Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 9, 2018

Confucian Philosophy

Shaoming Chen
Pages 101-113

Between Benevolence and Righteousness

The notion of benevolence-righteousness (ren-yi 仁义) un-doubtedly constitutes the core of Mencius’s theory concerning the goodness of human nature, it also holds the key to the entire Confucian ethics. Despite the fact that we normally give Confucius credit for his discussion over the concept of benevolence (ren 仁), it is Mencius who creates the conjoint of benevolence-righteousness (ren-yi 仁义).But as a category benevolence-righteous-ness (ren-yi 仁义) does not represent a sheer combination of benevolence (ren 仁) and righteousness (yi 义), but suggests a new or reformative version of this line of thought in the intellectual development within Confucian tradition. Mencius’s unique contribution by no means lies in an effort of simply forming a linkage between the two terms, but in the fact that he gives this concept a deeper connotation so as to transform it into an intrinsic-meaning-structure. Mencius’s thinking on this regard is mainly expressed through his theory of human nature, which forms the relation of benevolence (ren仁) and righteous-ness (yi 义), the two most important among the four starting point (si-duan四端). This paper aims to seek a comprehension of the Confucian stance towards evil or the negative phenomena in morality. According to Mencius’s under-standing, the meaning of righteousness is twofold, namely the sense of shame and the hatred of evil. Insofar as consciousness-structure is concerned, both pertain to the compassion for the innocent victims. The former refers to sort of reflection and repentance due to one’s sense of compassion; the latter to one’s coming forward against evil driven by the sense of compassion. Together they depict the whole picture of the Confucian treatment of the evil or immoral phenomena. Thus the sense of shame and that of the hatred of evil become an essential resource for the study of the sense of justice in Confucianism. In a word, the notion of benevolence-righteousness (ren-yi 仁义) indicates the combination of promoting the good and prohibiting the evil, whose function can be taken in both ethical and political terms.