David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Asian Philosophy 19 (2):101 – 118 (2009)
This paper examines the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the light of the early Confucian thinker Mencius, arguing in essence that Mencian theories of moral development and self-cultivation can help us to recover the moral significance of Twain's novel. Although 'ethical criticisms' of Huckleberry Finn share a long history, I argue that most interpretations have failed to appreciate the moral significance of Jim, either by focusing on the moral arc of Huck in isolation or by casting Jim in one-dimensional terms simply as a symbol or example of human dignity. By invoking the Mencian ideas of 'moral power' ( de ), human goodness, and the virtues of sympathy and humaneness, this study attempts to bring into relief the many ways that Jim, particularly in his role as an exemplar, functions as an active force in the moral life of Huck. It is hoped that this revised Mencian reading of Huckleberry Finn can restore the moral center of the novel and contribute to the growing discussion on the virtues in moral education
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