Why Does Confucius Think that Virtue Is Good for Oneself?

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 22 (2):193-216 (2023)
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Is being virtuous good not only for others, but also for the virtuous person herself? Call the “yes” answer to this question “the eudaimonistic thesis.” In this essay, I argue that the most prominent explanation for why Confucius accepts the eudaimonistic thesis should be rejected; this explanation is that he accepts the thesis because he also accepts “naturalistic perfectionism” or that for something to be good for oneself is for it to realize one’s nature and that being a virtuous person realizes human nature. In its place, I propose two alternative explanations: the “hedonistic explanation,” which justifies the eudaimonistic thesis in terms of pleasure, and the “desirability explanation,” which provides a justification rooted in the claims that virtuous people function as normative measures and that they desire that they themselves be virtuous. Finally, I discuss what may have motivated later Confucian philosophers to adopt naturalistic perfectionism.



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Guy Schuh
Suffolk University

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A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy.A. C. Graham & Wing-Tsit Chan - 1964 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 84 (1):60.
Remastering Morals with Aristotle and Confucius.May Sim - 2007 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Integrity.Lynne McFall - 1987 - Ethics 98 (1):5-20.
Confucian Moral Self Cultivation.Richard Garner & Philip J. Ivanhoe - 1999 - Philosophy East and West 49 (4):533.

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