Reconsidering mo Tzu on the foundations of morality

Asian Philosophy 11 (1):23 – 31 (2001)
Dennis Ahern and David Soles raise substantial problems for the conventional interpretation of Mo Tzu as a utilitarian. Although they defend different interpretations, both scholars agree that Mo Tzu is committed to a divine command theory in some form, citing the same key passages where, supposedly, Mo Tzu explicitly endorses the divine command theory. In this paper, I defend the orthodox interpretation, insisting that Mo Tzu is a utilitarian. I show that the passages cited by Ahern and Soles do not explicitly endorse the divine command theory and are compatible with the utilitarian interpretation; in fact, I argue that many of these passages must be understood in light of a utilitarian interpretation if they are to be rendered intelligible at all. After showing that motivation for the divine command interpretation is lacking, I argue that the only satisfactory alternative is to understand Mo Tzu as a consistent utilitarian.
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DOI 10.1080/09552360120048825
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