Understanding Mozi's Foundations of Morality: a Comparative Perspective

Asian Philosophy 16 (2):123-134 (2006)


In the Western studies of the texts of Mozi, three distinctive views have surfaced in the past few decades: (1) Mozi is inconsistent because he seems to have been committed to both a Utilitarian standard and a divine command theory; (2) Mozi is a divine command theorist who argues that it is right to benefit the world because it is the will of heaven; and (3) Mozi is a utilitarian thinker who has based morality on the criterion of whether actions benefit the world. In this paper, I will argue that the whole debate about whether Mozi is a divine command theorist or a utilitarian is misguided, because it is based on an incorrect understanding of the fundamental cultural perspective associated with the notion of Tian. An adequate understanding of the notion of Tian will reveal its fundamental difference from the Western notion of heaven. Such an understanding will enable us to put Mozi's moral philosophy in the ancient Chinese perspective in which a tension and potential conflict between 'the will of heaven' and 'the benefit of the world' simply cannot arise.

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Xiufen Lu
Wichita State University

References found in this work

Sanctioned Violence in Early China.Derk Bodde & Mark Edward Lewis - 1992 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 112 (4):679.
Is Mo Tzu a Utilitarian?Dennis M. Ahern - 1976 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 3 (2):185-193.
Mo Tzu and the Foundations of Morality.David E. Soles - 1999 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 26 (1):37-48.
Another Look at Utilitarianism in Mo‐Tzu's Thought.Dirck Vorenkamp - 1992 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19 (4):423-443.

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Citations of this work

Assessment of Li 利 in the Mencius and the Mozi.Wai Wai Chiu - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):199-214.
Is Mohism Really Li-Promotionalism?Yun Wu & Amin Ebrahimi Afrouzi - 2021 - Asian Philosophy 31 (4):430-440.
Mozi's Moral Theory: Breaking the Hermeneutical Stalemate.Daniel M. Johnson - 2011 - Philosophy East and West 61 (2):347-364.

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