核心提示：ou Zongsan contends that Confucianism is an ethics of autonomy. It is maintained that Mou’s version of ethics of autonomy differs from Kant’s in that...
Mou Zongsan on Confucian Autonomy and Subjectivity—
From Transcendental Philosophy to Transcendent Metaphysics
Abstract: Mou Zongsan contends that Confucianism is an ethics of autonomy. It is maintained that Mou’s version of ethics of autonomy differs from Kant’s in that Mou comprehends subjectivity differently than Kant in such a way that he, unlike Kant, locates the ethical a priori in moral feelings instead of reason. This paper will explore Mou’s metaphysical grounding of morality to show that Kant’s notions of autonomy and subjectivity undergo more radical modifications in Mou’s contention.
Keywords: Mou Zongsan, Confucianism, autonomy, subjectivity
Appropriating Kant’s philosophy, Mou Zongsan (牟宗三), arguably the most important modern Confucian philosopher, maintains that the orthodox Confucianism is an ethics of autonomy, in which freedom and subjectivity are the central ideas. Mou’s claim is significant in at least two aspects. First, if the claim is true, the Confucian tradition is relevant for the modern world and not, as is otherwise often thought, a pre-modern moral order formed according to given familial and social hierarchies. Second, it offers Mou a criterion with which to estimate traditional Confucian theories and eventually leads him to the conclusion that Zhu Xi’s (朱熹) system, which in China for centuries had been esteemed as the orthodox Confucianism, is not orthodox at all. In Mou’s view, the essence of Confucianism is to be found rather in the theories of Wang Yangming (王陽明), Lu Xiangshan (陸象山) and Cheng Mingdao (程明道), for whom the foundation of morality is moral feelings, as expounded in Mencius’ doctrine of the four sprouts.
Some scholars agree that the doctrine of moral feelings is essential to Confucianism but, on those very grounds, also question Mou’s claim that Confucianism is an ethics of autonomy (Huang, 1994a). Yet in Mou’s view, it is Confucianism’s emphasis on moral feelings that reveals true autonomous subjectivity, which Kant fails to grasp in his transcendental philosophy. Mou thinks that, far from contravening the idea of autonomy, the union of moral feelings and autonomy demonstrates the superiority of Confucianism over Kant’s ethics.
Kant holds on to the dichotomy of feeling and reason and allocates moral feelings in sensibility, which is the faculty of receptivity. Accordingly, to be in an emotional state is to be affected and passive. It is a state in which one is determined and subject to external conditioning. From Kant’s point of view, subjects in emotional states cannot be autonomous and the attempt to unify moral feelings and autonomy is doomed to failure from the start.
Nevertheless, Lee Minghuei (李明輝) argues that Kant’s ethics is not identical to ethics of autonomy. As a consequence, it is possible that ethical theories are not Kantian yet still ethics of autonomy. Mou’s interpretation of Confucianism as an ethics of autonomy is fundamentally due to this insight. The crucial difference between Mou’s ethics of autonomy and Kantian ethics, Lee argues further, lies in the structure of subjectivity that is presupposed in the respective theory (Lee, 1990: 42). Confucianism, as understood by Mou, challenges the dichotomy of feeling and reason that Kant insists upon. While Kant excludes any feeling from being universal and a priori such that he insists that the “the objective ground for moral laws” must be the practical reason, but not moral feelings (Lee, 1990: 118), Mou’s Confucianism maintains that there are universal emotional states, which are moral feelings that reveal moral principles (li; 理). The distinctive structure of subjectivity, Mou thinks, allows Confucianism to maintain an ethics of autonomy that views the heart (xin; 心), the faculty of feeling, as the legislator of moral laws. Accordingly, the heart is at the same time feeling (qing; 情) and principle (Mou, 1968: vol. 1, 127; Lee, 1990: 38). In contrast to Kant’s idea of the autonomy of will, Mou speaks of “the authentic heart’s autonomy” (benxi zilu; 本心自律) (1979: 181).
Unlike Kant, who takes the practical reason to be the ground of moral laws, Mou’s Confucianism grounds morality in moral feelings such that it is through moral feelings that one knows what one should do. Accordingly, Mou stresses that the subject’s insightfulness (ming; 明), which reveals itself in the subject’s evaluative judgments, is not discursive understanding (Mou, 1983: 31). In Lee’s view, the difference between Kant and Mou involves merely the difference between their views as to whether feelings can be a priori. Yet I think that, when Mou takes moral feelings to be the mode of moral knowing, Kant’s notions of autonomy and subjectivity do not remain unmodified. For Mou’s philosophy cannot claim to be transcendental without holding the view that the way in which moral laws are accessible to us is constitutive of the laws. If one knows what to do through moral feelings instead of conceptual thinking, the nature of moral laws has to be different accordingly. This paper aims to explore Mou’s of the ideas of autonomy and subjectivity through investigating his view as to how one’s moral feelings reveal what one should do.
After arguing that Mou’s doctrine of the autonomy of moral feelings cannot be justified phenomenologically, I will in Section 1 analyze Mou’s idea of the intrinsicality of morality to show that for Mou, autonomy means first that moral laws are intrinsic to the heart as the lawfulness of the heart’s emotional reacting and acting. In Section 2, I will show that Mou is committed to a transcendent monistic metaphysics to lend support to his claim that Confucianism is an autonomous ethics grounded in the heart’s a priori moral feelings. In Section 3, how Mou thereby modifies Kant’s ideas of autonomy and subjectivity will be made explicit from the perspective of the German idealism.
Mou is aware that Kant thinks that moral feelings are empirical and, as such, cannot serve to found an autonomous ethics (Mou, 1968: vol.1, 126). He nevertheless maintains that there are a priori moral feelings. That is, there are strictly universal and necessary ways in which human beings feel in some given situations. As Mencius maintains, one feels compassion necessarily when one sees a child about to fall into a well. How does Mou justify his contention?
Lee points to Max Scheler’s phenomenology to support Mou’s view and refers thereby to the latter’s ideas of the autonomy of person and the emotional a priori (Lee, 1990: 35, 38). Yet it is doubtful whether the appeal to Scheler really is helpful to make understandable Mou’s project of grounding an ethics of autonomy on a priori moral feelings.
According to Scheler, feeling (Fühlen) is not the same as feeling-states (Gefühlszutand). When there is pain, which is a feeling-state, it is not yet determined how one feels it. One can suffer the pain as much as enjoy it, wherein suffering and enjoying are feelings. A feeling-state is the content of experience that is caused by some object, and it does not contain in itself any reference to the object. In contrast, feeling is intentional and necessarily related to an object. In the case of the feeling of values, it is related to a value as its object (Scheler, 2008: 262; 1973: 257). Yet for Scheler, values are to be distinguished from goods, which are things of value (Scheler, 2008: 32; 1973: 9). It is the essences of values and the interconnections among them that are revealed in feelings as the a priori contents of feeling. Scheler’s idea of the emotional a priori thus does not entail that there are necessary ways for human beings to feel about certain states of affairs, which are for Scheler things of value. The existence of such necessary feelings, however, is essential to Mou’s notion of a priori moral feeling.
Furthermore, Scheler’s concept of autonomy is very different from Kant’s. Scheler defines autonomy in contrast to “the heteronomy of blind willing without insight” and “the heteronomy of forced willing” such that autonomy is merely the necessary condition for a person and his act to be morally relevant. As a consequence, “the autonomous person is by no means already a good person” (Scheler, 2008: 486; 1973: 494-5). One might say that this proves that there is more than one kind of autonomy. Anyway, it indicates that, from the Kantian point of view, Scheler does not have an ethics of autonomy at all. Given Scheler’s general objection to ground values in subjectivity, this should be no surprise.
Scheler’s idea of the emotional a priori is too different from Mou’s notion of a priori moral feelings to lend support to the latter. His idea of the autonomy of person, on the other side, is quite different from Kant’s notion of autonomy so that the comparison between them sheds little light on Mou’s conception of autonomy. In the following, I will contend that Mou justifies his doctrine of the autonomy of moral feelings not phenomenologically but metaphysically. To do this, I will at first expound how Mou grounds morality in moral feelings. As a clue, I begin with his idea of the intrinsicality of morality.
Mou attributes to Mencius the doctrine that humanity (ren;仁) and righteousness (yi; 義) are intrinsic to the authentic heart (benxin; 本心), i.e., the undistorted heart, and identifies the doctrine with Kant’s idea of autonomy (Mou, 1979: 179-80). In his view, Confucianism maintains that moral principles are intrinsic to the heart. Lee argues that universal and necessary moral laws are to be distinguished from concrete duties obtaining in particular situations and that, for Confucianism, only the former are “purely a priori” and “intrinsic to the authentic heart” (Lee, 1990: 99). What is named concrete duty by Lee is actually the specific act that must be done in a particular situation, such as grasping at one’s drowning sister-in-law to rescue her in spite of the Confucian behavior code of avoiding physical contact between men and women. Because the act has to do with what to do to obey a law in a given situation, it obviously is not a priori.
Yet what does “being intrinsic to the heart” mean? How are moral laws in Mou’s view intrinsic to the heart? The multiple moral laws are distinguished from one another with respect to their conceptual contents. If the Confucian view were that moral laws are intrinsic to the heart in the sense that one is able to know them in propositional form through the heart alone, that is, through feeling them in the heart, moral laws would be something like innate ideas. As a consequence, the Confucian moral laws would be distinguished from rationalists’ innate ideas solely to the extent that the former are felt, while the latter are grasped with reason. Neither Confucianism nor rationalism, then, could claim to have an ethics of autonomy. However, instead of attributing this view to orthodox Confucianism, Mou rather thinks that it underlines Zhu Xi’s misunderstanding of the Confucian tradition and his contention that moral principles are contained in the heart to be cognitively known by the heart (Mou, 1968: vol.3, 358). So how does Mou understand moral principles’ being intrinsic to the authentic heart?
Following the Song dynasty neo-Confucian Cheng Mingdao, Mou expounds the virtue of humanity with the concept of “awareness” (jue; 覺), which he traces back to the concept of “disquiet” (buan; 不安) in Analects (Mou, 1968: vol.3, 221f.). According to Mou, whoever is disquieted by others’ suffering displays the virtue of humanity. And whoever is insensitive to others’ suffering, is not humane. In this vein, Confucius says that Zai Yu (宰予), who feels no disquiet while shortening the period of mourning for the death of his parents, is not humane. The emotional dimension of disquiet is essential to the concept of awareness such that the immediate object of the awareness is meant to be the feeling in one’s own heart.
To grasp Mou’s view, it is crucial to get the logical order right. Mou does not mean that one feels disquiet because one sees something as morally wrong. On the contrary, it is because one feels disquiet about something that one reflectively knows that it is morally wrong. The virtue of humanity can be expounded by means of the concept of awareness because it is through being aware of a certain feeling in the heart that one in the first place knows what to do in accordance with the virtue. If one “cannot have the heart” to do something, the thing is not right.
Yet surely not all awareness is moral, which is demonstrated clearly by Zai Yu’s example in Analects. The variety of awareness underlies Zhu Xi’s objection to expounding the virtue of humanity by means of the concept of awareness in that he asks what the point is to cling to the empty awareness if one does not recognize moral principles at first (Mou, 1968: vol.2, 226). Characterizing awareness as empty, Zhu Xi means that it offers no orientation for us to determine morality.
The variety of awareness is well known to Mou. He nevertheless thinks that the heart or more exactly, the authentic heart, is endowed with a faculty of moral feelings that operates in accordance with its own law, while the lawfulness of moral feelings is the nature (xin; 性) of human beings. Ultimately, Mou’s view is that morality is founded on the operation of the heart as the faculty of moral feelings in accordance with its own law, which makes one feels disquiet. Zhu Xi is not right because he fails to recognize the existence of the faculty of moral feelings in the authentic heart.
Therefore, to answer the question posed above about what it means for Mou’s Confucianism to say that moral laws are intrinsic to the heart, the answer is that they are intrinsic to the heart as the lawfulness of the faculty of moral feelings and of human nature. It follows that moral laws are not innate ideas with normative principles as their contents, to which we have an immediate epistemic access through the heart. Rather, moral laws are known conceptually in propositional form only if we retrospectively observe what we feel in the heart in each case, since moral laws are nothing but the lawfulness of how we feel. Commenting on Cheng Mingdao’s contention that numerous principles are completely inherent in human nature, Mou accordingly says that Cheng Mingdao does not mean that a determinate number of principles are present in human nature, but rather that human nature unfolds itself lawfully in each given situation (Mou, 1968: vol.1, 67). One immediately knows what to do when one follows what one’s nature makes one feel in the heart, without having to appeal to any conceptual representation of moral principles at first. Another better-known way for Mou to say this is to characterize the nature as both existent and active instead of being existent but inactive. Saying that the nature is active, Mou means that the nature regulates what human beings feel in the heart.
Moral reflection, accordingly, is nothing but the examination whether an intention comes forth from one’s self-centered desires and ideas or from the authentic heart, which for Mou is equivalent to asking whether the intention is a state of “digressive heteronomy” or the autonomy of the authentic heart (Mou, 1979: 181). Ultimately, it is the origin of an intention that qualifies it as moral. Making ethical decisions is letting oneself be prompted by one’s feelings after having discerned which of one’s feelings are from the authentic heart. As has already been explained above, Mou’s view implies that, for an act to be moral, it is not required that the moral subject know any moral law conceptually in propositional form. Moreover, it is not even required that the moral subject know that it is his duty to do whatever the authentic moral feelings command and then to act in accordance with authentic moral feelings. The subject is moral merely because he does what his authentic moral feelings drive him to do. No conceptual thinking about duty, goodness, or morality has bearing on that.
The absence of conceptual reflection, therefore, belongs to moral acts as such. Where a person still needs to think to determine what to do, he is not yet perfectly moral. Thus following the Ming dynasty Confucian Wang Longxi (王龍溪), Mou characterizes the perfect moral state as one with unintended intentions (wuyi zhi yi; 無意之意), that is, intentions brought forth by the authentic heart without additional intervention of will (Mou, 1985: 317).
This amounts to saying that, for Mou’s Confucianism, moral acts are rather a type of lawful process, which is moral because of its particularity. Take compassion for example: Others’ suffering gives rise to compassion, which engenders the compassionate subject to act to relieve that suffering. The lawful link involves the compassionate reaction and the act of relieving the suffering resulting from that compassion. The authentic heart, which necessarily feels compassion and prompts the relieving act, is pivotal to the lawful process. Human beings distinguish themselves among all entities in the world through being the place where such lawful processes take place because of their heart. Persons in whom such lawful processes come about are moral. However, moral lawful processes might be hindered from being completed. In the above example, this happens either when the compassionate reaction is surpassed or when the compassion fails to result in the relieving act. Yet one can contribute to the consummation of moral processes by undergoing certain moral practices (gongfu; 工夫) to cultivate oneself, that is, to prepare oneself for the smooth unfolding of those processes (Mou, 1979: 91). Confucian sages are persons who, for moral processes to unfold in them, are in no need of further moral practices and, as a consequence, in no need of any conceptual discernment as to what to do. It is the idea of moral activity as a lawful process determined by the lawfulness of the faculty of the authentic heart that underlies Mou’s idea of moral perfection, in which discursive thinking is, if not excluded, accorded at most a very subordinate role.
Mou’s project requires that he answer three interrelated questions. First, feelings are states in which one is affected. So far as one feels, one is exposed to external influences. How, then, can the subject of moral feelings be free and autonomous? Second, the external influences that the feeling subject is exposed to are manifold. So why are the feelings a priori but not empirical? Mou requires answers to both questions to distinguish the moral feelings that he thinks are revealed by Confucianism from those empirical moral feelings denied by Kant as being the foundation of morality. Yet there remains a third question. Even if there are a priori moral feelings, it is undeniable that there are also empirical feelings varying from person to person. Why should a person identify himself with a priori moral feelings but not with those feelings specific to himself? This question can be formulated differently in the following way: Even if there are a priori moral feelings that found ethics, why is it an ethics of autonomy?
Mou kills not two but three birds with one stone, and with a stone of metaphysics at that. The Confucian view, Mou thinks, is that moral feelings are present if and only if one experiences the other that one is affected by not as other than, but as identical to, oneself. Mou’s Confucian term for experiencing others as identical to oneself is “affectedly crossing-over” (gantong; 感通). Commenting on Cheng Mingdao, Mou goes so far as to identify humanity with “affectedly crossing-over unobstructedly” (gantong wuai; 感通無礙) (1968: vol.2, 220), which he again, in the vein of Cheng Mingdao, elucidates with the phenomenon of compassion (Mou, 1963: 29, 40). One is compassionate for others only when one is affected by others and crosses over to them such that one feels their suffering as much as they do. Unless the happening of affectedly crossing-over is necessary, Mou thinks, it is merely empirical and depends on individual human beings’ psychological inclination (1971: 191). Given that affectedly crossing-over is the condition of moral feelings, this would make moral feelings empirical.
Mou therefore contends that affectedly crossing-over is necessary. While one is individuated and confined to one’s individual existence by one’s body, that confinement, according to Mou, is sublated in the happening of affectedly crossing-over (1971: 187). Mou does not think that the sublation is an “as if” phenomenon. Rather, he thinks the confinement is sublated because one knows one’s identity with others in the happening of affectedly crossing-over. Extending the identity among human beings to that among all entities in the world, Mou thinks that authentic moral feelings reveal the monistic nature of the world (1979: 223, 225).
The revealed identity is metaphysical, and its revelation, Mou thinks, underlies what Zhang Zai (張載) terms as virtuous knowing (dexing zhi zhi; 德性之知). In the framework of Kant’s philosophy, Mou identifies virtuous knowing with intellectual intuition (1971: 186-7; 1979: 225), which he justifies by appealing to some of Kant’s statements in Transcendental Aesthetics, in which Kant contrasts the inner sense with the intellectual intuition of the self. In Kant’s words, “that subject would judge of itself if its intuition were self-activity only, that is, were intellectual” (1929: 88/ KdrV B68). Mou takes such statements to mean that the intellectual intuition as such must be the subject’s self-knowing. Since one’s identity with other entities in the world is revealed in the virtuous knowing, the knowing is not other-oriented but the self-knowing of the monistic substance of the world, that is, the authentic heart. For Mou, this means that virtuous knowing is what Kant names intellectual intuition.
The authentic heart is nothing but the heart of the single substance of the world. It is this monistic metaphysics that offers Mou the answers to the three questions posed above. When one has moral feelings, according to Mou’s monistic metaphysic, one is neither exposed to external influences nor subject to manifold affection since, metaphysically, externality and manifold are not real. Mou put it in the following way:
Its [the authentic heart’s – the author] intuition is merely this subject’s self-activity, which means it is not passive or receptive. This obviously means that it originates from the noumenon, but not from empirical activities. That is to say: It is not a sensible intuition. Since it is not sensible, it is intellectual. In China, it is termed virtuous knowing … (1971: 188).
Moreover, since there is merely one single substance in the world, individuality is not real. It is therefore wrong for a person to identify himself with his particular feelings. Instead, his identity with others, which is the foundation of a priori moral feelings, constitutes his real ego. A person is really what he is, therefore, only in the authentic heart’s moral feelings, while an ethics grounded on authentic moral feelings can be said to be an ethics of autonomy of the person. The distinction between two kinds of mental state, that is, between the state in accordance with heavenly principles (tianli; 天理) and that of human desires (renyu; 人欲), was prevalent in the tradition of Neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming dynasties. Yet it is through the monistic metaphysics that Mou manages to transform the distinction into that between the real ego and the unreal ego.
According to Mou, to be autonomously moral is to strip off one’s particularity to identify oneself with the single substance of the world, whose self-activity is the authentic moral feelings. Two elements must be discerned in this idea of autonomy. As the first step, Mou identifies moral laws with the lawfulness of authentic moral feelings. Arguing that authentic moral feelings reveal the metaphysical unity of the world, he goes on to identify the single substance as one’s real ego. The monistic metaphysics, therefore, is essential to Mou’s interpretation of Confucianism as an ethics of autonomy.
It deserves to be emphasized that both Mou’s characterization of moral acts and his metaphysical line of thinking begin with the distinctive character of moral feelings as he sees it. At the one side, moral feelings are feelings. As such, moral feelings share the same characteristics with all kinds of feelings. According to Kant, feeling is a mode of sensibility such that all feeling is sensible (sinnlich) (Kant, 2002: 99; AA 5: 75). When one has a sensation, one is affected and related to the object immediately. Both aspects are present in Mou’s analysis of moral feeling through the idea of affectedly crossing-over. That one feels compassion for others’ suffering means that others’ suffering makes one feel compassion. And the compassionate person feels compassion immediately, but not because he thinks that he should feel so. At the other side, Mou thinks that moral feelings as feelings are nevertheless a priori and autonomous. “Whether one feels disquiet according to the authentic heart’s autonomy” (benxi zilu shang zhi an buan; 本心自律上之安不安) is in his view the primary teaching of Confucianism (Mou, 1979: 181). Moral feeling, therefore, is a special mode for a person to know what one should do. Knowing what one should do through moral feelings is different from knowing it through reason. The theoretical challenges for Mou are to expound what this special mode is and how moral feelings as feelings nevertheless are universal and can serve as a mode of moral knowing. As is shown, Mou’s monistic metaphysics is his answer to the second challenge.
There is no disputing that Mou’s idea of autonomy, just like Scheler’s, is very different from Kant’s. Whether the difference disqualifies Mou’s Confucianism as an ethics of autonomy might not be a meaningful question because it presupposes the notion of autonomy, which varies among different philosophers. Instead, it is more meaningful to explore the distinction between Mou’s and Kant’s ideas of autonomy to see how they differ. This is what I will do in the following section.
Kant attributes autonomy to will, which legislates moral laws through providing the criteria to which one’s maxim must conform in order to qualify as a categorical imperative, that is, a moral law. He maintains that, to qualify as a categorical imperative, a maxim, that is, a subjective rule of action, must have the form of universalizability, the rational nature as its end, and, as to its complete determination, harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends (Kant, 1997: 43-4/ AA 4: 436-7). Accordingly, one knows that keeping promises is one’s duty because, Kant argues, the maxim “break promises if doing that will bring more benefits” fails to meet those criteria for the maxim to qualify as moral. The will, which Kant thinks is but the practical reason, is said to legislate the moral law of keeping promises because the maxim of keeping promises is derived from what reason commands us to do, namely, to act only according to maxims that have the form of universalizability, the rational nature as its end, and to harmonize with a possible kingdom of ends. The will’s legislation refers to a decision procedure, to wit, a rational decision procedure, for choosing which maxims are to be accepted, while the procedure is rational because it follows the criteria offered by the practical reason itself.
The autonomous subject imposes particular duties upon himself only if they are derived from the form of categorical imperative. The derivation is a discursive process and, as Kant points out, proceeds in different manners. According to Kant, some maxims cannot without contradiction be thought to be universal, whereas some others can be thought of as universal, though they nonetheless cannot be willed to be universal laws (1997: 33/ AA 4: 424). Take the former case, for example: It obviously is the function of the theoretical reason to find out whether the universalization of a maxim implies a contradiction in itself. Without thinking discursively, an autonomous will, which imposes on itself the duty to act in accordance with maxims that can be universalized, still would not know what to do. As a consequence, discursive thinking is a necessary condition for a will to accept a maxim as a moral law, that is, to legislate it as a moral law.
Discursive thinking is not, as Mou thinks, an optional or even inferior way to know moral laws. Rather, in Kant’s view, it is an integrated moment of the practical reason’s autonomy. The subject is autonomous in so far as he obligates himself only to rules that he himself chooses rationally. Without discursive thinking, one is not able to be conscious of any rule, since rules are conceptual constructions. Without the consciousness of rules, there is no choice among them, let alone rational choice or moral laws, which are the result of the will’s rational choice. Contrary to what Mou says of the authentic heart, therefore, Kant does not maintain that moral laws are intrinsic to the will. Neither are they innate ideas to which moral subjects have an immediate epistemic access. Nor are they regularities in which a faculty reacts and acts. The only thing that the autonomous will contains in itself is “the form of volition as such” such that “the fitness of the maxims of every good will to make themselves into universal law is itself the sole law that the will of every rational being imposes upon itself” (Kant, 1997: 50-1/ AA 4: 444).
It is true that autonomy is not arbitrariness. Yet this does not exclude the element of free choice from autonomy. The element is missing in Mou’s idea of autonomy since, in Mou’s view, moral laws are the lawfulness of the faculty of the authentic heart and, accordingly, are given to the moral subject as his nature. Mou’s moral subjects do not choose rules to obey as moral laws. Strictly speaking, instead of obeying moral laws, they rather act in accordance with the laws. To obey a law, one has to know the law in advance, but no representation of the law needs to be present if one is simply acting in accordance with the law. In Kant’s words, working in accordance with laws is to be distinguished from acting in accordance with the representation of laws (1997: 24/ AA 4: 412). Kant maintains that only rational beings are capable of the latter and therefore have a will.
In contrast, Mou thinks that human beings are moral subjects because they are endowed with the authentic heart such that lawful processes of a specific type happen through them, which are the moral activities of the authentic heart, like its necessarily reacting to others’ suffering compassionately and then necessarily being prompted to relieve their suffering. Why is this type of process normative? This amounts to asking why the lawfulness of the authentic heart is moral law. The answer that the authentic heart is the origin of moral laws does not work, for it merely begs the question. Even if it is true that human beings are driven by the authentic heart to act, they are also driven by other emotions. What distinguishes the former from the latter and grants to it normative authority?
Though Mou does not consider this question explicitly, a two-step answer can be found in his thinking. As the first step, Mou grounds the normative authority of the authentic heart in the fact that it is the heart of the single substance of the world. This move makes it possible for Mou to propose further the idea of creativity of morality, which implies that the lawful activity of the authentic heart dinstinguishes itself for being creative. Mou names creativity of morality also teleology of morality (daode de mudi xing; 道德的目的性) and means that moral acts necessarily contribute to the realization of the cosmic order. Through moral acts, human beings are said to join “the heaven and the earth to assist in the activity of forming and nurturing” (Mou, 1979: 89; 180). It is then the role played by the lawfulness of the authentic heart in the cosmic order that ultimately distinguishes its acts from other processes in the world and qualifies them as moral. As a consequence, Mou repeatedly stresses that the moral order is identical to the cosmological order (Mou, 1983: 439).
Kant cannot appeal to a cosmological order to characterize as moral the laws that the will legislates for itself. Nor does Kant need to do so. Kant cannot do it because, according to the critical philosophy, any claim about the cosmos as a whole transcends the limit of experience so that no such knowledge is available to human beings. He does not need to do it, since, in his view, moral laws are principles freely imposed by rational beings upon themselves. The laws are normative because rational beings freely obligate themselves to obey them.
For Kant, the autonomous subject is himself the origin of moral normativity, whereas Mou has to ground normativity in the metaphysical origin of moral acts and their role in the cosmic order. The distinction reflects the root of the difference between their views of subjectivity. The Kantian subject contributes epistemic order and ethical normativity to the world. The subject makes his own laws the laws of the world. The subjectivity of a Mouian moral person, in contrast, consists of his privileged status that moral laws happen to be intrinsic to his heart as the lawfulness of his nature in that he knows the laws in a subjective way. From the point of view of Kant, what is missing in Mou’s notion of subjectivity is the dimension of the subject’s categorial structuring of the world. Instead of categorially structuring the world, the Mouian subject is deeply rooted in the world, the order of which he knows intrinsically through his heart. Kant’s idealistic successors developed this dimension of subjectivity so radically that even the structure of subjectivity was thought to be the subject’s self-creation. Whereas Mou denies that the monistic substance of the world, which is revealed in the act of the authentic heart as the real subject, can be created at all (Mou, 1971: 196), Fichte contends that the subject’s structure must be grounded in the subject itself; otherwise, the subject is not to be distinguished from the object, which also possesses powers on the ground of its being (Fichte, 1971: 273; 1982: 241). A magnet, for instance, has the power of attracting iron because it is what it is, namely, a magnet. Yet it does not determine itself to be magnetic, i.e., having the power to attract iron. It is therefore a mere being. To be distinguished from the mere being, Fichte thinks, it is required for the subject to posit its own structure. This line of thought leads to the conclusion that the subject has to posit itself as a subject in order to be a subject: “The self is to posit itself, not merely for some intelligence outside it, but simply for itself; it is to posit itself as posited by itself” (Fichte, 1971: 274; 1982: 241). The question as to what the real ego is, as Mou conceives it, cannot arise at all in this context.
Though one does not have to go as far as Fichte, his contention highlights what is essential in the notion of subjectivity for Kant and his idealistic successors. From their perspective, instead of a subject, the Mouian moral person is but a mere being that has its determinateness given to, but not determined by, itself. Correspondingly, when the moral person follows the authentic heart, he is not autonomous in the sense that he freely and rationally chooses rules that he complies with as moral laws. Rather, he lets the lawful activity of the authentic heart unfold itself. The authentic heart as the real ego of the moral person, which for Mou is the metaphysical foundation of morality, is a being that transcends the sphere of subjectivity understood as the act of categorial structuring of the world. From the point of view of German idealism, through placing a priori moral laws in moral feelings, Mou actually replaces Kant’s transcendental philosophy of subjectivity with a transcendent metaphysics of being.
I conclude that the difference between Mou’s Confucianism and Kant’s transcendental philosophy stretches far beyond the question of the origin of the ethical a priori. Mou thinks of Confucianism as an ethics of autonomy that grounds morality in moral feeling instead of reason because the notion of autonomy means for him that the human being has a privileged access to moral laws through his heart since moral laws are nothing but the lawfulness of the heart’s emotional reacting and acting, while he thinks that the heart’s lawfulness is assured by the monistic structure of the world, in which human beings are embedded and whose order they help to uphold but do not create.
Billioud, Sébastien. (2012). Thinking Through Confucian Modernity. Leiden: Brill.
Fichte, J. G. (1971). Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre. In I. H. Fichte (ed.), Fichtes sämtliche Werke, vol. 1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Fichte, J. G. (1982). Science of Knowledge. Trans. Peter Heath and John Lachs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Huang Jinxing (黃進興). (1994a). “So-called Moral Autonomy: An Example of the Limitation of Expounding Chinese Thoughts with Western Concepts” (所謂「道德自主性」：以西方觀念解釋中國思想之限制的例證). In Huang Jinxing, Leisurely Entering the Realm of Sage: Power, Faith and Legitimacy (優入聖域：權力，信仰與正當性) (pp. 4-24). Taipei: Yunchen (允晨).
Huang, Jinxing (1994b). “Mencius’ Doctrine of Four Sprouts and the Theory of Moral Sense” (孟子的「四端說」與「道德感說」). In Huang Jinxing, Leisurely Entering the Realm of Sage: Power, Faith and Legitimacy (優入聖域：權力，信仰與正當性) (pp. 31-8). Taipei: Yunchen (允晨).
Hutcheson, Francis. (1760). A System of Moral Philosophy. 2 Vols. London.
Kant, Immanuel. (1929). Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. N. Kemp Smith. London: MacMillan, 1929.
Kant, Immanuel. (1997). Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. Mary Gregor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kant, Immanuel. (2002). Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
Lee Minghuei (李明輝). (1990). Confucianism and Kant (儒家與康德). Taipei: Linking Books.
Lee Minghuei. (1995). “Die Autonomie des Herzens – Eine philosophische Deutung der ersten Hälfte von Meng-tzu 2A:2.” Oriens Extremus, 38 (1/2), 7-16.
Mou Zongsan (牟宗山). (1963). Characteristics of Chinese Philosophy (中國哲學的特質). Taipei: Student Book Co.
Mou Zongsan. (1968). Heart and Nature (心體與性體). 3 Vols. Taipei: Zhengzhong (正中).
Mou Zongsan. (1971). Intellectual Intuition and Chinese Philosophy (智的直覺與中國哲學). Taipei: The Commercial Press.
Mou Zongsan. (1979). From Lu Xiangshan to Liu Jishan (從陸象山到劉蕺山). Taipei: Student Book Co.
Mou Zongsan. (1983). Nineteen Lectures on Chinese Philosophy (中國哲學十九講). Taipei: Student Book Co.
Mou Zongsan. (1985). Treatise on the Perfect Good (圓善論). Taipei: Student Book Co.
Mou Zongsan. (1990). Phenomenon and Thing-in-itself (現象與物自身). Taipei: Student Book Co.
Scheler, Max. (1973). Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values. Trans. Manfred S. Frings and Roger L. Funk. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Scheler, Max. (2008). Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik. Bonn: Bouvier.
Shi, Weimin (史偉民)/ Lin, Chiulo (林久絡). (2015). “Confucian moral experience and its metaphysical foundation: From the point of view of Mou Zongsan.” Philosophy East and West (forthcoming).
Schmidt, Stephen. (2011). “Mou Zongsan, Hegel, and Kant: The Quest for Confucian Modernity.” Philosophy East and West, 61 (2), 260-302.
2.(2015). Mou Zongsan on Confucian Autonomy and Subjectivity— From Transcendental Philosophy to Transcendent Metaphysics. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy. (Accepted). (A&HCI).
3.(2015). (First Author, coauthored with Chiulo Lin) Confucian Moral Experience and its Metaphysical Foundation: From the Point of View of Mou Zongsan. Philosophy East and West. (Accepted). (A&HCI).
6.(2014). Hegels Kritik am geometrischen Beweis und sein Holismus. In Antonio Friedrich Koch et al. (eds), Hegel-200 Jahre Wissenschaft der Logik. Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 309-20.
7.(2014). Challenging Formal Logic—Collingwood's Theory of Philosophical Concept. Philosophical Forum, 45 (3), 285-301. (A&HCI).
20.(2005). Hegel's real issue—Judgment, Truth and the Phenomenological Project. Idealistic Studies, 35, 2-3: 155-171. (A&HCI).
23.(1999). The Relevance of Metaphysics for Ethics: An Example. In Ole Döring (ed.), Chinese Scientists and Responsibility. Hamburg: Institut für Asienkunde, 199-209.
1.(2015). 倫理認知與主體性的轉向-論王陽明「知行合一」。「中西哲學會通：科學方法與倫理價值的對話 」會議。北京：人民大學國學院與哲學院。
2.(2014). Hegel's Idea of Metaphysics. Metaphysics: Past, Present, Future. 上海：華東師範大學
3.(2014). Konfuzianismus und Kant über das moralische Gefühl. Traditionelle chinesische Philosophie und Deutscher Idealismus. Jena/ Weimar: Jena Universität.
7.(2013). Hegelforschung in Taiwan: Eine wissenssoziologische Betrachtung. 第一屆東亞黑格爾學術網絡學術研討會。台中：東海大學哲學系。
8.(2012). Hegels Kritik am geometrischen Beweis. 200 Jahre Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik, Weimar.
9.(2012). Speculative Thinking and the Hegelian Concept. 黑格爾工作坊：系統與方法。 台中：東海大學哲學系。
10.(2011). What is a Shape of Consciousness? 黑格爾精神現象學工作坊。 台中：東海大學哲學系。
11.(2010). Hegel's Deduction of Forms of Judgment Reconsidered. 黑格爾邏輯學工作坊。台北：政治大學哲學系。
Weimin Shi, Ph. D, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tunghai University, Taiwan, ROC
1966 born in Keelung, Taiwan, RO
1992 MA, Department of Philosophy, National Taiwan University
1996-2000 Research Assistant in the project “Chinesisch als wissenschaftliche Sprache” under the direction of Prof. Michael Lackner at the Department of Sinology, Göttingen University
2001-2001 Assistant of Prof. Konrad Cramer, Department of Philosophy, Göttingen University
2001 Ph. D., under the direction of Prof. Konrad Cramer, Department of Philosophy, Göttingen University
2001-2003 Assistant Professor, Center for General Education, Mingdao College of Administration, Zhanghua, Taiwan, ROC
2003-2007 Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Foguang University
2003-2004 Director of the research project “On the recent study of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in Anglo-Saxon literature” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2004-2005 Director of the research project “Hegel’s dialectic—its object and structure” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2005-2006 Director of the research project “The company of language—John McCumber’s interpretation of Hegel” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2007-2010 Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Foguang University
2007-2009 Director of the research project “Hegel and the open concept” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2009-2012 Member of the NSC project “Project for fostering young philosophy scholars”
2009-2010 Director of the research project “Understanding of the history of philosophy and intentionalism” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2010 Organizer of the international workshop on Hegel’s logic, Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC
2010-now Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tunghai University
2010-2012 Director of the research project “Fichte and the pragmatic history of human spirit” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2011 Organizer of the international workshop on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, ROC
2012-2014 Director of the research project “Collingwood on philosophic concepts” sponsored by NSC, Taiwan, ROC
2012 Organizer of the international workshop on Hegel: System and Method, Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, ROC
2013 Organizer of the first international conference of the East Asian network of Hegel scholars,” Taichung, Taiwan, ROC
2013-Now Member of the Committee of Philosophy at the Ministry of Science and Technology
2013-2014 Co-director of the joint research project “Hegel’s practical philosophy as a theory of free will and action—Hegel and the modern Chinese philosophy,” with Prof. Klaus Vieweg, Department of Philosophy, Jena University
2014-Now Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tunghai University
2014-Now Director of the Department of Philosophy at Tunghai University