Philosophy East and West, vol. 63, no. 1 (2013)

Special Issue: 2010 International Conference on East-West Comparative Philosophy at Seoul National University

Guest Editor Introduction: Determinism, Responsibility, and Asian Philosophy
Mark Siderits, 1


Moral Luck, Self-Cultivation, and Responsibility: The Confucian Conception of Free Will and Determinism
Kyung-Sig Hwang, 4

In this essay it is argued that the conception of free will and determinism implied by Confucianism (of Confucius and Mencius) takes a compatibilist form. On one hand, it is argued that it is difficult to see libertarian free will in Confucianism. Confucianism’s virtue ethics, with its emphasis on human character formation, cannot avoid the influence of internal factors and external circumstances on one’s character that are beyond one’s control. On the other hand, Confucianism espouses voluntary character formation and self-cultivation through human choice. This attitude likewise renders a hard determinist view untenable. With hard determinism and absolute free will both difficult to accept, the Confucian ethicists, beginning with Confucius and Mencius, seem to have been unable to avoid swinging between two extremes. However, as ethicists who exhort voluntary moral effort, they place autonomous action in the forefront of their compatibilism over inborn luck or fated events. Although this compatibilism may be valid from the standpoint of a practical philosophy that supports existing moral practices and responsibility, I examine whether it is truly tenable from a theoretical perspective.

Choice, Freedom, and Responsibility in Ancient Chinese Confucianism
Myeong-seok Kim, 17

Galen Strawson has argued that genuine freedom and responsibility are impossible for human agents because there is an infinite regress in determining the ultimate principles of choice of our action. This essay attempts to refute this position by providing a Confucian argument that (1) one’s choice of the principles by means of which one chooses to act in a particular way can be made through a deliberative process that examines what Strawson seems to consider higher-order principles of choice in comparison to other possibilities, and that (2) this fact makes it possible that Strawson’s infinite regress does not really occur.

Repentance as a Bodhisattva Practice: Wŏnhyo on Guilt and Moral Responsibility
Eun-su Cho, 39

The title of the Korean Buddhist philosopher Wŏnhyo’s Mahāyāna Repentance of the Six Senses suggests that Buddhist practitioners are expected to repent of their misdeeds. This would mean that Wŏnhyo takes us to be responsible for our evil acts, and yet in the same text he argues that these acts, just like the self that is their supposed agent, are themselves not real. Moreover, he denies that there are real causal relations, thus rejecting hard determinism as well. He thus seems to resist all the possible approaches to the problem of determinism and responsibility while still affirming at least some degree of responsibility for our actions. How this might be made sense of and what it might tell us about the debate over determinism and responsibility are explored here.

The Issue of Determinism and Freedom as an Existential Question: A Case in the Bhagavad Gītā
Duck-Joo Kwak and Hye-chong Han, 55

A reading of the Bhagavad Gītā is proposed here that shows a new way of formulating the philosophical issue of determinism and freedom, that is, not as a moral but as an existential question. To do so we first briefly draw upon the American philosopher Stanley Cavell’s practice of ordinary language philosophy as a conceptual bridge to the ancient text. This leads to a revised notion of freedom, not as “self-determination” in a Kantian sense but as “existential achievement,” which can be described as a form of autonomy in the sense of becoming what you are or having the will to be responsible to yourself.

Buddhist Paleocompatibilism
Mark Siderits, 73

Neo-compatibilists hold that the causal determination of our mental states is compatible with our being responsible for our actions, in that responsibility does not require that the cause of the action be wholly located in the agent. Incompatibilists find this unpersuasive. It is claimed here that in one way of formulating the Buddhist distinction between conventional truth and ultimate truth, compatibilists could accommodate the ostensibly libertarian notion of agent causation. The key to this development is that according to one conception of the two truths, the fact that one determines an action is not incompatible with every mental event being causally determined by prior events, since there are no semantic relations between conventionally true statements and ultimately true statements.


A New Book of Japanese Sources, a review of Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook, edited by James W. Heisig, Thomas P. Kasulis, and John C. Maraldo
Steven Heine, 88


Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability, by Pankaj Jain
Reviewed by Brian Collins, 92

Il Commento medio di Averroe alla Metafisica di Aristotele nella tradizione ebraica: Edizione delle versioni ebraiche medievali di Zerah. yah H. en e di Qalonymos ben Qalonymos con introduzione storica e filologica (Averroes’ Middle Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics in the Hebrew tradition: Edition of the Medieval Hebrew versions by Zerah. yah H. en and Qalonymos ben Qalonymos, together with a historical and philological introduction), by Mauro Zonta
Reviewed by Yehuda Halper, 96

The Lamp of Mysteries: A Commentary on the Light Verse of the Quran, by Ismāʻīl Anqarawī, translated and edited by Bilal Kuşpınar
Reviewed by Oliver Leaman, 99

Ethics Embodied: Rethinking Selfhood through Continental, Japanese, and Feminist Philosophies, by Erin McCarthy
Reviewed by Laura Specker Sullivan, 101

Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power, by Yan Xuetong, translated by Edmund Ryden, edited by Daniel A. Bell and Sun Zhe
Reviewed by Sor-hoon Tan, 105


Books Received, 109