Self-cultivation, moral motivation, and moral imagination: A study of Zhu Xi's virtue ethics
Posted on 16. Aug, 2010 by James Miller
|Title||Self-cultivation, moral motivation, and moral imagination: A study of Zhu Xi's virtue ethics|
|Year of Publication||2008|
|ISBN Number||0549596895, 9780549596899|
This thesis aims to show that Zhu Xi's moral philosophy can best be reconstructed by exploring his views of self-cultivation in accord with moral motivation, moral imagination and virtue ethics. I define the nature of self-cultivation not as an instrumental tool for attaining virtue, but as a continuous process of a way of living. Accordingly, I argue that the distinctive feature of Zhu Xi's self-cultivation has a role to play in unifying all dyadic factors in ethical discourse: the external/internal, the rational/emotional, and the intellectual/virtuous. Zhu's ethical insights into an organic unification between binary frameworks has clearly been substantiated within his way of thinking on human nature and the mind, which imply an axiological disposition and emotive/cognitive faculty, respectively. Establishing his view of the "New Discourse of Equilibrium and Harmony", Zhu Xi harmoniously unified human nature with the mind by assigning the two states of weifa and yifa into the same entity, the mind, which is conceived as a creative vitality of the cosmic order. The total unity of all dyadic frameworks makes us interpret his ideas of moral motivation from a different angle: the unity between the inside and the outside. Rather than a kind of internalist, therefore, Zhu Xi should be read as one claiming proper resonance between axiological disposition and specific situations that are independent of desire. Hence, in the ethical dimension the matter of moral motivation as the proper way of resonance is tightly bound up with the development of the human capacity of sympathetic deliberation that resonates with the heart of another. This is termed moral imagination, and it is a breakthrough in delineating the human capacity of moral judgment in light of a unified perspective, combining rationality with sentiment. My thesis demonstrates that Zhu Xi is a kind of ethical naturalist in the sense that he never imagined moral values or properties as independent of the natural order of the Heaven-Earth. Finally, Zhu Xi's ethical thought eventually comes down to the matter of how to carry on in daily life, viz. the ethics of ordinariness in the sense that all efforts to become an ethical being are inseparable from how one should live in this world.