Mencius on international relations and the morality of war: From the perspective of confucian moralpolitik

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This paper explores Mencius' political theory of international relations and the morality of war from the perspective of Confucian moralpolitik. It argues that while acknowledging the possibility of international justice among the feudal, yet de facto, independent states during the Warring States period, Mencius subscribed to the idea that international morality (and justice) can be best maintained under what I call 'Confucian international moral hierarchy' among the states. By upholding interna- tional moral hierarchy, Mencius attempted to achieve an international community in which big/strong and small/weak states are mutually connected to each other for the common welfare of the people. The paper then turns to Mencius' ideas on just war and investigates how Mencius rationalized the punitive expedition in the virtual absence of a symbolic institutional authority representing the Mandate of Heaven, the meta- physical ground for the morality of war, by presenting its visible alternatives. It closes by critically revisiting Daniel Bell's interpretation of Mencius's ideas of a just war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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