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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Confucian Ethics as Role-Based Ethics

A. T. Nuyen
International Philosophical Quarterly
Volume 47, Issue 3, September 2007, 315-328.

Abstract

For many commentators, Confucian ethics is a kind of virtue ethics. However, there is enough textual evidence to suggest that it can be interpreted as an ethics based on rules, consequentialist as well as deontological. Against these views, I argue that Confucian ethics is based on the roles that make an agent the person he or she is. Further, I argue that in Confucianism the question of what it is that a person ought to do cannot be separated from the question of what it is to be a person, and that the latter is answered in terms of the roles that arise from the network of social relationships in which a person stands. This does not mean that Confucian ethics is unlike anything found in Western philosophy. Indeed, I show that many Western thinkers have advanced a view of ethics similar to the Confucian ethics as I interpret it.

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