An Interpretation of Hannah Arendt's Political Thought: Toward a Preliminary Critique of Confucian Political Thoughts


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
Award date8 Jun 2021


This dissertation aims at offering a preliminary critique of several themes in Confucian political thoughts by utilizing perspectives and insights I get from an interpretation Hannah Arendt's thought on these themes. The themes I will focus on in this research are: the notion of the self, the conception of freedom, the boundary between morality and politics, and the concept of the people and power.

Chapter one focus on Arendt's Concept of self and offers an account of her thought on "self". For Arendt, the self as individuality is shaped by nature, will and destiny; the self as persona, is like a mask that helps an individual to fulfill certain role; Corresponding to Arendt's distinction between the public and the private, I investigate Arendt's view on the public and the private self, and I argue that there is an interdependent relationship between the public and the private self; the self as political actor, I have shown, can have various models. Building on my interpretation of Arendtian self, I offer some criticisms of Confucian relational self, role-bearing person, and other versions of the Confucian self.

Chapter two explores Arendt's concept of freedom. For Arendt, freedom is the raison d'être of politics. The concept of freedom in Arendt is linked with concepts like action, spontaneity, new beginning and founding. Building on Arendt's thought on freedom, I offer some criticism on some Confucian conceptions of freedom.

Chapter three aims at setting a boundary between morality and politics. Arendt shows that morality and politics should be kept in boundaries, because trespassing will bring serious consequences. Building on Arendt's thought, I offer some criticisms on Yu Yingshi and Mou Zongsan's thoughts on the relationship between morality and politics.

Chapter four explores the people's role in politics. The people, in Arendt's political theory, plays a significant role: they are the source of power, they experience their identity as "we" when they act together, especially during the founding moment. Compared to Arendt, Confucian political thoughts have a rather low pinion of the people, by excluding the people from politics, they lack an understanding of political power.

    Research areas

  • Hannah Arendt, Confucian political thoughts, Comparative study