The Center for Comparative Philosophy Invited Workshop Series
Moral Virtue and the Promotion of Human Welfare:
A Confucian Approach
|Time: 13:30–15:30 pm 6th April Thursday*
Location: West Duke 101
Commentator: Songyao Ren (Phd Student in Philosophy)
* Lunch is provided!
Justin Tiwald is Associate Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. His recent works include “Zhu Xi’s Critique of Buddhism: Selfishness, Salvation, and Self-Cultivation” (2017) and Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (with Stephen C. Angle, 2017). With Eric L. Hutton, he is co-editor of the translation series Oxford Chinese Thought.
The 18th Century Confucian philosopher Dai Zhen 戴震 argued that by his time China had long been in the grips of moral views that took little account of human welfare. Even if there were thinkers who endorsed practices that would promote well-being, he suggested, the sorts of moral agents they sought to cultivate were ill equipped to recognize, assess, and act on human interests, in part because they prized altruism and a certain wholehearted devotion to the good more highly. Part of his solution to this problem was to offer a different account of the virtues, one that made more room for robust desires and mutually fulfilling relationships.
In this talk, Justin Tiwald argues that Dai’s proposals are best read as a unified theory of the virtues, one that characterizes all virtues as either directly or indirectly promoting what he calls “orderly life-production.” He then proceed to consider how well his criticisms of longstanding Chinese views can be generalized and applied to prominent contemporary moral theories. He concludes that the most influential contemporary theories (including utilitarian ones) also fail to provide a plausible and adequate account of the relationships between virtue, desire, and the orderly structuring and distribution of well-being. Dai’s unified theory of the virtues, then, fills in a lacuna in contemporary ethics that has long been overlooked.