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[Vol.34 (2020)] Xunzi’s Ritual Program as a Response to Han Feizi’s Criticism of Confucianism
Author : Colin J. Lewis
Date : 20.08.27
Page : 129–153
Keyword : Xunzi, Han Feizi, Bernard Williams, virtue ethics, ritual, moral education
Abstract :

One of Han Feizi’s most subtle criticisms of Confucianism targets a central

feature of its moral cultivation program, namely an appeal to modelling

oneself on ancient sages. According to Han Feizi, this ideal of model

emulation is doomed to failure due to imperfect knowledge of past exemplars,

the fact that certain ideals of practice may not be applicable

to (or catastrophic for) some practitioners, and the additional fact that

one cannot always rely on past examples to provide good guidance

for future events. As Eric Hutton points out, this line of critique bears

striking similarities to one offered by Bernard Williams against virtue

ethics. Accordingly, this emulation problem poses difficulties not only for

Confucianism, but also more generally for virtue ethics. This paper argues

that the emulation problem can be overcome by appealing to the Confucian

Xunzi’s account of the role of ritual (li) in moral cultivation. Specifically, the

ways in which ritual promotes moral development provide the Confucians

(and, by association, virtue ethics) with the means of devising a sufficiently

sophisticated account of emulation to meet the challenge lobbied by Han

Feizi and Williams.

Attachments : 5(Colin J. Lewis)0826(e).pdf


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