Ren in the analects: Skeptical prolegomena

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (1):89-105 (2012)
Abstract
Ren in the Lunyu is often taken to be virtue; if virtue is taken to be excellence as performing a function, as Plato understands it, this is not persuasive. Nor is it easy to show how ren encompasses or implies all other virtues. Ren is furthermore ambiguous—it is used both in a wide sense and specifically as benevolence; in fact there are at least six accounts of what ren is in the Lunyu. This ambiguity cannot be made harmless by use of speech act theory, since commands, for example, require satisfaction conditions for them to be comprehensible. I conclude on a skeptical note: how ren is to be understood as virtue, if at all, remains unclear
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