Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.


Political philosophy, Confucian

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S102-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2006
Retrieved December 05, 2022, from

Article Summary

Confucianism is a tradition of ethical and political thought in which ethics and politics are tightly connected. Confucianism endorses a politics of virtue that can be understood in two ways. First, politics in Confucianism aims to promote certain virtues and social relationships it defines as good; second, Confucianism conceives that politics can be successful only if the people in power are virtuous. Confucian political philosophy is therefore a kind of perfectionism which says that the state should promote the good life, and it is therefore directly opposed to the contemporary liberal view that the state and its officials should take no stance regarding what constitutes the good life. This entry introduces the Confucian vision of politics and explores its implications for three issues, namely: the source of political authority, the scope of people’s rights and liberties, and the responsibilities of the state towards its people’s welfare. The politics of virtue as conceived in Confucianism naturally tends to endorse rule by the wise instead of rule by the many; it tends to stress the need for people to cultivate virtues rather than to enjoy rights and liberties; and it sees people’s care for the poor and needy as stemming from virtues or duties rather than imperatives of social equality or justice. Despite this natural tendency, however, it is not obvious that the politics of virtue leaves no room for democracy, rights, and egalitarian justice. Indeed some commentators have argued that a number of these liberal-democratic ideas are either present in Confucianism or consistent with its central tenets. It is arguable that classical Confucian texts do not contain any ideas of democracy, human rights, or egalitarian justice, but do leave room for endorsement of the first two ideals under certain circumstances.

Citing this article:
Chan, Joseph. Political philosophy, Confucian, 2006, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S102-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

Related Searches



Related Articles