Eastern and Western Conceptions of Oneness, Virtue, and Human Happiness
Prof. Philip J. Ivanhoe
Plum Blossoms by Moonlight by Ma Yuan (Southern Song dynasty)
The focus of this project is the oneness hypothesis and its implications for ethics, religion, psychology and political theory. A number of East Asian thinkers, as well as some in the West, argue that in various ways the self is inextricably intertwined with or part of the rest of the world. While such views often are described in terms of a
of self or autonomy, they are more accurately and helpfully understood as arguments for or ways to achieve a more expansive conception of the self, a self that is seen as intimately connected with other people, creatures, and things. In contemporary analytic philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science, this general issue is more commonly discussed in terms of the
boundaries of the self".
The implications for such a view are quite remarkable and directly and profoundly concern accounts of the self that are found in ethics, religion, psychology and political theory. The more expansive view of the self that is part of the oneness hypothesis challenges widespread and uncritically accepted views about the strong, some would say, hyper-individualism that characterizes many contemporary Western views, but it also has direct and profound implications for how we conceive of and might seek to develop care for the people, creatures, and things of the world. The aim of this project is to describe
the oneness hypothesis, evaluate its plausibility, and explore some of its major implications for ethics, religion, psychology and political theory.
John Templeton Foundation
Office of the Vice President for Research and Technology, City University of Hong Kong
Department of Public Policy, City University of Hong Kong