- “Talk May Be Cheap, but Deeds Seldom Cheat: On Political Liberalism and the Assurance Problem”, American Journal of Political Science (co-authored with Man-Kong Li) (forthcoming)
Abstract: In a well-ordered society, democratic officials face an assurance problem. They want to ensure that others will act reasonably when they do the same. According to political liberals, public reason can solve this problem, but the details of how assurance is generated are unclear. This article explains the assurance mechanism in political liberalism. Apart from public reason, mutual assurance is also provided by a long-term record of civic deeds. By performing civic deeds over time, officials signal their reasonableness to each other. This record of civic deeds is costly to unreasonable officials and thus represents a reliable way to differentiate trustworthy fellows from others. The article also shows that a recent critique of political liberalism, which argues that public reason is merely cheap talk and thus political liberalism fails to provide mutual assurance, misses the point. It overlooks that assurance is created through talks and deeds together.
- “Famine, Affluence, and Confucianism: Reconstructing a Confucian Perspective on Global Distributive Justice”, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy (forthcoming)
Abstract: Recently, most of the discussions in Confucian political theory have concentrated on whether Confucianism is compatible with local political practices, such as liberal democracy. The question of how Confucians view global distributive justice has not yet received critical attention. This essay aims to fill this gap. I will first describe a contractualist methodology, which aims at deriving substantial political principles from a formal conception of the person. Then I will discuss what conception of the person Confucianism assumes. Finally, I will use the contractualist methodology to derive three principles of global distributive justice. These three principles form a distinctive conception based on ideas that are usually ignored in the current discussions of global justice, such as virtues, community, and rituals.
- “Is it Sectarian for a Rawlsian State to Coerce Nozick?- On Political Liberalism and the Sectarian Critique”, Philosophia 51 (2023): 367-387 (link)
Abstract: The paper begins with a hypothetical story and asks: how should a Rawlsian political liberal state justify its coercion over Nozick, an unreasonable but intelligible citizen (UIC)? I use this thought experiment to illustrate a recent critique of political liberalism. It argues that political liberalism coerces UIC on a sectarian ground. Call it the sectarian critique. My paper addresses the sectarian critique from a political liberal perspective. I suggest a condition of state conjecture, which argues that the state officials should use conjecture to engage with UIC, like Nozick. This brings two benefits to the stability of a political liberal society. First, UIC may be convinced and become reasonable citizens. Secondly, the activity of offering conjectures can strengthen the public confidence of political liberalism as a valuable collective project. Although, eventually, some UIC may remain unpersuaded and be coerced on grounds that are unjustified to them, the force of the sectarian critique will be significantly weakened after the condition of state conjecture is fulfilled.
- “Accessibility, Pluralism, and Honesty: A Defense of the Accessibility Requirement in Public Justification”, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 25(2) (2022): 235-259 (link)
Abstract: Political liberals assume an accessibility requirement, which means that, for ensuring civic respect and non-manipulation, public officials should offer accessible reasons during political advocacy. Recently, critics have offered two arguments to show that the accessibility requirement is unnecessary. The first is the pluralism argument: Given the pluralism in evaluative standards, when officials offer non-accessible reasons, they are not disrespectful because they may merely try to reveal their strongest reason. The second is the honesty argument: As long as officials honestly confess their beliefs after offering non-accessible reasons, disrespect and non-manipulation do not occur. This paper defends the accessibility requirement and asserts that these two arguments overlook a unique feature of the political domain. While all citizens collectively own political power as a corporate body, an official does not privately own her political power. Instead, she is a trustee who has a duty to act on behalf of the corporate body, that is, she has to make decisions on grounds that are accessible to others. This duty explains why, despite pluralism, the accessibility requirement is necessary. Moreover, given that political decisions are profoundly influential to each person, requiring people to be honest is ineffective in discouraging disrespectful and manipulative acts.
- “Let God and Rawls Be friends: On the Cooperation between the Political Liberal Government and Religious Schools in Civic Education”, Journal of Applied Philosophy 38(5) (2021): 774-789 (link)
Abstract: Political liberals are primarily concerned with the roles played by the government and public schools in civic education. In policies related to religious schools, political liberals often use a strategy of regulation that aims to restrict religious schools. I argue that, although this strategy is effective in eliminating bad religious schools, it alone is unable to ensure that all (or most) reasonable citizens achieve full justification, which is a necessary condition for the stability of a just society. I, therefore, suggest that this strategy should be supplemented with a strategy of promotion. This strategy implies that a government should use policies, such as tax exemption, subsidy, national prize, and advertisement, to encourage good religious schools that teach students to reconcile religious beliefs and political ideas. While the government remains neutral and offers a citizenship curriculum that teaches political ideas, religious schools teach theological beliefs that provide students comprehensive reasons to affirm political ideas. This division of labor facilitates students from different religious backgrounds to attain full justification. Religious schools have often been regarded as posing a threat to cultural balkanization. It is, however, an overlooked grain of truth that religious schools could be essential cornerstones of a stable liberal democracy.
- “Church under Leviathan: On the Democratic Participation of Religious Organization in an Authoritarian Society”, Journal of Religious Ethics 49(1) (2021): 68-89 (link)
Abstract: Political philosophers have long disagreed on the issue of whether churches should exercise restraint in the appeal to religious reasons in public discussion and political mobilization. Exclusivists defend the restraint, whereas inclusivists reject it. Both sides, however, assume the existence of a democratic government. In this paper, I discuss whether churches should exercise restraint in a non-democratic society. I defend inclusivism and believe that churches should not restrain themselves, especially when rejecting restraint can promote democracy and resist severe injustices. First, I argue that two exclusivist arguments which justify the restraint cannot be applied in an authoritarian society. Secondly, I defend inclusivism because religious reasons are effective in cultivating active citizens that strengthen the democratic movement. Finally, I use the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong as an example to show how inclusivism may work in an authoritarian society.
- “Junzi living in Liberal Democracy: What role could Confucianism play in Political Liberalism”, Philosophical Forum 52(1) (2021): 17-28 (link)
Abstract: It has been widely argued that East Asian governments should be permitted to promote Confucian values. Recently, Zhuoyao Li rejected this view and advocates that East Asian governments should be neutral to all cultures and religions, including Confucianism. Nevertheless, Li believes that Confucianism does not loses its significance in a political liberal state because Confucians can still propose laws and policies, so long as their proposals are justified by public reason. In this paper, I argue that Li misunderstands the true significance of Confucianism in his model. Under the constraint of public reason, Confucians can hardly give any novel input in public deliberation. Rather, I believe that the contribution of Confucianism is to educate citizens to become fully just in the private sphere. Citizens may learn to be unjust if injustices are common in the private sphere. However, a political liberal state would be criticized as being overly invasive if it directly regulates the private sphere. Hence, I propose a division of educational labour between political liberalism and Confucianism in the public and private sphere. Finally, I use the Confucian workplace as an example to show how rituals in the workplace can enhance citizens’ sense of justice in the private sphere.
- “Why should I respect you? A Critique and a Suggestion for the Justification of Mutual Respect in Contractualism”, Philosophical Forum 51(3) (2020): 261-278 (link)
Abstract: Contractualism is a normative theory which characterizes principles of right in terms of the idea of mutual respect. In this theory, mutual respect is regarded as having deliberative priority over other values. This essay aims to examine how contractualists can provide a satisfactory justification for prioritizing mutual respect. I will argue that the “value of mutual respect argument,” which is a justification commonly adopted by contractualists, is inadequate because an unconditional priority of mutual respect cannot be grounded on the desirability of a relationship of mutual respect. Then, I will suggest that a “consistency argument” can provide a better justification of why the idea of mutual respect should have priority. Mutual respect is of special importance, not because it is highly desirable, but rather because it is required by an a priori guiding principle of consistency. Individuals become inconsistent if they ask others to respect them as reason-assessing individuals, while at the same time refusing to respect others in the same way.
- “Public Reason and Structural Coercion: In Defense of the Coercion Account as the Ground of Public Reason”, Social Theory and Practice 46 (1) (2020): 231-255 (link)
Abstract: Political liberals usually assume the coercion account, which argues that state actions should be publicly justified because they coerce citizens. Recently some critics object this account for it overlooks that some policies are non-coercive but still require public justification. My essay argues that, instead of understanding coercion as particular laws or policies, it should be understood as the exercise of collective political power that shapes the basic structure. This revised coercion account explains why those ostensibly non-coercive policies are in fact coercive. Moreover, I argue that the alternative accounts suggested by critics fail, unless they assume the revised coercion account.
- “A non-sectarian comprehensive Confucianism?—On Kim’s Public Reason Confucianism”, Journal of Social Philosophy 50 (2) (2019): 145-162 (link)
Abstract: In Public Reason Confucianism, Kim Sungmoon presents a perfectionist theory that is based on a partially comprehensive Confucian doctrine but is non-sectarian, since the doctrine is widely shared in East Asian societies. Despite its attractiveness, I argue that this project unfortunately fails because it is still vulnerable to sectarianism. The blurred distinction between partially and fully comprehensive doctrines will create a problem of leakage. Sectarian laws and policies may therefore gain legitimacy that they do not deserve. I further defend political Confucianism, which is regarded by Kim as an inadequately intelligible form of Confucianism. Kim assumes a too narrow understanding of intelligibility. Although political Confucianism may not be politically intelligible, it is civically intelligible, i.e. it is culturally intelligibly different from other political theories in terms of its implications in citizens’ actions in civil society. In light of civic intelligibility, the distinctiveness of political Confucianism should not be underestimated.
- “Conjecture and the Division of Justificatory Labour—A comment on Clayton and Stevens,” Res Publica 25 (2019): 119-125 (link)
Abstract: The question of how the religiously unreasonable should be treated has increasingly become a subject of concern for political philosophers. Matthew Clayton and David Stevens argue that political liberals should offer religious arguments to show why the religiously unreasonable are mistaken. However, politicians and political philosophers should not be the ones offering religious arguments. Rather, there should be a division of justificatory labour. The duty to offer theological arguments should be delegated to religious citizens who share the same faith with those who are religiously unreasonable. I agree with Clayton and Stevens that religious responses should be offered. Yet I disagree with the division of justificatory labour. I shall argue that the importance of conjecture, a form of discourse that involves non-public reason, is overlooked. Conjecture is a promising method for political philosophers and politicians to persuade the religiously unreasonable.
- 〈重讀盧梭︰極權之父，還是共和先驅？〉，《思想》 ，第35期（2018年），頁285-307。(link)
- “Is Rawls really a Kantian contractarian?”, Public Reason 8 (1-2) (2017): 31-49. (link)
Abstract: In most of the introductions to Rawls and contemporary contractarianism, Rawls is seen as the representative of Kantian contractarianism. He is understood as inheriting a contractarian tradition that can be traced back to Kant and which has inspired followers such as Barry and Scanlon. This paper argues that the label does not fit Rawls. While a Kantian contractarian would presuppose a monistic conception of practical reason, Rawls is a hybrid contractarian who presupposes a dual conception. I shall first argue that the way in which a contractarian model is labeled is determined by its conception of practical reason. Then I show that Rawls and Kantian contractarians assume different conceptions of practical reason, and therefore should be seen as belonging to two strands of thought. I further argue that, although Rawls acknowledges his intellectual affiliation with Kant, he cannot be considered a Kantian contractarian in the commonly understood way. In his Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, Rawls interprets Kant as endorsing a hybrid contractarian model that is similar to his. By understanding Rawls as a hybrid contractarian and not confusing his philosophical project with that of Kantian contractarians, Rawls’s contribution to the history of contractarianism can be better evaluated.
- 〈論道德人觀的基礎—評周保松《自由人的平等政治》〉 ，刊於《政治與社會哲學評論》，第38期 (2011年，9月) 。周保松教授的回應，見周保松，〈自由之為好〉，收於氏著《自由人的平等政治》（三聯書店，2013）(link)
- “Virtues and Rituals: Confucianism and Education for Justice” in Inga Bostad, Marianna Papastephanou and Torill Strand (ed.), Justice, Education, and the World of Today: Philosophical Investigations (Routledge, 2023) (co-authored with Liz Jackson) (link)
Abstract: In this chapter, we discuss the implications of Confucianism for understanding education for justice. First, we offer a brief survey of the thought of three classical Confucians: Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi. Facing the political chaos of that time, Confucius emphasises that an ideal society should be harmonious, which implies that people should learn to be virtuous junzi. Mencius further elaborates this view and argues that human beings naturally have moral emotions. By developing these emotions, people can acquire various Confucian virtues. Finally, Xunzi suggests that rituals play a central role in moral development. Rituals provide a kind of daily training that continuously transforms the character of people and enables people to work toward the ideal of junzi. Hence, a unique feature of Confucian education is its emphasis on rituals in the cultivation of virtues. We further argue that western civic education can be benefited by incorporating some insights from a Confucian view. While certain civic virtues, such as respectfulness and tolerance, are necessary for maintaining a healthy democracy, the rituals that can enhance the cultivation of these virtues should not be overlooked in civic education.
- “How Should a Liberal Government Accommodate Disadvantaged Cultural Minorities?”, in John McSweeney and Ching-Yu Lin (ed.), Representation and Contestation: Cultural Politics in a Political Century (Rodopi, 2010) (link)
- “Book Review of Andrius Galisanka’s John Rawls: The Path to A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2019)”, Journal of Value Inquiry (forthcoming) (link)
- “Book Review of Kim Sungmoon, Democracy after Virtue: Toward Pragmatic Confucian Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2018)”, The Philosophical Quarterly 70: 279 (2020), pp. 440-442 (link)
- “Book Review of Jon Mandle and David A. Reidy (ed.), A Companion to Rawls, (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2014)”, Journal of Moral Philosophy 13: 6 (2016), pp. 759—763 (link)
Working papers (email me for a draft!):
- “Zhu Xi’s method of reading and civic education”
- “On the function of etiquette in the workplace from a Xunzian perspective”
- “Confucianism and Neutrality: On why Confucianism should embrace liberal neutrality”