confucian criticism of social, economic, or political oppression will often resemble the criticisms raised by other sorts of progressivism, but Progressive Confucianism remains true to the founding insights of Confucianism in many ways. It endorses versions of hierarchy, deference, ritual, and state-sponsored ethical education. Progressive Confucian political philosophy argues that our narrowly political institutions and values must be understood to exist in a balanced, mutually dependent relationship with two other distinct sources of value and practice, the ethical and the ritual.

About the speaker: Stephen C. Angle received his B.A. from Yale University in East Asian Studies and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan. Since 1994 he has taught at Wesleyan University, where he is now Professor of Philosophy. Angle is the author of Human Rights and Chinese Thought: A Cross-Cultural Inquiry (Cambridge, 2002), Sagehood: The Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy (Oxford, 2009), and Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism (Polity, 2012), as well as and numerous scholarly articles on Chinese ethical and political thought and on topics in comparative philosophy.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.