Pure Sentiment and Strained Reasoning: An Exploration of Neo-Confucian Liu Jishan’s Moral Psychology

Visiting Scholar Talks

Nov 15, 2022 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Chi-keung Chan | Associate Professor of Philosophy, National Taiwan University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Michael Puett | Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and Anthropology, Harvard University

This talk attempts to examine the contribution made by late Ming Neo-Confucianist Liu Jishan (1578-1645) in producing lasting insights on human moral psychological mechanisms. Unlike Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming, who maintained a more Kantian outlook in moral ethics, Liu had instead developed a more Humean-like model that places greater emphasis on the multiple facets of the affective faculties of the moral mind. According to Liu, human emotions possess self-regulatory functions, a postulation which partly forms the basis of morality. In contrast, the growth of evil associates closely with the misuse of human rationality. By incorporating the latest theories in moral psychology, I argue that the core of Liu’s philosophy represents a form of Confucian moral sentimentalism. Naturally, the introduction of Liu’s philosophy would require this paper to explicate Liu’s position, however, it also undertakes the broader aim at engaging the philosophy of ancient Chinese thinkers like Liu in a modern, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary philosophical dialogue.

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