I've been using this as a kind of supplement while teaching the Chinese texts this semester. I think there are a lot of good things about it - it's meI've been using this as a kind of supplement while teaching the Chinese texts this semester. I think there are a lot of good things about it - it's meticulous, and Liu will often schematize arguments in a way that's probably useful for a lot of readers. (And would make it a good teaching resource.) It also gives good discussion of the secondary literature, the contemporary interpretations of the texts.
But there's something sort of anachronistic and vaguely uncharitable about a lot of Liu's analysis. There's a lot of laying out of, for example, Mengzi's argument for human nature being good and then saying, "this argument fails." But I suspect that is not a terribly fruitful way to approach these texts - I prefer Joel Kupperman's approach, on the whole. Liu seems to be trying to break them down, rather than find out what makes them appealing.
Though of course I haven't read as closely as it deserves; and I am genuinely looking forward to the chapters on Chinese Buddhism....more
Watson translates jian ai as "universal love" which is, I think, the literal translation. But it's extremely misleading in English! "Impartial caring" is much better - and also gives you a better sense of the relationship Mozi bears to the Confucians (who are all about differentiated caring)*.
Mozi is also probably the most accessible early Chinese philosopher for Western audiences**, particularly those who have been read some philosophy. Unlike the Analects or Mengzi, or the Daoists for that matter, Mozi's writings are constructed as arguments. And the history of Mohism as a school of philosophy is also quite interesting. Mohists worked as advisors and tacticians, traveling to vulnerable states and providing them with counsel and technology when they were under siege. Warfare, of course, was one of those things Confucius didn't talk about. So, this is quite a different experience.
(The micro-ethical focus of Confucian philosophy isn't quite present here - which is another reason Mozi's probably good for Western readers. But it's a bit of a loss.)
And probably Mozi's the closest you get to thinking, hey maybe something other than autocracy? although still not that close. (There are some readings of Mengzi that suggest he has something like a right of rebellion. Certainly, Mengzi doesn't mind scolding kings-in-name.)
* It's not like an early Chinese philosopher is going to throw filiality out. Even Zhuangzi has Mengsun Cai. ** Obviously, Zhuangzi is the most fun, but that's not the same as accessible....more
2. It's not clear how central claims about human nature are to Xunzi. We find that kind of claim striking, but s1. "Evil" is a misleading translation.
2. It's not clear how central claims about human nature are to Xunzi. We find that kind of claim striking, but should we? It's not like there are definitive proofs about human nature. Nor is it a particularly interesting question.
3. But it probably says a lot about you if you prefer Mengzi or Xunzi....more
My cat died recently, so I was extra susceptible to this book (though I'm not a "cat person" of the kind described in here, I don't think). The illustMy cat died recently, so I was extra susceptible to this book (though I'm not a "cat person" of the kind described in here, I don't think). The illustrations are really witty and charming, and the narrative itself is deeper than it might appear....more
I'm a big fan of this book, even though I'm only sort of a fan of virtue ethics (my Kantian intuitions run too deep!). I think Tessman does a great joI'm a big fan of this book, even though I'm only sort of a fan of virtue ethics (my Kantian intuitions run too deep!). I think Tessman does a great job using and critiquing Aristotle's version of virtue ethics. Or, whatever - the current interpretation of Aristotle's virtue ethics. (There are too many history questions to deal with . . .)
Good stuff. I like her discussion of anger and proper anger, in particular. She does a nice job of bringing in Lugones, who's kind of a tough read sometimes, and making her work relevant to the virtue ethical stuff (which isn't like the most intuitive fit). And I really like the way Tessman brings in/brings up the problem of external goods....more
Obviously, this is a seminal work in philosophy but it is such a slog to get through. Also, I was more than ready for Hume and Kant by the time I hitObviously, this is a seminal work in philosophy but it is such a slog to get through. Also, I was more than ready for Hume and Kant by the time I hit the halfway point....more
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still a
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied - as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels - that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or feel that he is doing wrong. In this respect, the evidence in the Eichmann case was even more convincing than the evidence in the trial of the major war criminals, whose pleas of a clear conscience could be dismissed more easily because they combined with the argument of obedience to "superior orders" various boasts about occasional disobedience. But although the bad faith of the defendants was manifest, the only ground on which guilty conscience could actually be proved was the fact that the Nazis, and especially the criminal organizations to which Eichmann belonged, had been so very busy destroying the evidence of their crimes during the last months of the war. And this ground was rather shaky. It proved no more than recgonition that the law of mass murder, because of its novelty, was not yet accepted by other nations; or, in the language of the Nazis, that they had lost their fight to "liberate" mankind from the "rule of subhumans," especially from the domination of the Elders of Zion; or, in ordinary language, it proved no more than the admission of defeat. Would any one of them have suffered from a guilty conscience if they had won?
(from the Epilogue)
There aren't a lot of funny parts in this book, as you might imagine, but Arendt's description of Italy's noncooperation re: getting rid of their Jews is kind of hilarious in a Terry Gilliam black comedy kind of way. ...more
1. I read Beauvoir's book for a class devoted solely to reading it, which is kind of the perfect way to tackle this enormous, multifaceted examination1. I read Beauvoir's book for a class devoted solely to reading it, which is kind of the perfect way to tackle this enormous, multifaceted examination of what it was like and what it meant/s to be a woman. Things have changed, she gets things wrong (Simone de Beauvoir and I do not have the same tastes in literature) but there are also many, many elements of The Second Sex that ring even more true now - "The Independent Woman" chapter particularly.
2.Holy shit, this book.
Like the filthy carefree souls cheerfully scratching their vermin, like the joyful Negroes laughing while being lashed, and like these gay Arabs of Sousse with a smile on their lips, burying their children who starved to death, the woman enjoys this incomparable privilege: irresponsibility. Without difficulties, without responsibility, she obviously has "the best part." What is troubling is that by a stubborn perversity - undoubtedly linked to original sin - across centuries and countries the people who have the best part always shout to their benefactors: It's too much! I'll settle for yours! But the magnanimous capitalists, the generous colonialists, the superb male persist: Keep the best part, keep it! The fact is that men counter more complicity in their women companions than the oppressor usually finds in the oppressed; and in bad faith they use it as a pretext to declare that woman wanted the destiny the imposed on her.
This selection, from the conclusion of The Second Sex is one of the tartest, most heavily and obviously ironic parts of the book. Really, throughout Beauvoir is remarkably cool-headed, thorough and impassioned, but sincere and not particularly snarky (I mean, she might be vicious in some spots, but it's always in a very chill way). Here she's finally had enough of explaining reasonably why patriarchy &c is wrong and self-perpetuating, and points out how ridiculous the whole thing is, how self-deluding, how inauthentic. For an existentialist, of course saying lack of responsibility is a blessing - a privilege! - is ridiculous, unethical, and harmful. And that's actually, sort of, one of the points in her book: that women are confined to immanence and then told they should be grateful for it, because it makes them better and happier and luckier (or whatever) than men, and how could they want anything else? Don't worry your pretty little head about it, baby! Oh, you're so sexy when you're angry/exploited/frustrated - wait, what do you mean I've never made you come?
And I think that the contemporary critics who say Beauvoir over-invests in masculine ways of meaning, on masculine projects have a point: there are significant ways of creating meaningful lives and projects using "feminine" experience and projects, so long as they synthesize immanence and transcendence in an authentic way. But I think they overlook her specific phenomenology, meaning the experience of being a reasonable, rational woman perfectly capable of functioning in the eminently masculine world of philosophy and being told over and over and over that you're doing it wrong. Not only are you doing philosophy wrong, because you're a woman and it's ridiculous of you to want to do it in the first place, but you're being a woman wrong too - and you don't understand how good you have it. Yes, it's stupid and limiting that the only way to transcendence is the masculine way, but it's equally stupid and limiting to say that you can only have meaning by embracing your Otherness. Beauvoir makes a point throughout of the impossible position negative and abstract freedom places women in, so that your Otherness defines you - but it usually defines you falsely, in inequality and oppression. Existentialism, to borrow from Thomas Flynn's Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Sartre, "is chiefly about: challenging the individual to examine their life for intimations of bad faith and to heighten their sensitivity to oppression and exploitation in their world," about balancing freedom and responsibility and trying to be who you are. But, because existence precedes essence, who you are is what you do - the choices (look at your life, look at your choices) you make can trap you in bad faith. BUT, you can ALSO get out of it, and permanently if enough people agree with you and try to change the social structure.
So, in some ways The Second Sex is really depressing - because it's true - and in other ways it's hopeful - because it's true.
The Spa had no big secrets to defend, so the guards did nothing but monitor the ladies who were going in, frightened by the first signs of droop and pucker, then going out again, buffed and tightened and resurfaced, irradiated and despotted. But still frightened, because when might the whole problem - the whole thing - start happening to them again? The whole signs-of-mortality thing. The whole thing thing. Nobody likes it, thought Toby - being a body, a thing. Nobody wants to be limited in that way. We'd rather have wings. Even the word flesh has a mushy sound to it. We're not selling only beauty, the AnooYoo Corp said in their staff instructionals. We're selling hope. Some of the customers could be demanding. They couldn't understand why even the most advanced AnooYoo treatments wouldn't make them twenty-one again. "Our laboratories are well on the way to age reversal," Toby would tell them in soothing tones, "but they aren't quite there yet. In a few years ..." If you really want to stay the same age you are now forever and ever, she'd be thinking, try jumping off the roof: death's a sure-fire method for stopping time.
There's something particularly absurd about rating this kind of book - as if whether you like it, whether it's good by x-standards is the most relevanThere's something particularly absurd about rating this kind of book - as if whether you like it, whether it's good by x-standards is the most relevant aspect. Of course, these questions are important, and Caldwell is a literary critic, so she probably knows, understands, and agrees. But the goal of this book reaches out and beyond that kind of reading style, to create or acknowledge kinship. It's beautifully written, the prose is clear and affecting, but that's just part of the larger project....more