Bruce Lee, Zhixing, and the trolley problem: Cultivating the right response in the desperate moment

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

When an agent comes across a desperate situation, his ability to perform the right action is often not a mere matter of theoretical clarification, but practical deliverance. In the case of Trolley, for instance, even if it would be morally better for the agent to save five lives by diverting an out-of-control trolley onto an innocent victim, he might not have the strength and determination to perform the action. This point is echoed by the martial artist Bruce Lee in his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Lee says that in the case of street combat, unless the agent is prepared to die, and has complete devotion to deal with the difficulty which arises in the moment, he will not survive the challenge. In this paper, I will describe this ability with reference to the virtue of zhixing 直性; the literal meaning of zhixing involves a preparedness to respond to challenge in a straightforward manner and with complete determination. In addition to Lee’s elaboration, I will explain the virtue of zhixing with reference to the doctrines of Zen Buddhism and Confucianism respectively. Copyright © 2016 In Pursuit of Wisdom Conference.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Fingerprint

Trolley Problem
Artist
Right Action
Deliverance
Doctrine
Confucianism
Tao
Literal Meaning
Zen Buddhism
Elaboration
Devotion

Citation

Sin, W. (2016, January). Bruce Lee, Zhixing, and the trolley problem: Cultivating the right response in the desperate moment. Paper presented at the In Pursuit of Wisdom Conference: Ancient Chinese and Greek perspectives on cultivation, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.