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this is religious ethics class.. just use ch 1 .. pick out a passage thats troubling you. try to explain what you think the theorist is saying, what its proving difficult to understand, and then spell out why you think what he s saying is difficult to understand or, alternatively,philosophically implausible

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OVERCOMING OUR EVIL Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine Aaron Stalnaker Georgetown University Press/Washington, D. C. Acknowledgments Introduction Source and Citation Fu:·:-::-_:.> Chapter One Comparative Ethics As of January I, 2007, 13-digit ISBNs will replace the current 10-digit system. Cloth: 978-1-58901-094-9 Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C. © 2006 by Georgetown University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrienl system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Stalnaker, Aaron. Overcoming our evil : human nature and spiritual exercises in Xunzi and Augustine I Aaron Stalnaker. p. cm. - (Moral traditions series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-1-58901-094-9 (cloth: alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-58901-094-9 (cloth: alk. paper) 1. Good and evil. 2. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Saint. 3. Xunzi, 340-245 B. c. 4. Conduct of life. 5. Ethics. I. Title. II. Series. BJ1401.S82 2006 205-dc22 2005027249 This book is printed on acid-free paper meeting the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence in Paper for Printed Library Materials. I 3 12 I I 10 09 08 07 06 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 First printing Comparison in Re::;: _ Conceptual Diwr~:::. :-_ Structural Choice< :.:~ ~ ~ Bridging Religiou.: \': Why Xunzi and _.\c.z-..:.-~::­ Notes Chapter Two Contexts for lnterprcc:: _-:-:: Xunzi and Augu : Comparison in Religious Ethics : ..::-.::=. in the early Confucian > ~- :·..:::u' illuminates both of ;:- ::;.:o courage and refine-:- ::- c ~ t•:· comparison deserves - :c:-: -.:.:0 \VaYs, each of which is -- _-:'> \\ith \vhich analysis is -:-e. revised or discarded. ::..:-.::=. ::-etine ideas of "human : '>t categories for order- ::.::-e also topics of inquiry --.:.-:1 concepts, we also gain --:-:-_:- ~:gh ~erious engagement =----::::.::-is on can help generate : _ :·_'. creating a new dialectic - __ :-_ ~:,ticult to arrive at with: :-..::::·..:1 iuxtaposition can pro• ~ _c:-. :::-al task of this book. :~-. ::-c:-:ical critique. Compara~- ::.:-. : =. ··;enealogical" studies in o.-. ::·_:(·nces of common con- _ ::...:- -:alling them into ques~ __ :: :-. ' from different regions -,:c:::ical questioning on the -- :·. _::-the unmasking of dubi::.:ternatiYes. These alter::-__ :-.-.-elws, but they at least :_:-.::-e constructions. -:- . :·__ :-::.: \irtues. In the contem-··. ·- _,_'. -- . \\·orld ' it takes on an ~::f complete or even --c.::·-·. :·:::ause \Ve cannot even - : · · :~-: :..:t an enormous basis .-- __ - ::-c: _:·.;ired to be sure that ' . ::- ::::-ticular difficulties in _:::-::-o of belief are already · _-: ::·. :e::-?rct strange others - : --- < :'.jn£S for it to be even ~:-a.g;ee. is .;:·_: .::.- "content holism," but : :-::: >in2 onh· on Davidson. -- :-:::-_: :~c1lGm i~ important to :- _ :: :: :'.-:C' notion that religions :-m 7 are alternative conceptual frameworks," and moreover, "it requires us to reject conceptual relativism in any interesting form-say the imputation of divergent epistemes, paradigms, worldviews, forms of life, radical alterity, and so on." 19 This is sloppy. Of course we should reject the absurdly totalizing idea that religions are conceptual frameworks, and not only because we cannot make sense of the idea of neutral content that is organized differently by different schemes. Davidson does help to ward off conceptual relativism. But the idea that refusal of conceptual relativism implies that people from different cultures and religious traditions could never differ significantly in "worldview" or "form of life" is baffling and wrong, given any typical sense of these expressions. The issue here is the tendency to confuse the distinction between conceptual relativism and conceptual diversity; the latter can be sorted out and analyzed, sometimes only laboriously, but it is certainly quite real. And any assessment of the truth of religious beliefs, or even the responsible identification of certain beliefs and practices as competing with each other, requires heavy interpretive lifting and careful comparative bridge building. (These can and indeed should be construed as Davidsonian points.) Properly understood, Davidson's theory of radical interpretation can be enlisted to help explicate cross-cultural understanding, 20 but it still tends to obscure certain issues that need to be highlighted in comparative studies of religious thought. Here I discuss two. Davidson is tempted by the idea that human languages, for the most part, share an ontology of simple objects that help provide the "background" before which particular difficulties of translation or understanding can be intelligible. 21 But exactly how much of an ontology particular languages share, from everyday objects to more abstract religious and social matters, is an open question, to be decided by actual inquiry, not transcendental argument. In particular cases, one might be able to identify quite significant differences in ontology, and ethics, and then continue from there with further comparative analysis. 22 More deeply, the conflation of conceptual scheme with language is a mistake, as others have pointed out. 23 The metaphor of conceptual "schemes" can impute excessive coherence to the ideas of a culture, and it understates the expressive possibilities of any natural language. As P. M. S. Hacker argues, even if we grant "that there is no precise distinction between what is theory and what is pre- or non-theoretical," we can nevertheless distinguish between theories and languages. Languages are in no sense theories, do not fit or predict reality, and can frame many assertions that predict and describe reality in contradictory ways. 24 Put more generally, there are dramatic differences in the degree to which concepts interrelate in a whole language; in a particular milieu with competing schools of thought sharing 8 ConceptL.a ::: . :: COMPARATIVE ETHICS certain disputed terms; in an identifiable tradition (with its own debates, to be sure); and in the writings of a particular thinker, especially if she or he is a systematic one aiming to produce a coherent theory. Because it can be used for all of these, there is an inevitable looseness to the idea of "conceptual schemes," which helps somewhat to explain the power of the idea in multiple realms and the heat of the debate over its value. Many of Davidson's critics on this issue wish to resurrect the terminology of conceptual schemes. But I fear that this ·way of speaking always brings with it hopes for the elusive "given" that lies beyond all such schemes and yet is somehow to be organized by them, which was one of Davidson's rightful targets all along. Comparativists need more precise and less misleading terminology. A better candidate is the notion, pioneered by Rorty, of alternative 25 "vocabularies" for different social and intellectual practices. Rorty's central idea is that vocabularies are tools for doing things, for helping people to "cope" with reality, and should not be seen as more or less transparent 26 mediums for "representing" reality. As Brandom notes, thinking about vocabularies as tools implies that vocabularies have purposes, and both he and Rorty vigorously contest the notion that all vocabularies must share the single overriding purpose of "representing reality" as it is in itself-indeed, they think such a purpose is dangerously misconceived. Instead, their antirepresentationalist pragmatism invites what Brandom calls "discursive pluralism." Different vocabularies will aim at different purposes (e.g., social justice, aesthetic fulfillment, or prediction and control), and we have no reason to wish that we might find a super-vocabulary that would be best for all possible purposes. Thus individuals and communities will make use of a variety of vocabularies on 27 this account, and this is a good thing. ' More specifically, a vocabulary implies a set of related social practices. Brandom's inferentialist philosophy of language focuses on the practices of inference and reason giving that are essential to linguistic communication. More broadly, human practices in general are discursive, on this model, because they involYe interpretation and understanding (of beliefs, intentions, states of affairs, etc.) that can only be conducted with vocabularies, that is, with roughly integrated collections of concepts that stand in complex relations of mutual entailment and interrelation. The central linguistic practices of inference, commitment, and "licensing" that Brandom charts are normative, and indeed for both Rorty and Brandom norms of any sort are only possible for creatures that use languages. Vocabularies and the practices they make possible are shot through with implicit normative "proprieties" concerning everything from when it _' appropriate to use cert:o..::: -:-hese norms can be mace :e:,a.red social practices .. ·: :-:::- social actors are prim a.:-- . ::. : ~etines "vocabularies" a · _::~~an beings, as lingu:-:: __ ::- _ :.:: :-.1acre ,,-ith unpn:d; --o - _ -_:t slO\dv, and cha:1.:_c :- :_:~-" :-esult of the intelle::-.:::._ rJne of the va ir:· possible and undergir6 ::.--.: that of some thinker frcm-. ::· _ md direct, they do not L: -_ preclude the very possibiL:: :he world or other peopL. ·· ._ md continuation of the ' :-: :11ust resort when it be1..·1 ::-. . ·.:nclerstand does not share ::-. _ The "vocabulan· voca°:'·.:_:..-.\ av. to address and analnc: _ : . xoblems Davidson dia2:rc_, - . :Jractical context of all lai-._:_:-.::...:: ::on as an interpreter in a \'. c.: : .•d\YCen theorist and hur:E:·. >Jevertheless, certain ~.::: - _ope of "vocabulary" is a :::::· . an be seen broadh- as a ' -:..:.ills that allmv the pursui: : Conceptual Diversity, not Conceptual Relativism ·-:-::::t theoretical commitments, : '-.1dgment or justification, a _:-:-es us a distinctive kind of ::-.~ :10rms of a vocabularv, we 0 _ -, :-reedom"; but at the same -_-: :-::ake ne\Y claims, conceive ::-c:-·.:ousl_:-- impossible because :- _:-:::1:1ple, \\·ithout learning a :k \Yay to begin to learn a : _ -: a~~ove, we most often use ::-_-..:- .. spend most of our time :-:-_:::itments implied by nm-cl :-_ :--:::s implicit in our vocabu-.: :: : ·:e 1 utterances and follow- -::·_:::c:d" bv those norms. These :: ,: map out a precise path -- - -:: : :n adnnce to be mutually - -- distinction as the contrast - :- , r-or knowledge. Enabling _ .:.::c:--ablc," in contrast to limit- 11 ing conditions, ·which are "determinate and fixed." The fact that we can, however laboriously, bring any particular part of our own vocabularies to consciousness is critical if interpretation is to have any deep effect on our thoughts or lives. We are not "judgmental dopes," utterly caught up in our culture's roles, norms, and skills, and neither is anyone else. 40 Just as the eye allows us to see, our normally prereflective command of various vocabularies current within our social setting allows us to act meaningfully and interpret others' actions. Nonskeptical conclusions follow from this understanding. The necessity of using shared vocabularies does not affect the status of any particular belief, skill, or interpretation; this "background" to interpretation is epistemologically neutral. Interpreting in terms of a vocabulary is seen as working within certain flexible constraints, rather than strict limits, and thus leads to fallibilism, not radical contextualism. Bohman calls this general view "weak holism," in contrast to the "strong holism" of the conceptual relativist. This suggests that learning how to use new vocabularies, and seeing how they relate to ones V\'e already know well, is continuous with normal, intrinsically creative linguistic practice. Even the creation of new vocabularies is not "abnormal,'' as Rorty once termed the process (in order to praise it), but a response to practical needs to cope with new people and previously unknown texts that speak in unfamiliar ways. To sum up, vocabularies, languages, and the practices and cultures that go along with them function as enabling conditions. They make social activity possible and undergird any sort of reflective inquiry, whether our own or that of some thinker from the distant past. Though they partially constrain and direct, they do not close us off from each other, and they in no way preclude the very possibility of gaining understanding and knowledge about the vrnrld or other people. "Cross-cultural" interpretation is a refinement and continuation of the sort of reflectiYe interpretation to which anyone must resort when it becomes apparent that the person they are trying to understand does not share their assumptions and vocabulary. The "vocabulary vocabulary" has sewral virtues. It provides a helpful way to address and analyze conceptual diversity while steering clear of the problems Davidson diagnoses with "conceptual schemes,'' it highlights the practical context of all language use, and it helps account for my own position as an interpreter in a \vay that does not presuppose a radical disjunction between theorist and human objects of studv. Nevertheless, certain difficulties remain. First, the vagueness of the scope of "vocabulary" is a minor problem. On the one hand, vocabularies can be seen broadly as a social group's anilable repertoire of terms and skills that allow the pursuit of nrious more or less distinctive purposes; on IL___ _ 12 COMPARATIVE ETHICS the other, vocabularies can be seen as the creations of particular people or small groups as they pursue and articulate more precise purposes, and practices and modes of life that support these ideals. I thus propose that, where necessary, the more general sense be marked by the term "conceptual repertoire."41 This captures the sense of multiplicity and openness to varieties of use that seems appropriate for a species as disputatious as our own. It also avoids the imputations of unity, planning, and intentional structure that go with the predecessor notion of "scheme" but are inappropriate for the full panoply of the past ideas in any tradition, ·whether construed broadly as an entire civilization or more narrowly as a school or a religious group. I further propose that a "conceptual apparatus" be used when we need to specify the more or less systematic formulation and use of elements of a cultural-linguistic conceptual repertoire by a particular thinker (or small group) in a particular tradition and cultural context. The notion of an apparatus focuses attention on someone's constructinB a system of thought and practice out of available materials, and it implies both that such a system exists for certain ends and that it is put to use by people vvith productive results: the ordering of personal and communal life, in a way that is at least potentially sustainable, depending on the extent of its influence. Obviously, a conceptual apparatus is no more inherently unchangeable than a conceptual repertoire or culture, and some do become broadly influential in a larger society (e.g., those of Zhu Xi, Luther, or Calvin). And when we wish to highlight the continuity betvveen these two ends of the spectrum of discursive practice, or when retaining a more general frame of reference, we can simply stick with "vocabulary." The second difficulty is related, and it concerns the thought that vocabularies are tools with purposes: It seems misleading to think of whole vocabularies as having a single purpose, like a hammer; in my terminology, a conceptual repertoire would have numerous "purposes" that it can articulate and assist. A conceptual apparatus could be usefully thought of as facilitating a single overriding goal, such as the conversion of human beings to God or of ordering the world according to the Way. But even here, one might want to suggest that particular words are more like tools, and that vocabularies consist of numerous tools that together help one to become a particular sort of person or help a group become a certain sort of community (e.g., a guild of plumbers or painters, to folluw out the analogy). This, too, seems to be a minor point, however. A more significant issue concerns the metaphysical and meta-ethical presuppositions, if any, of this view. Rorty and Brandom make occasional crass remarks that mention religious belief and observance, only to link them to fanaticism; and in their more careful moments, they argue that StrucL-~ - ::. : ::1e \-CrY least re li ::::-•:r', ., . .:.t's "mild-n1annerec:::·· ==-~.::-: _:~:ialism, highlights tLc -- _ ::spicuousl;· broad-'~:::-__ : _ :- ::. ::,:mall:> justified for c :-_ - __ ::-c-.-'-; Though Stout :- _ :-_ :_: c JbjectiYit;- of mor:.: :: _:-:- -_ -. .:.;u,;tinian God, thi-o -~ -c- :· --_:11ises. :\or does tie: 2:-::.:_ :.:::.:there cannot be c:·.:::_ : ·::.: for human bein_:::-o : ··___ ~ to be articulak-c ::-. ::. · _::~:ans could unders::::: ~ · _::--icl for theists. e·::.:-:: __ : . :· -:::-oach \Vill genera]:- ":-:: - _: \gainst this, Davie E::. __ -:~·::!h Confucius is ba.oe:: :_:-_::__l:ronisn1," ,,-hereb:- ::-_c - -:-lem (the nature 2:-_-: :::_-: . _:::-ess it in the _-j:-;__:__-c::: - __ : 111 issue. The; .J.r ;-.: , ::-_::.: -::_: ;, truh- alien a::~ : -: __ --_: -.-c-ring hidden hic..oc-.o ::..:· _ - ~__ -',. ultin1ate ,-,-,, - '- - .. t...... :::-- ...... _ -- - -- --__ -_:::derl;·ing rnnce;:-:: : -_ ::::d _\n1es clai:i: c.: ::::-_:: - : - _::.: Cunfucim. 'c"'·.__-::-::.: _- -,_ :xk is 1110s~ ::::- _:-::::.:- _- _:::,-1! :-espon.oe : -:::-:: __ _ " . . __ 1:-:d. a.~ a crc:a:i·.-,~ ::.--.:~ _~­ ::--::.-.,-, hea,·ih- c,r: _.:..::-_:::-: Structural Choices and Productive Comparisons :~cc:~ ~.ldh- fla>ved. In the process . _:·..::.:l:· responsible options for :-. .: :::-_e'.11. this section attempts - -· _ "::ie sufficient to win over · · :· : :'.le hardened despiser of ::~:·.; ·..:? comparisons is between · . :-:.:,.:=.. and generality of scope, - . _ ::.:.::-:culties >Yith past compari~J. stem from the quixotic ·.':::-_ether such efforts attempt .:-: : :csciousness, or to map the :.. -~ ,, all of human history, or .. .:: ·.F reason" that informs all _ ~ : e :.ds to predictable errors of : :.:,achronism. 47 . : > !~e\Y theoretical construe-__ :-..:.:.: ::-r1erits, regardless of his:::_ c _ec""· though the temptation, - :::-::~g the essence of Confu. -:. ::--:.a.t impulse should not be - _':- L"ibilities of the historian. - :-_;::-:-.. is of losing touch with ·- ::-:-- '::-,the first place. Depend- > .:' :he chance of producing _: -:c::-:1ed a third fundamental - : _::-:-:-::-tations that are sensitive · :_-.:_: .:. ::end to the logical struc~ -;c :- .:.::-e the comparative work __ :-:::~:::ons of moral, religious, ::-. :::e .. deep structure of reli- _ -..:: -..:, traditions. 60 Lovin and :_-.:_: -: : -.'. as the first to borrow an ~-::-;::-::;ions in order to situate . .:.::-::..::::, in their larger cultural -:::approach to ensure ade- _' ::_:::le and Twiss and Green _ -. · at the vocabulary or _ ::-:·.::.:.::-ed. the better to attend . : : .:.: :::. their presentations. In .:. :. : ,:-..:::lies can have the virtues :: _ :.:.>~dilemma of this previ- .:-:·c:-.::. ::iast difficulties in com- - :-_ :~.e "-ork of two influen- -- · : ::-c.::-:- ethical interest, topics _. -:: -:·.'. b this way, they can be - ::·_;::-::-d: as objects of study _ :-.:cDporar;· interpreter. A ~c'- clop the relevant kinds - -; ~=-=-=- ,JChing his or her due 17 as a sophisticated thinker. Careful historical contextualization and depth of treatment ward off the sorts of dubious generalizations that provide more insight into the mind of the comparativist than into different reflective modes of religious life. BRIDGING RELIGIOUS WORLDS However it might be structured, any comparative ethical study faces two fundamental challenges: It must bring distant ethical statements into interrelation and conversation, and it must simultaneously preserve their distinctiveness within the interrelation. In the present work, careful analysis of each thinker's distinctiYe vocabulary meets the second goal; the first goal is pursued by means of"bridge concepts." 61 Bridge concepts are general ideas, such as "virtue" and "human nature,'' which can be given enough content to be meaningful and guide comparative inquiry yet are still open to greater specification in particular cases. They differ from "thin concepts" only in that they are chosen specifically to facilitate a particular comparison of a delimited number of objects, and so are chosen ·with those objects in mind. The process of selection and refinement is thus in an important sense inductive, and any broader applicability any given set might possess is essentially hypothetical and subject to further testing and revision in wider inquiries. Bridge concepts are not, then, hypotheses about transcultural universals that purport to bring a "deep structure" of human religion or ethics to the surface; I am skeptical about all such deep structures or "epistemes" that are supposed somehow to determine or explain thought and practice, whether for humanity as a ''·hole, or merely within a single tradition or era. 62 In contrast, as general topics, bridge concepts may be projected into each thinker or text to be compared as a v1/ay to thematize their disparate elements and order their details around these anchoring terms. Bridge concepts often work best if near-equivalent terms for the various aspects of the bridge concept can be found in each set of writings to be compared, but this is not necessary. 61 In this study, the primary bridge concepts-to be discussed in the next chapter-are "human nature" and "spiritual exercises," with secondary attention to ideas of a "person" and the "will." One might worry that if given too much specific content, bridge concepts could move beyond guiding inquiry to determining it. The projection inherent in this sort of procedure might move beyond what is normally accepted in any historical or philosophical exegesis organized around themes and become boringly self-fulfilling, as unanimity is discovered in the unlikeliest places. More subtly, one might be tempted to find that every thinker in every tradition is deeply concerned with one's own preexisting questions, L. ... -· 18 .- COMPARATIVE ETHICS providing a variety of "anS"wers" to them, rather than proposing questions and answers of their own. In contrast, bridge concepts are designed to elicit theoretical formulations in each object compared (i.e., their "vocabulary"), including questions and basic orientations, but to refrain from reshaping the terms each thinker uses into some fundamentally new form. The analysis of each thinker's vocabulary thus safeguards each side's uniqueness within the comparison. Articulating a vocabulary in this sense focuses attention on the way particular ideas fit into larger visions, and on the metaphorical linkages and logical relations within these larger systems, thereby allowing more nuanced comparisons of seemingly similar ideas across traditions. This "vocabulary vocabulary" is a productive tool for comparative ethics because it facilitates the construction of what Charles Taylor has called "languages of perspicuous contrast" to distinguish precisely betvveen the elements of different ethics. 64 Bridge concepts can be articulated in the process of comparison in such a way that they highlight both similarities and differences, and even more subtle similarities within differences, and differences within similarities. 65 But bridge concepts are not conceived as junior versions of Esperanto that might come to fully articulate both vocabularies in a new, third idiom; they merely assist in the process of creating comparative relations between distant ethical positions. 66 Bridge concepts and the comparisons they facilitate sen·e as important tools for what Rorty calls "edifying philosophy." He writes: Since "education" sounds a bit too flat, and Bilduna a bit too foreign, I shall use "edification" to stand for this project of finding new, better, more interesting, more fruitful ways of speaking. The attempt to edify ( oursclYes or others) may consist in the hermeneutic actiYity of making connections between our mvn culture and some exotic culture or historical period, or between our own discipline and another discipline which seems to pursue incommensurable aims in an incommensurable yocabulary. But it may instead consist in the "poetic" actiYity of thinking up such new aims, new words, or nev\' disciplines, followed by, so to speak, the inwrse of hermeneutics: the attempt to reinterpret our familiar surroundings in the unfamiliar terms of our new im·cntions .... For edifying discourse is supposed to be abnormal, to take us out of our old selves by the pmYer of strangeness, to aid us in becoming nC\Y beings. 67 Although I do not wish to go everywhere Rorty wishes to lead us, as far as "more interesting" ways of speaking arc concerned, I do second the suggestion that analyzing, critiquing, and thus changing and enriching our own vocabularies, our ways of speaking and acting, is truly edifying. Comparative religious ethics, as argued earlier in this chapter, is a particularly ?mverful way of bringin_; :-:1eously generating ne\\· c:'.-_: ·.\ith exotic "others" sue~. .> ::ering our own concep::·...:::.. :-_ -r even reconstructing c ·...::·:· ecome "new beings'' i1~ :'.-_-_ .::.2--ance. WHY XL ~cithough meta-ethical c :·__ . : :: 1rative religious ethic' ce::-: ~ :'.:e most formative in:~e:·.:.­ .:~c subject of the cult:·.::.:: :· :·::·xe virtuous over tin:e: .:._:-_ .:.:":1atcs in ancient Chi::::. ::.· .-.::tiYation." And as Pie:-:-: ' :ul formation, ,vhicl-. ~.cc . ~ Greco-Roman "phiJ, - :· _::. :ed accounts of sud: c '::: :- . - ::·..,- direction, b;- stre--:: _:-:able to cultinte Y::-: __ : :"::odernitv and libe:-.::.>:--. - ::1 become better c·...::--c:: :;,t: most sophistiCJ.:cc _ :· :.- · This leads direct:-. : ·-:.::htful account" o:-::c::-- :· · ·~·ac;· of particu:a:· :: :-::. _: -:~:1tion on the ba'i' - :·:-opensitie" to c'. :· :;.is truly edifying. Com·-_ :'.::, chapter, is a particularly 19 powerful way of bringing preconceptions to consciousness, while simultaneously generating nev1,; ethical possibilities, through careful engagement with exotic "others" such as Augustine and Xunzi. By expanding and reordering our own conceptual repertoire, we gain new inspiration for refining or even reconstructing our own conceptual apparatuses. Whether we might become "new beings" in the process is not something that can be judged in advance. WHY XUNZI AND AUGUSTINE? Although meta-ethical concerns and curiosity about the potentials of comparative religious ethics certainly played roles in the genesis of this project, the most formative impetus came from attempts to grapple with the specific subject of the cultivation of virtue. How could anyone really become more virtuous over time? Analogous questions were central to widespread debates in ancient China about xiu shen {!ft~, usually translated as "selfcultivation." And as Pierre Hadot has taught us, practical regimens of personal formation, which he calls "spiritual exercises," were equally essential to Greco-Roman "philosophy" as a shared way of life. Engaging sophisticated accounts of such exercises helps to develop Yirtue ethics in a fruitful new direction, by stressing the intentional cultivation of character through methodical practices. These practices can be described and analyzed in detail, just as particular virtues can, and such close analysis sheds much light on the moral psychology of character development. Whether moderns are able to cultivate virtue is, after all, one of the central issues in critiques of modernity and liberalism. If we wish to understand virtue, and perhaps even become better ourseh-es, it would be wise to reflect carefully on some of the most sophisticated past accounts of this process. This leads directly to Augustine and Xunzi. Both develop subtle and insightful accounts of personal formation that include detailed analysis and advocacy of particular practices. They also build their accounts of personal formation on the basis of clear-eyed but distinctive assessments of humanity's propensities to do evil. Their analyses of"human nature" as fallen or bad profoundly shape the practical regimens they each suggest, which are tuned to restrain, ameliorate, or even transform our more questionable impulses. Although I cannot fully argue the point here, some form of the general view that aspects of human nature are seriously problematic, and thus that people need significant formation to become moral, seems right. But there are many versions of this sort of account, cast in quite different terms. Are human beings selfish rational agents, each seeking to maximize our individual economic benefit regardless of the "costs" to others? Are we delinquent L _____ _ 20 COMPARATIVE ETHICS children of God, in sinful rebellion against our creator, seeking our own aggrandizement at the expense of others? Are -we social beings whose instincts arc foolishly shortsighted and often destructively selfish? Arc we servants of our own will to power, or possessors of a death instinct? And what are the implications of such diagnoses for efforts to improve our situation? Grappling with Augustine's and Xunzi's accounts of these matters can help us to reflect both on substantive questions of anthropology and ethical formation, and on nrious possible vocabularies for such reflection. None of these vocabularies are in any sense necessary for human thought (even certain traditional Western ones that claim such necessity); all of them are candidates for contemporary assessment and use. The fact that people display tendencies to covetousness, cruelty, revenge, greed, and lust for domination, to name a fev.r of our less splendid propensities, does not rule out the existence of more sociable and compassionate impulses, as both Augustine and Xunzi recognize. Recent efforts to relate "evolutionary psychology" to ethics often carefully attend to these more benign impulses. 68 This study contends that it is inadequate to focus only on "prosocial" human impulses without careful attention to what might be called the "antisocial" side of humans, \'Yhich as Augustine understood particularly well can twist even the most seemingly sociable motives to destructive ends. For beings like us, the cultivation of virtue requires the restraint and redirection of certain impulses, as well as the cultintion of others. It is also insufficient to simply take modern contrasts between "altruism" and "egotism" for granted as setting the terms in which "morality" is to be understood. We need to be much more alert to the nuances of different possible vocabularies for understanding ethics, and for understanding "human nature,'' which is a far from self-evident idea, much less an empirically simple datum to be read off of our genetic code. Significantly different ways of articulating both "human nature" and "ethics" are not only possible but actual, and particular versions of these ideas cannot simply be assumed. Comparative ethics can be particularly helpful in bringing such differences to awareness and in analyzing their philosophical and practical consequences. At this point, the founding judgment of this study that both Xunzi and Augustine have particularly profound vocabularies for overcoming human evil can only serve as a promissory note, to be cashed in detailed analyses of their prescriptions. But readers should take some comfort in the immense historical significance of both figures in their respectiYe traditions. Augustine is the original "master of suspicion" in the West, at least as profound as his later inheritors Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. 69 Augustine strove to create a theological-ethical s;·stc:~-ideas became enormous> ::-.: ,afe to say that "the \Yest···.·. also the subject of intense :-·:: _ hero to be restored to h:- :- .:_ :arefully on what is dist::.:.,:_ Xunzi provides a pa:--=-::·.:._ :'.ne. He shares in a roug'.--. '.--.umans have a destruct:·. c -~·ecome good) while nc: ,:-_::.: :'.-le Bible, and divine £E~c · :omparisons can be d~Ye: :: _ _;eneral morphology oi t'.--.-:::: ) compare them. Furt!.:.c::-:-:· .:.::cl thinker, and so he .,._ ::: --_ :'.:e comparison. 71 Cru:::.:>. ::.:.:. acceptance or rejec:: :·_ :_- God, and so at the :e- -: : :-.:.:her than another la\·e:- : :::.-:. Xunzi is an impo;-:::..:·.: .:.:: _:-;-.although not eq;i1·. 2.c:·_: _ entually eclipsed b; '..:.:' :: ::c::1ed for more than~-,:-:-:-::-_ '.. Sharpe 197~. :'. For a recent ac·,· ,_,f religious studie-. •-:: -··_ :::etaphors for re::;: :-·· ~:-:-: c·'.· comparison "'::-_ ::·. .. ;'on-analogues:· :'e case. For a conci,;e. :c.:·: '_:-_· · -::.:l'ments, see Graham·.::.:.. 23. Sec, e.g., Had.;.e:- :--2+. Hacker 1996. 2::02;. Sec Rortv 19-;-w_ .·· ~:-:.::dom (2000) has\\:·:::.:-._ __ :.:,;o Rort\· 's I 20(1(1 26. Brandom 20·: -:·ding to Rort\. it or cultures: i1>:e:. :_ .::·_ c·2,-h other.
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