Partiality versus Impartiality in Early Confucianism

Philosophia 41 (2) (2013)
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Abstract

Confucianism supports partiality because of its heavy emphasis on filial piety, but this may not always be true. Some assertions in the Analects appear to support comprehensive cosmopolitanism . Filial piety can simply be a requirement for moral training, and once this virtue is cultivated, the individual should extend the same love to all human beings. Impartiality as a requirement of morality is clearly exhibited in Mencius. If it is human nature to feel fear and pity for a child on the verge of falling into a well, and if the right thing to do is to save this child, then one must do so even if she were the child of one’s enemy. However, this attempt to show that Confucianism exhibits a degree of impartiality is challenged by other compiled works on Confucian thought which consider filial piety as the most important virtue. Can we really reconcile the pivotal position of filial piety with aspects of impartiality in Confucian ethics?

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