Previous scholars seem to assume that Mengzi's four sprouts are more or less homogeneous in nature, and the four sprouts are often viewed as some sort of desires for or instinctive inclinations toward virtues or virtuous acts. For example, Angus Graham interprets sìduān as "incipient moral impulses" to do what is morally good or right, or "spontaneous inclinations" toward virtues or moral good. However, this view is incompatible with the recently proposed more sound views that regard Mengzi's four sprouts as a particular type of emotions or feelings having some "cognitive" or "rational" aspects. In this essay I develop this new approach to Mengzi's four sprouts, and specifically argue that respect in Mengzi should be considered neither as a moral desire nor as a behavioral tendency to do deferential acts but as some sort of ethical sensibility that is responsive to the relevant features of a worthy person.
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Acknowledgments This work was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea by the Korean Government (MEST) (NRF-2007-361-AL0014). I am grateful to Steven F. Geisz for his extensive and thoughtful comments on a previous version of this essay presented at the APA Eastern Division Meeting in Washington, D. C. on December 28, 2011. I also thank two anonymous reviewers of this essay for their helpful comments and suggestions.
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