Virtue Politics and Political Leadership: A Confucian Rejoinder to Hanfeizi

Asian Philosophy 22 (2):177-197 (2012)


In the Confucian tradition, the ideal government is called "benevolent government" (ren zheng), central to which is the ruler's parental love toward his people who he deems as his children. Hanfeizi criticized this seemingly innocent political idea by pointing out that (1) not only is the state not a family but even within the family parental love is short of making the children orderly and (2) ren as love inevitably results in the ruin of the state because it confuses what is right/meritorious with what is not, thus disrupts the legal system. In this paper, I defend Confucian virtue politics against Hanfeizi's criticisms. I argue that by failing to grasp the complex nature of ren that encompasses both emotion (ren as love) and moral virtue (ren as filiality), Hanfeizi also failed to understand the actual process in which the ruler's parental love is extended to the people

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,694

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

51 (#226,238)

6 months
1 (#388,319)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Sungmoon Kim
City University of Hong Kong

Citations of this work

Han Fei's Enlightened Ruler.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2013 - Asian Philosophy 23 (3):236-259.
Han Feizi’s Genealogical Arguments.Lee Wilson - 2022 - In Eirik Lang Harris & Henrique Schneider (eds.), Adventures in Chinese Realism: Classic Philosophy Applied to Contemporary Issues. Albany, NY, USA: SUNY Press. pp. 171–193.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Filiality, Compassion, and Confucian Democracy.Sungmoon Kim - 2008 - Asian Philosophy 18 (3):279 – 298.
Setting the Record Straight: Confucius' Notion of Ren. [REVIEW]Shirong Luo - 2012 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (1):39-52.
Ren in the Analects: Skeptical Prolegomena.R. A. H. King - 2012 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 39 (1):89-105.
Neo-Confucian Cosmology, Virtue Ethics, and Environmental Philosophy.Donald N. Blakeley - 2001 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8 (2):37-49.
Virtue: Confucius and Aristotle.Jiyuan Yu - 1998 - Philosophy East and West 48 (2):323-347.
The Role of Virtue in Xunzi’s 荀子 Political Philosophy.Eirik Lang Harris - 2013 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (1):93-110.
Confucian Ethics and "the Age of Biological Control".A. T. Nuyen - 2007 - Philosophy East and West 57 (1):83-96.
The Confucian Puzzle.Yong Li - 2012 - Asian Philosophy 22 (1):37-50.
The Virtue of Incivility: Confucian Communitarianism Beyond Docility.Sungmoon Kim - 2011 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (1):25-48.
Whitehead, Confucius, and the Aesthetics of Virtue.Nicholas F. Gier - 2004 - Asian Philosophy 14 (2):171 – 190.
Trouble with Korean Confucianism: Scholar-Official Between Ideal and Reality.Kim Sungmoon - 2009 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 8 (1):29-48.