Character Consequentialism: an Early Confucian Contribution to Contemporary Ethical Theory

Journal of Religious Ethics 19 (1):55 - 70 (1991)
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Abstract

Early Confucian ethics can best be understood as character consequentialism, an ethical theory concerned with the effects actions have upon the cultivation of virtues and which concentrates on certain psychological goods, particularly certain kinship relationships which it regards not only as intrinsically but also instrumentally valuable, as the source of more general social virtues. According to character consequentialism, the way to maximize the good is to maximize the number of virtuous individuals in society, but because human virtues cannot be cultivated by pursuing their good consequences directly, they must be sought as expressions of a life ideal. This ideal entails developing one's nature to fulfill Heaven's design.

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Philip J. Ivanhoe
University of Hong Kong

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