Here is a thought-provoking study by Erin Cline that compares the political philosophies of John Rawls and Confucius (Kongzi):
Over the past two decades, a number of studies comparing Chinese and Western views of political philosophy have painted a picture of radically different approaches and theories. Some authors argue that while modern liberal Western theories are focused on rights, justice, equality, and freedom, Chinese Confucians are largely unconcerned with the received topics of Western political philosophy.... They also tend to argue that, while the assumption of atomistic individualism represents a fatal flaw in liberal theory, the Confucian view offers us a superior alternative partly because it takes seriously the view that family and community relationships constitute our identity. These studies have helped to highlight the way that philosophical traditions can provide insight into different cultural and historical concerns, as well as the need to take seriously the role of the family in the basic structure of society. However, some of these studies have neglected the diversity of views represented in both the Confucian and Western liberal traditions. They also tend to leave those who do not think the liberal tradition is fatally flawed wondering what can be gained from comparative studies of Chinese and Western sources.In this article I aim to show that there is much more to be said about political philosophy in the Confucian and Western liberal traditions, especially when it comes to moral psychology and the development of political virtues.
More HERE. If you think the essay is too long, at least read the two concluding paragraphs below.
Chris Schoen on how very radically the human self participates in its own creation. Essential reading for all philosophers of science.
Is it possible that our understanding of the world expands and develops not before we describe it, and not because we describe it, but as we describe it? This seems much more plausible than the Darwinian explanation, in which we are in constant stenographic response to a world of given stimuli; and because the latter has us spinning our wheels, culturally, over alleged biological imperatives from a world long past, the possibility that we particpate in our description of the world also seems much more likely to allow some actual evolution of thought, philosophical, scientific, and moral.
The social scientist Ashis Nandy's take on the recently concluded Indian elections:
In our society, we live with radical diversities — diversity that is not based on tamed forms of difference. The US is a perfect example of tamed diversity. You get every kind of food and dress and cultural activity in America. You think you are very cosmopolitan if you can distinguish Huaiyang food from Schezwan food, or South Korean ballet from Beijing opera, or Ming dynasty china from Han dynasty china in a museum. This is diversity that is permissible, legitimate, tamed.
Radical diversity is when you tolerate and live with people who challenge some of the very basic axioms of your political life. Like most of South Asia, Indians have an old capacity to live with such diversity. A powerful example is Sajjad Lone contesting the election this year. Nobody objected that a secessionist wants to take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. Everyone spoke of it glowingly. I consider that a tolerance for radical diversity. In such a society, all excesses are ultimately checkmated.
In India, we live in a country where the gods are imperfect and the demons are never fully demonic. I call this an ‘epic culture’ because an epic is not complete without either the gods or the demons. They make the story together. This is a part of our consciousness, and ultimately, I think it influences our public life. People go up to a point with their grievance, then get tired of it. They realise that to go further is a dangerous thing because it destroys the basic algorithm of your life. They say, enough is enough, let us go back to a normal life. This election represents something of that consciousness. We probably need this kind of interregnum in politics. They have a soothing effect on our public life. This is what most Indians feel.
The second underlying theme is that people were searching for a sort of minimum decency. Negative campaigns, excessively personal attacks, hostile slogans — all of this seemed to upset the voter. When the BJP and the Left targeted Manmohan Singh, making him the butt of jokes and accusations, Singh became a hero for the very qualities people joked about. His weakness, his absence of a political base, his susceptibility to pressures of the Congress high command — instead of looking like liabilities, these things suddenly began to look like a marker of a genteel type of politics. I think that paid dividends.
More here. (Also check out Prof. Bidyut Chakraborty's analysis.)
(Cross-posted as my new column on 3QuarksDaily, where it has received many comments. An expanded version of this article also appeared in the Aug 2009 issue of Himal Southasian — read the text HERE.) _______________________________
Various societies at different times have dazzled with their bursts of creative and intellectual energy. Historians have a penchant for dubbing them Golden Ages. Examples include the Athens of Herodotus, the Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid, and the India of the Buddha. But though India has long been famous for its "ancient wisdom", the few historical sources that survive shed woefully inadequate light on the Buddha's society. By contrast, far better portraits of classical Greece and Abbasid Baghdad are available to us.
Still, evidence at hand suggests that around 600-500 BCE, in parts of the Indo-Gangetic plain of north India, people were asking some very bold and original questions: What is the nature of thought and perception? What is the source of consciousness? Are virtue and vice absolute or mere social conventions? Old traditions were under attack, new trades and lifestyles were emerging, and urban life was in a churn, reducing the power of uptight Brahmins.
Philosophical schools flourished in a marketplace of ideas, and included chronic fatalists, radical materialists, self-mortifying ascetics, die-hard skeptics, cautious pragmatists, saintly mystics, and the ubiquitous miracle mongers. "Rivalries and debates were rife. Audiences gathered around the new philosophers in the kutuhala-shalas—literally, the place for creating curiosity—the parks and groves on the outskirts of the towns.... The presence of multiple, competing ideologies was a feature of urban living." It was also an age of nascent democratic republics, which, like Athens later, did not ultimately survive the march of monarchy and empire.