In the World of Persons: The Personhood Debate in the Analects and Zhuangzi

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (4):437-457 (2012)
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This article is an examination of a debate between Confucians and Zhuangists surrounding the notion of moral personhood as understood in the early Confucian tradition. This debate takes place across texts—most importantly in the Confucian challenge of Analects 18.5-7 and the Zhuangist response of the Renjianshi chapter of the Zhuangzi. In better understanding the disagreement between these two schools, we can come to a clearer picture of the notion of personhood at stake. The Zhuangist reaction to the Confucian position on personhood helps to demonstrate that the Confucians held a conception of the person as communally constructed. Such a view, I argue, can be of great use in contemporary debates surrounding agency, moral responsibility, and moral development. After offering an outline of the Confucian position, I consider various Zhuangist objections both in the Analects and Renjianshi chapter, before considering what I take to be convincing Confucian responses to the Zhuangist objections.



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Alexus McLeod
Indiana University, Bloomington

References found in this work

Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior.John M. Doris - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Shared cooperative activity.Michael E. Bratman - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):327-341.
The world of thought in ancient China.Benjamin Isadore Schwartz - 1985 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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