The Virtuous Body at Work: The Ethical Life as Qi 氣 in Motion

This essay argues that moral self-cultivation as described in the Confucian tradition involves the cultivation of the body. Preparing the body in certain ways, perhaps by making it healthy, is a necessary part of moral self-cultivation. This claim includes: (a) nourishing the body in a proper way is a first step in moral self-cultivation, and the bodily care is instrumentally valuable to one’s flourishing life; (b) making and keeping a healthy body is partly constitutive of a moral well-being and hence bodily care is also intrinsically valuable to a flourishing life. This perspective on embodied virtue is established through a discussion of qi. The body as the storehouse of qi is not only a passive reservoir of knowledge that serves as moral guidance, but also actively plays an indispensable and integral role in activities related to one’s moral transformation. A well-cared for body provides a moral agent with the temporal and spatial possibility for moral refinement and an enhanced good life
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DOI 10.1007/s11712-010-9177-y
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