Mencius and Xunzi on the legitimate use of offensive force: A pacifistic critique of recent just war interpretations

Philosophy Compass 17 (6):e12831 (2022)
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This essay offers a critical evaluation of competing interpretations of the early Confucian thinkers Xunzi and Mencius regarding their view of the legitimacy of war. First, I briefly describe and critique Daniel Bell’s “just war” interpretation of Mencius, which is relatively permissive regarding the legitimation of war. I then consider and critique the position of Sumner Twiss and Jonathan Chan regarding Mencius’ and Xunzi’s ostensible support for what we call “humanitarian intervention,” which is also made from a just war perspective. Next, I describe Xinzhong Yao’s pacifistic interpretation, offering a slightly qualified defense of it. I then consider reframing this view as “just war pacifism,” defending a phrase used in the Confucian context by Julia Ching. Finally, I address the question of whether the pacifistic account is too naïve to attribute to these great Confucian thinkers. I maintain that, on the contrary, it is not naïve. Indeed, it is a position we would do well to give due consideration.



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Kurtis Hagen
University of Hawaii (PhD)

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Xunzi on the Role of the Military in a Well-Ordered State.Eirik Lang Harris - 2019 - Journal of Military Ethics 18 (1):48-64.

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