Liberty, Responsibility, and Self-Perfection in Confucian Thought


Confucianism grounds its social and political analysis firstly on the idea of a natural social order that imposes limits on what is possible for human beings and politics. Secondly, it holds to a notion of individual perfectionism in which the goal of life is to realize a potential or capacity for good living that is to be found in everyone, but which takes a different form in each person. By so perfecting oneself and one’s family, the larger society will be brought to a higher state of existence. Contrary to the Mohists, Confucius argued for good governance and institutions but against the excessive regulation of the Legalists! In fact, he argued for a policy of voluntarism rather than force and for limited rather than unlimited government. These themes are the connecting ties of the various texts discussed.


Conference Readings

Chu Hsi. The Philosophy of Human Nature. Edited by J. Percy Bruce. London: Probsthain, 1922.

Confucius. The Analects. Translated by William Edward Soothill. New York: Dover, 1995.

Confucius. The Wisdom of Confucius. Edited by Lin Yutang. Translated by Lin Yutang. Mumbai, India: Wilco Publishing House, 2008.

James Legge. Sacred Books of the East, vol.3. Edited by James Legge. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1879.

Mencius (Meng Ke). Mencius. Edited by Lau, D.C.. Translated by Lau, D.C.. London: Penguin, 2004.

Wang Yang Ming. The Philosophy of Wang Yang Ming. Edited by Frederick Goodrich Henke. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1916.