Lecture 3: The Moral Beauty of Harmony in Music, Soup, Society, and State
In this lecture I discuss musical and culinary metaphors of harmony that have an aesthetic dimension. Early Confucian thinkers use them to conceptualize and articulate an ideal of harmony that I want to further specify. My specification goes well beyond what they proposed, but I believe it is broadly within the bounds of what they did say about it. It is a conception of harmony, I believe, for our time that is in a Confucian spirit. It incorporates acceptance of disagreement and contest, and in this regard, I also bring in the metaphor of archery that appears in the Analects. To discuss how disagreement may be part of harmony without destroying it, I introduce the notion of accommodation as a value.
To discuss the way that contest may, counter to first appearances, become an integral element of harmony, I bring the Chinese notion of harmony, hé, into dialogue with the Greek notion of contest, agon. I will go on to discuss the way that the articulation of the harmony ideal appeals to a kind of motivation that contemporary Western philosophy has forgotten about, and that is to our sense of moral beauty. To further articulate the relevant notion of beauty, I bring Xúnzǐ’s notion of beauty, měi, into dialogue with Aristotle’s notion of the fine, the noble, and the beautiful, to kalon. The feeling for beauty plays an important role in the power of music and ritual to help us accomplish moral cultivation, and I will discuss what relevance ritual has not only to contemporary moral cultivation but also to governance.