For some reason the New York Times has opened up its pages to Proselytizing, so long s you cram your (long!) article chock full of three or four Namedrops per paragraph. (The namedropping is so that your approach gives off the aura of Academia, rather than self-defining Hucksterism.)
This kung fu approach shares a lot of insights with the Aristotelian virtue ethics, which focuses on the cultivation of the agent instead of on the formulation of rules of conduct. Yet unlike Aristotelian ethics, the kung fu approach to ethics does not rely on any metaphysics for justification. One does not have to believe in a pre-determined telos for humans in order to appreciate the excellence that kung fu brings. This approach does lead to recognition of the important guiding function of metaphysical outlooks though. For instance a person who follows the Aristotelian metaphysics will clearly place more effort in cultivating her intelligence, whereas a person who follows the Confucian relational metaphysics will pay more attention to learning rituals that would harmonize interpersonal relations. This approach opens up the possibility of allowing multiple competing visions of excellence, including the metaphysics or religious beliefs by which they are understood and guided, and justification of these beliefs is then left to the concrete human experiences.
The problem with this isn’t the subject matter (which is, in fact, historically and culturally interesting) but that this is an endorsement, not an overview. “Multiple competing visions of excellence”? Is that like the “many other ways of knowing”? Yes– yes it is.
This isn’t Philosophy at all, but Anthropology at its very worst (i.e., what it has become): didactic advocacy of a system of belief, rather than the study of societies and their ways.
And as a closer, a call to escape those confining bounds of Rationality:
If philosophy is “a way of life,” as Pierre Hadot puts it, the kung fu approach suggests that we take philosophy as the pursuit of the art of living well, and not just as a narrowly defined rational way of life.
Isn’t leaving this until the last sentence burying the lede so far that Professor Ni could be legitimately accused of purposely hiding it? Instead of “Kung Fu for Philosophers”, shouldn’t this be more accurately entitled: “A Laboredly Erudite Call for Irrationality (with Footnotes)”?