Beyond a theory of human nature : Towards an alternative interpretation of mencius' ethics

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Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-416
Journal / PublicationFrontiers of Philosophy in China
Volume9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2014

Abstract

By following the Wittgensteinian view that the sense of an ethical term such as "nature" (xing) should be understood through an examination of its function in its actual philosophical context, this article takes a look at the notion of xing in the Mencius from an alternative perspective. Proceeding from this perspective, it re-examines the view that xing in the Mencius should be understood in biological terms. A discussion of xing in relation to the "Why be moral?" question follows. I then offer an alternative interpretation of Mencius' ethics by focusing on the meaning of the ethical particulars. Contrary to common perception, I argue that Mencius' theory of human nature (renxing) need not occupy a central place in his moral philosophy; the ultimate foundation of Mencius' moral philosophy lies in the meaning or sense of morality. Through participating in concrete, ethical thinking and by paying attention to the ethical particulars, human beings develop their grasp of moral and ethical meaning.

Research Area(s)

  • human nature, Mencius, Prichard, Wittgenstein, xing