David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 8 (4):383-401 (2009)
Although contemporary Confucianists tend to view Western liberalism as pitting the individual against society, recent liberal scholarship has vigorously claimed that liberal polity is indeed grounded in the self-transformation that produces “liberal virtues.” To meet this challenge, this essay presents a sophisticated Confucian critique of liberalism by arguing that there is an appreciable contrast between liberal and Confucian self-transformation and between liberal and Confucian virtues. By contrasting Locke and Confucius, key representatives of each tradition, this essay shows that both liberalism and Confucianism aim to reconstruct a society freed from antisocial passions entailing a vicious politics of resentment, and yet come to differing ethical and political resolutions. My key claim is that what makes Confucian self-cultivation so distinctive is the incorporation of ritual propriety ( li ) within it, whereas liberal self-transformation that relies heavily on a method of self-control comes back to the problem that it originally set out to overcome.
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