A DISCUSSION OF THE ETHICS OF DIFFERENCE

Rohrbach Library’s Voices and Choices Center will host the last of the 2006-2007 KU Reading Exchange series on Thursday, April 19, 2007, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., in the VCC Gallery area. Under consideration is a proposal for a good and right—small ‘r’—way for individuals to relate to each other by giving respect to human differences.

Dr. Yong Huang, Professor of Philosophy at Kutztown University, leads an exchange of ideas about his paper, The Ethics of Difference in the Zhuangzi. While he refers to himself as a Neo-Confucian, the receipt of the [Carlson] Chambliss Faculty Research Award for his critical and quality contribution to cross-cultural hermeneutics may situate Huang in a more global ‘new modernist’ position because of the recognized fresh look he gives to a classical work during this post modern era and ‘post American Century.’

Huang writes about the development of an ‘ethics of difference’ within the “Equality of Things” chapter from the Taoist book, Zhuangzi, which imparts a way to live a moral life. Dr. Huang’s re-viewing of the moral questions posed in metaphors by Zhuangzi, with its ancient beginnings, recognizes the one Tao or cosmic perspective and advises a respect for the ‘other’ through the understanding of the equal worth of diverse ways of life.

Huang distinguishes the morality of respect for the equal worth of diverse ways of life from moral life governed by a universal law—an ethics of commonality—as taught by Confucius and advanced by others including the philosopher Emanuel Kant, or the idea of moral pluralism which emphasizes the importance of and sees the infinity of human difference resulting in realizing the prudence with ignoring difference and focusing on the commonalities, at least as advocated by linguist/philosopher Richard Rorty.

While Zhuangzi values a universe without distinction among the worth and wholeness of all things, what must also be interpreted in the morality of such an open perspective is the distinctly wrong and despicable neglect to check in with the other person to determine if the treatment about to be given is what the person wants. “…when we do something affecting others, we need to pay special attention to the uniqueness of the recipients of our actions.” [Huang 9]

Yong Huang offers a decent approach to (and an elegant statement on) human interaction. As a guiding principle, he identifies his restatement of the ethics of difference as The Copper Rule: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

Please join us on Thursday for this discussion. Bring your lunch – light refreshments will be provided.

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