Confucianism, Curiosity, and Moral Self-Cultivation

In Ilhan Inan, Lani Watson, Safiye Yigit & Dennis Whitcomb (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Curiosity. New York: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 97-116 (2018)
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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’ requires the virtue of curiosity, while the normative practice of good questioning requires exercise of the virtue of inquisitiveness. Taken together, people engaging in the foundational Confucian project of moral self-cultivation must desire and acquire a range of epistemic goods, a set of dispositions that manifest in the virtues of curiosity and inquisitiveness, possession of which is admirable and excellent. Such, at least, is the claim defend in this chapter, which is an exercise in cross-cultural virtue epistemology.

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Ian James Kidd
Nottingham University


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