Human Becomings

Theorizing Persons for Confucian Role Ethics

By Roger T. Ames

Subjects: Confucianism, Chinese Religion And Philosophy, Comparative Religion, Comparative Philosophy, Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9781438480800, 446 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438480794, 446 pages, December 2020

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Table of contents



1. The Question of Which Questions to Ask

2. How Do the Confucian Canons Say "Role Ethics"?

3. A Narrative Conception of Human Nature

4. Holography and the Focus-Field Conception of Persons

5. Relational Autonomy and Thick Choices

6. Holism, Democracy, and the Optimizing of the Human Experience

7. From Human "Becomings" to a Process Cosmology

Epilogue: Why Theorize Confucian Persons for a Changing World Cultural Order?


Offers an in-depth exposition of the Confucian conception of persons as the starting point of Confucian ethics.


2021 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

In Human Becomings, Roger T. Ames argues that the appropriateness of categorizing Confucian ethics as role ethics turns largely on the conception of person that is presupposed within the interpretive context of classical Chinese philosophy. By beginning with first self-consciously and critically theorizing the Confucian conception of persons as the starting point of Confucian ethics, Ames posits that the ultimate goal will be to take the Confucian tradition on its own terms and to let it speak with its own voice without overwriting it with cultural importances not its own. He argues that perhaps the most important contribution Confucian philosophy can make to contemporary ethical, social, and political discourse is the conception of focus-field, relationally constituted persons as a robust alternative to the ideology of individualism with single actors playing to win.

Roger T. Ames is Humanities Chair Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Peking University and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Hawai'i. His many books include Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary; Confucian Cultures of Authority (coedited with Peter D. Hershock); and Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art: Cultural and Philosophical Reflections (coedited with Hsingyuan Tsao), all published by SUNY Press.


"Rich in concepts, ideas, and references from both the Eastern and Western traditions, this volume is sure to have an enormous impact on the field … Highly recommended." — CHOICE