Plato on Vice (Book Manuscript)
My book project explores Plato’s theories of vice—the first systematic analysis of vice in the history of Western philosophy.
I argue that in the early dialogues, vice is fundamentally ignorance, a substantive, structural psychic defect on account of which one judges and acts in accordance with appearances. Both epistemic vices—epistemic defects that interfere with gaining, keeping, or sharing knowledge—and moral vices—character flaws that obstruct one from living well—are forms or products of ignorance. This account can be further extended to understand vices at a larger scale: political vices. Political vices are rooted in politicians’ lack of genuine political expertise, a defect that is perpetuated by their ignorance.
I argue that in the middle and late dialogues, Plato has a more all-encompassing theory of vice. The vice of an entity, no matter it is a living creature, an organ, or an artefact, is its poor state on account of which it performs its characteristic activity badly. On this account, moral vice is a poor state of the human soul on account of which one performs the characteristically human activity (or human function as Plato calls it), i.e., living a reason-guided, human life, badly. Ignorance, consisting in epistemic vices, is a necessary part of moral vice. Political vice is a structural flaw of the entire political entity, such as a city and a country.
This project is developed from my dissertation, an abstract of which can be found here.
Socrates on Ignorance: An Inquiry into Humanity’s Dark Side
Plato on Being and Becoming Vicious
Virtue and the Self in Ancient Philosophy
This project explores the ancient conceptions of virtue and the self. The ancients regard virtue as an accomplishment on account of which one performs the characteristically human activities excellently. But they disagree widely on what the characteristically human activities consist in and what performing those activities excellently amounts to. I suggest that those disagreements about the nature of virtue are rooted in disagreements about the nature of self. The ancients, in my view, conceive of the self to be located in the continuous dialectic between dimensions—for example, the subjective, the objective, the individual, and the collective—which are constitutive of human experience. Yet, they diverge on what those dimensions are and how they are related to one another, in response to the unique political, historical, and philosophical lessons they have received. A better grasp of the ancient conceptions of the self can thus cast light on how the ancients understand the nature and aspirations of humanity.
Virtue in Plato's Republic
Projects on Confucian and Mohist Ethics and Political Theory
In an article about Mozi’s conception of bie (partiality), I contend that on account of bie, one excludes others from moral consideration altogether. Understood in this way, bie is the cause of political conflicts, which threaten the existence of an inclusive society. In another article, I trace the development that the notion of self-cultivation undergoes in Confucianism.
Bie (Partiality) as a Social Vice
Self-Cultivation in Confucian Thought