Wang Yangming on 'Unquestioning Obedience' and Epistemic Superiority

Philosophy East and West 73 (3):718-739 (2023)
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Abstract:Within various contexts, such as politics and parenting, Confucianism has been criticized on the basis that it endorses 'unquestioning obedience' to authority. In recent years, several philosophers have argued against this view by appealing to textual evidence from Classical Confucian philosophers. This article examines Wang Yangming's views on this subject, arguing that Wang teaches that criticism of those who stand in a socially superior role relation is not only permitted, but encouraged. From this, the implications that Wang's analysis has for contemporary discussions of disagreement between epistemic superiors and inferiors and epistemic peerhood are considered. It will be argued that Wang's position is much closer to the total evidence view than the preemptive view. Relatedly, it is suggested that Wang provides a novel proposal about how to recognize or disregard epistemic 'superiors', especially in the context of moral knowledge.

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Daryl Ooi
National University of Singapore


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