Gu Hongming and the Chinese Religion of Good Citizenship: A Confucian Vision beyond Moral and Cultural Relativism

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Book Chapter

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Multi-religious perspectives on a global ethic: In search of a common morality


Huaiyu Wang questions the value of a global ethic based on universalism like the Global Ethic because, he argues, it may invite aggressive absolutism or dogmatic relativism. Moreover, Wang argues, in their hearts and consciences, truly educated people in all religious and spiritual traditions always know, however indistinctly, what is the right behavior. As an alternative, he recovers, rethinks, and develops Gu Hongming’s ideas of soul expansion and Religion of Good Citizenship. Gu’s Religion of Good Citizenship, Wang holds, is exemplified by Confucian ethics, “a moral connoisseurship based on the sympathetic intelligence and inexpressible gentleness of sagacious personalities.” At the heart of Confucian ethics is ren, “the empathetic openness of the self.” For Wang, Gu’s ideas offer a better base to a global ethic because they nurture the good taste of the Gentleman and Gentlewoman who make judicious judgments on the proper balance and application of competing moral norms. Respondent Brook Ziporyn is not sure that “good citizenship” solves the difficulties that Wang raises but can perhaps understand why, if ren is taken to mean humankind/ness, human/kindness, human/kind/ness, Gu would see a way to an idea of citizenship that is both more and less than a universal ethical ideal, more like a musical score played in various styles by different communities.


Philosophy, Religion and Liberal Studies


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