A Non‐Sectarian Comprehensive Confucianism?—On Kim's Public Reason Confucianism

Journal of Social Philosophy 50 (2):145-162 (2019)
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In Public Reason Confucianism, Kim Sungmoon presents a perfectionist theory that is based on a partially comprehensive Confucian doctrine but is non-sectarian, since the doctrine is widely shared in East Asian societies. Despite its attractiveness, I argue that this project, unfortunately, fails because it is still vulnerable to the sectarian critique. The blurred distinction between partially and fully comprehensive doctrines will create a loophole problem. Sectarian laws and policies may gain legitimacy that they do not deserve. I further defend political Confucianism, which is regarded by Kim as an inadequately intelligible form of Confucianism. Kim assumes a too narrow understanding of intelligibility. Although political Confucianism may not be politically intelligible, it is civically intelligible, i.e. it is culturally intelligibly different from other political theories in terms of its implications in citizens’ actions in civil society. In light of civic intelligibility, the distinctiveness of political Confucianism should not be underestimated.

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Baldwin Wong
Hong Kong Baptist University


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