Classical Confucianism

Edited by Hagop Sarkissian (CUNY Graduate Center, Baruch College (CUNY))
Assistant editor: Andrew Lambert (College of Staten Island (CUNY))
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  1. The Suberogation Problem for Lei Zhong's Confucian Virtue Theory of Supererogation.Tsung-Hsing Ho - 2019 - Philosophy East and West 69 (3):779-784.
    A virtue-based theory of right action aims to explain deontic moral principles in terms of virtue and vice. For example, it may maintain the following account of moral obligation: It is morally obligatory for an agent A to ϕ in circumstances C if and only if a fully virtuous and relevantly informed person V would characteristically ϕ in C. However, this account faces the so-called supererogation problem. A supererogatory action is an action that is morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory. (...)
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  2. Do Filial Values Corrupt? How Can We Know? Clarifying and Assessing the Recent Confucian Debate.Hagop Sarkissian - forthcoming - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.
    In a number of papers, Liu Qingping has critiqued Confucianism’s commitment to ‘consanguineous affection’ or filial values, claiming it to be excessive and indefensible. Many have taken issue with his textual readings and interpretive claims, but these responses do little to undermine the force of his central claim that filial values cause widespread corruption in Chinese society. This is not an interpretive claim but an empirical one. If true, it merits serious consideration. But is it true? How can we know? (...)
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  3. When You Think It's Bad It's Worse Than You Think: Psychological Bias and the Ethics of Negative Character Assessments.Hagop Sarkissian - 2015 - In Brian Bruya (ed.), The Philosophical Challenge from China. Cambridge, MA, USA: pp. 3-21.
    We often find ourselves thinking of others as boring, nauseating, dim, dodgy, clumsy, or otherwise irritating or unpleasant. What’s the right thing to do when we have such thoughts? Some philosophers argue we ought to be civil and conceal them, lest others pick up on them and feel disrespected. Drawing on experimental psychology and classical Confucianism, I argue otherwise, suggesting that we ought to (literally) doubt such appraisals and be wary of their veracity.
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  4. Is Self-Regulation a Burden or a Virtue? A Comparative Perspective.Hagop Sarkissian - 2014 - In Nancy Snow & Franco V. Trivigno (eds.), The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness: An Empirical Approach to Character and Happiness. New York, NY, USA: pp. 181-196.
    Confucianism demands that individuals comport themselves according to the strictures of ritual propriety—specific forms of speech, clothing, and demeanor attached to a vast array of life circumstances. This requires self-regulation, a cognitive resource of limited supply. When this resource is depleted, a person can experience undesirable consequences such as social isolation and alienation. However, one’s cultural background may be an important mediator of such costs; East Asians, in particular, seem to have comparatively greater self-regulatory strength. I offer some considerations as (...)
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  5. 因小得大: 情境论于道德哲学的困难与可能 (Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy).Hagop Sarkissian - 2012 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture 9.
    This is a translation of "Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs" (2010) prepared by 黃玉娥 for the Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture for a special issue edited by Brian Bruya on cognitive science and early Chinese philosophy.
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  6. 고전 유교에서의 감정: 내면과 외면" ("Emotions in Classical Confucianism: Inside and Out").Hagop Sarkissian - 2012 - In 유교 도교 불교의 감성이론 (Theories of Emotion in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism). Seoul:
    Classical Confucian thought is full of discussion of human emotions, reflecting a preoccupation with the inner life-how one ought to feel 'on the inside', as it were. Yet alongside these passages are others that seem, by contrast, to be concerned with matters external to one's emotions and psychology: how one ought to dress, speak, walk, and talk. Yet passages such as these, which draw attention to details of individual expression and comportment, are not at all tangential when it comes to (...)
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  7. Mencius and Augustine on Evil.Bryan Van Norden - 2001 - In Bo Mou (ed.), Two Roads to Wisdom? La Salle, IL, USA: Open Court. pp. 313-36.
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  8. Situationism, Manipulation, and Objective Self-Awareness.Hagop Sarkissian - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):489-503.
    Among those taking the implications of situationism seriously, some have suggested exploiting our tendency to be shaped by our environments toward desirable ends. The key insight here is that if experimental studies produce reliable, probabilistic predictions about the effects of situational variables on behavior—for example, how people react to the presence or absence of various sounds, objects, and their placement—then we should deploy those variables that promote prosocial behavior, while avoiding or limiting those that tend toward antisocial behavior. Put another (...)
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  9. Review of Boston Confucianism: Portable Tradition in the Late-Modern World by Robert Cummings Neville. [REVIEW]Bryan William van Norden - 2003 - Philosophy East and West 53 (3):413-417.
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  10. Confucianism and African Conceptions of Value, Reality and Knowledge (儒家思想与非洲的价值观、现实 观与知识观).Thaddeus Metz - 2016 - International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition 国际社会科学杂志) 33 (4):159-170.
    This article, translated into Chinese by Tian Kaifang, summarizes and critically reflects on the current state of the literature that has recently begun to put Chinese Confucianism into dialogue with characteristically African conceptions of what is good, what fundamentally exists, and how to obtain knowledge. As most of this literature has addressed value theory, this article focuses largely on it, too. It first illustrates how similar the foundational values are between the two cultural traditions; central to both traditional China and (...)
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  11. Olberding, Amy, Ed., Dao Companion to the Analects: New York: Springer, 2014, Vi + 369 Pages. [REVIEW]Bryan Van Norden - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (4):605-608.
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  12. Seek and You Will Find It; Let Go and You Will Lose It: Exploring a Confucian Approach to Human Dignity.Peimin Ni - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):173-198.
    While the concept of Menschenwürde (universal human dignity) has served as the foundation for human rights, it is absent in the Confucian tradition. However, this does not mean that Confucianism has no resources for a broadly construed notion of human dignity. Beginning with two underlying dilemmas in the notion of Menschenwürde and explaining how Confucianism is able to avoid them, this essay articulates numerous unique features of a Confucian account of human dignity, and shows that the Confucian account goes beyond (...)
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  13. Confucian Rights as a "Fallback Apparatus” 作为“备用机制”的儒家权利.Justin Tiwald - 2013 - Academic Monthly 学术月刊 45 (11):41-49.
    Liang Tao and Kuang Zhao, trans. Confucian rights can be characterized as a kind of “fallback apparatus,” necessary only when preferred mechanisms—for example, familial and neighborly care or traditional courtesies—would otherwise fail to protect basic human interests. In this paper, I argue that the very existence of such rights is contingent on their ability to function as remedies for dysfunctional social relationships or failures to develop the virtues that sustain harmonious Confucian relationships. Moreover, these remedies are not, strictly speaking, rights-based, (...)
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  14. Confucianism's Political Implications for the Modern World.Ranjoo Seodu Herr - 2010 - In Miguel Vatter (ed.), Crediting God: The Fate of Religion and Politics in the Age of Global Capitalism.
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  15. Moral Reason, Moral Sentiments and the Realization of Altruism: A Motivational Theory of Altruism.JeeLoo Liu - 2012 - Asian Philosophy 22 (2):93-119.
    This paper begins with Thomas Nagel's (1970) investigation of the possibility of altruism to further examine how to motivate altruism. When the pursuit of the gratification of one's own desires generally has an immediate causal efficacy, how can one also be motivated to care for others and to act towards the well-being of others? A successful motivational theory of altruism must explain how altruism is possible under all these motivational interferences. The paper will begin with an exposition of Nagel's proposal, (...)
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  16. Inference in the Mengzi 1A:7.Koji Tanaka - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (3):444-454.
    In 1A:7 of the Mengzi, Mengzi tries to convince King Xuan of Qi that he is a “true” king. As a reading of Mengzi’s reasoning involved in his attempt at persuasion, David Nivison advances an inferential view, according to which Mengzi’s persuasion involves inferences. In this paper, I consider the assumptions underlying the objections raised against Nivison’s inferential view. I argue that these objections assume a contemporary Western view about the nature of logic and inferences. I propose an alternative characterisation (...)
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  17. Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius. [REVIEW]Ben Mulvey - 2009 - Teaching Philosophy 32 (2):209-213.
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  18. Confucian Democracy and Equality.Ranjoo Seodu Herr - 2010 - Asian Philosophy 20 (3):261-282.
    “Confucian democracy” is considered oxymoronic because Confucianism is viewed as lacking an idea of equality among persons necessary for democracy. Against this widespread opinion, this article argues that Confucianism presupposes a uniquely Confucian idea of equality and that therefore a Confucian conception of democracy distinct from liberal democracy is not only conceptually possible but also morally justifiable. This article engages philosophical traditions of East and West by, first, reconstructing the prevailing position based on Joshua Cohen’s political liberalism; second, articulating a (...)
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  19. Is Confucianism Compatible with Care Ethics? A Critique.Ranjoo Seodu Herr - 2003 - Philosophy East and West 53 (4):471-489.
    This essay critically examines a suggestion proposed by some Confucianists that Confucianism and Care Ethics share striking similarities and that feminism in Confucian societies might take “a new form of Confucianism.” Aspects of Confucianism and Care Ethics that allegedly converge are examined, including the emphasis on human relationships, and it is argued that while these two perspectives share certain surface similarities, moral injunctions entailed by their respective ideals of ren and caring are not merely distinctive but in fact incompatible.
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  20. Review of Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. [REVIEW]Bryan van Norden - 1996 - Journal of Asian Studies 55 (4):983-84.
    Self-cultivation is a topic that has been largely ignored by Western moral philosophers. In contrast, it is a central concern of philosophers in the Confucian tradition. In this brief and highly readable book, Ivanhoe introduces the theories of self-cultivation of some of the most important figures in the Confucian tradition. (See the table of contents, below.) Although Confucianism is sometimes presented as a monolithic movement, Ivanhoe stresses the diversity within the Confucian tradition over more than 2,000 years. In addition to (...)
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  21. On “Humane Love” and “Kinship Love”.Bryan W. Van Norden - 2008 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (2):125-129.
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  22. Sim, May, Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius. [REVIEW]Bryan Van Norden - 2009 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 8 (1):109-111.
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Confucius
  1. A Confucian Perspective on Tertiary Education for the Common Good.Edmond Eh - 2018 - Journal of the Macau Ricci Institute 3:26-34.
    Confucian education is best captured by the programme described in the Great Learning. Education is presented first as the process of self-cultivation for the sake of developing virtuous character. Self-cultivation then allows for virtue to be cultivated in the familial, social and international dimensions. My central thesis is that Confucianism can serve as a universal framework of educating people for the common good in its promotion of personal cultivation for the sake of human progress. On this account the common good (...)
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  2. Non-Impositional Rule in Confucius and Aristotle.Matthew D. Walker - 2019 - In Alexus McLeod (ed.), The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Early Chinese Ethics and Political Philosophy. London, UK: pp. 187-204.
    I examine and compare Confucian wu-wei rule and Aristotelian non-imperative rule as two models of non-impositional rule. How exactly do non-impositional rulers, according to these thinkers, generate order? And how might a Confucian/Aristotelian dialogue concerning non-impositional rule in distinctively political contexts proceed? Are Confucians and Aristotelians in deep disagreement, or do they actually have more in common than they initially seem?
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  3. Ritual and Rightness in the Analects.Hagop Sarkissian - 2013 - In Amy Olberding (ed.), Dao Companion to the Analects. pp. 95-116.
    Li (禮) and yi (義) are two central moral concepts in the Analects. Li has a broad semantic range, referring to formal ceremonial rituals on the one hand, and basic rules of personal decorum on the other. What is similar across the range of referents is that the li comprise strictures of correct behavior. The li are a distinguishing characteristic of Confucian approaches to ethics and socio-political thought, a set of rules and protocols that were thought to constitute the wise (...)
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  4. Adversity, Wisdom, and Exemplarism.Ian James Kidd - 2018 - Journal of Value Inquiry 52 (4):379-393.
    According to a venerable ideal, the core aim of philosophical practice is wisdom. The guiding concern of the ancient Greek, Indian, and Chinese traditions was the nature of the good life for human beings and the nature of reality. Central to these traditions is profound recognition of the subjection to adversities intrinsic to human life. I consider paradigmatic exemplars of wisdom, from ancient Western and Asian traditions, and the ways that experiences of adversity shaped their life. The suggestion is that (...)
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  5. Confucianism, Curiosity, and Moral Self-Cultivation.Ian James Kidd - forthcoming - In Ilhan Inan, Lani Watson, Safiye Yigit & Dennis Whitcomb (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Curiosity. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 00-00.
    I propose that Confucianism incorporates a latent commitment to the closely related epistemic virtues of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Confucian praise of certain people, practices, and dispositions is only fully intelligible if these are seen as exercises and expressions of epistemic virtues, of which curiosity and inquisitiveness are the obvious candidates. My strategy is to take two core components of Confucian ethical and educational practice and argue that each presupposes a specific virtue. To have and to express a ‘love of learning’ (...)
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  6. A Genealogical Study of De: Poetical Correspondence of Sky, Earth, and Humankind in the Early Chinese Virtuous Rule of Benefaction.Huaiyu Wang - 2015 - Philosophy East and West 65 (1):81-124.
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  7. The Question of Resentment in Nietzsche and Confucian Ethics.Eric S. Nelson - 2013 - Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies 10 (1):17-51.
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  8. 先秦儒家关于“欲”的理论 (Pre-Qin Confucian Theory on Human Desires).Keqian Xu - 2006 - 中州学刊 (Academic Journal of Zhongzhou) 2006 (1):166-170.
    The theory about human desire is one important component in early Confucian theory of humanity. It is worth our attention that Pre-Qin Confucians never put human desire at the absolute opposite position to the Heavenly Principle, as their successors do. Contrarily, they generally believe that the desire is the inseparable property of normal human nature, and making efforts to satisfy the human desire is reasonable. Only in terms of reducing the conflicts between human desire and the limited resources they advocate (...)
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  9. Confucius's Virtue Politics: Ren as Leadership Virtue.Shirong Luo - 2012 - Asian Philosophy 22 (1):15-35.
    This essay calls attention to an aspect of Confucius's notion of ren that has often been overlooked or even denied in much recent discussion of the topic. While the egalitarian aspect of ren, i.e., the idea that every human being has the potential to become a ren person, is frequently asserted, the leadership dimension of ren has for the most part been given short shrift. I argue that for Confucius, ren is the leadership virtue. This conclusion is mainly based on (...)
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  10. Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Philosophers' Imprint 10.
    Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. Situationism has been seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. Besides being (...)
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  11. Confucius and the Effortless Life of Virtue.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 27 (1):1-16.
    Natural talent and diligent practice regularly lead to effortless virtuosity in many fields, such as music and athletics. Can the same be true of morality? Confucius’s wonderfully terse autobiography in the Analects suggests that, given the right starting materials and an appropriate curriculum of study, a program of moral self-cultivation can indeed lead to effortless moral virtuosity. But can we make sense of this claim from a contemporary perspective? This paper evaluates the plausibility of the moral ideal in the Analects (...)
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  12. Recent Approaches to Confucian Filial Morality.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (9):725-734.
    A hallmark of Confucian morality is its emphasis on duties to family and kin as weighty features of moral life. The virtue of ‘filiality’ or ‘filial piety’ (xiao 孝), for example, is one of the most important in the Confucian canon. This aspect of Confucianism has been of renewed interest recently. On the one hand, some have claimed that, precisely because it acknowledges the importance of kin duties, Confucianism should be seen as an ethics rooted in human nature that remains (...)
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  13. The Authority of the Master in the Analects.David Elstein - 2009 - Philosophy East and West 59 (2):pp. 142-172.
    This article takes issue with the stereotype of "Confucianism" as authoritarian, a view common in discussions of modern China as well as in scholarship on early China. By studying the roles of master and students and the relationship between them in the Analects , it attempts to show that according to this text the master did not occupy a position of complete dominance over the student. Masters are not generally considered to be like fathers, and students have more room to (...)
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  14. The Dao of Kongzi.Bryan W. van Norden - 2002 - Asian Philosophy 12 (3):157 – 171.
    This paper introduces the Analects of Kongzi (better known to English-speakers as 'Confucius') to non-specialist readers, and discusses two major lines of interpretation. According to one group of interpretations, the key to understanding the Analects is passage 4.15, in which a disciple says that 'loyalty' and 'reciprocity' together make up the 'one thread' of the Master's teachings. More recently, some interpreters have emphasised passage 13.3, which discusses 'correcting names': bringing words and things into proper alignment. This paper argues that both (...)
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Mencius
  1. Mengzi and Virtue Ethics.Bryan Van Norden - 2003 - Journal of Ecumenical Studies 40 (1-2):120-36.
    I want first to present an overview of what I take to be Mengzi's own systematic ethics, which I shall approach as a version of "virtue ethics," and second to examine some of the standard arguments against Mengzi's position. -/- .
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  2. Correlative Reasoning About Water in Mengzi 6A2.Nicholaos Jones - 2016 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 15 (2):193-207.
    Mengzi 孟子 6A2 contains the famous water analogy for the innate goodness of human nature. Some evaluate Mengzi’s reasoning as strong and sophisticated; others, as weak or sophistical. I urge for more nuance in our evaluation. Mengzi’s reasoning fares poorly when judged by contemporary standards of analogical strength. However, if we evaluate the analogy as an instance of correlative thinking within a yin-yang 陰陽 cosmology, his reasoning fares well. That cosmology provides good reason to assert that water tends to flow (...)
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  3. Mencius on Moral Responsibility.Xinyan Jiang - 2002 - In The Examined Life: Chinese Perspectives: Essays on Chinese Ethical Traditions. Global Publications, Binghamton University. pp. 1--141.
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  4. 先秦儒家关于“欲”的理论 (Pre-Qin Confucian Theory on Human Desires).Keqian Xu - 2006 - 中州学刊 (Academic Journal of Zhongzhou) 2006 (1):166-170.
    The theory about human desire is one important component in early Confucian theory of humanity. It is worth our attention that Pre-Qin Confucians never put human desire at the absolute opposite position to the Heavenly Principle, as their successors do. Contrarily, they generally believe that the desire is the inseparable property of normal human nature, and making efforts to satisfy the human desire is reasonable. Only in terms of reducing the conflicts between human desire and the limited resources they advocate (...)
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  5. Qing (情) and Emotion in Early Chinese Thought.Brian Bruya - 2001 - Ming Qing Yanjiu 2001:151-176.
    In a 1967 article, A. C. Graham made the claim that 情 qing should never be translated as "emotions" in rendering early Chinese texts into English. Over time, sophisticated translators and interpreters have taken this advice to heart, and qing has come to be interpreted as "the facts" or "what is genuine in one." In these English terms all sense of interrelationality is gone, leaving us with a wooden, objective stasis. But we also know, again partly through the work of (...)
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  6. Recent Approaches to Confucian Filial Morality.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (9):725-734.
    A hallmark of Confucian morality is its emphasis on duties to family and kin as weighty features of moral life. The virtue of ‘filiality’ or ‘filial piety’ (xiao 孝), for example, is one of the most important in the Confucian canon. This aspect of Confucianism has been of renewed interest recently. On the one hand, some have claimed that, precisely because it acknowledges the importance of kin duties, Confucianism should be seen as an ethics rooted in human nature that remains (...)
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  7. Mencius on Human Nature and Courage.Xinyan Jiang - 1997 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 24 (3):265-289.
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  8. A Hermeneutic Reconstruction of the Child in the Well Example.Robert E. Allinson - 1992 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (3):297-308.
    This article draws on two Mencian illustrations of human goodness: the example of the child in the well and the metaphor of the continually deforested mountain. By reconstructing Mencius’ two novel ideas within the framework of a phenomenological thought-experiment, this article’s purpose is to explain the validity of this uncommon approach to ethics, an approach which recognizes that subjective participation is necessary to achieve any ethical understanding. It is through this active phenomenological introspection that the individual grasps the goodness of (...)
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  9. Mencius on Courage.Bryan W. Norden & Bryan Van Norden - 1997 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 21 (1):237-256.
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  10. The Way of Heart: Mencius' Understanding of Justice.Huaiyu Wang - 2009 - Philosophy East and West 59 (3):pp. 317-363.
    Through a comparative study of the meanings and origins of justice symbolized in the Greek word dikē and the Chinese word yi 毅, this essay explores an alternative understanding of justice exemplified in Mencius' teaching and illuminates a possibility of social and political justice that originates in the human heart instead of reason. On the basis of a genealogical study of yi that identifies its root meanings as "the dignity of the self" and "amity and affinity," this study recovers and (...)
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Xunzi
  1. On the View That People and Not Institutions Bear Primary Credit for Success in Governance: Confucian Arguments.Justin Tiwald - 2019 - Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture 31:65-97.
    This paper explicates the influential Confucian view that “people” and not “institutional rules” are the proper sources of good governance and social order, as well as some notable Confucian objections to this position. It takes Xunzi 荀子, Hu Hong 胡宏, and Zhu Xi 朱熹 as the primary representatives of the “virtue-centered” position, which holds that people’s good character and not institutional rules bear primary credit for successful governance. And it takes Huang Zongxi 黃宗羲 as a major advocate for the “institutionalist” (...)
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  2. Aquinas and Gregory the Great on the Puzzle of Petitionary Prayer.Scott Hill - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
    I defend a solution to the puzzle of petitionary prayer based on some ideas of Aquinas, Gregory the Great, and contemporary desert theorists. I then address a series of objections. Along the way broader issues about the nature of desert, what is required for an action to have a point, and what is required for a puzzle to have a solution are discussed.
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  3. Xunzi and Virtue Epistemology.Cheng-Hung Tsai - 2014 - Universitas 41 (3):121-142.
    Regulative virtue epistemology argues that intellectual virtues can adjust and guide one’s epistemic actions as well as improve on the quality of the epistemic actions. For regulative virtue epistemologists, intellectual virtues can be cultivated to a higher degree; when the quality of intellectual virtue is better, the resulting quality of epistemic action is better. The intellectual virtues that regulative epistemologists talk about are character virtues (such as intellectual courage and open-mindedness) rather than faculty virtues (such as sight and hearing), since (...)
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  4. 先秦儒家关于“欲”的理论 (Pre-Qin Confucian Theory on Human Desires).Keqian Xu - 2006 - 中州学刊 (Academic Journal of Zhongzhou) 2006 (1):166-170.
    The theory about human desire is one important component in early Confucian theory of humanity. It is worth our attention that Pre-Qin Confucians never put human desire at the absolute opposite position to the Heavenly Principle, as their successors do. Contrarily, they generally believe that the desire is the inseparable property of normal human nature, and making efforts to satisfy the human desire is reasonable. Only in terms of reducing the conflicts between human desire and the limited resources they advocate (...)
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