Topic: Mozi’s Argument Against Partiality Instructions The general structure of the debate is as follows. •
Two teams of students (Red and Blue) will debate each other on a topic set in advance by the instructor.
- Each team will have 3-4 members.
- The debate will be held during class, with a total duration of about 30 minutes.
- The debate will proceed in six stages:
(1) Opening Argument by Red Team,
2) Rebuttal by Blue Team,
(3) Counter by Red Team, then
(4) Opening Argument by Blue Team,
(5) Rebuttal by Red Team,
(6) Counter by Blue Team.
- Each stage of the debate will have a duration of about 5 minutes.
- Every student participating in the debate is expected to speak for an equal amount of time.
- Following the debate, there will be 30 minutes of open-floor discussion involving the entire class. The open-floor discussion will be moderated by the instructor. The Opening Argument should provide an argument to support the assigned position.
The objective of the Opening Argument is to argue for the position, not to respond to objections. The Rebuttal should present objections to the opposing team’s Opening Argument. It should argue that the opposing team’s position is wrong, or that the opposing team’s Opening Argument failed to substantiate its position.
The Counter should argue that the opposing team’s Rebuttal fails to refute your team’s Opening Argument. In the Counter, your team answers the objections raised in the opposing team’s Rebuttal.
Please prepare a visual aid to go with your Opening Argument. It could be either slides or a printed handout, or both. If you do slides, have no more than 5 slides. If you have a handout, make it only one side of one page long. In all stages of the team debate assignment, you’re expected to give arguments. To review what an argument is, you can re-read pages 11-17 of Russ Shafer-Landau’s chapter “Moral Reasoning” from his book Living Ethics (Oxford, 2019).
Background: Mohists and Impartial Concern Mozi (or Mo Tzu) (480? BCE – 390? BCE) was an ancient Chinese philosopher. He founded a philosophical school—the Mohist School—that rivaled the Confucians. Mohist ideas are written in the text known as the Mozi. Most scholars believe that the text was not written by Mozi himself, but by various disciples and followers. Hence, we attribute the authorship of the Mozi to a group of authors called “the Mohists.” There are striking similarities between Mohist ethics and utilitarianism.
In particular, the Mohists embraced a principle of impartiality which was very much like the one that the utilitarians advocated. This principle is expressed as the concept of Jian-ai, which is translated into English as “impartial concern,” “universal love,” and “concern for everyone” (Lai 2008; Fraser 2020; Loy 2021). One who acts with impartial concern “is concerned for the welfare of others without making distinctions between self, associates and strangers.” (Loy 2021). The Mohists argued that people ought to adopt such impartial concern, and this put them at odds with the disciples of Confucius.
The Confucians believed that one has stronger moral obligations toward one’s own family members than others. Mohists reject this view as a form of “partiality.” Partiality, for the Mohists, is any tendency to act with greater concern for oneself and one’s own associates than for others. Although the Mohists valued filial piety, they maintained that the best way to exhibit filial piety is to act with impartial concern.
In the following passage from the Mozi, it’s argued that partiality is wrong because it’s the root of many social ills. “Mozi said: The purpose of the magnanimous lies in procuring benefits for the world and eliminating its calamities. Now among all the current calamities, which are the most important?
The attack on the small states by the large ones, disturbances of the small houses by the large ones, oppression of the weak by the strong, misuse of the few by the many, deception of the simple by the cunning, disdain towards the humble by the honored – these are the misfortunes in the empire. Again, the lack of grace on the part of the ruler, the lack of loyalty on the part of the minister, the lack of affection on the part of the father, the lack of filial piety on the part of the son – these are further calamities in the empire.
Also, the mutual injury and harm which the unscrupulous do to one another with weapons, poison, water, and fire is still another calamity in the empire. When we come to think about the cause of all these calamities, how have they arisen? Have they arisen out of love of others and benefiting others?
Of course, we should say no. We should say they have arisen out of hate for others and injuring others. If we should classify one by one all those who hate others and injure others, should we find them to be universal in love or partial?
Of course, we should say they are partial. Now, since partiality against one another is the cause of the major calamities in the empire, then partiality is wrong.” (Chinese Text Project) Debate Positions: Red Team will argue, in agreement with Mozi, that partiality is wrong because it is the cause of many social ills.
Blue Team will argue, against Mozi, that partiality is not wrong, either because it is not the cause of social ills, or because it is morally permissible in spite of being the cause of social ills. Both teams should support their arguments with examples. Hypothetical examples are acceptable, but real-life cases would be valuable as well.
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