Human nature, mind, and virtue in Chu Hsi
MetadataShow full item record
Contemporary virtue ethics recognizes that ethics is more than justifying moral rules or identifying moral obligations, and claims that ethics should return to the questions of moral agency and the good human life as a whole. However, the legitimacy of virtue ethics as a substantial alternative to consequentialist and deontological theories has been challenged along a number of lines. The diverse criticisms of virtue ethics all indicate that there is no room for virtue ethics in contemporary moral discourse. For this reason, it has been noted that there is still the need to establish a sound philosophical foundation for virtue ethics. Although Aristotle's virtue ethics has been revaluated in contemporary moral discussion, Aristotle's metaphysics is no longer welcomed by virtue theorists. Underlying this tension, there is an unending struggle to resolve the conflict between scientific rationality and humanistic ethical concerns. It is in this context that this dissertation examines Chu Hsi's philosophical theories on human nature, mind, virtue, and self-cultivation. The main chapters of the dissertation show how Chu Hsi reconsolidates the Confucian tradition on human nature and mind with his new concepts, and suggest that his ethical concerns are still a stimulating motivation for us to return the Confucian version of virtue theory. Chu Hsi inherits the Confucian tradition on the unity of Heaven and humans, and incorporates his new concepts of the Supreme Ultimate, principle, and human nature. This unity is not a simply mystical connection, but a determinative motivation of his moral awareness. It embraces the ontological and normative reality of all things in the universe. This broad vision makes it possible for his scientific perspective to be ethically concerned with human beings. His philosophical system presents a totality which includes human nature as normative principle, human mind as the capability for moral awareness, and the human beings' material conditions as preconditions of moral practice. Even if Chu Hsi's framework has to be abandoned due to an outdated metaphysics, his examination of mind and emotions should be reconsidered from contemporary perspectives. His program of learning as moral education, his diagnosis of moral disorder as self-reflection, and his encouragement of reverence as a method of self-cultivation, are all still crucial for motivating our self-awareness of human moral nature in contemporary ethical conflicts.