The problem of order in the political thought of Mencius and Aristotle : a comparative study
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This dissertation focuses on the problem of order in the political thought of Aristotle and the Confucian philosopher Mencius. It attempts to reconstruct this ancient and perennial problématique by investigating its etymological, cosmological, metaphysical, psychological, ethical, and political implications. It argues that order was conceived in both authors as the combination of normative and aesthetic aspects, and that rational as well non-rational elements need to be taken into account in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the question. Unlike modern renditions of the problem, which put emphasis on either of the two aspects, it is argued that Aristotle and Mencius were similarly concerned about accounting for a more inclusive interpretation of order, one which overcomes well-known dichotomies such as transcendence/immanence, unity/multiplicity, body/mind. Moreover, while equating order with goodness and beauty, they were also aware of the limits of order in practical contexts. The problem of order, on the one hand, has its unifying theme in the abstraction of a universal moral norm; on the other hand, because order always necessarily implies some degree of disorder, it also possesses an inherently contextual and practical dimension. In this last respect, both Aristotle and Mencius held complex and sophisticated views on the moral psychology, which represents the link between a metaphysical conception of order and its socio-political instantiation. The problem of order, it is argued, provides a very fruitful case for comparing the ancient Greek and Chinese traditions of thought, and for rethinking the very concept of order in political theory and international relations. In particular, order represent a notion which avoids, more than other concepts, the risk of essentialism, reification, or of imposition of alien schemes of thought upon different cultural traditions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: 2021-11-01
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 1st November 2021
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