Mencius and Aquinas

Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage

By Lee H. Yearley

Subjects: Ethics, Religion
Series: SUNY series, Toward a Comparative Philosophy of Religions
Paperback : 9780791404324, 294 pages, November 1990
Hardcover : 9780791404317, 294 pages, November 1990

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Foreword: Frank Reynolds

The Comparative Philosophy of Religions and the Study of Virtue
I. Introduction: The Importance of the Comaprative Philosophy of Religious Flourishings
II. General Differences and Similarities Between Mencius and Aquinas
III. The Comparative Philosophy of Religions and the Three Realms of Ethics
IV. The General Conception of Virtue
V. Expansions and Semblances of Virtues

The Context for Mencius and Aquinas's Ideas of Virtue
I. Issues in the Interpretation of Mencius and Aquinas
II. Aquinas's List of Virtues
III. The Two Notions Underlying Aquinas's Construction and Analysis of His List of Virtues
IV. Mencius's List of Virtues
V. A Comparison of Mencius and Aquinas's List of Virtues
VI. The Relationship of the Realms of Injunctions and Ways of Life in Mencius and Aquinas

Mencius and Aquinas's Theories of Virtue
I. Mencius and Aquinas: The General Conception of Virtue
II. Mencius: Human Nature's Fundamental Inclinations as a Basis of Virtue
III. Mencius: True Virtue as a Product of Ethical Reasoning's Use of Extension, Attention, and the Understanding of Resemblances
IV. Mencius: Virtues, Their Semblances, and the Role of Intelligent Awareness
V. Aquinas: Reason and Nature
VI. Aquinas: Reason's Relationship to Inclinations and Emotions and the Resulting Understanding of the Semblances of Virtue
VII. The Understanding of Human Failures to Be Virtuous in Mencius and Aquinas
VIII. The Picture of the Self Underlying This Type of Virtue Theory: Practical Reason, Emotions, and Dispositions
IX. The Picture of the Self Underlying This Type of Virtue Theory: The Formation of Emotions and the Character of Dispositions

Mencius and Aquinas's Conceptions of Courage
I. Introduction: The Distinguishing Marks of the Virtue of Courage
II. Aquinas's Analysis of Ordinary Courage, Especially the Roles in It of Fear and Confidence
III. Aquinas's Differentation of True Courage From Semblances of Courage
IV. Aquinas's Expansion of Courage and the Place of Endurance and the Willingness to Die
V. Aquinas on Courage's Specifically Religious Dimension, the Virtue of Patience, and the Highest Religious Dimension, the Gift of Courage
VI. Mencius's General Conception of Courage and the Importance of Proper Self-Respect
VII. Mencius's Understanding of Perfected Courage: The Specific Features of His Analysis
VIII. Mencius's Understanding of Perfected Courage: A Theoretical Account and Brief Examination of the Resemblance to the Gift of Courage
IX. Mencius's Expansion of Courage: The Appropriate Attitude to Fate and Heaven and a Brief Examination of the Resemblance to Aquinas's Patience

I. Dissimilarities and This Resemblances between Mencius and Aquinas
II. Real Resemblances in Mencius and Aquinas's Understanding of Virtue
III. Primary, Practical, and Secondary Theories in the Comparative Philosophy of Religious Flourishings
IV. Problems and Possibilities in Aquinas's Model for Comparing Apparently Different Ideas of Virtue
V. Analogical Expression, Focal and Secondary Terms, and the Comparative Philosophy of Human Excellences
VI. The Analogical Imagination and the Comparative Philosophy of Religions

Chinese Terms
Selected Bibliography
Index of Names
Index of Subjects


Offers a detailed comparative analysis of two thinkers from different traditions.

Lee H. Yearley is Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.


"This is a path-breaking work, of the first importance for moral philosophy as well as for the comparative study of religion and morality. Detailed studies of particular conceptions of particular virtues are rare enough; but no one has hitherto contributed a comparative study of this kind. The detailed comparison of Mencius and Aquinas on courage throws new light on both authors and on the variety of dimensions involved in notions of courage. This choice of courage as the virtue to be compared turns out to have been unpredictably fruitful. Both Mencius and Aquinas are exhibited as at once analytical and creative in their treatments. Moreover the place of the treatment of courage within larger systematic frameworks and the importance of these frameworks is made clear. This is an indispensably useful book. " — Alasdair MacIntyre

"Yearley's book shows how the comparison of two great thinkers from different traditions and ages can both elucidate our understanding of each in a new way and also offer a critical perspective on the contribution to the contemporary dialogue. I also greatly appreciated the richness of his notes, which provide a virtual reader's guide to major scholarship on an array of issues. " — Michael C. Kalton

"The comparative study of religious ethics is much in need of the book Yearley has written, a work which investigates in depth two thinkers from different traditions. The focus on virtue is a welcome corrective to the emphasis on obligations and rules which has dominated previous investigations. The notion of virtue leads directly to a theory of the self which in my judgment is one of the key ways to get at the heart of systems of religious and moral belief. Yearley has also read deeply in contemporary philosophy so that he is able to bring contemporary sophistication to premodern thought. His book is a model of how to do comparative studies; he has the intelligence, the sensitivity, and the judgment to pull it off. I don't know of another book of this quality in comparative ethics. " — John P. Reeder, Jr.