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Title: The Confucian Conception of the Political
Authors: El Amine, Loubna
Advisors: Beitz, Charles
Contributors: Politics Department
Subjects: Political Science
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Confucianism is often presented as a primarily moral philosophy. Recent work on Confucianism has been mainly concerned with unearthing core Confucian ethical concepts, like de (virtue), ren (humaneness or benevolence), and li (ritual propriety), from which implications about Confucian political thinking are drawn. Differently from this conventional view, I focus in this dissertation on the passages on government and politics in the early Confucian texts. I present Confucianism as a political philosophy, and argue that its political dimension is neither secondary to, nor does it directly follow from, its ethical dimension. More specifically, I contend that the central motivating concern of Confucian political thought is the preservation and promotion of political order. Political order can be separated into two levels: on a basic level, order is the absence of disorder, chaos, and war. In pursuit of order, the Confucians countenance the hereditary succession to the throne or, alternatively, the rule of hegemons. They also favor the imposition of strict but restricted punishments, and the pursuit of welfare policies aimed at fulfilling the basic needs of the common people. Ideally, however, the Confucians prefer a more complex level of order that is also more lasting: they recommend the establishment of a ritual system that, by assigning social roles according to ability and making social distinctions visible, encourages the division of labor in society, prevents conflicts over scarce resources, and promotes harmony. Contrary to the conventional view, the development of virtue for all members of society is not the goal of Confucian government, even when it aims at harmony. The common people are not typically expected to become virtuous though they are encouraged, through welfare policies, and through rituals, to develop qualities of loyalty and productiveness. It is the Confucian gentlemen, the junzi, for whom politics is an arena for the development of virtue, as they seek, and obtain, roles as ministers. This role is to be sought even under a corrupt ruler since the aim of the Confucian gentleman is not only to develop his personal virtue, but also to promote political order in society.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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