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Moral Exemplars in the Analects: The Good Person Is That

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In this study, Olberding proposes a new theoretical model for reading the Analects. Her thesis is that the moral sensibility of the text derives from an effort to conceptually capture and articulate the features seen in exemplars, exemplars that are identified and admired pre-theoretically and thus prior to any conceptual criteria for virtue. Put simply, Olberding proposes In this study, Olberding proposes a new theoretical model for reading the Analects. Her thesis is that the moral sensibility of the text derives from an effort to conceptually capture and articulate the features seen in exemplars, exemplars that are identified and admired pre-theoretically and thus prior to any conceptual criteria for virtue. Put simply, Olberding proposes an "origins myth" in which Confucius, already and prior to his philosophizing knows whom he judges to be virtuous. The work we see him and the Analects' authors pursuing is their effort to explain in an organized, generalized, and abstract way why pre-theoretically identified exemplars are virtuous. Moral reasoning here begins with people and with inchoate experiences of admiration for them. The conceptual work of the text reflects the attempt to analyze such people and parse such experiences in order to distill abstract qualities that account for virtue and can guide emulation.


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In this study, Olberding proposes a new theoretical model for reading the Analects. Her thesis is that the moral sensibility of the text derives from an effort to conceptually capture and articulate the features seen in exemplars, exemplars that are identified and admired pre-theoretically and thus prior to any conceptual criteria for virtue. Put simply, Olberding proposes In this study, Olberding proposes a new theoretical model for reading the Analects. Her thesis is that the moral sensibility of the text derives from an effort to conceptually capture and articulate the features seen in exemplars, exemplars that are identified and admired pre-theoretically and thus prior to any conceptual criteria for virtue. Put simply, Olberding proposes an "origins myth" in which Confucius, already and prior to his philosophizing knows whom he judges to be virtuous. The work we see him and the Analects' authors pursuing is their effort to explain in an organized, generalized, and abstract way why pre-theoretically identified exemplars are virtuous. Moral reasoning here begins with people and with inchoate experiences of admiration for them. The conceptual work of the text reflects the attempt to analyze such people and parse such experiences in order to distill abstract qualities that account for virtue and can guide emulation.

13 review for Moral Exemplars in the Analects: The Good Person Is That

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andy Nguyen

    Olberding's is one of those rare books that both enlighten you with its content and delight you with its style. Her study of moral explarism, and how this pre-theoretical concept of ethic is different from and similar to the Socratic-rationalist ethic both presents you with a well-curated survey of the current literature and adds her own well-substantiated claim. Her mention of how Confucius lived his life - how his behaviors lend credence to his moral prescriptions and how he did not deviate fr Olberding's is one of those rare books that both enlighten you with its content and delight you with its style. Her study of moral explarism, and how this pre-theoretical concept of ethic is different from and similar to the Socratic-rationalist ethic both presents you with a well-curated survey of the current literature and adds her own well-substantiated claim. Her mention of how Confucius lived his life - how his behaviors lend credence to his moral prescriptions and how he did not deviate from it even in times of fatal danger, reminds me of Socratic and how Kierkegaard regards him as the first existential thinker. Her defense of "ethical intimacy" convinces me of the need to harmonize what one thinks is right and what one does in his everyday life. But most useful, and insightful of all, is her treatment of Confucius' deviant style. Olberding makes a compelling argument that Confucius' deviant behavior actually benefits his students and accords with the general idea and spirit of his own ethics: by behaving with such idiosyncrasy, he implicitly tells us that if one wants to emulate an exemplar, one must avoid behaving like him because in so doing we will only reduce his virtues to a set of rules and rob it off its sensibility and context. We will, in short, only arrive at a superficial sameness, and not a state of moral exemplar. This emphasis on singularity in style again reminds me of Kierkegaard and his famous third stage "leap of faith" in being ethical. This may sound very far fetched to a lot of people, but I think there's a lot more similarities between Confucianism and Existentialism than usually thought. I disagree with some points she makes. Some are minors: I don't think in saying if an exemplar person goes to live with the barbarians, there would be no barbarians, Confucius is being facetious; rather I think he is reinforcing the point that "ren" - authoritative conduct is authoritative and can affect other people. Some are majors: I don't see how by achieving an easy and joyful demeanor when doing morally difficult actions one does not call attention to the obstacle but instead draws people by showing harmony, if anything doing so would seem to call our attention to the improbability of the feat. However as a whole I think her book is well-argued and fair to both sides of any interpretation. What makes this book five-star to me is, style-wise, Olberling is the rare academic who writes with flair and does not bog you down in PhD's speak. She employs frequent memorable turns of phase - ethical intimacy for example, but they don't distract from her main points. Her analogies, elegant and sometimes a bit fanciful, are not forced but instead felt spot-on. Even in normal sentences, she displays a laudable command of the language: such sentences as "moral problems put us on moral alert, because the circumstances announce their moral significance" show that you don't need big words to convey big ideas. Academics who frequently write for and read from academic journals should do well to remember this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan Burdelski

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ceef

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

  6. 4 out of 5

    m

  7. 4 out of 5

    r0b

  8. 4 out of 5

    Krystina

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arno Mosikyan

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shirry

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Sibal

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