Mencius and the Natural Environment

Environmental Ethics 31 (4):359-374 (2009)
Abstract
Environmental ethicists who look toward East Asian philosophies in their quest for a fruitful way of conceiving the relationship of humans to nature often turn to Taoism and Buddhism for inspiration. They rarely turn to Confucianism. Moreover, among those who do look to Confucianism for inspiration, almost no attention is given to the early Confucians, most likely because they are seen as embracing a humanist perspective—that is, they are concerned with how humans should relate to other humans and with the flourishing of human societies. An initial examination of an early Confucian, Mencius, who did consider his attitude toward nature, suggests that he viewed the natural world only as an instrument to promote human welfare. However, this account is not entirely fair to him, for an expansion of Mencius’ fundamental tenets can lead to an interesting account of the relation of humans and nature—one that balances human concerns with respect for nature. Mencius would very likely have endorsed this expansion
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