Angle, S. C. (2010). A Reply to Ruiping Fan. Dao: A Comparative Journal of Chinese Philosophy.
I have been offered the chance for a brief reply to Professor FAN’s response to my review, and would like to make just two points. In the penultimate paragraph of his response, Professor FAN raises the question of the efficacy of Confucian moral commitments in contemporary China, and suggests that we can get evidence of this efficacy by comparing China with Eastern Europe. I agree that such a comparison may be very helpful, but suggest that it cannot be undertaken in a superficial way. For one thing, the differences between the two regions are more complicated than simply cultural; for another thing, current Chinese culture — even Chinese emphasis on families — cannot just be equated with Confucianism or with lingering Confucian influence. One problem with many claims that have been made in recent years about the influence of “Confucian culture” in East Asia is that, in order to operationalize “Confucian culture” such that its existence can be empirically verified, the category is so watered-down as to lose any real connection with the Confucian tradition of thought and practice. Confucians do not just care about families, but do so in a particular way. The kind of research toward which Professor FAN points may be quite significant, but we cannot anticipate its conclusions in advance of careful social scientific investigation.