Volume 36, Issue 3, Fall 2017
Toward a Basic Mutual Understanding between Confucian and Aristotelian Virtue Ethics
It is important for philosophers to find out positive approaches for increasing mutual understanding on those fundamental questions in both the Confucian and Aristotelian traditions of doing virtue ethics. The Aristotelian concept of the good and the Confucian concept of dao pose a question about the way human beings see the final principle of ethics. Staying within the realm of human life, Confucius develops two co-related perspectives of seeing the dao of human being. The first perspective sees the dao as standing for the ultimate truth and goodness for human beings. Setting aside the Aristotelian metaphysics of nous, this conception does not stand that far removed from Aristotle’s view of the good. The second perspective sees the dao as the right way for individuals to start. This notion seems far from Aristotle’s view of right choice. The reason is that Confucius’s manner of comprehension embraces both understanding and insight, while that of Aristotle focuses solely on understanding. But Aristotle’s concept of right choice is, in some indirect way, related to Confucius’s view of the right way. For both Confucius and Aristotle, the right way refers to our initiating acting on something connected to the end with no more thinking.