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November 24 Winnie Sung Talk: Xin 信 and the Importance of Attention
Date:2017-11-21  Clicks:132

Topic:     Xin 信 and the Importance of Attention

Lecturer: Winnie Sung宋晓竹

Assistant Professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore;

Ph.D., Philosophy, University of New South Wales;
University of Toronto;

Main research areas: Classical Chinese philosophy

Time:    2:30-4:30 pm, November 24nd (Friday)

Place:    Room 114, South Wing of Department of Philosophy, Wuhan University


Abstract: Xin 信”, which is usually translated as trustworthyor keeping ones promises”, is one of the key ethical qualities mentioned by Confucius in the Analects. However, we cannot find any definition or elaborate discussion of xin in the text. Although the importance of xin in early Confucian ethics is widely acknowledged in existing philosophical literature, substantial discussion of Confucius’s notion of xin is lacking. In this paper, I attempt to offer an interpretation of Confucius’s notion of xin and use it as a basis to articulate Confucian insights on the role of attention in the exercise of certain ethical qualities. It will be argued that the attention that is involved in xin is of a special kind. Unlike some ethical qualities that require the agent to pay attention to and reflect on something within oneself (traits, desires, intentions etc.), and some that require the agent to pay attention to others and the circumstances that they are in, xin requires the agent to pay attention to whether there is a match between the kind of person she is (including traits, desires, intentions etc.) and the way she has led others to think that she is. In the first section, I analyze the usage of “xin” in the Analects. In the second section, I discuss how xin is different from contemporary understandings of trustworthiness and promise-keeping. In the third section, I offer a positive account of xin. In the fourth section, I further articulate the insights the early Confucians have to offer on the role that attention plays in ethical cultivation.