Reason and Moral Motivation in Mòzǐ


Based on the observation that ancient Chinese thinkers formulated their conception of logic and agency mainly around the concept of biàn 辯 (discrimination), Chris Fraser argues that (1) ancient Chinese thinkers had no concept of sentence or proposition, (2) they did not engage in logical argumentation in its proper sense, and (3) reason or rationality was not highly valued in ancient China for normative evaluation of actions. However, the text of the Mòzǐ 墨子 contains strong pieces of evidence against these claims, and I argue that the opposite is clearly the case in Mòzǐ. Then, I move on to apply the metaethical idea of judgment internalism—the idea that there is an “internal” or conceptual connection between moral judgment and motivation—to some passages from the Mòzǐ and argue that Mòzǐ is best interpreted as a flexible internalist who is willing to incorporate an externalist idea into his system of thought.

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I am grateful to Philip J. Ivanhoe, Brian Bruya, Chaehyun Chong, Youngsun Back, Hui-chieh Loy, and the anonymous reviewers of this essay for their helpful comments, suggestions, and references. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Advanced Institute for Confucian Studies at Shandong University in China for providing me with generous financial and administrative support and a wonderful environment that enabled me to work on and finish this essay as a visiting scholar there from May to August, 2019.

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Correspondence to Myeong-seok Kim.

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Kim, Ms. Reason and Moral Motivation in Mòzǐ. Dao 20, 179–205 (2021).

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  • Mòzǐ 墨子
  • Reason
  • Logic
  • Moral motivation
  • Judgment internalism