The Golden Rule, Humanity, and Equality: Shu and Ren in Confucius’ Teachings and Beyond

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 21 (3):347-368 (2022)
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Abstract

This essay explores the correlation between shu 恕 and ren 仁 in Confucius’ teachings and its broader implications concerning the role of the golden rule. It first shows that whereas the golden rule is premised on equality between agent and recipient, Confucius’ correlation of shu with ren aims mainly at establishing a more solid foundation for the hierarchy-specific duty of the ruler to care for the ruled. It thus reveals that this conflict arises from the golden rule’s incompatibility with asymmetrical relationships, a long-standing issue concerning its validity as a moral axiom. It then addresses this conflict by demonstrating that the golden rule can effectively function in conformity with humanity even in asymmetrical relationships by way of inducing an agent’s viewpoint to shift from existing sociopolitical asymmetry to one-to-one human equality. On this basis, lastly, it examines the concurrence of the ideas of shu, human nature, and ren in ancient China.

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References found in this work

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Confucian role ethics: a vocabulary.Roger T. Ames - 2011 - Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

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