A link running through many of the essays in this volume is between evolutionary biology and Chinese ethics. Since the 1960s and 1970s, within the fields of biology, psychology, and neurology are findings that advance our knowledge of how the mind functions, with special attention to social behavior: Donald Munro's focus is on what this development means, narrowly, for the study of Confucian ethics, and broadly for Chinese contributions to any international discussion of moral topics. The evolutionary scientists converge with mainstream Confucians in affirming the existence of universal human social traits. There is a human nature. They also share some important positions on the content of that nature. The topic is inborn social tendencies that may predispose, but do not by themselves determine, actual behavior. Biology also does not tell us what moral rules should be. Rather, it alerts us as to how such information is relevant to thinking about right and wrong. And accepting the biological fact of inborn social traits leaves plenty of room for the impact of culture on ethical theory and of individual choice on action. This the author shows in his first Ch'ien Mu Lecture, "Two Kinds of Equality." The volume provides some clues as to why Confucianism has endured for so long and for what social policies are likely to succeed in any culture.
Donald J. Munro is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and of Chinese at the University of Michigan, where he established a graduate concentration in Chinese philosophy. A former Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, he brings to his work backgrounds in sinology, acquired at Columbia University, and in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Kyoto, and in Western philosophy. He has been a participant in faculty seminars in evolutionary psychology, and in culture and cognition at Michigan.