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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 60, Issue 3, September 2020

George J. Aulisio
Pages 339-353

The Deontological Foundation of Neo-Confucian Virtue Ethics

I show that Neo-Confucianism is practiced in two ways: (1) deontologically and (2) as a virtue ethical theory. When fully appreciated, Neo-Confucianism is a virtue ethical theory, but to set out on the path of the sage and behave like a junzi, Neo-Confucianism must first be practiced deontologically. I show this by examining the importance of Neo-Confucian metaphysics to ethical practice and by drawing out the major practical differences between “lesser learning” and “higher learning.” In my view, Neo-Confucianism can be practiced deontologically because some adherents may never move to practicing Neo-Confucianism as a virtue theory.

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