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Sarkissian, H. forthcoming. "Skill, expertise, and their discontents in classical Chinese thought." In Routledge Handbook of Skill and Expertise. Edited by Ellen Fridland and Carlotta Pavese.

Sarkissian, H. forthcoming. "Virtuous contempt in the Analects." The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Philosophy. Edited by Justin Tiwald (Oxford)

> ABSTRACT> : I argue that understanding the role of despising or contempt in the > Analects> is important in appreciating Kongzi’s > dao> in two related though distinct ways. First, I argue that in parts of the > Analects> morally exemplary individuals (such as the nobleman) are straightforwardly described as despising and holding certain individuals in contempt. Second, I suggest that reflecting on the targets of contempt in the text might help to uncover some of the tacit worries that Kongzi may have had concerning his own teachings on self-cultivation. Specifically, I will argue that trying to embody Kongzi’s teachings—including mastering the ritual minutiae of the waning Zhou high culture—risks making one pedantic, pretentious, and glib, and that this helps us understand why such individuals are held out for particular contempt in the text. In the concluding section, I state more general reasons why we might consider certain negatively valenced emotions such as contempt to be morally laudable.>>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. 2018. "Confucius and the superorganism." In The Oneness Hypothesis: Beyond the Boundary of Self. Edited by Philip Ivanhoe, Owen Flanagan, Victoria Harrison, Hagop Sarkissian, and Eric Schwitzgebel (Columbia)

> ABSTRACT> : In this paper, I describe a sense of oneness that, while having its roots in a tradition of thought far removed from our own, might nonetheless be of relevance to persons today. It is not a oneness with all of humanity, let alone with all the creatures under the sky or all the elements of the cosmos. Nevertheless, it is a sense of oneness that transcends one’s own person and connects one to a larger whole. I will be calling this conception that of a superorganism, to borrow a phrase the natural and social sciences. I reconstruct this sense of oneness by surveying conceptions of society in classical Confucian texts. I begin with passages from the > Analects> that can be interpreted as containing within them such a sense of oneness as superorganism. Later, I present what I take to be stronger evidence of a more explicit kind in the Daxue and Zhongyong chapters of the > Liji> . I then conclude by arguing that thinking of Confucian social and political philosophy in terms of a superorganism can be helpful in understanding why the entire project may have been ill founded. >>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. 2018. "Neo-Confucianism, experimental philosophy, and the trouble with intuitive methods." British Journal for the History of Philosophy.

> ABSTRACT> : The proper role of intuitions in philosophy has been debated throughout its history, and especially since the turn of the twenty-first century. The context of this recent debate within analytic philosophy has been the heightened interest in (and use of) intuitions as data points that need to be accommodated or explained away by philosophical theories. This, in turn, has given rise to a sceptical movement called experimental philosophy, whose advocates seek to understand the nature and reliability of such intuitions (along with related judgements and behaviour). Yet such scepticism of intuition or introspective methods can be found in earlier periods and across philosophical traditions. Indeed, the Neo-Confucian philosophers of the Song and Ming dynasties (ca. tenth to seventeenth centuries CE) seem to exemplify this very tension, as they can be divided into an intuitionistic school on the one hand and an investigative school on the other. In this paper, I argue that, notwithstanding some obvious differences, there are broad similarities between the dynamics at play across these philosophical traditions. Moreover, by comparing and juxtaposing them, we will come to appreciate the distinctiveness of each, as their attendant aims, weaknesses and strengths become more salient thereby.>>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. "Situationism, manipulation, and objective self-awareness". Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20:489–503

> ABSTRACT> : Among those taking the implications of situationism seriously, some have suggested exploiting our tendency to be shaped by our environments toward desirable ends. The key insight here is that if experimental studies produce reliable, probabilistic predictions about the effects of situational variables on behavior—for example, how people react to the presence or absence of various sounds, objects, and their placement—then we should deploy those variables that promote prosocial behavior, while avoiding or limiting those that tend toward antisocial behavior. Put another way, some have suggested that we tweak situations to nudge or influence others toward good behavior. A question arises: Isn’t this manipulative? In this paper, I describe some existing proposals in the literature and consider the manipulation worry. Drawing on classical Confucian ethics, I argue that, when all is considered, it is chimerical to think we can refrain from influencing or manipulating others. We must rather accept that influence (whether intended or not) is part of social existence. Once we accept this, the only remaining question is how to influence others. I suggest that this should make us conceive ourselves in an objective fashion.>>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. and Nichols, R. 2016. "Chinese philosophy as experimental philosophy." In The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Chinese Philosophy Methodologies. Edited by Sor-hoon Tan (Bloomsbury)

> ABSTRACT> : In this chapter, we outline the methods and aims of experimental philosophy as a methodological movement within philosophy, and suggest ways in which it may be employed in the study of Chinese philosophy. >>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. 2015. "When you think it's bad it's worse than you think: Psychological bias and the ethics of negative character assessments". In The Philosophical Challenge from China. Brian Bruya (Ed.). MIT Press.

> ABSTRACT> : We often find ourselves thinking of others as boring, nauseating, dim, dodgy, clumsy, or otherwise irritating or unpleasant. What’s the right thing to do when we have such thoughts? Some philosophers argue we ought to be civil and conceal them, lest others pick up on them and feel disrespected. Drawing on experimental psychology and classical Confucianism, I argue otherwise, suggesting that we ought to (literally) doubt such appraisals and be wary of their veracity.>>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2015. Supernatural, social, and self-monitoring in the scaling up of Chinese Civilization. Religion, Brain, and Behavior 5(4), 323-327.

> ABSTRACT> : An invited commentary on Ara Norenzayan's Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, focusing on whether early China constitutes an exception to his general theory. >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2014. "Is self-regulation a burden or a virtue? A comparative perspective." In The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness: An Empirical Approach to Character and Happiness Nancy E. Snow and Franco V. Trivigno (Ed.). (pp. 181-196). Routledge Press.

> ABSTRACT> : Confucianism demands that individuals comport themselves according to the strictures of ritual propriety—specific forms of speech, clothing, and demeanor attached to a vast array of life circumstances. This requires self-regulation, a cognitive resource of limited supply. When this resource is depleted, a person can experience undesirable consequences such as social isolation and alienation. However, one’s cultural background may be an important mediator of such costs; East Asians, in particular, seem to have comparatively greater self-regulatory strength. I offer some considerations as to why this may be so, and what insights it may afford to theories of virtue generally. >>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. 2014. Review of Virtue Ethics and Confucianism, Edited by Stephen C. Angle and Michael Slote (Routledge). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Sarkissian, H. 2013. "Ritual and Rightness in the Analects". In Dao Companion to the Analects. Amy Olberding (Ed.). (pp. 95-116). Springer.

> ABSTRACT> : Li (禮) and yi (義) are two central moral concepts in the Analects. Li has a broad semantic range, referring to formal ceremonial rituals on the one hand, and basic rules of personal decorum on the other. What is similar across the range of referents is that the li comprise strictures of correct behavior. The li are a distinguishing characteristic of Confucian approaches to ethics and socio-political thought, a set of rules and protocols that were thought to constitute the wise practices of ancient moral exemplars filtered down through dynasties of the past. However, even while the li were extensive and meant to be followed diligently, they were also understood as incapable of exhausting the whole range of activity that constitutes human life. There were bound to be situations in life where there would be no obvious recourse to the li for guidance. As part of their reflections on the good life, the Confucians maintained another moral concept that seemed to cover morally upright exemplary behavior in these types of situations. This concept is that of yi or rightness. In this chapter, I begin with a brief historical sketch to provide some context, and will then turn to li and yi in turn. In the end, I will suggest how li and yi were both meant to facilitate the supreme value of social harmony that pervades much of the Analects and serves as its ultimate orientation. > >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2012. 因小得大: 情境论于道德哲学的困难与可能 (Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy), translated by 黃玉娥. 中国哲学与文化 (The Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture), 9.

> ABSTRACT> : This is a translation of "Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs" (2010) prepared by 黃玉娥 for the Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture for a special issue edited by Brian Bruya on cognitive science and early Chinese philosophy. >>>PDF alt text

Sarkissian, H. 2012. "고전 유교에서의 감정: 내면과 외면" ("Emotions in Classical Confucianism: Inside and Out"), in 유교 도교 불교의 감성이론 (Theories of Emotion in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism), edited by Yonghwan Chung. Seoul: Kyung-in Publishing Co.

> ABSTRACT> : Classical Confucian thought is full of discussion of human emotions, reflecting a preoccupation with the inner life-how one ought to feel 'on the inside', as it were. Yet alongside these passages are others that seem, by contrast, to be concerned with matters external to one's emotions and psychology: how one ought to dress, speak, walk, and talk. Yet passages such as these, which draw attention to details of individual expression and comportment, are not at all tangential when it comes to understanding the Confucian perspective on emotions. On the contrary, I argue that they reveal a sophisticated view of emotional life, one that illuminates how our outer appearance and comportment profoundly shape both how we feel and how others around us feel. Looking at emotions in this fashion-both inside and out-gives us not only a deeper appreciation of early Confucian thought but also can serve as a resource for us to reevaluate the way we understand emotions today. {Translated into Korean by Yonghwan Chung} >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2010. Recent Approaches to Confucian Filial Morality. Philosophy Compass, 5(9), 725-734.

> ABSTRACT> : A hallmark of Confucian morality is its emphasis on duties to family and kin as weighty features of moral life. The virtue of ‘filiality’ or ‘filial piety’ (xiao 孝), for example, is one of the most important in the Confucian canon. This aspect of Confucianism has been of renewed interest recently. On the one hand, some have claimed that, precisely because it acknowledges the importance of kin duties, Confucianism should be seen as an ethics rooted in human nature that remains a viable system of morality today. On the other hand, some have argued that the extreme emphasis on filial duties is precisely the aspect of Confucian moral philosophy that ought to be jettisoned in favor of greater impartialism; without mitigating its emphasis on filial piety, Confucianism risks irrelevance to modern concerns. In this paper, I will outline the nature of filial morality in the Confucian tradition and discuss these recent contributions to the literature. >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2010. Minor tweaks, major payoffs: The problems and promise of situationism in moral philosophy. Philosopher's Imprint 10(9), 1-15.

> ABSTRACT> : Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. This has been cause for alarm in some quarters, where situationism is seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. Besides being limited in application, this strategy accentuates an untenable person/situation dichotomy. The deeper lesson of situationism lies in highlighting the interconnectedness of all social behavior—how we are inextricably involved in the actions of others, and how minor tweaks in our own behavior can lead to major payoffs in our moral lives. Thus, I argue that situationism is better seen as an opportunity for moral progress than a threat to individual autonomy. >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2010. The darker side of Daoist primitivism. The Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37(2), 312-329.

> ABSTRACT> : The Primitivist (responsible for chapters 8-11 of the heterogeneous Zhuangzi) has largely been interpreted as just another exponent of the philosophy of the Laozi or Daodejing. This is a shame, because the Primitivist is an idiosyncratic thinker whose theories do not simply reiterate those found in the Laozi. In this essay, I argue that even though the Primitivist embraced some of the values of the Laozi’s brand of Daoism, (e.g. simplicity, harmony with nature, being rid of knowledge, etc.) he would have censured its prescriptions; he had little faith that order could be achieved through an emphasis on minimalism, by doing nothing, or by advocating a change (or reversal) in values. Instead, the Primitivist suggests that the only way to curb the massive disorder of the late Warring States period was to purge the world of its root causes—namely, of all the artifice that kept the masses in competitive, violent strife—and suppress their reappearance. Without such a purge, the masses would be helpless to lead a natural, instinctual, pre-reflective mode of existence. By advocating such a strategy, the Primitivist seems to have membership in what must be a very exclusive group: he is a Daoist who thinks the world can only be brought into order by 'doing something'—indeed, doing a whole lot of unpleasant, nasty things. I thus situate the Primitivist within the trend toward authoritarianism that characterized the period in which he wrote (3rd century BCE). >>>PDFalt text

Sarkissian, H. 2010. Confucius and the effortless life of Virtue. History of Philosophy Quarterly 27(1), 1-16.

> ABSTRACT> : Natural talent and diligent practice regularly lead to effortless virtuosity in many fields, such as music and athletics. Can the same be true of morality? Confucius’s wonderfully terse autobiography in the Analects suggests that, given the right starting materials and an appropriate curriculum of study, a program of moral self-cultivation can indeed lead to effortless moral virtuosity. But can we make sense of this claim from a contemporary perspective? This paper evaluates the plausibility of the moral ideal in the Analects using resources from contemporary moral psychology. > >>>PDFalt text