Conformity, Individuality, and the Nature of Virtue: A Classical Confucian Contribution to Contemporary Ethical Reflection

Journal of Religious Ethics 23 (2):263-289 (1995)
The unique discourse of Confucian ritual practice encompasses a powerful and sophisticated way of talking about individual fulfillment within the context of more substantive or universal conceptions of the good life. To make this case, I will consider both the text of the "Analects" and the influential readings of the "Analects" offered by Fingarette in "Confucius: The Secular as Sacred" and by Hall and Ames in "Thinking through Confucius". Though the two interpretive works are helpful in articulating the classical Confucian contribution to the problem of balancing conformity and individuality, I will argue that an alternative reading is required to appreciate fully how values thought to embody and express the fullest humanity might be inculcated in ethical agents without undoing their individuality. Such an alternative is developed here.
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