Colloquium Series: Harvey Lederman (UT Austin)
Continuing with our colloquium series, professor Harvey Lederman from UT Austin, will be here on Friday, April 28 to give his talk at 3pm in DeBartolo Hall, room 126.
Talk Title: Wang Yangming on Principles and Things
Abstract: According to the textbook story, Song-Ming (960-1644) "Confucian" thought divides into two schools: a conservative, orthodox "school of Principle", and a more radical, heterodox "school of Mind". On this standard story, the great Ming Dynasty thinker Wang Yangming (1472-1529) was the most sophisticated proponent of the School of Mind; he counts as a member of the school because of his signature claim that "Mind just is Principle" (心即理). This talk takes up the venerable, difficult question of what, exactly, Wang meant by this claim. Some have suggested that, for Wang, it represents only a shift in emphasis from the doctrines of his predecessors. Others have argued that the claim embodies Wang's total rejection of their world-view, suggesting that here, as well as in in his oft-repeated claim that "what the mind is directed at, is a thing" (意之所在便是物), Wang denied the existence of the mind-independent world and endorsed a form of idealism. I aim to chart a middle path. The first half of the talk considers the evidence related to "principle". I suggest that Wang did indeed make striking new claims about the metaphysics of principle and mind, and in particular about the role of the mind in meta-ethical explanation. The second half of the talk turns to Wang's provocative remarks about "things". I suggest that these comments provide evidence that Wang held that the primary objects of ethical assessment are mental, but that he did not take a stand on the mind-dependence of ordinary material objects.