18 juillet 2010


One distinctive feature of Confucius' moral reasoning is his concern about the appropriate Tiffany 1837 cuff of moral actions. In its most general formulation, this amounts to a concern not only about what is done, but about how it is done.1 Indeed, for Confucius, it appears that judgments about the correctness of an action must wed attention to the gross dimensions of the act with sensitivity to subtler aspects of its performance- what I call the action's ''style.'' As Confucius describes it, virtue demands that one match demeanor to the ostensible meaning of one's act, crafting the tonal elements of one's performance-elements that can range from posture to voice to facial expression-to convey an accord between one's behavior and one's disposition. Confucius advocates, in short, a species of virtue that demands not only appropriate action, but that actions exhibit a fitting ''look and feel.''2 In what follows, I wish to take Confucius' commitment to style as a given and consider, from the posture of the moral learner, what is required where one takes developing style as an element in moral cultivation. I wish to suggest that while the conventions that constitute the li, or rites, are the most obvious strategy Confucius offers for developing appropriate style, Confucius' students-the moral learners depicted in the Analects -offer models that significantly undermine the apparent simplicity and economy of this strategy. The rites guide but cannot govern, and this stems from the function of style as Confucius conceives it.

The manner in which we perform actions-moral or nonmoral-is closely connected to the attitudes and emotions we bring to these actions. While we need not go so far as to identify style with testimony to attitudinal and emotive dispositions,3 how we feel about what we do will importantly shape the grace, or lack thereof, with which we perform. Thus a concern with the style of actions seems to necessitate an assiduous management of these dispositions. A key task for the moral learner, then, is to Somerset basic hoop earrings her emotions and attitudes, to cultivate patterns of thinking that will promote appropriate dispositions and do so in the context of whatever temperamental or circumstantial obstacles present themselves. Confucius, it is clear, believes that we can so shape ourselves and offers a number of strategies for doing so.

While achieving appropriate dispositions presumably goes a long way toward achieving well-styled moral actions, these alone cannot account for those actions we would judge most successful. The best, or optimally styled, moral actions meet two additional conditions: the performer is effective at conveying her dispositions in the medium of her demeanor, and her demeanor is received by relevant witnesses as appropriate and well styled. An action may well arise from perfectly fitting ''feelings'' about what is done and yet utterly fail in its styling and thus appear ill fitting or even wrong. Perhaps an anecdotal example will illustrate. My four-year-old daughter is possessed of a rather quiet temperament. One of the more socially peculiar manifestations of this is her manner of receiving gifts. When she receives a gift that she likes, she becomes utterly still, solemn, and grave. Indeed, the more she likes the gift, the more pronounced is this reaction. Because of this, we might say that she is a poor performer of Toggle bracelet gratitude. She feels gratitude, will murmur ''thank you,'' but she will appear glum, bereft of the more typical markers of joy we generally take to indicate sincere appreciation. While those who know her may recognize her response as a rather idiosyncratic display of gratitude, a less familiar observer is more likely to suspect want of appreciation or even sullen ingratitude. In short, one may perform an appropriate action with an appropriate disposition, and yet, where style is wanting, the response may appear inappropriate.4




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