The art of becoming human: Morality in Kant and confucius

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 7 (3):257-268 (2008)
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Kant and Confucius maintain that the art of becoming human is synonymous with the unending process of becoming moral. According to Kant, I must imagine a world in which the universality of my maxims were possible, while realizing that if such a world existed, then morality would disappear. Morality is an impossible possibility because it always meets resistance in our encounter with nature. According to Confucius, human beings become moral by integrating themselves into the already meaningful natural order that is tian 天. Like Kant, he upholds the dignity of human beings. For Kant this dignity rests on the autonomy of each human being’s reason, while for Confucius it is dependent upon our interconnection with each other, demanding ongoing self-extension. Despite these differences, the two thinkers would concur that our efforts at humanization are unceasing and that we may never fully live up to our human potential.



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Katrin Froese
University of Calgary