Professor Roger T. Ames
Humanities Chair Professor, Peking University
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, the University of Hawai’i
Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor at Peking University, Co-Chair of the Academic Advisory Committee of the Peking University Berggruen Research Center, and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i. He is former editor of Philosophy East & West and founding editor of China Review International. Ames has authored several interpretative studies of Chinese philosophy and culture: Thinking Through Confucius (1987), Anticipating China (1995), Thinking from the Han (1998), and Democracy of the Dead (1999) (all with D.L. Hall), Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary (2011), and most recently “Human Becomings: Theorizing ‘Persons’ for Confucian Role Ethics” (forthcoming). His publications also include translations of Chinese classics: Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare (1993); Sun Pin: The Art of Warfare (1996) (with D.C. Lau); the Confucian Analects (1998) and the Classic of Family Reverence: The Xiaojing (2009) (both with H. Rosemont), Focusing the Familiar: The Zhongyong (2001), and The Daodejing (with D.L. Hall) (2003). Almost all of his publications are now available in Chinese translation, including his philosophical translations of Chinese canonical texts. He has most recently been engaged in compiling the new Sourcebook of Classical Confucian Philosophy, and in writing articles promoting a conversation between American pragmatism and Confucianism.
要進一步理解屬於中國自身的現代性，方法之一，就是反思在漢語翻譯的過程中，如何通過調整而把翻譯「本土化」（套用施萊爾馬赫的講法）。譬如說，用以翻譯“universal” 一詞的「普遍」，在用法上，意思是「遍佈各處的、常見的、普通的、共同的」；「超越」，作為 “transcendence” 的中譯，意指「一個內在體的外圍限度」，而非嚴格哲學意義上的 “transcendence”：一個外在的、獨立的、普遍的、自足的標準。
Theorizing “Persons” for Confucian Role Ethics: A Good Place to Start
In 2011, I published Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary in which I argue that Confucian philosophy’s encounter with Western ethical theory is not its defining moment. Indeed, I try to use the Confucian ethical vocabulary to express its own sui generis vision of the moral life as Confucian role ethics. On reflection, I am not sure that I have been able to convey in sufficiently clear terms the Confucian conception of a relationally-constituted person. At the same time, I am persuaded that this is one of the most important contributions Confucian philosophy has to make to our contemporary ethical, social, and political discourse as a robust alternative to single actors playing to win.
G.W.F. Hegel in the introduction to his Encyclopaedia Logic famously observes that one of the most difficult problems in any philosophical investigation is the question of where to begin. In this lecture, I will argue that the appropriateness of categorizing Confucian ethics as role ethics turns largely on the conception of person that is presupposed within the interpretive context of classical Chinese philosophy. If our goal is to take the Confucian tradition on its own terms and to let it speak with its own voice without overwriting it with our own cultural importances, we must begin by first self-consciously and critically theorizing the Confucian conception of person as the starting point of Confucian ethics.
The problem of using Western categories—today, virtue ethics—to theorize Confucian philosophy is an old and persistent story. In our own time, but with deep roots in the classical Greek philosophical narrative, individualism has become a default, commonsense assumption, if not an ideology. I will argue that the vocabulary of agents, acts, generic virtues, character traits, autonomy, motivation, reasons, choice, freedom, principles, consequences, and so on, introduces distinctions that assume this foundational individualism as its starting point.
And further, I will claim that Confucian ethics by contrast begins from the wholeness of experience, and is formulated by invoking a radically different focus-field cluster of terms and distinctions with fundamentally different assumptions about how personal identities emerge in our human narratives, and how moral competence is expressed as an achieved virtuosity in the roles and relationships that come to constitute us. To fail to distinguish what I will call individual human “beings” from relationally-constituted “human becomings,” then, would mean that we have willy-nilly insinuated a contemporary and decidedly foreign notion of person into our investigation before it has even begun.