Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously

Contemporary Theories and Applications

Edited by Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy, Asian Studies, Confucianism, Ethics, Religion
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9781438433141, 233 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9781438433158, 233 pages, October 2010

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Introduction: Why Take Confucian Ethics Seriously?
Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe
1. What It Means to Take Chinese Ethics Seriously
Heiner Roetz
2. The Handling of Multiple Values in Confucian Ethics
Kam-por Yu
3. Humanity or Benevolence? The Interpretation of Confucian Ren and Its Modern Implications
Qianfan Zhang
4. East Asian Conceptions of the Public and Private Realms
Chun-chieh Huang
5. Trust Within Democracy: A Reconstructed Confucian Perspective
Julia Tao
6. A Defense of Ren-Based Interpretation of Early Confucian Ethics
Shirong Luo
7. Is Sympathy Naive?: Dai Zhen on the Use of Shu to Track Well-Being
Justin Tiwald
8. The Nature of the Virtues in Light of the Early Confucian Tradition
Eirik Lang Harris
9. The Values of Spontaneity
Philip J. Ivanhoe
List of Contributors

A consideration of Confucian ethics as a living ethical tradition with contemporary relevance.


This thought-provoking work presents Confucianism as a living ethical tradition with contemporary relevance. While acknowledged as one of the world's most influential philosophies, Confucianism's significance is too often consigned to a historical or solely East Asian context. Discussing both the strengths and weaknesses of Confucian ethics, the volume's contributors reflect on what this tradition offers that we cannot readily learn from other systems of ethics. Developing Confucian ethical ideas within a contemporary context, this work discusses the nature of virtue, the distinction between public and private, the value of spontaneity, the place of sympathy in moral judgment, what it means to be humane, how to handle competing values, and the relationship between trust and democracy. For all those concerned with ethics, this book offers both new perspectives and resources for the ongoing consideration of how we should live.

Kam-por Yu is Senior Lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Julia Tao is Professor in the Department of Public and Social Administration at City University of Hong Kong. She is the editor of several books, including (with Anthony B. L. Cheung, Chenyang Li, and Martin Painter) Governance for Harmony in Asia and Beyond. Philip J. Ivanhoe is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Public and Social Administration at City University of Hong Kong. He is the author of several books, including Ethics in the Confucian Tradition: The Thought of Mengzi and Wang Yangming and Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.


"It is clear that the essays collected in this volume take Confucian ethics seriously as they articulate poignant and sustained reflections on current political issues in contemporary China, the tension between public and private, trust in government, the nature of the virtues, and so on … the book clearly takes steps toward developing Confucian ethics. " — Philosophy East & West

"…an impressive collection of essays that demonstrate how Confucian ideas can shed light on contemporary discussions in theoretical and normative ethics, and political philosophy. " — Dao

"Using [a] broadened contemporary intercultural framework, this book suggests an approach of learning from, rather than learning about, Confucianism. Instead of questioning how people once lived, it searches out how they should live. This method could recharge Confucianism's ongoing impact on the long conversation of philosophers East and West. " — CHOICE