Confucian Relational Hermeneutics, the Emotions, and Ethical Life

In Paul Fairfield & Saulius Geniusas (eds.), Relational Hermeneutics: Essays in Comparative Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 193-204 (2018)
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In paradigmatic Confucian (Ruist) discourses, emotion (qing) has been depicted as co-arising with human nature (xing) and an irreducible constitutive source of human practices and their interpretation. The affects are concurrently naturally arising and alterable through how individuals react and respond to them and how they are or are not cultivated. That is, emotions are relationally mediated realities given in and transformed through how they are felt, understood, interpreted, and acted upon. Confucian discourses have elucidated the ethical character of the emotions and sought to understand and cultivate emotional life as a hermeneutical and ethical task in establishing expectable patterns of human flourishing that orient virtues, roles, and relations. In this chapter, I explore the extent to which classical Ruist and Neo-Confucian discourses offer hermeneutical models for interpreting the complex interconnections between moral psychology and their mediations in the ethical life world. By examining a range of Confucian sources, the author argues that Confucian “moral psychologies” clarify affective dimensions of human existence within the interpersonal nexus of ethical life and indicate ways of cultivating affective awareness for relationally understanding and interpreting others, one’s world, and oneself.
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