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Political Thought in Early Confucianism

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image of Frontiers of Philosophy in China

The political philosophy of early Confucianism mainly focuses on the “shi 士 (scholar).” It is built on ideas such as that of “establishing a ruler in consideration of the people,” “taking yi 义 (righteousness) as li 利 (benefit)” and “following the Dao but not the ruler,” which demonstrate the foundations of political legitimacy, justice as a political principle, and principles of a scholar to become an official. Although the political thought of early Confucianism has its historical limitations, such as the lack of both political equality and the universal recognition of rights, there is both a demand for and possibility of democratic politics in the philosophy. Thus, how to extend awareness of scholars to awareness of people and how to transform a focus on virtue into a focus on rights become the crucial theoretical questions that Confucianism faces in the contemporary world.


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