A persistent feature in Jesuit reports about the late Ming and early Qing was the notion that an enduring peace and concord pervaded the Chinese political system. Although the Jesuits did not invent this association, which was rooted in Greco-Roman historiography, the Jesuit encyclopaedist Antonio Possevino (1533–1611) was the first to link the ‘perpetual peace’ (perpetua pax) and ‘supreme concord’ (summa concordia) of the Chinese state to the Confucian intellectual tradition. As the Jesuits’ missionary strategy developed under the tutelage of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), ‘public peace’ (pax publica) and ‘the calm of the Republic’ (Republica quies) came to be perceived as the ultimate purpose of the Confucian precepts and one of the hinges on which the aims of Christianity, Confucianism and natural law can be reconciled. The supreme expression of the link between Confucianism and peace can be found in the Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687), which presented for the first time an accessible translation of three of the four Confucian classics. Yet while retaining the view that pre-Qin Confucianism espoused peace as a central political aim, the Confucius Sinarum philosophus challenged the view that contemporary China could be regarded as a utopic actualization of Confucian peace. This paper will discuss this shift as an attempt to coopt the Chinese political experience as an argument against the pragmatic political philosophy known as ‘reason of state’, which was perceived by Jesuit thinkers as atheistic and immoral.
One of the most long-standing and potent charges against pragmatism from the point of view of political philosophy has been that of acquiescence. 1 Whatever the personal, moral or political commitments of particular pragmatists, this criticism alleges, pragmatism is vulnerable to appropriation by whatever social forces are most powerful. This criticism takes various forms (MacGilvray 2000), but its core can be fairly simply stated. On the one hand, pragmatism (at least in its Deweyan version) subsumes theoretical reasoning within practical reasoning. For the Deweyan account, inquiry is understood as a particular kind of activity. Like other activities, it is pursued in order to achieve particular goals. In its course one’s goals may change, new conceptions of what one is doing emerge and indeed who one is may emerge, etc. But inquiry should be understood as goal-directed activity, and successful inquiry as that which allows us to deal with the environment in better ways. On the other hand, Deweyan pragmatism is notoriously reticent about setting out ‘final ends’ for the sake of which this activity takes place (Richardson 1999: 122). Inquiry is then viewed as instrumental and goal-directed, but the goals to which it is or should be directed are left out of the picture of practical reasoning. Accordingly, social consensus or power rushes to fill the vacuum. The dilemma that this position presents for the pragmatist, then, is that either she abandons the aspiration to say something critical about existing social and political arrangements or she abandons the pragmatist view of inquiry: she cannot have both.
Since its birth, but especially since its academic institutionalization, sociology has been plagued by a series of dualisms and dichotomies that seriously diminish the relevance of much of sociological work. To start with, there is the opposition of theoretical and empirical soci- ology; an opposition that should have been stillborn, as it is com- monplace that theoretical work without empirical evidence is arid, while empirical research without theory is spiritless and boring, but continues to survive and even thrive. There is also the division between substantive and methodological issues, creating the impres- sion of two separate realms and the illusion of a ‘free choice’ of method. One can continue with the contrast between methodological individualism and collectivism that in our days culminates in the var- ious debates around rational choice theory, but which is just the old debate between (neo-classical) economics and classical (Durk- heimian) social theory, in new clothes. Still further, there is the dilemma of dynamic versus static approaches, which could be for- mulated in the language of historical versus structural, or of genetic versus genetic. There is furthermore the dichotomy dominating so much of contemporary sociology, between agency and structure, which is just another way of posing the contrast between action and system, dominating the structural-functionalism of the 1950s and 1960s, or the even older opposition between object and subject and their dialectic, central for German idealist philosophy. At an even more general level, there is the question of the link between reality and thought, the extent to which thought and discourses can properly reproduce reality, or, on the contrary, the claims about the autonomy of discourse, or the independence of the text, a theme particular cher- ished by various postmodern approaches.
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