The Humanities Research Center’s Citizenship Lab proudly funds Xiaoliang Yang’s Signature Work project.
Student: Xiaoliang Yang, Class of 2023, Ethics and Leadership/Philosophy
Mentor: Lincoln Rathnam, Assistant Professor of Political Science
In this project, I consider Classical Confucians’ treatments of ethical dilemmas, as reflected in Confucian classics (especially the Analects and Mengzi). I respond to current scholarly debates, including where scholars (e.g., Fan Ruiping and Liu Qingping) frame Confucian ethics as “familial favoritism,” which means that familial interests possess higher priority than social goods. I argue that their account of Confucian familial favoritism is entirely based on Confucians’ compliments of those who prioritize familial interests in ethical dilemmas between family vs. society. But the acceptance of one choice does not necessarily lead to the refutation of the other, since Confucians might also praise those who prioritize social interests. In the latter parts of the thesis, I provide theoretical reasons for why I support an ethically pluralistic interpretation of Classical Confucianism and analyze why Confucians will also credit those who prioritize social interests where there are conflicts between family and society. Some of the sources I will incorporate in my research include primary and secondary literature in Classical Confucianism, such as the Analects, Mengzi, Xunzi, works of the New Confucian Mou Zongsan, Stephen Angle’s Contemporary Confucian Political Thought, and Joseph Chan’s Confucian Perfectionism. Ultimately, this project rejects the commonly held notion of “familial favoritism” ascribed to Confucianism by unveiling the underappreciated dimension of Confucianism in which social interests can be prioritized as well. This research also seeks to reconstruct Classical Confucianism as a system encompassing high tolerance of diversified solutions for the same problem. It aims to demonstrate the internal complexity and flexibility of Classical Confucianism, deepening our understanding of Confucian responses toward ethical dilemmas.