Mengzi’s Moral Psychology, Part 2: The Cultivation Analogy

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (2018)
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Abstract

We explore the central analogy behind Mengzi’s view of ethical cultivation. Philosophers sometimes ask what makes a person’s life worthwhile or what conditions make for a good life. Mengzi’s answer involves cultivating our innate moral senses into fully ripened virtues of ren (humaneness), yi (rightness), li (propriety), and zhi (wisdom). This cultivation neither is individualistic nor can it happen in isolation: it requires a lifetime of meaningful interactions with other people. In short, one’s ethical cultivation is interdependent with other people, one’s social environment, and whether (and how well) one reflects on the stirrings of their sprouts and extends their previous moral behavior to the current situation.

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John Ramsey
University of California, Riverside (PhD)

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