Chinese Ethics in a Global Context: Moral Bases of Contemporary Societies

Chinese Ethics in a Global Context: Moral Bases of Contemporary Societies

Chinese Ethics in a Global Context: Moral Bases of Contemporary Societies

Chinese Ethics in a Global Context: Moral Bases of Contemporary Societies

Synopsis

How do Chinese and Western ethical traditions interact today? In this collection of articles both Chinese and Western scholars carefully examine the issue, one of fundamental importance for the mutual understanding between China and the West. The volume is the result of the second symposium which focused on a dialogue between China and the West on questions of ethics, in particular concerning their commensurability and a possible common ground. The first part of the book discusses general problems of ethics in a cross-cultural context, followed by articles on ethical bases of Chinese and Western societies respectively. Further topics range from moral traditions in the context of social transformation in China today to developments in Western societies, politics, education and religion. The last part deals with controversial issues such as human rights vs. human duties and medical ethics.

Excerpt

Recently, questions of moral philosophy have become unexpectedly relevant. Some people even speak of an “ethics boom” in philosophy and politics. What are the reasons for this renewed interest in ethics after decades of neglect? Three areas seem to be prominent: First of all, the latest developments in bio-medicine and gene technology have raised new ethical questions that we previously never needed to think about. Thus far it seems that scientific mquisitiveness and technical feasibility together with economic interest and influence are the chief criteria for deciding what is to be implemented. But where will this development lead, and in what ways could or should we try to control it? Should there be limits to man's tampering with structures and processes that have so far seemed to most of us part of the natural order? Then there is the human rights issue that has become exceedingly significant within the last two decades, starting with civil rights and continuing with the anti-discrimination movement in the US. However, there remain some controversial questions: Are human rights – in their present form – once and for all universally valid or are they culturally conditioned by our Western history of ideas with its Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment heritage? Or, putting it differently, has the West perhaps universalized its own particular cultural priorities? What about the priorities of other cultures? Do we know them well enough? Lastly there is the question of the moral bases of our societies. We must acknowledge that for the last few decades there have been alarming signs of societal erosion or anomia – of what we call the “weakening of the social fabric.” As for the reasons for this development, there seems to be some controversy: Is it simply a necessary result of modernization, the price we have to pay for greater self-determination? Does the pursuit of such goals as subjectivity, individuality, self or selfrealization (as a result of European intellectual and political history . . .

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