Journal Article

Confucian Humanism and Theodicy

Weigang Chen

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 80, issue 4, pages 932-970
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online October 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Confucian Humanism and Theodicy

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This article explores the puzzle of Confucian “divine humanism” in light of the Weberian scheme of religious rationalization. Relating the Confucian humanistic orientation to current discussions of the phenomenon of “amoral familism,” I argue that the Confucian puzzle calls into question the cornerstone of Max Weber's comparative religion, namely his influential contrast between religious legitimation and theodicy. In particular, the puzzle suggests that in pre-Confucian China, there was no legitimate cosmic-social world order to which Confucianism managed to adjust, let alone to affirm. As a matter of fact, it was the Confucian solution to the problem of theodicy that laid the foundation for the legitimacy of the ethical polity. Hence, inverting what Weber and neo-Weberian theorists have asserted about the religious breakthroughs in the Axial Age, theodicy constituted the religious prerequisite for political legitimation.

Journal Article.  14240 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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