The Chinese ethical tradition has often been thought to oppose Western views of the self--as autonomous and possessed of individual rights--with views that emphasize the centrality of relationship and community to the self. The essays in this collection discuss the validity of that contrast as it concerns Confucianism, the single most influential Chinese school of thought. (Alasdair MacIntyre, who has significantly articulated the need for dialogue across traditions, contributes a concluding essay of commentary.).
Throughout much of Chinese history, Mencius (372-289 BC) was considered the greatest Confucian thinker after Confucius himself. Following the enshrinement of the Mencius (an edited compilation of his thought by disciples) as one of the Four Books by Sung neo-Confucianists, he was studied by all educated Chinese. This book begins a reassessment of Mencius by studying his ethical thinking in relation to that of other early Chinese thinkers, including Confucius, Mo Tzu, the Yangists, and Hsün Tzu. The author closely examines (...) his ethical concepts and terms, showing how they were used in the Mencius and other texts. (shrink)
The use of the term hsing in the Meng-tzu is discussed, along with Mencius' views on jen-hsing. It is argued that while the use of hsing need not connote something unlearned and shared, Mencius did view jen-hsing in terms of certain unlearned emotional predispositions shared by all jen. He regarded jen as a species distinguished from other animals by its capability of cultural accomplishment, and felt that it is the presence of the emotional predispositions that makes this possible.
The origin, content, argumentative basis, practical implication, and influence of Mencius' views of mind-heart and human nature are discussed. While the differences between Confucius and Mencius are acknowledged, it is argued that Mencius' view that human nature is good is consistent with and is a further development of basic ideas in Confucius' thinking. The basis of Mencius' view is not empirical generalization but inner reflection and personal experience, which reveal a shared natural endowment in human beings with a transcendental source. (...) In addition to a discussion of Mencius' views, the development of his ideas in the Sung and Ming and by contemporary Neo-Confucians is also considered. (shrink)