Unveiling the True Nature of Confucian Humility in the Modern Context - A Methodological Proposal for Interdisciplinary - Research Combining Cultural Psychology and - East Asian Philosophy-

Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture 40:157-179 (2023)
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Abstract

Confucian humility (qian xun 謙遜) is a deeply rooted virtue in East Asian traditions and widely practiced among modern East Asians. Despite its significance, our modern understanding of it remains imperfect, partly due to a prevailing misunderstanding of its true nature under the label of “modesty­bias.” This bias is often cited as a representative trait of East Asian collectivism in social or cultural psychology, leading to a narrow focus on attitudes and behaviors associated with it, with little attention to whether it accurately reflects the historical roots of Confucian humility. This paper aims to highlight the notable differences between attitudes or behaviors related to modesty­bias and traditional Confucian humility, arguing that failing to make this distinction poses a significant obstacle to understanding Confucian humility as a virtue and its contemporary expression. Methodological suggestions are provided on how to conduct interdisciplinary research on Confucian humility, emphasizing the need to recognize and address the prejudice associated with modesty­bias. Such an interdisciplinary approach can also help discern modern attitudes or behaviors rooted in Confucian humility and shed new light on the continuing relevance of this traditional virtue in contemporary East Asian society.

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