Antong Liu is a postdoctoral research associate in the Political Theory Project at Brown University in 2019-2021. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science at Duke University (2019) and his LL.B. in International Politics and Sociology at Peking University (2012). He works on the modern history of political thought, with a focus on political passions and ethics, and takes an interest in comparative political theory.
In his dissertation, entitled "The Modernization of Honor in Eighteenth-Century Political Theory," Antong attempts to tackle a problem that modern citizens have to face: How can it be possible for them to not only respect the rule of law by which the modern state arbitrates conflicts among individuals and social groups, but also remain willing to resist the injustice that may originate exactly from the state or dominant social groups? In response to this problem, he studies the seemingly quixotic sense of honor and investigates the ways in which several prominent thinkers of the eighteenth century (Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Kant, in particular) endeavored to modernize it. Contrary to the belief that these thinkers deviated from the tradition of honor and turned honor into a private matter of maintaining one’s integrity, Antong argues that they faithfully inherited the medieval legacy of chivalric honor passed down to them via Hobbes, Mandeville, and Montesquieu. In addition, these thinkers significantly democratized and secularized the sense of honor and improved its compatibility with the modern state characterized by equal citizenship, centralized government, and the rule of law. As a uniquely structured motivation, the sense of honor combines an individual’s sensitivity to social opinion and one’s independence precisely therefrom into an integral whole. In modernizing honor, eighteenth-century thinkers attempted to preserve it as a political motivation for modern individuals to balance their spirits of resistance and law-abidingness. Thus, it remains useful for liberal-democratic citizens today to stand up to injustice without being much attracted to vigilante justice.