Title

Confucian Role Ethics: Reflections From A Global Perspective

Presenter Information

Zoey Zemanek

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Room 271

Start Date

15-5-2014

End Date

15-5-2014

Keywords

Globalization, Intercultural, Understanding

Abstract

The purpose of this presentation is to critique Ames’ book Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary in two categories: the global applicability of his role ethics method in presenting Confucianism to the western world, and the viability for students when studying Confucianism from a modern, western standpoint. Role ethics can be defined as a relationship-based system of ethics in which moral action is based off of community roles and person-to-person association. The issue with explaining Confucianism through this lens is that it relies heavily on cultural relativism. Several aspects of Confucianism are based upon ancient Chinese tradition–that is to say, foundational Chinese culture and Confucianism are intertwined in such a way separating the two can leave holes in understanding the religion. In this way, I will propose that Ames falls close to approaching the hermeneutical circle problem: he uses parts to explain the whole, and yet in order to truly understand the parts, one must grasp the whole. I believe a less romanticized, more in-depth view of the cultural background associated with Confucianism would help students overcome this issue. Because role ethics plays such a specific role in eastern culture, versus a more individualistic western style ethics, Ames’ method for demonstrating Confucianism runs the risk of simplifying the practice and cultural importance of the religion. The presentation will draw on other examples of the complexity of this religion, including sociologist Fe Xiaotong’s From The Soil, to further exemplify the deep-rooted foundation of Confucian ethics in the east.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dippmann, Jeffrey

Additional Mentoring Department

Philosophy and Religious Studies

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May 15th, 12:40 PM May 15th, 12:59 PM

Confucian Role Ethics: Reflections From A Global Perspective

SURC Room 271

The purpose of this presentation is to critique Ames’ book Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary in two categories: the global applicability of his role ethics method in presenting Confucianism to the western world, and the viability for students when studying Confucianism from a modern, western standpoint. Role ethics can be defined as a relationship-based system of ethics in which moral action is based off of community roles and person-to-person association. The issue with explaining Confucianism through this lens is that it relies heavily on cultural relativism. Several aspects of Confucianism are based upon ancient Chinese tradition–that is to say, foundational Chinese culture and Confucianism are intertwined in such a way separating the two can leave holes in understanding the religion. In this way, I will propose that Ames falls close to approaching the hermeneutical circle problem: he uses parts to explain the whole, and yet in order to truly understand the parts, one must grasp the whole. I believe a less romanticized, more in-depth view of the cultural background associated with Confucianism would help students overcome this issue. Because role ethics plays such a specific role in eastern culture, versus a more individualistic western style ethics, Ames’ method for demonstrating Confucianism runs the risk of simplifying the practice and cultural importance of the religion. The presentation will draw on other examples of the complexity of this religion, including sociologist Fe Xiaotong’s From The Soil, to further exemplify the deep-rooted foundation of Confucian ethics in the east.