Sophia 51 (2):195-210 (2012)

Sungmoon Kim
City University of Hong Kong
In this article, I probe the nature of Confucian virtue with special focus on ritual propriety (li). I examine two classic, mutually competing accounts of li—as moral virtue and as civic virtue—in early Confucianism by investigating the thoughts of Mencius and Xunzi. My primary aim in this article is to demonstrate how their different accounts of human nature and equally different understandings of the natural state (that is, the pre-li state) led them to the development of two distinctive political theories of virtue in the Confucian tradition. More specifically, they justified the nature of the li on different terms—human/moral on the one hand and civic/political on the other. I conclude by revisiting the contemporary debate on the nature of Confucian ethics from the perspective of early Confucianism represented by Mencius and Xunzi
Keywords Ethics  Ritual propriety (li)  Mencius  Political theory  Natural state  Xunzi
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DOI 10.1007/s11841-012-0301-9
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