Special Issue "Reenvisioning Chinese Religious Ethics"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Mark Berkson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, Hamline University, Saint Paul, MN 55104, USA
Interests: East Asian religions; South Asian religions; Chinese religion; Confucianism (and Confucian ethics); Xunzi; Daoism; Zhuangzi; Buddhism; religious ethics; comparative religion; death and dying; animal ethics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The religious traditions of China have been a rich source of ethical reflection for at least two and a half millennia.  Beginning with the indigenous traditions of China (e.g., Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism) and continuing through the Chinese transformations of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and the development of many forms of Neo-Confucian thought, Chinese religious traditions offer a diverse range of approaches to ethical questions. Many forms of Chinese religious thought, especially within the broad umbrella of Confucianism, have been brought into philosophical and theological/daological conversation with forms of Western ethics thanks to the work of both Chinese and Western scholars largely over the last half century.

The work of scholars with a strong foundation in both Chinese and Western ethics, along with the work of scholars of Chinese religion who also have expertise in areas as cognitive science, psychology, and feminist thought, have profoundly enriched the field. 

This special edition of the journal on the theme of “Re-envisioning Chinese Religious Ethics” will continue this important work by looking at “Intersections and New Directions” in Chinese religious ethics.

Intersections: Here “intersections” stands for the encounter of aspects of Chinese religious ethics (a certain thinker, text, tradition of thought, etc.) with those of non-Chinese (e.g., European, African, South Asian) religious or philosophical ethical traditions.  Articles can engage in comparative reflection, bringing different thinkers and traditions into conversation, and examining how the traditions can illuminate each other and how their encounter can produce insights into important ethical questions.  What developments have there been in ethical thought within Chinese Christian and Islamic thinkers and texts?

 New directions: This means applying the approaches of Chinese ethical traditions either to areas of emerging technologies and cultural phenomena, or to areas that have not been as extensively explored by these traditions in the past.  The approaches of Chinese religious ethics might, for instance, be applied to such subjects as artificial intelligence, social media, popular culture, the pursuit of radical longevity, cloning, and new understandings of the brain and behavior (from neuroscience, psychology, etc.).   Articles can also explore ways that Chinese ethical perspectives can address issues related to the LGBT community, or ways that perspectives from gender and sexuality studies can lead to new understandings or transformations of Chinese ethical thought (such as Confucian feminists have done).  Another possible avenue of inquiry is to build on work that has been done in Chinese environmental ethics and focus on global warming.  What might the Chinese religious traditions teach us in this increasingly dire period of climate change, the impact of which will impose a tremendous test for all of the world’s ethical traditions?

Prof. Dr. Mark Berkson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

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Article
A Confucian Defense of Shame: Morality, Self-Cultivation, and the Dangers of Shamelessness
Religions 2021, 12(1), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010032 - 05 Jan 2021
Viewed by 698
Abstract
Many philosophers and scholars in the West have a negative view of shame. In much of post-classical Western ethical thought, shame is compared negatively with guilt, as shame is associated with the “outer”, how one appears before others (and thus is merely a [...] Read more.
Many philosophers and scholars in the West have a negative view of shame. In much of post-classical Western ethical thought, shame is compared negatively with guilt, as shame is associated with the “outer”, how one appears before others (and thus is merely a matter of “face”), and guilt is associated with the “inner” realm of the conscience and soul. Anthropologists and philosophers have used this framework to distinguish more morally evolved Western “guilt cultures” from Asian “shame cultures”. Many psychologists also have a negative view of shame, seeing it as damaging to the self and “devastating in its consequences”. In this paper, I argue that the understandings of shame found in these philosophers and psychologists are misguided, and that their flaws can be revealed by looking at the understanding of shame in the classical Confucian tradition. In response to philosophers who see shame as a “lesser” moral emotion than guilt, Confucius (孔子 Kongzi) and Mencius (孟子 Mengzi) will articulate an understanding of shame that has a deeply internal dimension and is more essential in the process of moral cultivation than guilt. In response to the psychologists who warn about the harm of shame, the Confucians will help us distinguish between moral and pathological shame, showing us why the latter is harmful, but the former is something that no moral person can be without. I will show that the Confucian perspective on shame and guilt is profoundly relevant to the historical moment we are living in (particularly the years of the Trump Administration), and that the Confucian view demonstrates that there is something much worse, and far more devastating, than shame in its consequences—shamelessness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reenvisioning Chinese Religious Ethics)
Article
Unique Ethical Insights Gained from Integrating Gradual Practice with Sudden Enlightenment in the Platform Sutra—An Interpretation from the Perspective of Daoism
Religions 2020, 11(8), 424; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11080424 - 17 Aug 2020
Viewed by 754
Abstract
Since sudden enlightenment in the Platform Sutra is over-emphasized and gradual practice is comparatively ignored by quite a number of scholars, this article is primarily intended to illustrate that for Huineng, gradual practice and sudden enlightenment are practically integrated, which has profound ethical [...] Read more.
Since sudden enlightenment in the Platform Sutra is over-emphasized and gradual practice is comparatively ignored by quite a number of scholars, this article is primarily intended to illustrate that for Huineng, gradual practice and sudden enlightenment are practically integrated, which has profound ethical implications. Furthermore, it goes a step further to explore how gradual practice is made possible, by using original material in the text and by introducing relevant theory from Daoism. It also addresses the question about transcendence of morality that some scholars raise. Through exploring the topics of virtue and knowledge in Huineng’s thought with the help of Daoist wisdom, I aim to show that, as sudden enlightenment is accompanied by gradual practice, virtue together with knowledge appear hand in hand in a “perfect” form, which also strengthens the feature of perfection revealed in Huineng’s ethical doctrine. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reenvisioning Chinese Religious Ethics)
Article
Chastity as a Virtue
Religions 2020, 11(5), 259; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11050259 - 21 May 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1096
Abstract
This paper analyzes two philosophers’ views on chastity as a virtue, comparing Song Siyeol, a Korean neo-Confucian philosopher of the east, and David Hume, a Scottish philosopher. Despite the importance in and impact on women’s lives, chastity has been understated in religio-philosophical fields. [...] Read more.
This paper analyzes two philosophers’ views on chastity as a virtue, comparing Song Siyeol, a Korean neo-Confucian philosopher of the east, and David Hume, a Scottish philosopher. Despite the importance in and impact on women’s lives, chastity has been understated in religio-philosophical fields. The two philosophers’ understandings and arguments differ in significant ways and yet share important common aspects. Analyzing the views of Song and Hume helps us better understand and approach the issue of women’s chastity, not only as a historical phenomenon but also in the contemporary world, more fully and deeply. The analysis will provide an alternative way to re-appropriate the concept of chastity as a virtue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reenvisioning Chinese Religious Ethics)

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Essay
Losing Face
Religions 2020, 11(11), 545; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11110545 - 22 Oct 2020
Viewed by 565
Abstract
Notions of “face” play a central role in traditional East Asian ethics and, in particular, in Confucian views about the self and its cultivation. Awareness of and attention to face is central to self-reflection and evaluation and, when properly employed, motivate one to [...] Read more.
Notions of “face” play a central role in traditional East Asian ethics and, in particular, in Confucian views about the self and its cultivation. Awareness of and attention to face is central to self-reflection and evaluation and, when properly employed, motivate one to continue to strive to improve oneself morally. Today, the Chinese Communist Party seeks to monitor and control its population by means of an extensive system of surveillance that is increasingly controlled by artificial intelligence programs. This not only undermines traditional conceptions of face but ultimately the role and ability of the party to set and enforce its own view of what Chinese citizens should seek and pursue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reenvisioning Chinese Religious Ethics)
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