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Welcome to, rationally speaking, the podcast, where we explore the borderland between reason and nonsense. I'm your host, Julia Gillard, and my guest today is Professor Chris Frater.


Chris is a professor of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. And I reached out to him because I've recently become fascinated with this group. I guess you could call them an intellectual movement in ancient China called. I'm sure Chris will correct my pronunciation of all these words shortly, but called Moethee. That's I'm sure that's wrong.


Chris, you'll have to help me. The Maoists. Yeah, Maoists. OK, let's go about that.


Sounds easier to pronounce. Anyway, there there's not as much written about the not as much coverage of them as I think they deserve.


They're strikingly fascinating group of people that were sort of an anomaly in their time that had a lot of modern views and a pretty cool effect on on Chinese society.


And so, as I said, they haven't gotten as much coverage as I think they deserve.


But Chris is one of the top experts on Maoism and has written a book called The Philosophy of the Moethee. You can correct me more than the first consequentialist. Yeah, well, OK. Nothing is sort of like the first two syllables of Mozart's.


Oh, that's that's. Yes, it's something like that.


That's very generous of you. So, Chris, maybe let's start by talking about the origin story of Moses. How did it you know, who is the founder?


What was his station in life and how did he become like an intellectual cult leader?


OK, well, what we're talking about is basically an intellectual, social, political and religious movement in early China and as you said, are the most haven't really attracted the amount of attention that they deserve, given the importance of their writings and their importance as a social movement. And the reason for that is that the movement died out in the Horn Dynasty. They were very influential in the period before the unification of China under the Chin Dynasty.


And what year was that or what roughly the Chin dynasty would be 221 B.C. The honestly didn't last very long. And in the Honda dynasty, the most movement gradually died out for various reasons. So it's an interesting historical example of how a certain movement can be influential in many, many respects during a certain period of time and then almost be forgotten or B, be deeply neglected later in history. It's as if having had their effect and had many of their kids be absorbed and applied in a wide variety of schools of thought, they die out and people forget who they ever were.


And now the most they were never wholly forgotten, but they tended to be denigrated and they didn't really receive the level of attention that they deserved or the kind of like a history written by the victors type thing where the the school that it is to some extent a history written by the victors.


Yes. That that's that's part of what's going on. Another part of what's going on is that some of their key interests didn't really get picked up by later thinkers. And further important factor is that their text was almost lost to us through Chinese history. And only really in the Ching dynasty did scholars develop interest again in recovering these texts and understanding the details of Maoist doctrines. Yeah, but you asked about the founder. So so Maoism emerges, as I would say, mainly a social and political movement somewhere in the middle of the fifth century B.C. And it's their charismatic teacher who they're organized around is a person named Maudy.


He's given name is Dee, and we refer to him as Mortensen's because that's who's an honorific, referring to an honored teacher. And Modi is a somewhat mysterious figure. It's not really clear what his background is, but he seems to have been from the artisan class and most of the texts that you would read from early China and much of the thought was produced by higher social classes, in particular the texts and thought that we associate with Confucianism tended to be produced by people who, in terms of their occupation, were ritual specialists.


You can think of them in some cases as something like a priest. In some cases it would be like the people who officiated over a wedding ritual or a funeral ritual, some. Thing like that, and the most seem to have been, as best we can tell, largely artisan's soldiers, engineers, merchants and perhaps some of them were, or farmers or landowners.


So the Maoist movement tends to tends to present the views of this segment of society.


And so the subtitle of your book was The First Consequentialist. Can you explain what that means?


Right. Well, it is, to my knowledge, looking at Chinese, Indian and European philosophy. This seems to have been the first school of thought to wholly embrace the consequentialist ethics that is for them. What's right and wrong or what we should or should not do is determined by what has the best consequences. And any time we introduce a consequentialist ethics and philosophy one to one, we explain that that's the basic idea, right and wrong, are determined by what has the best consequences.


And then any particular version of consequentialism will have to spell out what consequences are we concerned with in this particular case when we talk about right and wrong, are we talking about actions or are we talking about policies? There's various sorts of things that we might evaluate as right or wrong to flesh out the particular brand of consequentialism we're dealing with here. And what's especially interesting about Maoists is that their brand of consequentialism picks as its basic goods, the consequences that we're supposed to try to promote.


It fixes its basic goods, a series of social goods like what they're canonical lists, which they repeat again and again in Chinese food, which would be material wealth in their time, a large population and social order. And that's a very complex concept for them. The social order refers to the absence of crime and war, but it also refers to harmonious social relations. So, for instance, to actually achieve social order, all of us have to fill our social roles as political subjects or political leaders, as parents or children, as brothers or sisters or what have you in a socially appropriate way.


So speaking of causing good consequences, one thing that really impressed me a reading about most was just how proactive they were.


Like, you know, they have this belief system in which, you know, fatalism is bad and war is bad. And they didn't just write and talk about it. They were like, OK, how do we, you know, words bad, how do we stop war from happening? And they went out and they they, you know, strategized and they put their plans into action. Can you talk a little bit about how they tried to reduce war in ancient China?


Right. So that is really intriguing. So they think that that that given the ethical theories that they adopt, it's ethically right for us to actually go out and attempt to improve society, change the world, stop bad policies, promote good ones. And war is regarded as the most harmful sort of action. So at least certain bands of most dedicated themselves to preventing war or stopping war or at least enhancing the defense of states that were being attacked. So one of their anti-war moves is simply to to march around and on the world and give talks and urge leaders not to undertake war.


And there's a long anecdote preserved in the Maud's in which Mozart himself hears that the southern state of Chu is planning to attack and conquer the smaller central state of song. And supposedly when he hears about this, he's in the northeastern state of tea. And I'm hearing about this plan. He walks 10 days and nights to reach the court of two to try to persuade the world to cancel his plan to attack Seoul and.


Well, that's the reason I'm telling you the story is that the story illustrates another aspect of their anti-war activities, more that tries to persuade the ruler to not to attack. And he says, well, I've already prepared everything we're about to set out. So I can't I can't cancel the plans now and more that explains to them that, well, he's already posted hundreds of his followers on the city walls of Seoul to defend the state of Seoul from the terror attack.


So certain bands of mullahs, besides rhetorically argued against war, actually organized themselves into paramilitary groups that were devoted to defense warfare. So this is very interesting.


Yeah, there's one one blog post that referred to the Maoists as the ancient Chinese Jedi knight, philosopher, warrior, philosopher, warrior.


So their anti-immigration and they're anti-war, but they're not pacifists. Some of them at least become legendary experts in purely defensive warfare. So they've got all these techniques for defending cities under siege that they developed. And the idea is that if you don't attack us, we won't attack. You were against aggression, but we're not against fighting. And and not only are we not against fighting, that became legendary for the effectiveness of their defense of cities.


Is it true that that they would be part of the way they spread the like, gained influence and spread their ideas was when the ruler of one area was under attack? You were about to be under attack. They would go to him and like offer to train them in defense of warfare?


Yes, I think so. And if your city was under threat, you could contract with the Maoists to defend you. And the terms of the contract were very rigorous.


Did they extract any kind of promise, like, you know, we offer our services now and in exchange, you have to promise not to attack other areas or what was their like long term?


Yeah, I don't I don't recall hearing about that. Yeah.


Maybe it was just a deterrent. Like, if everyone is fortified to the gills and and, you know, that was certainly vulnerable to attack, then no one will bother attacking.


So that story that I mentioned illustrates that point perfectly. What happens is, what's more, the the the military engineer for Troop who was planning to attack some, has developed various sort of siege machines that he's going to use to attack some. And once it demonstrates that he has a set of different counterattacks or different sorts of machines that can defend against this, he does this using his belt and a stick. So he builds like little toy models showing I was going I was going to defend against these things.


And so part of what's going obvious going going along, obviously, is to show that we've got these countermeasures prepared. And since the city is so well fortified, this should be a deterrent measure. You should just give up because you can't possibly win.


Did it work? Did did the leader refrain from attacking in?


That story is not anecdotal. It does right to the point of the anecdote as it does work.


He's successfully defended song and then on his way home in a rainstorm, he passes by the gates of song and they don't recognize him and they won't let him in out of this founder.


What? How is that. Yeah, OK, that's good.


So I first the way I first came to become interested in the most was that they were described to me by a friend as history's first rationalist. And Watsa himself apparently was known for being an amazing debater who is who is so good at logic that people just started refusing to debate him because they knew he would lose. Is that true?


I think it's an exaggeration. Well, it happens, I suppose, in what would you agree with the characterization of them as rationalists?


And I know that word has different meanings in different contexts, but but is there a version of the word that you think applies to them?


OK, we need to be very careful. So in philosophy, rationalism refers to the doctrine that the basic source of knowledge is reason. Yeah, as opposed to as opposed to empiricism, right, as opposed to the right. Clearly not that right.


If you take the pair of terms, rationalism versus empiricism, the most are antiracist at least as much as they are rational and they have no explicit conception of reason and they don't seem to appeal to reason as a source of knowledge. So I'd be very uncomfortable labeling them rationalists. And I think if someone labels them rationalists, what they're thinking is that these people have a deep commitment to thinking things through very carefully.


Yeah, I think that's what my friend meant, probably.


And a deep commitment to the following arguments were made. Basically, and so they've got this commitment to a consequentialist ethics, and if the consequentialist ethics shows that some custom doesn't have the best sorts of consequences, even if it's a beloved traditional custom, they would say, well, we'd better get that off because because it doesn't produce the sorts of consequences that we have embarked on.


And they're well known for a very important argument along those lines. You might say that one of the epic making of movies and most argumentation is to explicitly draw a distinction between customs, people's habits or traditions and what's morally right or wrong, according to some some sort of objective standard. So there most were against the elaborate. Prolonged funeral and mourning procedures and one of the arguments that critics made to them in response was to say, but these these elaborate mourning rituals.


This is what is followed by the gentlemen of the central states. If you're right that this is an unjustified pattern of conduct, then why is it that all of these people who we admire are people with high social status are so dedicated to and the most responses that that question is confusing custom with morality? Yeah, we're saying it's immoral. And you're saying but nevertheless, it is a custom. And the most response is, yes, customs can be immoral and therefore they should be changed.


But feels like such an obvious argument now. But I can I can imagine that at the time, you know, before anyone made an explicit distinction between those two things, it was it was pretty new. Yes, right, because beforehand you have people saying, well, so-and-so is a gentleman. That's the proper way of proper and the laws sort of ground, right.


You have that notion of proper ranging from etiquette through to what we would think of myself. And the most are saying, hang on, hang on. People who have certain social status and then are admired in the society are not necessarily people whose actions are justified. We need some sort of higher criteria for that. OK, so another aspect of this commitment to following arguments where they go is that they were very, very interested in the problem of finding explicit, objective criteria to determine the answers to questions.


And these criteria had to be criteria that anyone could apply, that they don't require a lot of expertise. So we need to be able to have criteria if we're saying, well, is this really the right thing to do? We need some sort of objective criteria that anyone can use so that the common people of the state can point to that criterion and say our ruler is failing to live up to these ethical criteria. Therefore, our ruler is losing legitimacy and perhaps should be replaced.


And their understanding of these criteria is modeled on Artisan's Tool's. Their typical example of what the criteria would be is the criteria should be like the Wheelwrights compass and the carpenter's square. So when a carpenter makes a table and wants to check whether or not he saw the corner properly, he takes a T-square and holds it up to the table to check whether or not the corner is actually 90 degrees. And that conception of a model or a standard is crucial to that.


They think that in every area of life, you should be able to find explicit models by which to evaluate whether or not they're doing things properly.


Now, an interesting thing about that is that the most themselves actually advocate social inequality. Really, this is kind of interesting. Yes. So they don't advocate equality. They advocate promoting what they regard as the benefit of all the world. And they think that for society to operate properly, you need to have you need to have a hierarchical social organization. And those on higher rungs of the hierarchy have to be perceived to have power and to have wealth and have a certain sort of social status.


Otherwise, people won't follow their orders, for example. They also think that to bring order to society, you have to hire talented people to attract talented people. You have to pay them well. So you have to recruit what they think of as worthy personnel. And to do so, you have to make it clear that in recruiting them, they're going to get genuine authority, that they don't simply get a government position with an empty title. They actually have some power to exercise and they have a high social rank, high social status, and they have an income that goes along with that.


Now, interestingly, they're against spending on luxuries. So if you have a relatively high social position, you have, of course, money, income, but you're not supposed to waste it on buying, you know, jewelry and pretty trinkets you're supposed to use of that income to help the poor as a moral issue. But but not because there's something actually wrong with inequality as they understand it.


So it sounds like they were they were pro meritocracy, is that right? You might say that the most invent the idea of meritocracy in Chinese political history. And certainly you would say that they are among the inventors of that idea. So much later in Chinese history, we did. We we see the development of a meritocratic civil service examination system for selecting qualified people to fill government administrative posts. And the roots of that system probably lie in the Maoist philosophy of promoting a worthy.


What was the procedure before that for assigning government positions to people? Was it basically nepotism?


Yes. OK, if if we look at what the Maoists themselves say, it was nepotism. And now probably some of what's going on there is that. They're testifying to a social transition from smaller states with a lower population would have seen only natural to the boss who was in authority to appoint his relatives to all the important positions of authority. And as society grows and these positions of authority require expertise, require a higher degree of professionalism, you see the emergence of ideas like the Maoists, which are claiming that these positions should be filled by people who are genuinely qualified for them because they've proven themselves in other positions.


Would you say that that the motives were not just consequentialist, but utilitarians like it sounds from the way you've described them, that, you know, they they have this kind of not just focus on consequences, but focus on on impartiality that, like we said, would be good to all people, irrespective of who they are, because, you know, people having good things in order is is good inherently.


And that sounds like utilitarianism to me.


Right. I wouldn't necessarily associate that with utilitarianism. So but there are ways of looking at them in which the word utility is is a convenient way of of identifying some of their prominent concerns. So, I mean, typically, if we're teaching introduction to ethics and we introduce utilitarianism or typically talking about the classical utilitarianism of Butterman Milk, right? Yeah. And so in that context, I would say utilitarianism refers to a position in which the basic good that we seek to promote or the basic good that determines what is right and wrong, permissible or impermissible, is individual happiness.


So, you know, typically when we talk about utilitarianism, we're talking about that kind of position, so it's a consequentialist theory on which the basic good counts is the consequence that we're trying to promote or maximize this individual happiness.


You you could also define the good as just people getting fulfilling their preferences, which will often line up with happiness. But isn't isn't exactly the same thing, which is sort of what I thought the most were arguing for that like material wealth and so on. Those are the things that people want. So their preference.


Satisfaction. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Utilitarianism. The most in terms of selecting their basic goods, they're not concerned whatsoever with individual happiness they hardly ever talk about.


So how did they decide what the goods were? One way of answering that question would be to say they think it's obvious what the goods are. Another way of answering that question would be to say that their God has told them, oh, they were religious. They're very deeply religious.


So interesting because all the other aspects of their philosophy, they they're associated my mind with sort of secular humanist movements like like the meritocracy and the, you know, rationalism and the progress and all the all that stuff is usually like at least in Western history, is like in opposition to conservative religious forces, the most sort of very, very deeply religious.


And in fact, if I were to change something about the book I wrote about them, it would be to emphasize the religious side of this more strongly.


Now their religion is what you might think of as this worldly religion. So they don't they don't believe in an afterlife that takes place in a sort of a different sphere of existence. They do believe in something like an afterlife, but that afterlife is your life as a ghost here in this world. So so when you when you die, you don't go somewhere else. You're still here. It's just that your physical body has dissipated, as it were, and instead you're constituted by teet.


A kind of dynamic energy breath, and that's why your ancestors are still around and you have to perform regular sacrifices to your ancestors because in effect, their ghosts are still with us.


So the most believe the God that they worship is is called kin, which is a word that refers to nature and also refers to the sky. So in effect, they're worshipping a sky, God or in nature, God, and they think that the nature of God is devoted to the very same ethical doubt that they follow. So one of their criteria for identifying the ethical dao is to look at what they think this defied conception of nature, what doubt that follows.


And they claim that nature itself follows the kind of consequentialist thought that they follow. And that's one of the reasons why we know that that that was the right one. Hmm. But so to go back to the utilitarian idea when they're articulating what that path is with that way or not, is there often describe it by saying that the tower lies in promoting the benefit of all the worlds and eliminating harm to all the world? So there's an explicit it's not exactly egalitarianism, but there's a kind of comprehensive ethical concern for everyone built into their conception of what the way is.


We're supposed to promote benefit for all the world and the word benefit that they're using the. Can be interpreted as a way of referring to utility and more like the sense we were talking about utility and economics, right? Yeah, and they'll often refer also in connection with legal also often use the Chinese word that means use or quite literally, utility. And when they're talking about utility, their conception of it is not preference satisfaction and it's not individual happiness.


So in this regard, I just said that this is something like an economics, but in this regard, it's different from that. Their conception of the or what's useful is what promotes their basic goods. So material welfare and increasing population and social order. So they're very, very focused on this conception of what's useful or beneficial in that regard. Using layman's terminology, you might call them deeply utilitarian.


Yeah, yeah. Even the one of the chapters of their text is called, I think, against fatalism. And and it just felt so modern to me, like the focus on. So they basically complained about this fatalistic attitude where people are like, well, you know, if reports because we're destined to be poor and you can't actually change anything, so you shouldn't try. And they're like, this attitude is like holding back progress. And, you know, we can actually change our faith.


Just felt very, very, very modern to me and very, very pragmatic.


Oh, yeah. It's that that doctrine, as interesting as modern readers, we might flip open their texts and find that. I mean, I know as a student I found that a relatively uninteresting doctrine, but it's actually really fundamental in two ways. One is they're arguing against the view that we don't ultimately have control over what happens to us. Right. And it's very important to them to reject that view because they're claiming that what's right and wrong is what is determined by what has the best consequences.


Right. If you can't control the consequences of your actions, that you can't control the outcomes of what you do, then you're not in control over whether what you do is right or wrong as they see it. Right. So it's absolutely fundamental to their worldview to say the consequences of our actions are up to us. I mean, of course, there are factors that we can't control, but on the whole, it's up to us what happens. Therefore, we're you know, we have to be devoted to this doll that brings about the best sorts of consequences.


So in that regard, the fatalism doctrine is very, very important to. There's another I'm not sure if you picked up on this, but there's another really interesting aspect of that doctrine for them, and that's that they use it to introduce an explicit epistemological doctrine on the epistemological doctrine is that we can determine what is correct or what is beneficial as opposed to what's incorrect or not beneficial by holding doctrines up to a set of standards. So several criteria and criteria they introduce are the deeds of the sage kings, these these semi legendary ancient rulers who are regarded as having governed the world very, very well and therefore having set a very effective precedent that we can model ourselves on so that the deeds of the sage kings, what people can hear and see, so the evidence of our senses and what's useful in practice.


So if you take some policy or some proposal and put it into practice as a government administrative policy, they want to see whether or not it has good consequences. And if it does, that counts in favour of determining what is the correct thing to do right now. What's intriguing is they take that as those three criteria, as a basis for determining whether or not, for example, fatalism is correct. And you'll notice that one of those is is a consequentialist criteria.


They apply that consequentialist criteria to determine whether or not we should accept the doctrine that faith exists.


Fatalism can't be correct because if it were, there's bad consequences. That's a very pragmatic in the philosophical sense way of thinking.


In truth, like whatever you got.


Yeah, exactly. Yeah. If something is not useful, it can't be we would say true. And this is one reason for thinking that they're actually not talking about truth. Yeah, they're talking about it all the way and that has to cover issues of truth. And you shouldn't say that they have no concept of truth. But when it comes down to, you know, giving an explicit account of how to go about arguing for the path that you propose for people to follow the criteria they use aren't at least some of them aren't obviously criteria of truth.


Yeah, that's not their main concern.


Can we talk a little bit about why their influence died out? I heard one story which I tried to refine to.


Now I can't find it again. So I don't know if this came from you or someone else. But one of the theories for why their infants died out was that as their movement grew, there were sort of parts of the movement that.


That started focusing more and more on the sort of radical lifestyle changes of the philosophy, the sort of asceticism and the theory, at least that this person was suggesting for why that happened was that it was kind of a sort of an ingroup bonding virtue signalling thing, like in the sense that a lot of subcultures like emphasize like lifestyle practices that kind of isolate them from the broader world and like signal that they're serious and and sort of, you know, ethically rigorous and things like that.


And the sort of core leadership of the Maoists didn't their views were sort of more nuanced and less focused on, like signaling that they were, you know, radically Spartan.


But the but it was sort of the fringe areas, the more radical areas of the most group that sort of had the most control over PR and that got the most attention. And and therefore, the broader society rejected them because they were like, well, your philosophy means we have to give up all these comforts of life and we don't really feel like doing that. And that to the I'm curious to what extent that story seems plausible to you, but I'll just tell you, the reason that that hit me so hard is I'm involved with this movement called Effective Altruism, which is about sort of reasoning through how to do the most good possible in an impartial way across all all sentient beings, not just in the present, but in the future.


And then, you know, using reason and evidence to try to to to effect change along those lines.


And and one thing that I see happening with effective altruism is that as the movement grows, there's sort of. There's kind of a gap between the central sort of leadership or like the sort of main thought leaders of effective altruism and then, you know, people who've just like heard about it or like, you know, read a book about effective altruism and were like less sort of involved in the central discussions about it and and this sort of radical asceticism that like in order to be good, effective altruists, you have to, you know, donate as much of your money as possible and you have to like, you know, not buy any luxuries for yourself because that money could be used to save starving children in Africa or, you know, malaria people at risk for malaria in Africa.


That's kind of like none of the central leadership believe that. But it is it's like a popular way that the public views effective altruists because it's sort of more radical. So I read the story of the decline of the Mohsen's like, oh, God, is that what's going to happen?


There's definitely an object lesson there. Yeah, yeah. No, I think I think the decline of the most probably rested on a number of different factors. So I think it's probably a very complicated story. But the fact is you're picking out I think we're certainly among them. That was certainly part of the story in terms of virtue signalling. We actually have a textual evidence for some of this. So really, in the last book of the drawings that a Daoist classic, we have an overview of different schools of thought of that time.


And in the section of that that talks about the Moez talks about groups of Maoists who are active many hundreds of years after the lifetime of of Modi himself. And it reports that they would criticize each other for not being radical enough or for not being sufficiently dedicated to the model of the ancient sage. Thank you pretty much completely gave up his personal and family life to promote the benefit of all, specifically by carrying out flood control projects.


Oh, man, this is making me so nervous.


So there are lots of different issues at stake here. One of them is this. The Maoists do admire figures such as this semi legendary, possibly fully legendary King Yu. But those are people at the top of the social hierarchy, their political leaders, and they're responding to emergencies. And the most tend to to exaggerate the extent to which any of us is ever in that position, to understand what I mean. I mean, if I'm a leader and I have power and people are following me, it was an emergency to deal with, then it makes perfect sense that I might not see my family for a few days because I'm so busy dealing with this emergency.


Yeah, but we would never advocate that as a model for the typical ethical lifestyle. It wouldn't be sustainable. Right. And it's not a model for the typical person. So it seems to me that I can give you two key points.


I think that helps to explain why the most died out. One is this.


I think that the attractive aspects of their ethics were widely absorbed into the culture at large, like meritocracy, meritocracy, the idea that, for example, one of their key doctrines was all inclusive moral care for everyone. And that terminology was picked up by a lot of different writers later on. The idea that those with power and wealth do have to exhibit some sort of concern for the rest of society was was picked up by a lot of different schools of thought.


So many of their key and most persuasive moral ideas, I think to some extent were adopted by a lot of other different thinkers.


It's not a bad way to to dialogue so soon to be. Exactly so. So in the end, because these ideas have been assimilated, they're no longer your distinctive ideas. Right. So a commitment to that position is no longer a reason to commit to your philosophical or social movement because other people are committed to that as well.


OK, and let's hope that effective altruism dies out in that way when that happens.


What are you left with? Well, another aspect of their their consequentialism is that they claimed that and these claims might have made sense in their original context. They claimed, you know, they advocated that people should spend very, very little on non-essential items in life. So in effect, you should have somewhere between two and four sets of clothing, maybe two for the summer and two for the winter. One that you wear, one that you launder, and that would be it.


And the clothing should be very simple and not have any decorations on it. When they explicitly say when you make a car or a boat or a weapon, you shouldn't have any decoration on it. Why is that? Well, because that's all wasteful. You know, all we care about is the function, the utility. And so if you fulfilled the function, if your swords are sharp and very tough, very hard, that's all that's required to make a good sword.


Doesn't have that have to have any carvings on it or any sort of decoration. So I think if we want to find out why they died out, we need to look at ponderously sources. Sources from around the time of the movement did seem to be petering out and see what their criticisms are. And their chief criticisms are not criticisms of their ethical doctrines. The criticisms or criticisms of this radical commitment to parsimony and hand in hand with the parsimony, but personally was understood by critics as entailing, erasing or downgrading social rank.


So some of the privileges of social rank are you have nice things. You have the fancy insignia that signal your social work. And their critics perceive them as advocating that those of higher social status give up these sorts of things that would signal their social rank. Now, if we look at what the Maoists actually say about this, they don't seem to say that. But but they definitely do advocate a very spartan, very simple lifestyle.


And you mentioned virtue signalling and in group competition.


Yes, I think that some groups you can kind of draw a distinction between what the most are claiming everyone should do and what they seem to be saying to their groups there in groups and in the end, groups. I think the position gets quite radical at times and they are to some extent competing to be who can be a saint.


And so the resulting lifestyle to the typical person in society is not going to seem very attractive and particular to those with wealth and social status.


It's not going to seem attractive because we're almost out of time here. But I have one last quick question and then we'll wrap up another theory that I heard about why they died out was just that their source of influence in society had been defense of warfare and helping leaders defend themselves. And then when China unified, there was. Not war for a while, and so the leaders didn't really need them in their influence. Think that's certainly part of the story as well.


Yes, there's also kind of a nice reason to be made obsolete, because when you had a world of these various small states who are all potentially under under threat of attack, it was a very good thing to have the most for your friends. Right? Right. And then once China was unified, that threat was removed. They weren't. So we're trying to I think.


Yeah, all right. I lied. I actually have one more question for you. My, my the rationally speaking pick of the episode, can you recommend a work like a book or an article even that you think is like a good representation of your fields, like a good work of philosophy or a good introduction to to some area of the book that pops into mind in terms of a very recent overview, has an interesting take on Chinese philosophy would be my colleague Franklin Perkins's recent book.


It's called Heaven and Earth I'm Not Humane. And Frank is a professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii. And I think that that's a sort of a I'm trying to think in particular books in the last five years. And that's what's sort of a nice, fresh, interesting route into the field that looks at a lot of different sorts of doctrines. He's especially concerned with how something corresponded to the problem of evil is manifested and dealt with in early Chinese philosophy.


Oh, cool.


Sounds really interesting. Well, we will link to that as well as to your website and the philosophy of the moth this month.


That's as good as it's going to get. Yeah, that's part of the problem with even talking about this stuff is we can't say the words, right.


Yeah, I mean, I've been saying it wrong in my head all this time as I read this stuff. It's partly why it's so hard, because it's not obvious at all. Yeah. Yeah.


Anyway, we'll link to to your work on the subject as well as to your great Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy description, which is where I first read about it.


And yeah. Thank you so much for being on the show.


I'm delighted to give more exposure to this fascinating group of thinkers. Thank you. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Likewise.


Well, this concludes another episode of Rationally Speaking. Join us next time for more explorations on the borderlands between reason and nonsense.