Date of Award

12-1-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Berger, Douglas

Abstract

This dissertation proposes a phenomenological investigation into value and feeling in classical and "neo-" Confucianism, particularly in the works of Mencius and Wang Yangming, in light of the German phenomenologist Max Scheler's clarification of human experience and theory of value. The phenomenological method and attitude, which seek essence by resorting to concrete personal and interpersonal experience rather than relying on the presuppositions of conceptual systems, offers a fresh and insightful perspective from which to examine the experiential pattern of morals in Confucian tradition. In order to illustrate how moral feelings and values establish each other, I examine the feeling-value correlations of love, sympathy and ren, shame and righteousness, respect and ritual propriety, and approval and wisdom, developed from Mencius' discussion on four initial moral emotions. This work not only clarifies the optimal experience of moral feelings, but also points out the concrete contents of what Wang Yangming calls the pure knowing of Heavenly principle. This phenomenological presentation of Confucian values, especially as mediated by Wang with some clarification through Scheler's thought, opposes both the dogmatic and relativist conceptions of principle (li) and the abstract interpretations of "pure knowing" (liang zhi) as having no concrete content, and thus it is relevantly applicable in directing our moral lives. The clarification of experience in different traditions is significant for research in both phenomenology and Chinese philosophy, and the experiential analysis made possible by this approach offers greater possibilities for mutual understanding among various cultures in the world.

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