A New Perspective on Sympathy and Its Cultivation, with Insights from the Confucian Tradition

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Date

2017

Authors

Hu, Jing

Advisors

Flanagan, Owen

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Abstract

My dissertation aims to show that sympathy, when well-cultivated, is adequate to motivate and produce altruistic behavior in a consistent and reliable manner. I do so by creating a dialogue between the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions. I define sympathy as a four-dimensional emotion—including perceptive, visceral, motivational and cognitive aspects. I argue that sympathy in its mature stage is capable of motivating people in a consistent manner, and its role in morality cannot be replaced by other emotions. In addition, I argue that the leap from an unstable reaction to a mature, consistent and reliable emotion is made through proper cultivation. Cultivational methods such as ritual practice, rational persuasion, self-cultivation, etc. are discussed and evaluated. I also discuss the limitations of sympathy and its cultivation towards the end of the dissertation.

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Citation

Hu, Jing (2017). A New Perspective on Sympathy and Its Cultivation, with Insights from the Confucian Tradition. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/14495.

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