Confucianism and ubuntu: Reflections on a dialogue between chinese and african traditions

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (s1):78-95 (2011)
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In this article we focus on three key precepts shared by Confucianism and the African ethic of Ubuntu: the central value of community, the desirability of ethical partiality, and the idea that we tend to become morally better as we grow older. For each of these broad similarities, there are key differences underlying them, and we discuss those as well as speculate about the reasons for them. Our aim is not to take sides, but we do suggest ways that Ubuntu and Confucianism might have something to learn from each other and perhaps come closer. We hope that our preliminary reflections can inspire further debate and thinking on a theme – dialogues between long-standing and large-scale non-Western traditions – that is bound to increase in importance as non-Western societies play a greater role in the global system and as the search continues for a 'global ethic'.

Author Profiles

Thaddeus Metz
Cornell University (PhD)
Daniel Bell
University of Auckland


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