Immorality and Bu Daode, Unculturedness and Bu Wenming

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In contemporary Western moral philosophy literature that discusses the Chinese ethical tradition, it is a commonplace practice to use the Chinese term daode 道德 as a technical translation of the English term moral. The present study provides some empirical evidence showing a discrepancy between the terms moral and daode. There is a much more pronounced difference between prototypically immoral and prototypically uncultured behaviors in English (USA) than between prototypically bu daode 不道德 and prototypically bu wenming 不文明 behaviors in Mandarin Chinese (Mainland China). If the Western concept of immorality is defined in contraposition to things that are matters of etiquette or conventional norms and thus tied to a more or less tangible moral / conventional distinction, then we are dealing with a different structure in Mandarin Chinese – the prototypically bu daode and bu wenming behaviors seem to largely overlap. We also discuss whether bu lunli 不倫理 and bu hefa 不合法 can be considered adequate candidates for translation of immorality and we answer in the negative.
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Modern Moral Philosophy.Anscombe, G. E. M.

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