Justice and harmony have long been two of the world’s most treasured ideals, but much of modern moral and political philosophy puts them on opposite sides of the divide between liberal theories of the right and communitarian theories of the good. Joshua Mason argues that the encounter with their Chinese counterparts, zhengyi and hexie, can overcome this opposition, revealing a pattern that reframes justice and harmony as mutually interdependent concepts in a three-part framework of root harmony (benhe), harmonic justice (heyi), and just harmony (zhenghe). Broadly surveying the histories of western and Chinese moral and political philosophies, Justice and Harmony: Cross-Cultural Ideals in Conflict and Cooperation explores our cross-cultural conceptual inventories and develops a comparative framework that can overcome entrenched binary oppositions and reconcile these grand global values.
Joshua Mason is assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University.
Introduction: Justice and Harmony from Metaphysics to Geopolitics
Chapter 1: The Right and the Good, Liberals and Communitarians, Justice and Harmony
Chapter 2: Traditions of Harmony
Chapter 3: Traditions of Justice
Chapter 4: A Pattern of Three Interrelated Concerns
Chapter 5: Root Harmony, Harmonic Justice, Just Harmony
About the Author
Justice and Harmony: Cross-Cultural Ideals in Conflict and Cooperation is a hugely intelligent book that has defined and found its proper measure. World philosopher Joshua Mason uses comparative cultural hermeneutics to unload the force of the familiar binary thinking that would cleave off good from right, and harmony from justice. In setting the grid for this archaeology of ideas, Mason brings in the heavy equipment of historical, philological, and philosophical research at their broadest compass to quarry the original texts and the relevant literature, and makes intelligible the nuanced meanings of these terms of art and their interpenetrating relationships.
In this impressive work of cross-cultural philosophizing, Joshua Mason ranges from ancient Greek and Chinese sources to modern Chinese, European, and American theorists. His charitable and nuanced readings support a creative articulation of our shared ideals in a fresh way that transcends linguistic, conceptual, and cultural dichotomies. We need not choose between justice and harmony, because when properly understood, zhenghe正和 or just harmony is a realistic and realizable goal, growing out of the interplay between benhe本和 (root harmony) and heyi和义 (harmonic justice). Justice and Harmony is a model of how to be open to the insights of philosophical traditions from around the world—which is how we should all be striving to do philosophy today.
Mason offers a compelling and remarkable framework that broadens the encounter of justice and harmony at a multilevel away from an oppositional reduction, and towards a renewed mutually complementary and intertwined trinary of shared values in human endeavors and everyday living. With a witty, charming and accessible writing, inspiring both awe and humility, this is a valuable scholarly resource for thinking through increasing geopolitical frictions and beyond.
Harmony and justice have often been seen as competing values. How to bridge their gap is one of the greatest philosophical challenges. Mason’s book is both informative and insightful. His tripartite construction of root harmony, harmonic justice and just harmony is a meaningful attempt to integrate harmony and justice. I strongly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in this important issue.
Through a contrastive framing of Western sources, comparative philosopher Joshua Mason shows the relevance and significance of a comparative and more inclusive approach to ethics and political philosophy by bringing forward a dialogic exposition with Chinese sources. With a replete thoroughness and clear and accessible writing, Mason educes a revitalization of “the terms of debate” that have exhausted the beaten path to the good life in Western philosophical discourse. Scholars and students alike will benefit from the direct encounter with Chinese philosophical thinking on harmony (he 和) and justice (正义) that Justice and Harmony: Cross-Cultural Ideals in Conflict and Cooperation brings to its readers. Mason’s engagement with Chinese philosophy tills fertile ground for the augmentation and evolution of Western ethics and political philosophy while at the same time reflecting new light for the growth of Chinese and World philosophy.