Confucinism’s Similarities With Virtue Ethics
Confucianism, the ancient social philosophy of China, would have had no ethical parallel in the West as little as 30 years ago. There are some small similarities that it holds with utilitarian ethics and deontology. There is very little in ethical egoism or relativism that lines up with Confucianism. I believe that virtue ethics, however, as laid out in Alasdair MacIntyre's book After Virtue bears a striking resemblance to Confucianism.
One important feature of Confucianism, according to John Koller, is that it is an essentially humanist philosophy; in other words, human beings are the ultimate source of values. This is in apposition to Supernaturalism—which claims that values ultimately come from God, and naturalism—which believes that values come from nature. Thus, Confucianism, answers the question of “How can goodness and harmony be achieved?” by looking for exemplars and principles in humanity itself. This is strikingly similar to the picture that Alasdair MacIntyre paints of the world. According to MacIntyre, most of the ethical language and arguments that are thrown around between ethicists and even everyday people is fundamentally incomprehensible or incoherent. Ethical prescriptions used to be based on a common belief in God and the ways in which He has ordered the universe. In today's world, however, we no longer share that common belief, but we have kept the structures and language of our old ethical systems without the foundation stones on which they were originally built. To remedy this ailment, MacIntyre proposes going back to a kind of virtue ethics, an essentially humanist philosophy that defines virtuous behavior as what a good man would do. Like Confucianism, virtue ethics looks to neither God nor nature, but rather humanity to find the principles by which to live.
Furthermore, both Confucianism and virtue ethics focus less on the rightness of actions themselves, but rather on...
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