Ren 仁 as a Heavy Concept In The Analects

Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41 (1-2):91-113 (2014)
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Abstract

In this article, I shall try to argue that some existing interpretations of the Analects cannot provide a satisfactory understanding of the concept of ren, on the one hand, and the relation between ren and li, on the other. Ren is not a thin concept such as right and wrong, good and bad, because it is not a non-substantive concept whose descriptive content has to be identified by a specific criterion which is not included in the concept itself. It is also not or not merely a thick concept such as courage, cruelty, truthfulness, and kindliness. In comparison with a thick concept, ren like courage, but unlike right, has substantive content. Nevertheless, unlike courage and other thick concepts, ren is not only about the ideal quality of a virtuous agent and the moral property of the agent's actions; it is also about the internal capacity of the agent and the principle believed by the agent for making moral actions. Since the meaning of the term is not only related to the external behavior but also related to the internal mind and the relevant principle, here, I call ren a “heavy” concept. It is “heavy” in the sense that it is not a concept of observable or substantive entity, but a theoretical construct which is used to explain the complicated relational property of morality, that is emerged from the internal realm and exhibited in the external realm of an agent

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