From the Principle of Rational Autonomy to the Virtuosity of Empathetic Embodiment: Reclaiming the Modern Significance of Confucian Civilization

Philosophy East and West 67 (4):1222-1247 (2017)
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By laying bare the philosophical prejudices underlying certain modern deprecations of Confucianism, this article defends the integrity of Confucian civilization and reclaims its significance for the modern world. Taking on a typical criticism of Confucian Ethics by Alsadire MacIntyre, I argue that the ideal of Confucian self can be defined neither in terms of Western concepts of autonomy nor heteronomy; it consists rather in a kind of virtuosity as inspired by the empathetic openness of the self. Through a comparative study of Confucian and typical Western ethical theories, I will demonstrate further how the empathetic embodiment of the Confucian self informs an order of ritual that may still be relevant for the modern world in promoting harmonious social and political orders that can elevate the conventional and current power hierarchies into the virtuous rule of benefaction.
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