Were the Early Confucians Virtuous?

Roger T. Ames and Jr. Henry Rosemont

in Ethics in Early China

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9789888028931
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9789882209800 | DOI:
Were the Early Confucians Virtuous?

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This chapter responds negatively to the question entitling it. While the vocabulary of virtue ethics for describing the early Confucian vision of the moral life (dào) is superior to those linked to Kantian or utilitarian principle-based ethical theories, that vocabulary, too, forces the Master and his followers more into the mold of Western philosophical discourse than they ought to be placed and hence makes it difficult to see the Confucian vision as a genuine alternative to those with which we are most familiar. The chapter claims that early (pre-Buddhist) Confucianism is best described as a role ethics. This role ethics is sui generis in both philosophy and religion, East and West, and it embodies a specific vision of human beings as relational persons constituted by the roles they live rather than as individual selves.

Keywords: Confucian vision; moral life; Confucianism; role ethics; sui generis

Chapter.  10637 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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