Mencius on Becoming Human

SUNY Press
Free sample

Using current research from traditional sources and newly unearthed documents dating from the Warring States period (403–221 B.C.E.), Mencius on Becoming Human offers a timely interpretation of a central text in the Confucian canon. The author carefully reconstructs the philosophical assumptions that underwrite the teachings of the Mencius, returning the text to its native intellectual world. The result is a compelling new reading of an ancient classic, one that is both sensitive to the details of historical context and contemporary in its philosophical implications.

James Behuniak Jr. argues that the notion of an essential, ahistorical “human nature” is not part of the process of “becoming human” outlined in the Mencius. Rather, becoming human is described as a process of developing a qualitatively “human” disposition within specific cultural and historical conditions as these are understood within a Warring States cosmology. The central themes of the Mencius?the importance of family, moral development, and human advancement?are each discussed within this reconstructed framework.
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About the author

James Behuniak Jr. is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Sonoma State University. He is coeditor (with Roger T. Ames) of The Mencian Conception of Human Nature.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
354
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ISBN
9780791484388
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Eastern
Religion / Confucianism
Religion / Eastern
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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'Life is a drama of encounters', writes Daisaku Ikeda at the beginning of this dialogue: 'Beautiful encounters. Momentary encounters. Each person's drama is unique.' This particular encounter, between a celebrated Chinese novelist and prominent Japanese religious leader, illustrates the truth of that reflection. For in the discussion that stemmed from their meetings, Jin Yong (who is sometimes called 'the Asian Dumas') and Daisaku Ikeda were able to find remarkable common ground - what they refer to as a 'karmic bond' - resulting from the particularity of their experiences in wartime and mutual resistance to adversity. Ranging across a variety of engaging themes, the interlocutors explore such topics as the nature of friendship; theories of civilization; world literatures that have inspired them; the importance of free speech; Buddhist perspectives on life and death; and the spiritual search for truth.
There is sustained reflection on the horrors of war, and a plea for the importance of memory: Daisaku Ikeda emphasises that 'peace is a battle against forgetfulness', while Jin Yong echoes this in his observation that 'most important is to strive to avoid war, whether it is between countries and whether it be domestic, and thus to enable people to build and improve their lives in a peaceful environment.' Cultural differences between the peoples of China and Japan are explored, sometimes amusingly, with the Japanese propensity for discipline and rules contrasted with the Chinese spirit of creative individualism. But the authors are focused above all on serious issues of meaning and identity, and they reveal the mutual solace both have found - in the face of personal loss and bereavement - in the Buddhist scriptures, especially the Lotus Sutra. Demonstrating a remarkable capacity for empathy throughout, they incarnate in their lives and work an intelligent and sympathetic compassion that represents a beacon of hope to the future direction of Sino-Japanese relations.
The Zhongyong--translated here as Focusing the Familiar--has been regarded as a document of enormous wisdom for more than two millennia and is one of Confucianism's most sacred and seminal texts. It achieved truly canonical preeminence when it became one of the Four Books compiled and annotated by the Southern Song dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Within the compass of world literature, the influence of these books (Analects of Confucius, Great Learning, Zhongyong, and Mencius) on the Sinitic world of East Asia has been no less than the Bible and the Qu'ran on Western civilization.

With this new translation David Hall and Roger Ames provide a distinctly philosophical interpretation of the Zhongyong, remaining attentive to the semantic and conceptual nuances of the text to account for its central place within classical Chinese literature. They present the text in such a way as to provide Western philosophers and other intellectuals access to a set of interpretations and arguments that offer new insights into issues and concerns common to both Chinese and Western thinkers. In addition to the annotated translation, a glossary of terms gives in concise form important senses of the terms that play a key role in the argument of the Zhongyong. An appendix addresses some of the more technical issues relevant to the understanding of both the history of the text and the history of its English translations. Here the translators introduce readers to the best contemporary textual studies of the Zhongyong and make use of the most recent archaeological discoveries in China to place the work within its own intellectual context.

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