A Right of Rebellion in the Mengzi?

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (3):269-282 (2008)
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Mengzi believed that tyrannical rulers can be justifiably deposed, and many contemporary scholars see this as evidence that that Mengzi endorsed a right of popular rebellion. I argue that the text of the Mengzi reveals a more mixed view, and does so in two respects. First, it suggests that the people are sometimes permitted to participate in a rebellion but not permitted to decide for themselves when rebellion is warranted. Second, it gives appropriate moral weight not to the people’s judgments about the justifiability of rebelling, but rather to certain affections and behaviors that closely track their life satisfaction. I contend that in both respects the permissions Mengzi grants the people fall short of a proper right of rebellion. I conclude that the more historical account of Mengzi’s “just revolt theory” suggests an intriguing division of justificatory labor, and note some of the advantages of this account.



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Justin Tiwald
University of Hong Kong

References found in this work

The concept of law.Hla Hart - 1961 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Two treatises of government.John Locke - 1698 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Peter Laslett.
Introduction.Wm Theodore de Bary - 1982 - In Hok-lam Chan & William Theodore De Bary (eds.), Yüan Thought: Chinese Thought and Religion Under the Mongols. Columbia University Press.

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