Setting the Record Straight: Confucius' Notion of Ren [Book Review]

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (1):39-52 (2012)
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Abstract

Abstract Comparative studies involving early Confucian ethics often appear to assume that it is a unified approach to morality. This essay challenges that assumption by arguing that Confucius had a significantly different conception of ren , commonly viewed as central to Confucian ethics, from that of Mencius. It is generally accepted that ren has two senses: in a narrow sense, it is the virtue of benevolence (or compassion); in a broad sense, it is the all-encompassing ethical ideal. Both senses fail to capture Confucius’ conception of ren , for the narrow sense fits only Mencius’ understanding of ren , while the broad sense lacks emphasis and precision. I propose a third sense of ren , that is, ren as an integral, higher-order virtue with respect as its most salient component. This sense of ren is more in keeping with the textual evidence in the Analects . It played a key role in Confucius’ political-moral thinking and made his doctrine diverge considerably from that of Mencius, who understood ren primarily as compassion

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Citations of this work

Mencius, Hume, and the Virtue of Humanity: Sources of Benevolent Moral Development.Jeremiah Carey & Rico Vitz - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (4):693-713.
Four challenges to Confucian virtue ethics in technology.Morten Bay - 2021 - Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 19 (3):358-373.

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