Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

The Role Dilemma in Early Confucianism

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Recently, Sean Cordell has raised a problem for Aristotelians who seriously consider social roles: When the demands of the role conflict with the demands of morality, which norms ought one follow? However, this problem, which I call the role dilemma, is not specific to Aristotelians. Classical Confucians face a similar problem. How do Confucians resolve conflicts between the demands of humaneness (ren 仁) and the demands of social roles and the social norms (li 礼) that govern these roles? Confucians who favor humaneness, maintaining that other demands are defeasible, offer an externalism about roles. This response is similar to the Aristotelian argument that the demands of human excellence trump other demands. Consequently, Confucian externalism collapses into a virtue ethic. Confucians who favor the demands of li offer an internalism about roles. However, internalism is undesirable because it implies relativism and condones oppressive social institutions. The Confucian role ethicist must offer a tenable solution that steers clear of the pitfalls of both externalism and internalism. Although I do not advance a solution here, I believe a tenable alternative exists. The goals of this paper, instead, are to demonstrate that classical Confucians face the role dilemma and to initiate a discussion about the theoretical apparatus required of Confucian role ethics in order to distinguish it from other ethical theories. I conclude with some programmatic remarks about additional questions and problems that ought to be addressed.


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Frontiers of Philosophy in China — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation