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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Mozi's Doctrine of Impartial Caring
Notes taken on September 26, 2017 by Edward Tanguay
Mozi wanted objective standards of rightness
believed this was modeled on heaven
the central principle of Moism: jian ai
usually translated as impartial caring
sometimes has been translated as universal love
both terms are wrong
jian = impartial
distribution that is done in a fair and objective way
we need to get away from our partial view
for the Confucians, on the other hand, we are naturally partial to our families
you obey your parents
for Mozi it is the opposite
it is the partiality to family members that creates the chaos of the warring states
ai = caring/benefiting
caring for someone materially
ai does not describe an emotional state of love, but a behavior
e.g. you ai livestock
feeding them, making sure that they are safe and warm
it's not an eternal, emotional feeling
it about an external behavior of benefiting someone materially
this goes along with a broader theme in Mozi, that he doesn't care about emotional states
he doesn't care what you are feeling on the inside
he's not trying to change the way you are feeling on the inside
what he wants is to modify your behavior by making you materially content
this would horrify Confucius
filial piety is about inner respect, not just e.g. making sure your parents have enough food, as Mozi suggests
Mozi would say, you care for horses and dogs, and you also care for your parents
for Mozi, ren means benevolence
not goodness in the general sense
someone who is ren benefits other people, someone who behaves benevolently and compassionately in a physical sense, not in a emotional sense
Mozi is concerned with external consequences, with regulating your external behavior, and he doesn't really care what you feel on the inside
in fact, he expects that you're not going to like it
he expects you to not like acting in accord with impartial caring
but you have to suppress your internal feelings, adopt this standard, and force yourself to do it
it's very much about overriding your hot cognition by using these cold insights
the cold insight being that impartial caring is the only logical way to behave toward other people if you're going to be a moral human being
Wu-wei is not an idea for Mozi
practicing impartial caring is not something you can do spontaneously
it's never going to become something that is natural
you don't follow your heart's desires
your hot tendencies will be to favor yourself and your family
you have to consciously counter this
spontaneity has nothing to do with morality, in fact, spontaneity leads to immorality
the Mozian pyramid of persuasion
people aren't going to like impartial caring
it goes against our nature
it is counter-intuitive
that you should care for everyone
and not just yourself and your family
persuades people in different levels
1. the worthies
they get the logic of his argument
they simply adopt his ideas
when heaven sends down rain, it rains on people impartially
act toward other people's fathers the way you want them to act toward your father
he sees these arguments as verifiable fact
practicing impartial caring leads to the best benefit for the state
these are the highest level
2. not quite self controlled enough to understand it, but are motivated by rewards
people who practice impartial caring get rewards and they want rewards
Mozi sees this as inevitable
3. mass of people who lack the intellectual capacity and self control to put it in the practice
you have to use punishment and the threat of punishment to motivate them to practice impartiality
this is how you wrest order out of the chaos of the warring states
Confucian vs. Mohist ethics
Confucius: virtue involves feeling the right thing
Mozi: emotion has not place in morality at all
he doesn't care what you feel, and he believes what you feel is going to be immoral
human partiality
Confucius: it's inevitable, an organic virtue is grounded in the feelings of partiality that we have
Mozi: the family can be superseded, family ties can be overridden
looks very much like modern views of ethics
Peter Singer, Australian moral philosopher
consequentialist, rationalist, morality is about rationality
deeply suspicious of human partiality
he has a site that shows the impact of charities
it's disturbing how our psychologies are set up to favor ourselves and our families