Self-transformation and civil society: Lockean vs. Confucian

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Abstract

Although contemporary Confucianists tend to view Western liberalism as pitting the individual against society, recent liberal scholarship has vigorously claimed that liberal polity is indeed grounded in the self-transformation that produces "liberal virtues." To meet this challenge, this essay presents a sophisticated Confucian critique of liberalism by arguing that there is an appreciable contrast between liberal and Confucian self-transformation and between liberal and Confucian virtues. By contrasting Locke and Confucius, key representatives of each tradition, this essay shows that both liberalism and Confucianism aim to reconstruct a society freed from antisocial passions entailing a vicious politics of resentment, and yet come to differing ethical and political resolutions. My key claim is that what makes Confucian self-cultivation so distinctive is the incorporation of ritual propriety (li) within it, whereas liberal self-transformation that relies heavily on a method of self-control comes back to the problem that it originally set out to overcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
JournalDao
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Nov 1

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy

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