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Is Mozi a utilitarian philosopher?

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In this essay I argue that Mozi’s philosophy is anything but utilitarianism by way of analysing four ethical theories. Utilitarianism is an ethics in which the moral subject is an atomic individual human being, and its concern is how to fulfill the interests of the individual self and the social majority. Confucian ethics is centered on the notion of the family and its basic question is that of priority in the relationship between the small self and the enlarged or collective self. Opposite to these two moral theories is Mozi’s ethics: The interests that Mozi is primarily concerned with are not the interests of my individual self or my collective self, but the interests of the other. The fulfillment of the material needs of the other is my moral obligation. The arguments are centered on the three basic concepts, “the I,” “the we,” and “the other.” The significance of Mozi’s thought in modern or postmodern context lies in its striking resemblance to the philosophy of a contemporary western philosopher, Levinas. In both Mozi and Levinas, there is a suspension of utilitarianism.


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