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Definition and Disagreement in Plato and Xunzi

English title Definition and Disagreement in Plato and Xunzi
Applicant King Richard
Number 172595
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institut für Philosophie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.04.2017 - 31.03.2021
Approved amount 242'399.00
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Keywords (5)

Moral Disagreement; Plato; Xunzi; Definition; Comparative Ethics

Lay Summary (German)

Warum braucht man Definitionen in Debatten darüber, was das menschliche Gute ist?
Lay summary

Warum braucht man Definitionen? Genauer: warum braucht man Definitionen in Debatten darüber, was das menschliche Gute ist? Um den Streit zu schlichten, um überhaupt Erkenntnis zu haben, um klar zu sein, worüber man spricht. Diese sind Strategien, die man sowohl beim Platon wie auch im Konfuzianischen Text Xunzi, 3 Jh. v.u.Z. findet. Dieses Projekt hat zum Ziel, diese Dimensionen des Definierens in beiden ethischen Systemen zu eruieren und vergleichen. Somit wird nicht nur ein Beitrag zur komparativen Ethik geleistet, sondern zur Geschichte der Ethik überhaupt.


Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 25.04.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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The present project is a reading of the three Platonic dialogues Euthyphro, Laches and Charmides and the four texts Of Honour and Disgrace, Correcting Doctrines, Undoing Blindness and Correcting Appellations from the late Warring States collection Xunzi ??, associated with the thinker Xun Kuang ??. The project focuses on the use of definitions by the two thinkers. Both engage in ethical theorising. The project is a contribution to the current widespread interest in comparative ethics. It is set apart from much work in the field by the formal or argumentative angle adopted. The claim to be made by the project is that the uses these thinkers make of definitions are best understood in light of how they understand the nature of moral disagreement, and that by tracing the different current models of disagreement in both thinkers the use made of definitions can be made clear. The comparison gains traction by understanding moral disagreement in terms of the Socratic question: How should one live? This perspective, on the one hand, connects their thoughts intimately with their political and social contexts; on the other, makes comparison of the uses of this importamt argumentative tool possible by interpreting it as being deployed against different answers to the same question. Definitions can for example be used to dissolve disagreements by making clear that different things are being talked about.