Mengzi’s Externalist Solution to the Role Dilemma

Asian Philosophy 25 (2):188-206 (2015)
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The role dilemma raises a problem for role ethic interpretations of Confucianism. The dilemma arises from the conflict between the demands and obligations of Humaneness and the demands and obligations of roles one occupies. Favoring the demands of Humaneness undermines a role ethic because roles and role-obligations no longer ground the ethic. However, favoring social role-obligations permits immoral and unjust role-obligations and allows for uncharitable readings of Confucianism.This paper examines how Mengzi resolves the dilemma. I argue that Mengzi’s account of human nature privileges the demands of Humaneness; social roles are central but defeasible in light of Humaneness. I briefly discuss a prominent articulation of Confucian role ethics as well as the role dilemma. Then, after considering the technical resources within the Mengzi, I argue that Mengzi espouses an externalism about roles. Finally, I explore the relationship between Mengzi’s externalism and role e..



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John Ramsey
University of California, Riverside (PhD)

Citations of this work

Confucian Role Ethics: A Critical Survey.John Ramsey - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (5):235-245.
The metaphysics of personhood in Confucian role ethics.Jennifer Wang - 2023 - Asian Journal of Philosophy 2 (2):1-17.

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References found in this work

Confucian role ethics: a vocabulary.Roger T. Ames - 2011 - Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.
Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.Philip J. Ivanhoe - 2000 - Hackett Publishing Company.
Role obligations.Michael O. Hardimon - 1994 - Journal of Philosophy 91 (7):333-363.
Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.Richard Garner & Philip J. Ivanhoe - 1999 - Philosophy East and West 49 (4):533.

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