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Special Topic Salon (Lecture III): Confucius’ Moral Theory

Author: [Date]:2020-11-24 [Source]: [ClickTime]:

On November 11, 2020, the third special topic salon of the 2020 Chinese Philosophy Master’s Program in English—Confucius’ Moral Theory(孔子的道德理论) was held in Wenyuan Building Room 3112. This salon was lectured by Dr. Jiang Qiuliu from Department of Philosophy and hosted by Associate professor Wang Jing. Graduate students of the 2020 Chinese Philosophy Master’s Program in English, as well as  part of  2020 Chinese Philosophy Master and Ph.D. students participated in this salon.


    In the first session of the salon, Dr. Jiang  gave his lecture on Confucius’ moral theory. His lecture mainly consists of five parts. At the beginning of the lecture, Dr. Jiang suggests that Confucius’ theory is a moral theory rather than a religious theory. He pointed out that according to Jaspersaxial age theory, there appeared several great sages in different areas of the world at a very close period in history. The interesting thing is that most of them belong to one kind of religion. Such as Jesus belongs to Christian religion, Buddha belongs to Buddhism. Dr. Jiang suggests that Confucius is never related to any religion, he is only a teacher of morality. He believes that according to any religion, a key point is God’s existence. According to the Six Classics Chinese people in that period believed there was a God. Even though Confucius follows the custom and tradition to respect and revere God and spirits, he keeps silent in God and spirits’ existence. Therefore, Confucius’ moral theory not depends on the existence of God.

In the second part, Dr. Jiang, based on Analects, analyzed key terms of Confucius’ moral theory, such as humaneness, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom. In the third part, Dr. Jiang discussed the foundation of Confucius’ moral theory. He believed that Confucius’ moral theory doesnt have a foundation laid on human nature as Mencius’ and Xunzi’s theory did, but it has two foundations, reason and sentiments. In the fourth part, Dr. Jiang made a comparison between Confucius’ theory and some other religions. He tried to show that Confucius’ moral theory doesn’t have specific commandments, original sin, and rarely discuss suffering as other religions did. Confucius’ moral theory was based on internal motivation rather than external punishments and rewards. In the final part, Dr. Jiang discussed the aim of Confucius’ moral theory. He believed that Confucius’s core aim or teaching is to cultivate the personhood of gentleman. It is a kind of philosophy as a way of life. Therefore, it is practical rather than theoretical, and it is also very different from the theory of any religion, though it has very similar functions and concerns of religions.

In the second session of the salon, students asked questions about Confucius’ reflection on human nature, the difference between religious theory and moral theory, the meaning of some key terms of Confucius’ moral theory such as humaneness, and discussed with Dr. Jiang.

In this salon, students expanded their knowledge of Confucius, the key figure of Chinese philosophy. They also had the opportunity to think about Confucius’ moral theory from comparative perspective.