My work on Confucianism is all about relevance. Admittedly, my first book, The Philosophy of Xunzi: A Reconstruction, pays special attention to fine metaphysical distinctions and subtle differences in translation and interpretation. But this is necessary to defend an interpretation that has contemporary significance, a flavor of which can be found in Andrew Lambert’s review. In the words of Robert Cummings Neville, “Hagen rescues Xunzi from appreciative but misleading interpretations.” He is referring to the “realist” interpretations that I challenge in this book. This is a “rescue” because the realist interpretation is a non-starter in terms of contemporary application. No one believes that the way of the ancient sage kings is the way for tomorrow. But Confucianism may yet be the philosophy of future. It just won’t be that version. I’ve offered a more adoptable one.
Indeed, in Lead Them with Virtue: A Project for a New Confucian Century (forthcoming early 2018), I show how Confucianism can help inform our thinking in a number of areas: from how we think about human rights to the justification for the use of military intervention, from the philosophy of education to the principles of world order. While many of my arguments do not depend on the particular interpretation of Confucianism that I defend in The Philosophy of Xunzi, the chapters on human rights and on education are informed by it.
Philosophers of the Warring States: A Sourcebook of Early Chinese Philosophy (forthcoming in 2018) provides translations and commentary that support the above-mentioned interpretation and applications of Confucianism, while leaving open the possibility of alternative interpretations.