NOBILITY AND CIVILITY
Harvard University Press, 2004 - 272 pages
Globalization has become an inescapable fact of contemporary life. Some leaders, in both the East and the West, believe that human rights are culture-bound and that liberal democracy is essentially Western, inapplicable to the non-Western world. How can civilized life be preserved and issues of human rights and civil society be addressed if the material forces dominating world affairs are allowed to run blindly, uncontrolled by any cross-cultural consensus on how human values can be given effective expression and direction?
In a thoughtful meditation ranging widely over several civilizations and historical eras, Wm. Theodore de Bary argues that the concepts of leadership and public morality in the major Asian traditions offer a valuable perspective on humanizing the globalization process. Turning to the classic ideals of the Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, and Japanese traditions, he investigates the nature of true leadership and its relation to learning, virtue, and education in human governance; the role in society of the public intellectual; and the responsibilities of those in power in creating and maintaining civil society.
De Bary recognizes that throughout history ideals have always come up against messy human complications. Still, he finds in the exploration and affirmation of common values a worthy attempt to grapple with persistent human dilemmas across the globe.
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into account both commonality (a shared nature) and individual difference in
dealing with the self, others, and the things of the world. Thus the Neo-
Confucians spoke of the unity of principle and diversity of its particularizations (li-i
Since the choice of accepting or disregarding the good and evil in them is up to
the freedom of each individual, the words or actions of the heart and mind all
belong to the individual. Because they are based on the self, the responsibility for
The present book illustrates such an approach. Among the many themes that are
worth exploring, one in particular stands out as having a close relevance to the
issues of human rights and civil society: the status of the individual or person.
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