Philosophy East and West, vol. 59, no. 2 (2009)


Literal Means and Hidden Meanings: A New Analysis of Skillful Means
Asaf Federman, 125

The Buddhist concept of skillful means, as introduced in Mahāyāna sūtras, exposes a new awareness of the gap between text and meaning. Although the term is sometimes taken to point to the Buddha’s pedagogical skills, this interpretation ignores the provocative use of the term in Mahāyāna texts. Treating skillful means as a universal Buddhist concept also fails to explain why and for what purpose it first became predominant in the Mahāyāna. Looking at the use of skillful means in the Lotus Sūtra and in the Skill in Means Sūtra reveals a hermeneutic device aimed at criticizing an existing corpus of Buddhist literature. As such, skillful means is used to demonstrate that the old doctrine and the life of the Buddha contained fictitious features and were nothing but skillful means. This indicates a growing awareness of a gap between literal expressions and their hidden meaning that can only arise after some kind of religious corpus has been established.

The Authority of the Master in the Analects
David Elstein, 142

This article takes issue with the stereotype of “Confucianism” as authoritarian, a view common in discussions of modern China as well as in scholarship on early China. By studying the roles of master and students and the relationship between them in the Analects, it attempts to show that according to this text the master did not occupy a position of complete dominance over the student. Masters are not generally considered to be like fathers, and students have more room to dispute with their master than previously recognized. In contrast to later depictions of Kongzi, he is not presented as infallible in the Analects, and his students do not always accept his opinions. Questioning the master is often a good quality in a disciple. The master-student relationship, while undoubtedly hierarchical, did not involve complete submission by the student. It is argued here that there is little basis for concluding that the Analects is fundamentally authoritarian in its depiction of teaching. It further suggests a need for a distinct understanding of teaching authority that is not modeled on political authority.

A Paradox of Virtue: The Daodejing on Virtue and Moral Philosophy
Hektor K. T. Yan, 173

Based on a reading of chapter 38 of the Daodejing, this article examines the relationship between the virtues and moral motivation. Laozi puts forward a view which might be termed a “paradox of virtue”—the phenomenon that a conscious pursuit of virtue can lead to a diminishing of virtue. It aims to show that Laozi’s criticisms on the focus on the virtues and characters of agents, and his overall view on morality, pose challenges to a way of moral thinking that is common in modern moral philosophy, including virtue ethics.

Bowing to Your Enemies: Courtesy, Budō, and Japan
Damon A. Young, 188

Courtesy seems to be an essential part of budō, the Japanese martial ways. Yet there is no prima facie relationship between fighting and courtesy. Indeed, we might think that violence and aggression are antithetical to etiquette and care. By situating budō within the three great Japanese traditions of Shintō, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism, this article reveals the intimate relationship between courtesy and the martial arts. It suggests that courtesy cultivates, and is cultivated by, purity of work and deed, mutually beneficial cooperation, and loving brutality. These individual and social virtues are not only complementary but also essential to budō.

Reflections on Time and Related Ideas in the Yijing
Wonsuk Chang, 216

This article reflects on important terms and concepts that constitute the cosmology of the Yijing: ji, tian, yin-yang, and the correlative aspects of temporality. These are familiar terms from the Yijing as well as other philosophical texts from ancient China. It begins with a comparative inquiry into Chinese and Greek attitudes toward time and then explores the related philosophical consequences. Although the ancient Chinese view of the world as temporal, processual, and relational may be found to be in contrast with Greek substance-oriented philosophy, it is argued here that we should revise some commonly accepted interpretations of Chinese terms. Without adequate reflection on temporality and process, many important terms may be misconstrued as atemporal and substance-oriented, which would be alien to the sensibilities of East Asian traditions. Thus, it is attempted here to gauge the adequacy of the prominent existing interpretations of these terms and ideas while giving an account of how such interpretations may be revised to better recognize the role of temporality and process. Specifically, it is proposed that the interpretations given here accord best with a conception of time as a spiral trajectory, as opposed to either the cyclic or linear conceptions of time usually considered dominant in the Yijing and ancient Chinese philosophy.


Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius, by May Sim
Reviewed by Christine Swanton, 230

Te-ch’uan Jih-ben Lun-yü ch’üan-shih shih-lun, by Huang Chun-chieh
Reviewed by John A. Tucker, 233

Buddhist Inclusivism: Attitudes Towards Religious Others, by Kristin Beise Kiblinger
Reviewed by Robert C. Gordon, 238

The Impossible Nude: Chinese Art and Western Aesthetics, by François Jullien, translated by Maev de la Guardia
Reviewed by Christian Helmut Wenzel, 240

The Concealed Art of the Soul: Theories of the Self and Practices of Truth in Indian Ethics and Epistemology, by Jonardon Ganeri
Reviewed by Melanie Mader, 243