Confucian Political Ethics

Confucian Political Ethics

Confucian Political Ethics

Confucian Political Ethics


For much of the twentieth century, Confucianism was condemned by Westerners and East Asians alike as antithetical to modernity. Internationally renowned philosophers, historians, and social scientists argue otherwise in Confucian Political Ethics. They show how classical Confucian theory--with its emphasis on family ties, self-improvement, education, and the social good--is highly relevant to the most pressing dilemmas confronting us today.

Drawing upon in-depth, cross-cultural dialogues, the contributors delve into the relationship of Confucian political ethics to contemporary social issues, exploring Confucian perspectives on civil society, government, territorial boundaries and boundaries of the human body and body politic, and ethical pluralism. They examine how Confucianism, often dismissed as backwardly patriarchal, can in fact find common ground with a range of contemporary feminist values and need not hinder gender equality. And they show how Confucian theories about war and peace were formulated in a context not so different from today's international system, and how they can help us achieve a more peaceful global community. This thought-provoking volume affirms the enduring relevance of Confucian moral and political thinking, and will stimulate important debate among policymakers, researchers, and students of politics, philosophy, applied ethics, and East Asian studies.

The contributors are Daniel A. Bell, Joseph Chan, Sin Yee Chan, Chenyang Li, Richard Madsen, Ni Lexiong, Peter Nosco, Michael Nylan, Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Lee H. Yearley.


Daniel A. Bell

Over the past several years, the Ethikon Institute has organized a number of high-level dialogue conferences in which authoritative spokespersons for diverse ethical traditions have presented the views of their respective traditions on particular topics and specific questions of great contemporary importance. the conferences are designed to identify and explore the commonalities and differences among different moral outlooks, both religious and secular. the results of these dialogue events are published in the Ethikon Series in Comparative Ethics. By thus encouraging a systematic exchange of ideas both within and across moral traditions, Ethikon seeks to advance the prospects for crosstradition consensus and to facilitate the accommodation of abiding differences. Ethikon does not take a position on issues that divide its participants, serving not as an arbiter but as a forum for the cooperative exploration of diverse and sometimes opposing views.

The first three sections in this book consist of essays that were originally written for publication in earlier volumes of the Ethikon Series alongside a variety of other perspectives. They have been assembled here to provide ready and convenient access for readers with a particular interest in the relation of Confucian political ethics to contemporary social concerns. Henry Rosemont Jr.'s essay has been substantially expanded, and the others are published with minor revisions.

The book has two additional sections with essays on themes of contemporary political import. These essays address key Confucian concerns in a comparative framework. the first section consists of essays on Confucianism and contemporary feminism. Perhaps the main normative obstacle to the effort to revive Confucianism is the perception that Confucianism is an outdated patriarchal ideology that should be relegated to the dustbin of history. But the two essays in this section show that Confucianism can take on board feminist insights without altering its major values. Sin Yee Chan draws on the central values of Confucius and Mencius to argue that Confucianism need not pose any obstacles to gender equality in contemporary society. Chenyang Li shows that there is common ground between Confucian values and feminist care ethics. Whatever the extent of antagonism in previous history, Confucianism and feminism can learn from and support each other. Both essays have been revised for this book.

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