THE AESTHETICS OF VIRTUE
linked with permission from Asian
Philosophy 14:2 (July, 2004)
The most constructive response to the crisis in moral theory has been the
revival of virtue ethics, an ethics that has the advantages of being personal,
contextual, and, as this paper will argue, normative as well.
The first section offers a general comparative
analysis of Confucian and Whiteheadian philosophies, showing their common
process orientation and their views of a somatic self united in reason and
passion. The second section contrasts rational with aesthetic order,
demonstrating a parallel with analytic and synthetic reason, and showing that
rule-based ethics comes under the former and virtue ethics under the latter.
The third and final section discusses a Confucian-Whiteheadian aesthetics of
virtue, focusing on love as the comprehensive virtue. The principal goal of
the paper is to propose that an appropriation of Confucian virtue ethics will
enhance the otherwise slow development of a Euro-American process ethics.
Elegant is the virtuous one; he is as if cut, as
if filed; as if chiselled,
as if polished; how freshly bright;
how refined. . . .
The Book of Odes #55
Beauty, moral and aesthetic, is the
aim of existence.
order is. . . aesthetic order, and the moral order is merely certain aspects
of aesthetic order.
The function of reason is the
art of life.
To �give style� to one�s character–a
great and rare art!
One great defect in what passes as morality is its
Feminist and postmodern critics appear to have
placed the final nail in the coffin of the traditional idea of ethics as
obedience to a moral code. For postmodernists universal moral laws are the
ethical expression of logocentric and essentialist thinking and are more
intelligibly conceived as abstractions from particular moral decision making.
Feminists are more specific in their claim that this type of morality
represents one of the most pervasive forms of patriarchy–to wit: the tyranny
of the divine father who created the rules and the earthly fathers who have
enforced them. Both
deontological and utilitarian perspectives also assume a
disembodied, impersonal self, which is a pale and misleading shadow of our own
engaged personal agency. In his book From Morality to Virtue Michael
Slote criticizes Kant for his moral asymmetry: e.g., failure to help is wrong
only when applied to others and not to the self. He also critiques
utilitarianism for its reductionism and, at least in its Singerian form,
unreasonable moral demands such as a voluntary equalization of living
The most constructive response to the crisis in
moral theory has been the revival of virtue ethics, an ethics that has the
advantages of being personal, contextual, and, as I will argue, normative as
well. In this paper I will also propose that the best way to refound virtue
ethics is to return to the Greek concept of techne
tou biou, literally �craft of life.� The ancients did not distinguish
between craft and fine arts and the meaning of techne,
even in its Latin form of ars, still retains the meaning of skillful
crafting and discipline. In Greco-Roman culture these techniques were very
specific, covering dietetics, economics, and erotics. In ancient China moral
cultivation was intimately connected to the arts, from the art of archery to
poetry, music, and dance such that virtually every activity would have both a
moral and aesthetic meaning. A Chinese poet of the Book of Odes
conceives of moral development as similar to the manufacture of a precious
stone. At birth we are like uncut gems, and we have an obligation to carve
and polish our potential in the most unique and beautiful ways possible. In
I have employed the distinction between craft and fine art to show that the
fine arts, particularly the performing arts of music and dance, can serve as a
model for a virtue ethics in our times.
The first section of this paper offers a general
comparative analysis of Confucian and Whiteheadian philosophies, showing their
common process orientation and their views of a somatic self united in reason
and passion. The second section contrasts rational with aesthetic order,
demonstrating a parallel with analytic and synthetic reason, and
showing that rule-based ethics comes under the former and virtue ethics under
the latter. In moral and social theory analytic reason and the principle of
substitutability supports a social atomism in which persons are
interchangeable, either as Kantain moral agents or hedonic maximizers, and
come under universal rules and norms. Synthetic reason rejects
substitutability and insists on particular, culturally embodied self-creating
persons who are centers of virtues and values. The third and final section
discusses a Confucian-Whiteheadian aesthetics of virtue, demonstrating once
again that virtue ethics can be personal and contextualist as well as
normative. We will also find both instructive parallels and contrasts in
implications from Confucian Heaven and the process God. It is hoped that
Confucian virtue ethics will serve to enhance the otherwise slow development
of a Euro-American process ethics. Robert Neville�s diagnosis of the problem
is incisive: �A continuing difficulty with process thought today is the facile
slippage from personal language to cosmological language, and then the
assumption that a fully elaborated cosmology is a sufficient theory of human
Confucius does not ever provide such a theory, but his eminently personalist
aesthetics of virtue complements Whitehead�s aesthetic cosmology very well.
This paper is also a contribution to the philosophical movement in China
centering on Whitehead�s philosophy. A Chinese Center for Process Studies has
been established and a recent international conference on Whitehead was held
A very striking and philosophically significant
difference stands between Confucian and most European philosophy. (American
process and pragmatic philosophy are instructive exceptions on this point.)
The latter generally followed Aristotle in his claim that reason is the
essence of being human, but instead of this the Confucians offered a marvelous
pun: ren ren*.
The graph ren* is a combination of ren meaning person and the
number two, so the concept of relationality is at the origins of this
character. Ren* is variously translated as humanity, benevolence,
human heartedness, love, and compassion; and, according to Tu Weiming, it is
the comprehensive virtue that allows the perfection of all the others.
At the heart of Confucian ethics is relationality rather than rational
autonomy. Reasoning was of course important for ancient Chinese–their
logical canons are impressive even without the syllogism–but reason was never
granted the pride of place that relationality was. This means that
self-mastery through reason plays no role in Confucian ethics. The most
direct equivalent of ren* in European philosophy is Buber�s concept of
Mitmenschlichkeit, but there is no question that relationality is at
the very foundation of Whitehead�s philosophy. Although there is no evidence
that he read any Confucian philosophy, Whitehead nonetheless follows later
Confucians in extending relationality to all parts of the cosmos.
Furthermore, like the Confucians Whitehead does not sacrifice rationality
because of his emphasis on relationality. Unlike Confucius himself, the
neo-Confucians (ca. 1000-1600) most likely because of Buddhist influence,
transformed the rituals of li (best translated as �propriety�) into a
cosmic ordering principle.
The Chinese character xin–translated as
�mind� or �heart� but best rendered �heart-mind�–represents the �ruler� of
the Confucian self. Reason and the passions are united in xin so the
dichotomy that has plagued European thought is simply nonexistent. Assuming a
thoroughly somatic soul, the Confucius of the Analects does not even
oppose heart-mind to the senses and appetites, although this dichotomy does
appear later in Mencius (371-289 BCE) and Xunzi (298-238 BCE). Even so Mencius
believes that the body is constitutive of personal identity, because the
virtues of the good person while "rooted in his heart� manifest themselves �in
his face, giving it a sleek appearance. It also shows in his back and extends
to his limbs. . . � (Mencius 7a21).
This means that sages literally "image" the virtues in their bodies and make
even more evident the fusion of the good, the elegant, and the beautiful.
Learning li is essentially a �discipline of the body� and that the
literal meaning of teaching by example (shenjiao) is �body teaching,�
which is to be preferred over teaching by words (yanjiao).
(Although usually translated as �spirit,� shen in human beings
frequently refers to the whole psychophysical self.) The learning of li
begins with physical exercises such as archery and charioteering and extends
to the choreographing of every single bodily movement. This demonstrates the
truth of Robert Neville�s observation that �learning the rhythms of one�s own
movement is part of learning to perceive the being of others� and thereby
confirming our moral connection with them.
Just as the Confucians believe that all things
arise from qi energy–the heart-mind is �refined� qi and the
senses and body is �gross� qi–so does Whitehead believe that
everything arises out of �creativity.� (Creativity is atomized as actual
occasions so the universe is essentially made up of aesthetic events.) Such an
ontology forestalls the bifurcation of nature/self in the ways other
philosophers have traditionally done. For Whitehead this means that there is
no split between the mind and the passions and it also means that the self is
thoroughly somatic. John Cobb explains it well: �The dominant occasion
[self-soul] can rise to such heights of experience only because the entire
body is so organized as to makes this possible. It is so constructed that
there is a constant flow of novelty from all its parts to the brain.�
This notion that the body is constitutive of personal identity reminds one of
Merleau-Ponty’s body-self and his claim that the mind is coextensive with the
body. Whitehead is even more bold in his claim that �we cannot define where a
body begins and external nature ends.�
In both Confucian and Whiteheadian visions the sagely self becomes, through
Whitehead�s positive and negative prehensions, coextensive with the entire
cosmos, or in Mencius the sage fills up the space between Heaven and Earth (Mencius
It almost goes without saying that the Chinese are
like Whitehead, first and foremost, process philosophers. One looks in vain
for anything in Chinese thought that corresponds to an unchanging substance.
The fact that the Chinese never had a metaphysics of substance is both an
advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that they have a natural way
of thinking of the world in process terms, and some sinologists believe that
their language frees them from the substantialist traps of Indo-European
syntax. The Chinese word for physics is wu li literally �patterns of
organic energy,� and the Neo-Confucians had a notion of vibratory energy that
anticipates contemporary physics. The disadvantage is that they never had to
devise a sophisticated critique of substance, such as we have in Hegel,
Bergson, James, Dewey, Whitehead, and Hartshorne. With the Daoist focus on
nature and the neo-Confucian emphasis on the cosmos, they would have been more
sympathetic to Whitehead�s speculative cosmology. To expand this comparative
analysis to neo-Confucianism, as Robert Neville and John H. Berthrong have
would take us too far from our current topic. The neo-Confucians are just as
cosmologically focused as Whitehead, so such a venture would distract from our
attempts to construct a more personalist process ethics of virtue.
Even though Confucius refuses to speak about the
nature of self and reality in general, his view of human nature is thoroughly
protean and dynamic. It is clear that for Confucius human beings are
self-creative processes rather than accidental qualities happening to a core
unchanging essence, where all value lies either by nature or by the creation
of God. The Confucian self is also thoroughly relational and social. The
addition of �social� is not redundant because the Daoists affirm a relational
ontology but they deny that the true self is socially constructed. This
antisocial stance is especially pronounced in those Daoists whose ideal person
is the mountain hermit who eschews all social influences from the cities of
the plains. Most dramatic example of the nonsocial is the hundun, an
amorphous blob with no openings to the outside world. In one of the most
powerful stories of the Zhuangzi, the kings of the North and South
think they are doing the hundun a favor by giving him openings for
perception and elimination, but all they do is end up destroying him.
It is clear that Whitehead�s ontology is both
relational and social like the Confucians. Sociality is endemic to Whitehead�s
cosmology, which is built up of societies of actual occasions, ranging from
the highly ordered societies to loose nexus of occasions. �The universe
achieves its values by reason of its coordination into societies of societies,
and into societies of societies of societies.�
With regard to the social self, Whitehead and the Confucians have strikingly
similar notions about the fusion of subjectivity and objectivity–the fusion
of the inner and the outer. For Whitehead this begins at the micro level
where each actual occasion appropriates data from the past and the potentials
embodied there and also in God�s initial aim. The actual occasion then forms
its own subjective aim with regard to these data and attains a unique
satisfaction about them. In an organic universe in which interdependence and
interpenetration dominates, the best choice for any individual would be one in
which self-interest and other-interest coincide as much as possible. Within
this metaphysical framework John Cobb has drawn out the following moral
implications: �When a person acts on behalf of someone who has won his
sympathy, the welfare of the other person has become his interest–it is a new
self-interest altered by the genuine concern for the welfare of the other.
Self-interest and altruism merge unproblematically.�
We will return to this issue of self-interest and see whether Whitehead is
closer to Aristotle, who bases philia on self-love, than Confucius,
whose concept of love is truly other-regarding.
When we contrast the process self of Whitehead and
Confucius to the substantial self, either Greco-Roman or Indian, we
immediately see the psychological and philosophical advantages of the former.
When Epictetus, for example, reflects about the nature of the self he
discovers the true self, one that never sleeps and is never compromised by the
passions. Much like the Ved~ntist
}tman this spiritual
self is unitary, a cosmic self that we share with all human beings and is the
basis of our common humanity. The phrase self-examination (shen du)
appears often in Confucian texts, but what Confucians find in their solitude
is a not spiritual substance of Stoic-Vedantist or Cartesian variety, neither
the dissolution into a universal self nor the solipsism of the egocentric
predicament. Confucian self-examination reveals a self that has its own
individual integrity, one that is united with its desires and emotions, and
one that is constituted by its relations with others. Confucians discover a
self that is a process rather than a static substance; and they see for
themselves the single thread of which Confucius spoke: establishing one�s own
character (zhong), the constitution of the self, is related to the
establishing of the character of others (shu), the constitution of
Tu Weiming has phrased this Confucian fusion of the
inner and the outer in this way:
The more one penetrates into one�s inner self, the more one
will be capable of realizing the true nature of one�s human-relatedness. . . .
The profound person [junzi] does not practice self-watchfulness [shen
du] for the intrinsic value of being alone. In fact, he sees little
significance in solitariness, unless it is totally integrated into the
structure of social relations.
In his insightful examination of Hellenistic ethics Michel
Foucault claims that the Stoic retreat into the soul serves as a ground for
true social practice.
It is clear, however, that no substantialist or essentialist view of the self,
which assumes that it is basically atemporal, unchanging, asocial, and
nonplural, is able to make this claim intelligible. Furthermore, neither the
Confucian nor Whiteheadian views require us to put care of the self before
care of others. Because of the full relationality of self and others, they
would find the Greek priority of self over others puzzling and unnecessary.
As Foucault observes: �One must not have the care for others precede the care
for self. The care for self takes moral precedence in the measure that the
relationship to self takes ontological precedence.�
If this is correct, then this mitigates significantly Foucault�s claim that
Hellenistic ethics was as truly social as he claims it to be.
One of the most instructive contrasts between a
process and a substantial self is that the former is enriched and fortified by
relations whereas the latter, being self-sufficient and self-contained, would
be destroyed by them, if any relations were possible in the first place. Tu
Weiming�s description of the Confucian concept of personal individuation
parallels nicely with the Whiteheadian view, which has been described most
incisively in Hegelian terms: �the . . . development of individuality is the
process by which otherness is internalized and overcome.�
While this is a succinct and accurate way of explaining the process of
concresence in an organic universe, the Hegelian view ultimately undermines
the fundamental self-interest of each and every actual occasion. The Hegelian
view, expressed by F. H. Bradley as the �private self� having �utterly
is incompatible with the retention of personal integrity that we have found in
Whitehead and Confucius. We must always remind ourselves that Whitehead was
just as much an Aristotelian pluralist as an Hegelian monist, and the former
comes forward most prominently in Whitehead�s radical pluralism of discrete
and unique actual occasions.
Aristotle defines human beings as social as well
as rational animals, but this dual definition remains an unresolved dichotomy
in Aristotle�s moral philosophy. Jiyuan Yu argues that Aristotle�s clear
preference for rational autonomy over social relations appears in his claim
that friendship (philia) is primarily based on self-love. Yu states
that �a good person will perform actions in other people�s interests, but that
is for the perfection of one�s own character. If so, when there is a conflict
with other agents in pursing the development of their own characters, it is
rational for a moral agent to develop his own, rather than curtailing it.�
There is no ambivalence at all in the Confucian view that social relations
constitute human nature. Yu argues that if we conceive of ren* as
filial love, then the expansion of this basic virtue to others gives a secure
foundation to a graded altruism and a truly other-regarding view of friendship
If we take the cosmos at the level of the actual
occasion, we have a concept of self-interest that is clearly more Aristotelian
than Confucian. In one sense the actual occasion is the epitome of
self-interest; in fact, its impetus to a complete, self-determined
satisfaction fits Paul Tillich�s definition of concupiscence: �the unlimited
desire to draw the whole of reality into one�s self.�
There are, however, at least three significant mitigating factors in the
Whiteheadian view. First, at the level of reflective awareness persons can
become conscious of the needs of others, and, as Cobb suggests, they can make
those needs their own needs. Cobb strikes an eminently Confucian note when he
emphasizes the mirco-macro parallel between the actual occasion taking care of
its future and parents loving their children.
Second, Cobb conceives of divine initial aims as embodying the creative love
of God, which is always committed to maximizing the balance between
self-interest and other-interest. Third, for a Christian Whiteheadian the
fulfillment of God�s creative love in Christ makes it a moral imperative to
make the needs of others your needs.
Cobb reminds Christians that the �thrust of the New
Testament is to subordinate ethics to love rather than to view love as one
ethical requirement among others.�
I choose to read Cobb�s basic point as a recipe for a Whiteheadian virtue
ethics: Jesus and Paul replace a rule-based ethics with other-regarding love
as the comprehensive virtue. Finally, this is also an aesthetics of virtue,
because Cobb chooses to conceive of God�s creative love in artistic terms. In
Cobb�s Christ in a Pluralistic Age Christ is the power of creative
transformation in all things, with contemporary artists leading the way.
Whitehead himself transforms the day of judgment into a harvest of beauty. It
is the business of art to �render the Day of Judgment a success, now.�
The fact that evil happens even to good people is a
challenge to all ethical theories, and the Chinese and Whitehead offer the
same innovative solution. They both conceive of evil as basically discord and
a lack of harmony.
Evil does not lie necessarily in the deficiency of human wills or in the body
or matter, as the Manicheans held. This means that evil is nothing desired,
at least at the micro level, because every actual occasion�s satisfaction is
good by definition. For Whitehead evil definitely does arise at the level of
the conscious will, but this is primarily the result of discord among actual
occasions, which always fall short of the initial aims provided by God. (�A
new actuality may appear in the wrong society. . . [and] insistence on birth
in the wrong season is the trick of evil.�)
Moreover, evil is unavoidable, because �perpetual perishing� is the �ultimate
which is only partially overcome in God�s consequent nature, where all past
value is �recirculated� for new initial aims. Thus, evil is not only a loss
of what might have been, but more fundamentally a partial loss of what has
been. Harmony and balance are aesthetic qualities, so this means that the
overcoming of evil for Chinese and Whiteheadians involve both a moral and
Whitehead�s insight that the loss of the moment�s
intensity and value is a great evil is not found in Asia except for perhaps
the Buddha�s first Noble Truth. The two thinkers even offer a similar solution
(Nirvana/Peace), but Buddhists do not experience this truth with the same
sense of deep tragedy that Whitehead does. According to Belaief�s
interpretation of Whitehead, an honest recognition of perpetual perishing
should lead one to a feeling of guilt� �a noble guilt, freely chosen as an
ethical burden of finitude.�
The end state of peace may be the same, but the means are significantly
different. Perpetual perishing leads the Buddhist in a psychological
direction–the cessation of craving and attachment–but it leads the
Whiteheadian to religion and the question of the justice of God. In one
sense, however, we could say that the Pali Buddhist view is more tragic: there
is no God to redeem time; it simply flows into nothingness. (The loss of the
present is not a problem for Mahayanists who deny the reality of time.)
Whitehead�s principle that if a thing is actual
then it has some value precludes any separation of reality into the valuable
and the valueless. He therefore joins the ancient consensus about the unity
of being, goodness, and beauty. The Confucian concept of sincerity (cheng)
proves to be a productive point of entry for a comparative analysis of these
issues. When Confucians attribute sincerity to Heaven, which to them is
essentially impersonal Providence, they mean that Heaven will always be true
to itself. Social customs (li), the proper ways to do things, are
modeled on Heaven because it is always constant and predictable. The sages�
sincerity also means that they will be true to themselves. Robert Neville
aptly translates Confucian sincerity into Whiteheadian terms: �An occasion
should objectify its data �truly,� preserving their individually attained
values, and superject to its successors the best potentialities.�
At the level of personal agency this means that �moral subjective concresence
should respect the values of what it prehends and what will prehend it later.�
In a grand alliance of fact, value, and the aesthetic Neville also sees that
�sincerity is the peculiar harmony that maximizes both inner elegance and
In so far as the actual occasion can be said to be true to itself and free in
its self-determination, it can be said to have character, at least in a way
analogous to human character and virtue.
Note that Confucian li is not found in
Heaven, but it is created by humans using the regularities of Heaven as a
model. For the neo-Confucians li is attributed to Heaven, but here it
means basic principle or essence–both in a general and specific sense. (A
rough Whiteheadian parallel would be general �categoreal obligations� and
particular �eternal objects.�) Therefore, Heaven is not specifically moral and
neither does any Confucian thinker say that its value is aesthetic. Whitehead
is much more explicit: he holds that truth applies only to conformation to
appearances, while beauty is �realized in actual occasions which are the
completely real things in the universe.�
For Whitehead all order is ultimately aesthetic order: �The actual world is
the outcome of the aesthetic order and the aesthetic order is derived from the
immanence of God.�
Charles Hartshorne agrees: �Aesthetic values are universal; they apply to all
life–and they apply to God. . . . The value of the world is its beauty for
Given any particular moral dilemma–e.g., the
survival of the Nile River fluke versus the survival of Egyptian peasants–the
Whiteheadian God cannot possibly choose between them. (Neither can the
Confucian Heaven.) Indeed, God must offer the best initial aims for each
group of creatures, and best here means that which will bring about a balance
of harmony, peace, and novelty in the cosmos. Whitehead�s God is
nonjudgmental in the primordial nature (the origin of initial aims) and also
in the consequent nature, which takes in all experience regardless of value.
Evil is not eliminated by a destructive retributive judgment, but by an
aesthetic synthesis of intensity, order, and harmony. Whitehead�s God is not
a cosmic judge; rather, God is a cosmic artist. The many poor paintings of
individual lives and events are transformed in a continuous aesthetic process
of harmonizing the parts with an ideal whole in mind. As Whitehead states:
�There is then the evil of triviality�a sketch in place of a full picture.�
In this passage from Process and Reality the metaphor changes from
painting to poetry: �[God] does not create the world; he saves it: or, more
accurately, he is the poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by
his vision of truth, beauty, and goodness.�
Before turning to a Confucian-Whiteheadian
aesthetics of virtue, we need to work more generally with the concepts of
rational and aesthetic order. Our word �reason� goes back to the Greek verb
lego, the verbal noun of which is the famous word logos, which
was translated as the Latin ratio. Lego has two principal
meanings: �to say� (hence the Word of John�s logos) and �to put
together� (related to lechos as the marital couch). (As Whitehead
states: �Logic starts with primitive ideas and puts them together.�)
The most general definition of rationality that we could draw from this
etymology is the following: �Rational beings are those beings who are able to
put their world together so that it makes sense to them.� We could then say
that in addition to analytic reason, one that is prescriptive and insists on
universal laws of thinking, there is also synthetic reason, which is
descriptive and does not bind us to the laws of logic.(37)
Synthetic reason has generally been passive in the
sense that most people have accepted the way religious and cultural
institutions have put their world together for them. Traditional religions,
then, are constantly involved in re-lego, faithfully repeating the
words (logia) and ritually putting the world together again and again
according to the accepted ways. Synthetic reason, however, can also be
active, creative, and even anarchic, defying the old rules and proposing new
ways of looking at the world. Cezanne, for example, rejected the laws of
perspective and ushered in a whole new way of doing art. Scientists working
on the cutting edge go with their intuitions and aesthetic instincts, putting
together the most elegant and sometimes daring new theories. Only afterward
are they tested by analytic reason, whereas both artists and virtuous persons
rightly resist such testing.
Let us now relate synthetic reason to the distinction between
rational and aesthetic order.(38)
By abstracting from the particular, rational order, the analytic reason
mentioned above, is ultimately indifferent to concrete individuals because it
generates the rule of complete substitutability. For
example, p’s and q’s can stand for any word in any natural
language, just as in classical physics one atom can take the place of any
other atom without changing the whole. The discovery of intimately
paired subatomic particles undermines the basic assumptions of classical
physics and demonstrates that the universe is far more organic than
mechanical. This discredits even more the theory of social atomism and
vindicates Whitehead�s analogy of organism. The actual occasion is definitely
not interchangeable with others; rather, it constitutes a unique appropriation
of the data of the world. As we shall see, Whitehead�s cosmos is therefore
constituted by aesthetic rather than rational order; it is not a simple sum of
In moral theory the idea of substitution finds its
ultimate expression in the interchangeability of the sovereign in Kant�s
Kingdom of Ends. Any truly autonomous self would promulgate the same laws as
any other rational being and these laws would be universal and binding by
virtue of the categorical imperative. An equivalent uniformity is obtained in
the modern bureaucratic state where individuals are leveled and made abstract
by social rules and regulations. Even libertarians who criticize the welfare
state for these indignities share the same axiom of social atomism with their
social utilitarian opponents. Regardless of context and circumstance, the
social atom of classical economic theory can take the place of any other
In the Analects Confucius says that virtuous
persons (junzi) �seek harmony not sameness; petty persons, then, are
the opposite� (13.23).(39)
David Hall and Roger Ames propose a contrast between the rational order of
liberal democracy in the sameness of consensus making and the junzi�s
attempt to harmonize among real differences.(40)
They refer to a culinary analogy in a commentary on Analects 13.23 on
which I would like expand. The recipe could be seen as an explicit formula
for the rational ordering of the ingredients. But any cook knows that a truly
tasty dish is not guaranteed by merely following the recipe. Rather, good
cooks must judge the nature and condition of their ingredients and as the dish
is near completion they must adjust the seasonings. Those who follow the
li in all their social roles must make the same personal judgments and
appropriate adjustments, using the capacity found in what Confucius calls
yi, a term translated traditionally and misleadingly as �righteousness.�
This is the making of aesthetic rather than rational order. Whitehead sums up
the difference succinctly: �Logic concentrates attention upon high
abstraction, and aesthetics keeps as close to the concrete as the necessities
of finite understanding permit.�(41)
Aesthetic order focuses on the concrete particulars
so thoroughly that there can be no substitution and no interchangeability.
This applies to the work of art as much as the person of great virtue. This
means that something aesthetic is ordered primarily in terms of internal
relations, the basic elements being dependent on one another. By contrast
physical or social atoms are externally related, independent from their
environments, and for Kant�s moral agents, immune to their emotions and
bodies. Even though Aristotle was the inspiration for the idea of rational
autonomy, this applies only to the intellectual virtues and only when
Aristotle sees the highest good as pure contemplation. It is important to
remember that he joins reason and the passions in the moral virtues and he
holds that these virtues are the unique self-creations of practical reason (phron�sis).
Aristotle claims that theoretical reason (nous)
would give us a universal law suitable only for the gods. For human action,
however, nous is �deficient,� a flaw corrected by the ability of
practical reason to apply it to particular cases.(42)
Theoretical reason would give us an arithmetic mean between excess and
deficiency, thereby fulfilling the criterion of universalizability of
deontological ethics. Moral agents will have exactly the same duties, so moral
rationalism also conforms to analytic reason’s rule of subsitutability. It
should be clear, however, that such a theory cannot determine any individual
action. For example, one might hold that it is always wrong to eat too much
but only individuals themselves can find the mean that is right for them.
Aristotle and Confucius saw moral virtues as relative means derived not from a
universal moral calculus but from a careful process of personal discovery.
and Confucius’ yi, the capacity to do what is appropriate, could be
seen as the moral expression of synthetic reason and its creative aspects
further augment our case for an aesthetics of virtue.
Analytic reason establishes rational order by
reducing the whole to a simple sum of parts, while aesthetic order is
synthesized from particulars in such a way that its unity is organic and
immune to complete analysis. Rational order is ruled by universal
laws–either physical or moral–while aesthetic order is created by imprecise
rules of thumb, by emulating the virtuous person or master artist, and
self-creation by practical reason. Rational order can be articulated in
precise language, but no one can tell us explicitly how to be a good person or
a great artist. Rational order involves "knowing that" whereas aesthetic
order is produced by "knowing how"; the former can be said and cognized, the
latter can only be shown in practice. Commentators and disciples alike bemoan
the fact that Confucius never defined ren*, but they should have
realized that the Master, without ever thinking about the distinction between
rational and aesthetic order, knew that it could not be done.
Applying this concept of aesthetic order Hall and
Ames portray Confucian sages as virtuoso performers who use their yi
(that which is right for them) to create their own unique style of
appropriating the social patterns (li) of their community. To use the
language of Merleau-Ponty, Confucian sages involve themselves in a process of
personal Sinngebung, a centrifugal process of meaning giving to the
centripetal influx of social norms. For Merleau-Ponty, Whitehead, and the
Confucians human freedom and creativity happens right at the intersection of
this internal-external dynamic. (Unlike many most European theories of
personal agency, these views always involve a fusion of the inner and the
outer.) The ren* person is a work of fine art, something wholly unique
and distinctive. Whereas the craft potter makes thousands of mugs from the
same mold, the ceramic sculptor makes one singular work.
Ames and Rosemont�s inelegant translation of ren*
as �authoritative person� plays on the dual meanings of authority and creative
authoring and leads to helpful translations such as: �Becoming authoritative
in one�s conduct is self-originating�how could it originate with others?�
(12.1). Ames and Rosemont also observe that li is �profoundly different
from law� because it can be personalized and stylized. A standard translation
of li as �propriety� takes on deeper meaning when we are reminded that
the English word comes from the Latin propius��making something one�s
This achievement is both moral and aesthetic because it results in the
embodiment of the good (li) and the personal creation of an elegant,
harmonious, and balanced soul. The beauty of such a creation is reflected in
the person�s demeanor as well as her face, limbs, and back, as Mencius told us
above. Chinese sages are so unified with their instruments (e.g., Butcher
Ding�s knife in the Zhuangzi) and their bodies that their actions
appear effortless and magical. The emperor sits with his back to the North
Star, does nothing, and all is right with the empire. It is in this meaning
of wu wei (effortless action) that both Confucianism and Daoism are
united in an aesthetics of virtue.
In her insightful book on Whitehead�s ethics Lynne
Belaief claims that �the East often identifies the aesthetic and the ethical
levels, reducing the latter to the former.�(44)
She goes on to say that Asian philosophy pays scant attention to a �specific
categoreal analysis of man� and does not have sufficient appreciation for the
tragic in human affairs. This is a faulty generalization for several reasons,
but she is correct about tragedy. In the Indian tradition this is most likely
due to a distinction between freedom of the will and absolute freedom, one
that Belaief refers to earlier in her book. Jainism and Sankhya-Yoga do claim
that human beings have the power to fully transcend both their bodies and
nature, a view I have called �spiritual Titanism,�(45)
and this total freedom does eliminate frustration and failure from human
Systematic analysis is indeed alien to early
Confucian thinking, but not to most Indian philosophy, where, for example,
Sankhya philosophy and the Buddhist Abhidharma contain very sophisticated
schemes and their corresponding elements. The literal meaning of Sankhya is
�discrimination� and one is not liberated until one understands every detail
of the cosmic system. Perhaps Belaief has a very broad conception of the
aesthetic, but it is only the Chinese among Asian philosophers who explicitly
relate the aesthetic and the ethical. They do not, however, identify them, or
place the aesthetic above the ethical as Whitehead definitely does.
Belaief�s excellent summary of the goals of a
Whiteheadian ethic enhances our continuing comparative study with Confucian
morality require[s] the decision to transcend one�s own desires
. . . In this transcendence, achieved in the intuition of peace, one commits
himself to a life of adventurous creativity, aimed toward increasing harmony
and intensity of experience for oneself and others. The aim is ultimately
judged by the claims of love.(46)
The transcending of personal desires, the aesthetic qualities
of harmony and intensity, the coincidence of self-interest and other-interest,
and the focus on love all resonate well with Confucian virtue ethics.
�Adventurous� and �intensity,� however, are not words found very often in
Confucian texts. Indeed, while Confucian sages are allowed a personal
appropriation of tradition, outright innovation may very well be
un-Confucian. Although Confucius claimed that he did not innovate, his
concepts of ren* and yi are essentially new formulations. The
aesthetics of virtue should be seen on a continuum from a craft excellence
within the bounds of social customs to a Nietzschean self-creation of the
individual without regard for norms. Whitehead appears to stand in the middle
of this continuum, emphasizing personal appropriation of norms but also novel
deviations therefrom. For Whitehead wisdom is a necessary part of adventure
and its lack may be the reason why so many contemporary artists fail. Novelty
and order must go hand in hand, for �novelty may promote or destroy; it may be
good or bad.�(47)
Nevertheless, Whitehead believes that order in the
form of fixed moral codes is an �illusion which has vitiated much philosophy.�(48)
Like physical laws, moral laws are abstractions from patterns and habits in
the world. It is no accident that the concept of a fixed moral code has gone
hand in hand with the idea of a substantial self. If the true self is static
and unchanging, then rules for its behavior will have similar qualities.
Substantialist views of a universal Self in Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, and
Christianity appear to promote a self-sacrificial ethic, arguably because this
Self is always to preferred over the ego self, viz., �Not I but Christ,� �Not
I but the Buddha nature,� or �Not I but Atman.� The substantial self also
erects a wall between itself and the world, such that the natural social nexus
of personhood is obscured or even denied. If the reality of the individual
self is preserved, as opposed to the Indian and Christian views just
mentioned, then substance metaphysics takes us to the other extreme of
solipsism and the egocentric predicament. As Whitehead states: �The doctrine
of minds, as independent substances, leads directly not merely to private
worlds of experience, but also to private worlds of morals. The moral
intuitions can be held to apply only to the strictly private world of
Whitehead then shows how this intensified the split, already set into motion
by the scientific materialism, between a private realm of value and a
valueless external world.
Virtues are basic dispositions to act in specific
ways and as such they are based in our affective natures. Thinking of yi
as a capacity for premoral discrimination is particularity helpful in
understanding why the ren* person, who presumably uses yi, is
�capable of liking or disliking other men� (Analects 4.3). John Goheen
helps us refocus our comparative study by noting that Whitehead is like Hume,
�who held that knowledge of value can be had by setting down the likes and
dislikes of men,�(50)
which then form the basis for general ideas of good and evil. In Whitehead�s
theory of prehensions this insight is generalized in the paired concepts of
adversion and aversion.(51)
An eternal object chosen under an adverse feeling will be enhanced and
enforced, whereas just the opposite happens under feelings of aversion. At
the level of virtue formation, dispositions that are chosen under a conceptual
ideal of the Good will become habitual behaviors that bring joy and welfare to
all. In her critique of Alasdair MacIntyre from a process perspective, Lisa
Bellantoni counters his overemphasis on the cognitive by pointing to the
�proto-normative� forces at the premoral level of prehension and causal
If the virtues are practices, as MacIntyre�s proposes, then the practice of
the virtues will depend largely on an affective �operative intentionality�
rather than a cognitive �act intentionality� (using terms from phenomenology).
The process self clearly lends itself to virtue
ethics, and Whitehead�s language is certainly supportive of this move. He
says that the aim of morality is �to maximize importance� and �greatest of
Wisdom is defined quasi-aesthetically as �greatness�: �Moral education is
impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness. The sense of
greatness is the ground work of morals.�(54)
Making this an aesthetics of virtue Whitehead immediately adds the all
important elements of �harmony, intensity, and vividness� to this experience.
The literal translation of Aristotle�s megalopsychia is �great souled�
rather than the �pride� that we normally read. In Confucius and Whitehead,
however, this expanded soul does not limit itself to a fraternity of
propertied males; rather, it extends into the world at large. For them the
goal of morality is the attainment of universal peace and love, the latter
virtue most clearly laid out, as we have seen, by process theologians such as
John Cobb and Daniel Day Williams. For Confucius and Whitehead this extension
is cosmic in scope, because as Belaief states: �Ultimately the aim is to
achieve relations with the entire universe of values, actual and ideal in
order to knowledgeably introduce that novelty which can best increase value in
the world. . . .�(55)
More speculative and bold than Confucius, Mencius envisioned that the person
of ren*, inspired by a �flood-like� qi, �will fill the space
between Heaven and Earth. It is a qi which unites rightness (yi)
and the Way� (2a2). Ren* is a love that begins in the family and
radiates in ever widening circles until �all within the four seas (world) are
brothers� (Analects 12.5).
Christian love is significantly different from ren* for
at least three reasons. First, Christian love is more like the unconditional
love of the Mohists, because the Confucians held that one must love one�s
immediate family and friends more than others. Second, Cobb embraces the
Pauline understanding of love as a divine gift �unattainable by [one�s] own
while Mohists and Confucians are of course thoroughly humanist on this issue.
Third, Confucians would reject the idea that love trumps justice as it does in
the Jesus who told us to love our enemies. When asked what he thought of the
Daoist equivalent��repaying ill will with beneficence (de)�–Confucius
rejected it implying that this was unjust: "Then how will you repay
beneficence?� He then concludes: �Repay ill will by remaining true. Repay
beneficence with gratitude� (14.34). Confucius finds it irrational to repay
evil with good since there would be no justice in that. But he does not
support retaliation either. Instead of returning evil for evil Confucius
recommends standing firm in one�s virtue and becoming a model for the other�s
moral rehabilitation. This is clear in Confucius� prescriptions for the ruler:
Lead the people with administrative injunctions and keep them
orderly with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a
sense of shame. Lead with excellence (de) and keep them orderly
through observing ritual propriety (li) and they develop a sense of
shame, and moreover, will order themselves (2.3).
The distinction between a rule-based ethics and its law and
order application and virtue ethics could not be more clearly drawn.
Whitehead might well have joined Christians and Daoists in repaying hate with
love, but he would have certainly agreed with the Confucians that retaliation
would only add more disvalue to the world and it would also offer the wrong
reasons to be moral. Again an alliance between Whitehead and virtue ethics
would appear to be the preferred option.
As the world becomes more complex and its many
different peoples become more interrelated, ethical rules and ethnic customs
are becoming more and more difficult to reconcile. Equipped with a static
world-view, with a substantial self residing deep in its history, the
conservative response to such a world is sometimes intolerant reaction,
sometimes silent withdrawal, sometimes becoming, as Sartre says of the
anti-Semite, as durable as stone. (Dewey�s characterization of rule-based
ethics as anaesthetic is particularly apt here.)(57)
This brave new world, however, is ready made for the process philosopher.
Against the view of the hermetically sealed �good� life, Whitehead�s response,
as Belaief explains, is
a life that contains openness
to receive novelty and change as it occurs in the surrounding ethical
situation, together with the willingness to respond creatively to this
novelty. If one consciously chooses the lower experience of closure
against one�s own knowledge of its inferiority, this would seem to be the very
meaning of �sin.�
Discord that may come about when people take risks in being
open to the new is not necessarily evil; rather, the static harmony of the
closed mind becomes the problem. As Whitehead says: �Even discord may be
preferable to a feeling of slow relapse into general anaesthesia, or into
tameness which is its prelude. Perfection at a low level ranks below
imperfection with higher aim.�(59)
This is why harmony alone is not sufficient for �strength of beauty,� which
also includes complexity and intensity. Cobb offers the example of a wall
expertly painted with one pleasant color and a great painting to demonstrate
the simple truth of this claim.(60)
The cultural Confucianism of ancient China
definitely became allied with the forces of reaction, just as Jesus� radical
message was coopted by conservative priests and emperors. Breaking with a
strict interpretation of li Confucius was willing to embrace a man
without relatives and to include him in a universal human family (12.5).
Confucius was also not afraid to travel among the barbarians, confident that
his moral model would instill virtue among the uncivilized (9.14). (This is
the only time that Confucius admits, albeit indirectly, that he is a truly
virtuous person [junzi].) Whitehead�s distinction between the closed
and open person finds an instructive parallel in the Confucian �small or
inferior person� and the junzi. The latter thinks of virtue while the
former thinks of possessions and profit; the junzi seeks the Way and
not a mere living; and the junzi �brings the good things of others to
completion� but the inferior man does just the opposite (Analects 4.11,
12, 16; 12.16). Like Whitehead�s person of �great experience�(61)
the junzi is expansive and other-regarding while the inferior person is
self-regarding and restrictive. (Whitehead�s narrow person of small mind is
�a sketch in place of a full picture,�(62)
demonstrating once again his pervasive appeal to the aesthetic.) Later
Confucians, such as Mencius, continued to emphasize this distinction: �He who
nurtures the parts of smaller importance [the senses] is a small man; he who
nurtures the parts of greater importance [heart-mind] is a great man� (6a14).
Whiteheadians would be happy to note that a person�s greater qualities do
include the affective as well as the cognitive elements of the soul.
The junzi stands in awe of Heaven and knows
the Mandate of Heaven (Analects 16.8), and this leads to some notable
theological similarities as well as differences with Whitehead. Neither
Whitehead�s God nor Confucian Heaven is a being with sense perception, so
Whitehead would agree with Mencius that �Heaven sees as my people see; Heaven
hears as my people hear� (5a5). Whether the Confucians also agree with
Whitehead that God knows the future only as it is actualized in human history
and nature is not clear. Several passages indicate that the sage can divine
the future, but one could interpret this as prediction rather than
foreknowledge. The most significant difference between Whitehead�s God and
Confucian Heaven is that the latter is strictly nonteleological. While God�s
�initial aim� supplies a specific purpose for literally every actual occasion
of experience, Heaven does not offer any specific direction or any aid
whatsoever. (One must remember that contrary to orthodox Christianity, the
process God does not have a final goal for the cosmos; rather, God offers a
myriad teloi for a myriad actual occasions; a microcosmic teleology
rather than a macrocosmic one.) What we have is a very clear distinction
between a completely particularized special providence in Whitehead and a very
general providence in Confucianism.
This means that Confucianism is more consistently
humanistic than process theology. This is most dramatically expressed in an
emblematic passage in the Analects: �It is the person who is able to
broaden the way, not the way that broadens the person� (15.29). The contrast
is seen most clearly in Cobb�s Christology where Christ is the origin of all
creative transformation in the world, whereas Confucius locates this
initiative in humanity alone. Confucian sages attain perfection on their own
within the constitutive framework of human society, but saints, under Cobb�s
view, conform perfectly with God�s initial aims. The choice to conform is of
course free but they are not the saints� own creation. On the other hand,
there is nothing new under the Confucian Heaven, whereas in Christ all things
are made new. The Whiteheadian is a risk taker and an innovator, while the
traditional Confucian prefers to appropriate traditional values in a personal
Using a fine arts analogy rather than a craft analogy, a
contemporary Confucian could move more in Whitehead�s direction. The
craftsperson makes fine copies of an original model, but the creative artist
makes unique and distinctive pieces. Focusing on performance art, one can
still speak of personal
appropriation and creation without allowing a single variation in the basic
norms. Even though violin virtuosos are reading the exact same musical score,
each them will give the piece a unique interpretation. We should assume that
the dances the Confucians performed had a set choreography, but we could
easily imagine each having particular styles as varied as all ballerinas do.
A Confucianism aesthetics
virtue is, however, role specific just as these examples from the fine arts
are. Even though the younger brother may have his own particular style of
deferring to his elder brother, he has no freedom not to defer or take on
other roles not appropriate to li. Similarly, violin players do not
switch to the French horn while performing their concertos. Note that none of
these examples can be reduced to a mere subjectivism. In each good objective
reasons can be given for the respective interpretations, and not only can we
say that a performance is bad form but that it is simply wrong. We have,
therefore, fulfilled the promise of the introduction: we have shown that
virtue ethics can be normative as well as personalist and contextualist.
Confucianism may be more humanistic but process
theology is much more flexible and progressive. There is nothing, however, to
prevent a contemporary Confucian from embracing the idea of many different
cultural li. Indeed, it would be a natural extension of the principle
of yi from the personal to the cultural, from what is appropriate for
the individual given the circumstances to what is appropriate for different
cultures. Whitehead�s proposal that each environment, whether mirco or macro,
has its �proper perfection� supports this cultural pluralism and it also shows
that Whitehead joins ancient virtue ethics in what scholars have called its
The actual occasion selectively appropriating data is analogous to the person
choosing among the cultural ideals of a world culture, a Whiteheadian
equivalent of Hans-Georg Gadamer�s Horizontsverschmelzung.
Against both MacIntyre�s and Derrida�s insistence on the
incommensurability of traditions, the Whiteheadian (and the contemporary
argue for and point to the overwhelming evidence for the continuity of
cultural norms, perhaps the most dramatic being the gradual extension of the
moral community from Aristotle�s polis of propertied males, the
Christian City of God, Kant�s secular version of this as the Kingdom of Ends,
and finally Singer or Regan�s extension to all sentient creation. The
Buddhist Dharmakaya and the Confucian sage filling the space between Heaven
and Earth are instructive and significantly earlier Asian parallels. Even
though virtues have axiological primacy, moral rules and rights, as
abstractions from virtues, still have normative value. With such a view world
citizens would be expected to respect all cultural li as long as they
conformed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such a communitarian
liberalism would suit both Confucians and Whiteheadians very well.(65)
When one thinks of the question �Which came
first–moral rules or virtues?� the obvious answer is that virtues came
first. Moral imperatives are abstractions from thousands of years of
observing loyal, honest, patient, just, and compassionate behavior, whereas
moral prohibitions have come from negative experiences of the vices. One
could argue that the expression of moral rules requires language and one could
argue just as persuasively that virtues manifested themselves in prelinguistic
human beings. (For example, strong circumstantial evidence for compassion
among the Neanderthals can be joined with the hypothesis that they were unable
to articulate the basic vowels because of a very high larynx.)(66)
It is even more clear that divine virtues precede divine law, because God�s
virtues would remain even if God chose not to create a world.
The Pauline view that the Law was created only to
manifest human sin further supports a Christian view of its contingency and
confirms the idea of a �lawless� God before creation. (For the medieval
nominalists the moral law characterizes what God has ordained [potentia
ordinata] for a sinful world, and it is not part of God�s potentia
absoluta.) This argument for the priority of the divine virtues appears to
work only within the framework of classical theology, because God without the
world is not possible in Whiteheadian theology. Whitehead believes that
physical laws are simply the habits of the universe, so it would follow that
moral laws are derived from the habitual behaviors�the vices and the virtues
of humankind. Moral laws would not exist in God either because we have seen
that the Whiteheadian God�committed to the aesthetic values of harmony and
intensity�could not be a moral legislator or judge.
We have seen that the Confucian Heaven is constant and sincere,
the latter meaning �being true to itself.� Heaven�s constancy can be
eminently applied to Whitehead�s God as well. If we make God a personal
society of occasions, as Hartshorne and Cobb have done, we can then speak more
confidently of a full complement of divine virtues, although the traditional
view of divine justice is not supported. God is not the same as a terrestrial
or even extraterrestrial person–e.g., the cosmos is God�s body only by
analogy–so God would embody and act on the virtues in a uniquely divine way.
However, God�s conscious inclusion of all experience in the consequent nature
is the epitome of compassion and unconditional love. As opposed to the
classical doctrine of divine impassivity, God can truly empathize with the
suffering of the cosmos in the same way that we are aware of the pain in our
bodies. Patience as a divine virtue is much more intelligible in process
theology and the process deity would epitomize the medieval ideal of never
giving up on a person or a task. As a future desideratum, theologians should
consider thinking of God�s virtues as a model for human action rather than God
the judge, rewarding and punishing according to a set of divine rules.
Let us conclude with some summary observations. One
of the problems with a rule-based ethics is applying the rules to specific
cases. The imperatives of virtue ethics�be true, be patient, be kind, be
compassionate, be courageous–better equip an individual to negotiate the
obstacles of the moral life. The virtue ethics approach is not to follow a
set of abstract rules, but to develop a unique ensemble of behaviors,
dispositions, and qualities that lead to human excellence. Virtue ethics may
not have exact answers to specific cases–no ethical theory could offer
this–but it does prepare the moral agent for adaptation, innovation, and
self-discovery. As opposed to a rule based ethics, where the most that we can
know is that we always fall short of the norm, virtue ethics is truly a voyage
of personal discovery.
Confucian, Aristotelian, and Whiteheadian ethics always aim at
a personal mean that is a creative choice for each individual. Virtue ethics
is emulative–using the sage or God as a model for virtue–whereas rule ethics
is based on simple conformity and obedience. The emulative approach engages
the imagination and personalizes and thoroughly grounds individual moral
action and responsibility. Such an ethics naturally lends itself to an
aesthetics of virtue: the crafting of a good and beautiful soul, a unique
individual gem among other gems.
Acknowledgments. For financial
support I would like to thank the research office of the University of Idaho,
the Martin Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, and the
conveners of the National Seminar on Civic Virtue at Santa Clara University.
I am grateful for John B. Cobb, David R. Griffin, J. Thomas Howe, and David L.
Hall for their comments and criticisms.
See �The Dancing Ru: A Confucian Aesthetics of Virtue,� Philosophy East
and West 51:2 (April, 2001), pp. 280-305. This article and the current
one share some common passages, specifically the first two paragraphs, two
paragraphs in the first section, most of the second section, and the final
paragraph. Dancing Ru� also shares eight paragraphs with another companion
article: �Confucius, Gandhi, and the Aesthetics of Virtue,� Asian
Philosophy 11:1 (March, 2001), pp. 41-54.
Robert C. Neville, The Tao and the Daimon
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1982), p. 152.
We will follow David L. Hall and Roger T. Ames�
convention of using an asterisk to distinguish between ren as a human
person and ren* as the virtue. See their book Thinking Through
Confucius (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1987).
Tu Weiming, Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Self-Transformation
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1985), chap. 5.
The D. C. Lau translation of the Mencius (Harmondsworth: Penguin
Books, 1970) will be cited by chapter and section in the text.
Tu Weiming, op. cit., pp. 97, 98.
Robert C. Neville, op. cit., p. 151.
John B. Cobb, A Christian Natural Theology
(Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1964), p. 49.
Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (New York: The Free Press,
1968), p. 21.
See Neville, op. cit., chap. 8 ; and
John H. Berthrong, All Under heaven: Transforming Paradigms in
Confucian-Christian Dialogue (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994).
See the Zhuangzi, chap. 7. Interestingly, Zhuangzi�s knackmasters,
Butcher Ding and Wheelwright Pian, are not antisocial; they do not leave
things as they are; neither the ox nor the wood is left uncarved.
Furthermore, the Duke learns moral lessons from Ding�s consummate
Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New
York: The Free Press, 1967), p. 206.
Cobb, The Structure of Christian Existence (Philadelphia, PA:
Westminster Press, 1968), p. 133.
I am indebted to Wing-tsit Chan for his
reference to Liu Baonan�s linkage between Analects 4.15 and 6.28.
See Chan�s Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 27.
Tu Weiming, Centrality and Commonality
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989), p. 27.
Foucault�s conclusion is that the best of
Hellenistic moral self-cultivation was �not an exercise in solitude, but a
true social practice; . . . the care of the self. . . appears . . . as an
intensification of social relations.� See Foucault, The Care of the Self,
volume 3 of The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1986), pp. 51, 53.
Foucault, �The Ethic of Care for the Self as a
Practice of Freedom,� Philosophy and Social Criticism (Summer, 1987),
Lynne Belaief, Toward a Whiteheadian Ethics
(Lanham, MD: University of America Press, 1984), p. 93.
F. H. Bradley, Ethical Studies (Oxford: The Claredon Press, 2nd
ed., 1952), p. 24; cited in ibid. After reading the introduction to Jon
Steward�s The Hegel Myths and Legends (Evanston, IL: Northwestern
University Press, 1996), I am now more vigilant about inaccurate
interpretations of Hegel, not only from his critics but also from devoted
disciples such as Bradley.
Jiyuan Yu, �Virtue: Confucius and Aristotle,�
Philosophy East and West 48:2 (April, 1998), p. 335.
Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), vol. 2, p. 52.
Cobb, A Christian Natural Theology, p. 110.
Cobb, Christ in a Pluralistic Age
(Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1975), p. 213.
Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p. 269.
Ibid., pp. 259-262.
Whitehead, Process and Reality (New
York: MacMillan, 1929), p. 342.
Ibid., p. 517.
Belaief, Toward a Whiteheadian Ethics, p. 165.
The Tao and the Daimon, p. 152.
31 Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 153.
32 Whitehead, Religion in the Making (New York:
Macmillan, 1926), p. 105.
Charles Hartshorne, Interview in Unitarian Universalist World
(November, 15, 1982), p. 1.
Whitehead, �Mathematics and the Good� in Paul Schlipp, ed., The
Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, p. 679.
Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 526.
Modes of Thought, p. 61. Leibniz gave the
name Combination to what he considered to be the most important
philosophical discipline: true logic or metaphysics. This art of discovery,
as he also called it, is synthetic not analytic. See Louis Couturat, �On
Leibniz�s Metaphysics� in Leibniz, ed. Harry G. Frankfurt (Garden
City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972), p. 30.
For more on synthetic reason see my Wittgenstein and Phenomenology
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1981), Chapter 8. Parts of this chapter have been
Reason, Aesthetic Order, and the Grammar of Virtue,@
Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research 18: 4 (2001),
pp. 13-28. The principal inspiration for this
idea came from Merleau-Ponty�s �Hegel�s Existentialism� in Sense and
Non-Sense, trans. H. L. and P. A. Dreyfus (Evanston, IL: Northwestern
University Press, 1964).
I have used the principle of subsitutability from Hall and Ames, but
the examples and formulations are my own (Hall and Ames, pp. 131-137). Hall
has informed me that my concept of aesthetic order is more rational than his
because I believe that aesthetic order has structure, a view that I will
continue to defend.
It is obvious that Hall and I disagree on some fundamental issues in
Whitehead and I will attempt to address these in future work.
39 The translation
of Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont, Jr., The
Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (New York: Ballantine
Books, 1998), will be cited in the text. I prefer �virtuous person� instead
of Ames� and Rosemont�s �exemplary person� as a translation of junzi.
& Ames, pp. 165-66.
Whitehead, Modes of Thought, p. 61.
Politics 1287a28-32; Nicomachean Ethics
43 Ames and Rosemont, p. 51-52.
Belaief, p. 161.
45 See my Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western
Perspectives (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000).
46 Belaief, p. 166.
47 Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 187.
48 Whitehead, Modes of Thought, p. 13.
49 Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York:
The Free Press, 1967), pp. 195-96.
50 John Goheen, �Whitehead�s Theory of Value� in P. A.
Schilpp, ed. , The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, p. 444.
51 Whitehead, Process and Reality, pp. 35, 48, 388.
52 Lisa Bellantoni, Moral Progress: A Process Critique of
MacIntyre (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000), p. 72. This excellent book
came to my attention late in the writing of this essay and would have had a
more profound effect on it if it had been discovered earlier.
53 Process and Reality, pp. 13-14.
54 Whitehead, The Aims of Education (New York: The
Free Press, 1967), p. 77.
55 Belaief, p. 158.
56 Cobb, The Structure of Christian Existence, p. 135.
57 �One great defect in what passes as morality is its
anesthetic quality� (John Dewey, Art as Experience [New York:
Capricorn Books, 1958], p. 39).
58 Belaief, p. 87.
59 Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, pp. 263-4.
60 Cobb, A Christian Natural Theology, p. 102-3.
61 Whitehead, Modes of Thought, p. 14.
62 Whitehead, Essays in Science and Philosophy (New
York: Philosophical Library, 1947 ), p. 119.
63 �The moral code is the behaviour-patterns which in the
environment for which it is designed will promote the evolution of that
environment towards its proper perfection� (Adventures of Ideas, p.
64 See Robert C. Neville, Boston Confucianism (Albany,
NY: SUNY Press, 2000).
65 See my �Non-Violence as a
Civic Virtue: Gandhi as a Reformed Liberal,� a paper present at the Society
for Asian and Comparative Philosophy,� Monterey, California, May, 2003. See
also Wm. Theodore de Bary�s The Liberal Tradition in China (Hong
Kong: Chinese University Press of Hong Kong, 1983) and Asian Values and
Human Rights: A Confucian Communitarian Perspective (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1998) in which de Bary supports both a liberal and
66 See Ian Tattersall, The Last Neanderthal (Boulder,
CO: Westview Press, revised ed., 1999), pp. 169-70.