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SagehoodThe Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy$
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Stephen C. Angle

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385144

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385144.001.0001

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Learning to Look for Harmony

Learning to Look for Harmony

(p.135) 8 Learning to Look for Harmony

Stephen C. Angle (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

One recent trend in contemporary philosophy is thinking about the significance of the ancient practices that Pierre Hadot has labeled “spiritual exercises.” Just as philosophy was a “way of life” for ancient Western thinkers, so was Neo-Confucianism about much more than theories. This chapter explores Neo-Confucian teachings about the practice of ethical development from two perspectives. First, it considers the stages that an individual can go through on the way toward sagehood, including both “lesser learning,” with its central role for ritual, and “greater learning.” Brief attention is paid to relations between Neo-Confucian understanding of stages and those of contemporary psychologists studying moral development like Martin Hoffman and Lawrence Kohlberg. Second, it discusses the particular practices that were recommended by Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming, and others. Among the practices the chapter examines, it puts particular focus on those related to “attention,” and especially on the central practice of “reverence.”

Keywords:   Pierre Hadot, spiritual exercise, ethical development, stages, lesser learning, ritual, attention, reverence

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