A Letter to The Wall Street Journal,
"The Anatomy of Morality"

about a column by Julian Baggini,
December 16, 2019, page A15

"Letters to the Editor"
The Wall Street Journal

Dear Sirs:

Julian Baggini says that in China, “the ethics of an entire civilization has for millennia been based on a Confucian philosophy that concerns itself with how we live good lives and create an orderly society in the here and now -- without pointing to a metaphysical realm for justification.”

This is quite false. Confucius said that at age fifty he finally knew the “mandate” or “command of Heaven,” the Tianming []. It took decades longer for him to accept the command with a “docile ear” or in his heart. Heaven, pace Mr. Baggini, is a “metaphysical” entity, and it accounts for the obligatory character of Chinese morality. Attempts to reduce Confucianism to some kind of secular, pragmatic, and prudential philosophy, where we “create an orderly society” on our own, are not uncommon, but they are false to Confucius and to Chinese history and religion.

So Mr. Baggini’s counter-example to “a Christian-Platonic way of thinking” fails badly. At the same time, I might wonder if his dismissal of “Christian-Platonic” principles also includes Judaism or Islam. They seem overlooked.

Yours truly,

Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.

Confucius, K'ung-fu-tzu or Kongfuzi

Confucianism, School of the Literati

History of Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy


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