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Moral Virtue, Civic Virtue, and Pluralism
Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy (2016)
  • Stephen C. Angle, Wesleyan University
Kim Sungmoon’s Confucian Democracy in East Asia: Theory and Practice makes many important contributions to our understanding of what is at stake in thinking of Confucianism as a viable political theory in the modern world. One of the book’s most interesting features is its grounding in the on-going practice of Confucianism in South Korea, on the one hand, and yet its emphasis on pluralism within Korean society, on the other.[1] Kim thus aims to describe and defend a polity that, while not relying on its citizens’ unanimous acceptance of Confucianism as comprehensive doctrine, nonetheless can legitimately maintain a distinctively Confucian public, political culture. One key to this balancing act is arguing both that modern Confucians should distinguish between moral and civic virtue, but also that civic values are rooted in behaviors and values learned in less public contexts (especially the family). I am sympathetic to Kim’s aims but suspect that the balance I have described is somewhat more complicated to maintain than Kim acknowledges; this is especially true when we take into full account the significance of immigrant multiculturalism. I argue here that Kim’s aims are nonetheless achievable if we both avail ourselves of a more nuanced idea of ritual than he deploys and more explicitly embrace a restricted version of perfectionism.
  • Confucianism,
  • democracy,
  • political philosophy,
  • Korea,
  • China
Publication Date
September, 2016
Citation Information
Stephen C. Angle. "Moral Virtue, Civic Virtue, and Pluralism" Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy Vol. 15 Iss. 3 (2016) p. 447 - 452 ISSN: 1540-3009
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