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The Mind of EmpireChina's History and Modern Foreign Relations$
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Christopher A. Ford

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813192635

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813192635.001.0001

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Confucian Conceptions of Order

Confucian Conceptions of Order

(p.29) 3 Confucian Conceptions of Order
The Mind of Empire

Christopher A. Ford

University Press of Kentucky

The impact of Confucius on Chinese philosophy and politics perhaps eclipses that of any other single human being, and the ethical teachings attributed to him lie today in many respects at the core of traditional East Asian civilization. Confucianism is at its core an ethical teaching that stresses the importance of benevolence and righteousness. Through its theory of the “rectification of names,” Confucianism aspires to “an ideal social order with ‘everything in its own place.’” Because this philosophy did not sharply distinguish between personal and political spheres, Confucians never developed a specific theory of government. However, the web of social responsibilities that defined proper behavior in Confucian society encompassed all institutions and relationships, both political and social. Hence, the key to successful governance can be found in the same processes of cultivating right conduct and living out its realization in interactions with others. The monist ideal of Chinese statecraft also can be seen in the Confucian classics, which suggest that a legitimate international order cannot rest on the formal equality of coequal sovereigns. Confucian ethics thus presumes that there cannot be interstate relations in the sense that are conceived in the modern West.

Keywords:   Confucius, Confucian ethics, Confucian politics, rectification of names, social harmony, international order, governance, statecraft

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