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The Philosophy of the Mòzĭ: The First Consequentialists

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Mohism was an ancient Chinese philosophical movement founded in the fifth century BCE by the charismatic artisan M�zi, or "Master Mo." Its practitioners advanced a consequentialist ethics, along with fascinating political, logical, and epistemological theories, that set the terms of philosophical argumentation and reflection in China for generations to come. Mohism faded away in the imperial era, leaving the impression that it was not as vital as other Chinese philosophical traditions, yet a complete understanding of Confucianism or Daoism is impossible without appreciating the seminal contribution of Mohist thought.

The Philosophy of the M�zi is an extensive study of Mohism, situating the movement's rise and decline within Chinese history. The book also emphasizes Mohism's relevance to modern systems of thought. Mohism anticipated Western utilitarianism by more than two thousand years. Its political theory is the earliest to outline a just war doctrine and locate the origins of government in a state of nature. Its epistemology, logic, and psychology provide compelling alternatives to contemporary Western mentalism. More than a straightforward account of Mohist principles and practice, this volume immerses readers in the Mohist mindset and clarifies its underpinning of Chinese philosophical discourse.

320 pages, Paperback

Published September 13, 2016

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Chris Fraser

7 books1 follower

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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 reviews
Profile Image for E..
50 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2021
A general survey of a much-neglected branch of early Chinese thought, Fraser's book is as informative (as a reference) as it is frustrating to read. This is not least because the author is painfully uncritical of his own hermeneutic method and spends much of the book trying to solve uninteresting problems he has created for himself. Instead of trying to understand Mohism on its own terms, Fraser routinely mistake features of Mohist thought as shortcomings or absence of clarity. The "critical evaluations" are deeply presentist and seem resolutely unwilling to move its evaluative framework away from that of contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, the volume is comprehensive in its treatment of the early and middle chapters of the Mohist Cannon and will likely remain an important reference for scholars (analytic philosophers or not) in the years to come.
Profile Image for Andrew Clough.
184 reviews8 followers
August 4, 2022
Decided to read more about the Mohists after an episode on the Rationally Speaking podcast on them. The books does a good job of outlining overall Mohist thought. In some places the book goes a little too far in defending them in a western European philosophy context. Modern anthropology, psychology, and the Mohists believed that custom and morality exist on a spectrum rather than as discrete entities but the author goes into ways in which the Mohists might not reeeaaaaly have meant what they were correct about but which contradicts his background assumptions. Still, the original is presented clearly and in other places where the Mohists have very different perspectives than is typical of western philosophy there isn't this element.
Profile Image for Jake Losh.
203 reviews20 followers
January 20, 2020
This was a good book. Fraser succeeds in making the case that Mozi deserves more credit and respect in Chinese philosophy and the history of philosophy, more generally. At its best, the book is a systematic dissection of the philosophy of Mozi as well as a comprehensive explication and a very thorough set of arguments about what it is and is not. At its worst, it felt repetitive and out of context from the modern world. Many months after reading it, I think about this book more than I would have thought.
Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 reviews

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