Sie sind auf Seite 1von 24

Confucius and Mencius on the Motivation to Be Moral

Yong Huang
Philosophy East and West, Volume 60, Number 1, January 2010, pp. 65-87 (Article)
Published by University of Hawai'i Press DOI: 10.1353/pew.0.0089

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by University of Wales Trinity Saint David at 05/30/11 5:54PM GMT


Yong Huang Department of Philosophy, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Introduction If someone asks Why should I (or ought I to) do x?where x can be any particular action that may require some self-sacrifice in the interests of otherswe normally think that this person asks a reasonable question that deserves a serious answer. One such answer can be: it is moral to do x, meaning that to do x is something good or right; in other words, it is something that one should or ought to do. However, if the person further asks: Why should I (or ought I to) be moral? we may think that this person is starting to become unreasonable or even irrational. On the one hand, to be moral is to do (or to be) what one should or ought to do (or be). So to ask Why should I be moral? is equivalent to asking Why should I be (or do) what I should be (or do)?which is a tautology. On the other hand, to be moral is presumably to be concerned with the interests and welfare of others, and it seems that the person who asks the question is looking for a self-interested reason to be moral. So to ask Why should I be moral? is equivalent to asking What self-interested reasons are there for me to be not self-interested?which is a contradiction. However, as I shall argue below, if we think this way we may have missed the point of the question. If the person is satisfied with our initial answer to his or her question Why should I do x? it is clear that this person is already motivated to be moral. The only reason he or she asks the question is to be sure that x is a moral thing to do. However, if the person is not satisfied with our initial answer and further asks the question Why should I be moral? it is clear that the person perhaps already knows, even before asking the question, that x is a moral thing to do but lacks the motivation to be moral. In other words, the person who asks the question is not in search of a theoretical answer that explains the nature of the action (to do x) but is interested in a practical answer that can motivate him or her to do x. In this sense, I think that the question is clearly a legitimate one. What is not so clear is whether there is any legitimate answer to this question. Since the person who asks the question, if I am right, lacks the motivation to be moral, this person must be an egoist. Here, I do not think that it is necessarily contradictory to provide egoistic reasons to motivate the egoist to be not egoistic (actually this is what we often hear from some discussions in business ethics. For example, we are often told that to be fair to customers is the best way to make money, particularly in the long run). The problem is that when we provide such egoistic reasons to motivate a person to be moral, even if we do succeed, we are afraid that we are providing the wrong reasons for being moral.

Philosophy East & West Volume 60, Number 1 January 2010 6587 > 2010 by University of Hawaii Press


In this article, I attempt to examine a Confucian answer,1 largely collected from the Analects and the Mencius, that can both take the question seriously and avoid the risk of providing the wrong reasons (this, of course, does not necessarily mean that Confucius and Mencius clearly had the egoistic question in mind in the passages that I am going to explore). I shall argue that, for Confucians, one should be moral because it is a joyful thing to be moral. In Platos terms, it pays (not in the material and external sense but in the sentimental and inner sense) to be moral. This answer invites a further question. While everyone seeks joy, and so to ask why one should seek joy is indeed unreasonable, one can also seek joy in doing non-moral or even immoral things as well as in doing moral things. So there remains a reasonable question: why should I seek joy in doing moral things rather than in doing non-moral and/or immoral things? The Confucian answer to this question is surprisingly simple: to be moral is a distinctive mark of being human. In other words, if one seeks joy in doing immoral things, one is no longer distinguishable from beasts. Of course, if the person is still not motivated to be moral and prefers being a beast to being a human, then Confucianism indeed does not have any further answer, except to say, as Mencius indeed does, that this person must be stupid. The question Why be moral, as a question about moral motivation, is essentially a question raised by egoists who lack the motivation to be moral. The Confucian answer to this question, at least in appearance, is also an egoistic one: it pays to be moral. So I will conclude this essay with a brief note on what I call virtuous egoism. The Question of Why Be Moral and Its Legitimacy In Platos Republic, Glaucon asks the question Why should I be just? and sharpens it with the famous Gyges ring, which makes a person visible or invisible at will. Suppose that there are two such rings, one for a just person and one for an unjust person. On the one hand, the unjust person uses the ring to make himself invisible when doing unjust things and visible when doing just things or at least not doing unjust things. In Glaucons example, the unjust person is not someone who consistently does unjust things or does nothing but unjust things. Rather,
the unjust man must act as clever craftsmen do. . . . The unjust man who attempts injustice rightly must be supposed to escape detection if he is to be altogether unjust, and we must regard the man who is caught as a bungler. For the height of injustice is to seem just without being so. To the perfectly unjust man, then, we must allow him, while committing the greatest wrongs, to have secured for himself the greatest reputation for justice, and if he does happen to trip, we must concede to him the power to correct his mistakes by his ability to speak persuasively if any of his misdeeds come to light. (Plato 1963, 361ab)

On the other hand, the just person may use the ring to turn himself/herself invisible when doing just things and visible when not doing just things:


Philosophy East & West

If he [the just man] is going to be thought just he will have honors and gifts because of that esteem. We cannot be sure in that case whether he is just for justices sake or for the sake of the gifts and the honors. So we must strip him bare of everything but injustice and make his state the opposite of his imagined counterpart. Though doing no wrong he must have the repute of the greatest injustice, so that he may be put to the test as regards justice through not softening because of ill repute and the consequences thereof. But let him hold on his course unchangeable even unto death, seeming all his life to be unjust though being just. (Plato 1963, 361c)

In short, if an unjust person can have the appearance of being just or at least no appearance of being unjust, and a just person may have the appearance of being unjust or at least no appearance of being just, it may be asked: why should I be just? Here, as Glaucons brother Adimantus points out, it seems that injustice pays much better than justice: the consequences of my being just are, unless I likewise seem so, not assets, they say, but liabilities, labor, and total loss, but if I am unjust and have procured myself a reputation for justice, a godlike life is promised (Plato 1963, 365b). This is perhaps the origin of the question Why be moral? that has troubled moral philosophers ever since. The question is puzzling, because it does not ask Why should we be moral? which it is relatively easy to answer: if we are not moral to each other, we will be living in Thomas Hobbes state of nature, in which everyone is at war against everyone else, which benefits no one and hurts everyone. The question rather asks Why should I be moral? Put more blatantly, it asks Why should I be moral to others, if my not being moral to them will not cause others to be equally not moral to me? Obviously, this is a question raised by an egoist who is first of all concerned with his/her self-interest.2 To such a question, we might be tempted to answer: if everyone else acts immorally to others, thinking that his/her acting immorally will not cause others to be equally immoral to him/her, then everyone will act immorally to you; so you should be moral to others. However, such an answer is obviously not convincing to the person who poses the question: even if this were the case, since at least my being moral to others cannot guarantee that others will be moral to me, why should I be moral to them? It would certainly be much worse to me if I am moral to others while they are not moral to me.3 Understood this way, the question Why be moral has often been regarded as absurd, something we can simply ignore. Stephen Toulmin, for example, thinks that this question reaches the limits of ethical reasoningthat is, the kind of occasion on which questions and considerations of an ethical kind can no longer arise (Toulmin 1964, p. 160). In his view, ethical reasoning may be able to show why we ought to do this action as opposed to that, or advocate this social practice as opposed to that, but there is no room within ethics for the question Why ought one to do what is right?to be moral is to do what I should do, and to ask Why should I be moral is to ask Why should I do what I should do, and this question, therefore, is on a level with the question, Why are all scarlet things red? (p. 162). In other words, for Toulmin, the question Why should I be moral?just like the

Yong Huang


question Why are all scarlet things redis a tautological question. To answer it, we can only ask a rhetorical question, What else ought one to do? (p. 162), just as in answer to the question Why are scarlet things red? we can only ask a rhetorical question, What else can scarlet things be?4 While Toulmin regards this question as illegitimate because it is tautological, F. H. Bradley considers it unreasonable because it is self-contradictory: morality asks us not to be self-interested, but the person who asks the question Why should I be moral? is apparently looking for some self-interested reasons for being not selfinterested. In his view, when we ask and attempt to answer the question of why we should be moral, we are regarding morality as a means to some further end, but morality is the end of itself, and so the question is unreasonable. He argues:
to take virtue as a mere means to an ulterior end is in direct antagonism to the voice of the moral consciousness. That consciousness, when unwarped by selfishness and not blinded by sophistry, is convinced that to ask for the Why? is simply immorality; to do good for its own sake is virtue, to do it for some ulterior end or object, not itself good, is never virtue; and never to act but for the sake of an end, other than doing well and right, is the mark of vice. (Bradley 1935, pp. 6162)5

Is then the question Why should I be moral? indeed as unreasonable as Toulmin and Bradley, among others, think? A moral principle tells one what he or she should do. When we ask people to follow moral principles, we are essentially saying that you should follow moral principles; in other words, we are saying that you should do what you should do. So when someone asks the question Why should I be moral? or Why should I follow moral principles? the person is indeed asking Why should I do what I should do? However, this is not a tautological question. Kai Nielsen makes an important distinction between the moral and non-moral uses of the word should. In the question Why should I do what I should do? while the second should is indeed used in the moral sense, the first is used in a non-moral sense. Thus, Nielsen points out:
When I ask, Why should I be moral? I am not asking . . . What moral reason or reasons have I for being moral? That indeed is like asking Why are all scarlet things red? Rather I am asking, can I, everything considered, give a reason sufficiently stronga nonmoral reason clearlyfor my always giving an overriding weight to moral considerations, when they conflict with other considerations, such that I could be shown to be acting irrationally, or at least less rationally than I otherwise would be acting, if I did not give such pride of place to moral considerations. (Nielsen 1989, pp. 286287)

In other words, the question Why should I be moral? asks whether it is rational for me to be moral, assuming it is good for me to be moral. However, if this is the case, does this mean that the question Why should I be moral? becomes a selfcontradictory question? In appearance it is. Bill Shaw and John Corvino agree with Nielsens distinction between moral and non-moral uses of the word should. In their view,


Philosophy East & West

when people ask, Why should I be moral? they are not asking Why (morally) ought I to do what I (morally) ought to do? Such a question clearly would be circular. Rather, they are asking, Why is it in my interest to do what I (morally) ought to do?, What (non-moral) reasons are there for acting morally? or Why should moral claims have any purchase on me in the first place? (should is used here in a non-moral sense). Put in these ways, the question is quite intelligible. (Shaw and Jorvino 1996, p. 374)

According to Shaw and Corvino, the first should asks what self-interested reasons I have to do what I ought to do. Since what I ought to do is something not selfinterested, the question Why should I be moral?that is, what self-interested reasons do I have to be not self-interested?becomes a self-contradictory question. David Copp, however, disagrees. In his view, to ask what self-interested reasons do I have to be moral (to be not self-interested) is to ask does morality override selfinterest? Or does self-interest override morality? Here, Copp assumes that there are possible cases in which the overall verdicts of morality and self-interest conflict and claims:
the conflict between morality and self-interest in conflict cases is therefore a normative conflict; it is conflict between the overall verdicts of different normative conflicts. I take it that the question of whether morality overrides self-interest is the question of whether the verdicts of morality are normatively more important than the verdict of self-interest. (Copp 1997, p. 86)

I agree with Nielsen and Copp that the question Why should I be moral? is neither tautological nor self-contradictory. It is a legitimate question. Given the simple fact that whoever asks the question does not have the inclination to be moral, it is crucial to make a distinction between moral justification and moral motivation. In its extended form, Why should I do what I should do (follow a moral principle)? the first should is not intended to provide a justification for the second should (the moral principle). Otherwise, the moral principle would become something merely instrumental. Instead, the question Why should I be moral? or the first should in its extended form, Why should I do what I should do? really concerns the issue of moral motivation. The person who asks the question is not a moral skeptic. He or she knows clearly that he or she should be moral but lacks the motivation to be so. A person who is motivated to be moral will never ask the question Why should I be moral? Understood this way, the question really asks What motivation(s) do or can I have to be moral? and this seems to me a perfectly legitimate question. Taking Delight in Being Moral Can Confucianism provide a legitimate answer to this question? Confucianism is a learning of moral self-cultivation. However, the highest goal of such self-cultivation is joy (le ). In several crucial passages in the Analects, Confucius expresses this idea most unequivocally. First, he states that to know it (zhi zhi ) is not as good as to like it (hao zhi ); and to like it is not as good as to find joy in it

Yong Huang


(le zhi ) (Analects 6.20). It is not entirely clear what this it (zhi), the object of the three verbs in the passage, refers to. However, even though its Neo-Confucian interpretation as Dao or Principle (li ) is somewhat controversial, since Confucian learning is primarily learning about moral cultivation, we can be relatively certain that this it must be somewhat related to morality. So what Confucius says here is that to know what is moral is not as good as to like what is moral, and to like what is moral is not as good as to take delight in being moral. Even though the NeoConfucian interpretation of the distinction between like it (regarding it as something external to oneself that one likes) and take delight in it (regarding it as something one gets from oneself) (see Cheng and Cheng 2004, Waishu 2, p. 361) may be excessively creative, it is clear that Confucius regards taking delight in being moral as the highest stage. Second, Confucius states that moral cultivation is to be stimulated (xing ) by poetry, established (li ) by rules of propriety, and accomplished (cheng ) by music (Analects 8.8). As is common in classical (as well as modern) Chinese, there is no subject for the three verbs xing, li, and cheng. However, there is a relative consensus among scholars that what Confucius has in mind is the process of moral cultivation. So in the translation above I assume that what Confucius tries to say is that, in this process, ones moral cultivation starts from reading the Poetry, from which ones moral sentiments can be stimulated; yet such moral sentiments are unstable unless they are regulated by rules of propriety: when ones action is regulated by rules of propriety, one will have a sense of external force, and so ones moral cultivation can be accomplished only by music, by which one becomes natural in performing moral actions. This interpretation is, of course, also controversial, but what is not controversial is that Confucius regards music as something by which ones moral cultivation is accomplished. To understand this, it is important to point out that not only do music (yue) and joy (le) share the same Chinese character , but their meanings are also closely related. This is made particularly clear by Mencius: the essence of music (yue ) is to take delight (le ) in the two [humanity (ren ) and rightness (yi )], naturally resulting in joy (le ). As soon as the joy arises, it cannot be stopped; as it cannot be stopped, one cannot help but dance with feet and wave with hands even without realizing it (Mencius 4a27). Thus, when ones moral cultivation is accomplished by music, one performs moral actions in the same way as one dances to the music: everything is natural and spontaneous, and one does not feel the slightest bit of force or hesitation. Third, there is the famous passage in which Confucius describes the milestones of the process of his own moral development: at fifteen I set my mind on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the decree of Heaven; at sixty my ears were attuned; and at seventy I followed my hearts desire without overstepping the line (Analects 2.4). The meanings of these stages are not entirely clear, but what is most important is the last stage, at which Confucius can act according to his hearts desire without violating any moral principles. While the word joy (le) is not present here, it is a perfect description of what joy means: to act according to ones own desire. This is regarded as the highest stage


Philosophy East & West

of moral cultivation because at this stage one does not need to worry about any external rules of morality. But this does not mean that at this stage one has acquired a privileged freedom from the constraints of such rules; it means that such rules are no longer needed, as whatever one does, without any consideration of such rules, is precisely what these rules would require one to do. To use Mencius terms, at this stage one no longer practices humanity and rightness (xing ren yi ) but practices from humanity and rightness (you ren yi xing ) (Mencius 4b19). In the former, humanity and rightness are still seen as something external that one practices; in the latter, however, they are clearly recognized as something internal to oneself. When they are realized as internal to oneself, Confucius claims that one can love virtue as one loves [beautiful] colors (Analects 9.18 and 15.13) and, as added in the Great Learning, hate evil as one hates bad odors (Great Learning 6). This is a great analogy. One does not need to be told to make a calculated deliberation, or to make any forced effort, to love beautiful colors, and hate bad odors. As soon as one sees beautiful colors, one will love them, and as soon as one smells bad odors, one will hate them. As a matter of fact, one cannot recognize any colors as beautiful until one loves them and cannot regard any odors as bad until one hates them. It is in this sense that Confucius claims that, at this highest stage of moral cultivation, one will seek to do good as if there is no time left, and avoid doing evil as avoiding touching boiling water (Analects 16.11). To understand this Confucian idea of joy, it will be helpful to examine what has been regarded as the joy of Confucius and Yanzi (kong yan zhi le ) in the Confucian tradition. This is related to two passages in the Analects. In the first one, Confucius praises his student Yan Hui : How virtuous is Yan Hui! With a single bamboo dish of food, a single gourd cup of unboiled water, and living on a shabby lane, while all others cannot endure the hardship, only he does not allow his joy to be affected. Yan Hui, how virtuous he is indeed! (Analects 6.11). To live a poor life on a shabby lane is normally considered something painful. Why does Yanzi feel joy in it? and why does Confucius praise Yanzi for his joy? Yanzi is no different from anyone else, as, just as with anyone else, poverty cannot make him joyful. Obviously Yanzi is joyful and Confucius praises him for some other reason, which is not overridden by the harshness of his life. Then exactly what is the reason? This is made clear in the second Analects passage in which Confucius talks about his own joy: with coarse grain to eat, with unboiled water to drink, and with my bended arm as pillowmy joy lies right in them. Riches and honors acquired not in a right way seem to me a floating cloud (7.16). While Confucius praises Yan Hui for not allowing his joy to be affected (bu gai qi le ) by poverty, he says that he can find joy right in poverty (le zai qi zhong ). Although some later Confucian commentators think that there is some qualitative difference between Yan Huis bu gai qi le and Confucius le zai qi zhong, mainly in order to show that Confucius is on a yet higher level than Yan Hui, I believe that they are largely describing the same phenomenon. The reason that Yan Huis joy is not affected by poverty and that Confucius can

Yong Huang


find joy in poverty is explained in the last sentence of the Analects passage above: riches and honors acquired not in a right way seem to me a floating cloud. Confucius feels joy in poverty and Yan Huis joy is not affected by poverty because, by not avoiding it, they can abide by moral principles. Although Confucius says that their joy lies in or is not affected by eating coarse grain, drinking unboiled water, and living on a shabby lane, et cetera, this does not mean that coarse grain, unboiled water, and a shabby lane are themselves good things. The real source of ones joy comes from ones being in accord with moral principles, which would be violated should one try to avoid poverty in these particular cases. This is made clear by a related Analects passage: Riches and honor are what every person desires. However, if they are obtained in violation of moral principles, they cannot be kept. Poverty and humble stations are what every person dislikes. However, if they can be avoided only in violation of moral principles, they should not be avoided (Analects 4.5). Talking about this kong yan zhi le, Mencius makes a similar point:
Fish is what I want; bears palm is also what I want. If I cannot have both, I would rather take bears palm than fish. Life is what I want; rightness is also what I want. If I cannot have both, I would rather take rightness than life. Life is what I want, but there is something that I want more than life. That is why I do not cling to life at all costs. Death is what I hate, but there is something I hate more than death. That is why I do not avoid calamities at all cost. (Mencius 6a10)

So it is not a morally bad thing to seek richness and life, just as it is not a morally good thing to avoid poverty and death. Richness and life should not be sought and poverty and death should not be avoided only if to do so one has to violate a moral principle. As long as one is in accord with moral principles, one can find joy in anything, whether in poverty or in riches, whether in seeking life or sacrificing ones life. The description of the kong yan zhi le in the context of poverty in the two Analects passages, however, is particularly effective, as one can see more clearly what this Confucian joy consists of, since poverty is obviously not something that by itself can bring joy to anyone. In the Confucian tradition, in addition to the kong yan zhi le, there is also a joy in cheng , than which Mencius claims there is no greater joy (le mo da yan ): Ten thousand things are all here in me. There is no greater joy than finding that I have realized myself through self-reflection (fan shen er cheng ) (Mencius 7a4). Here I translate the Chinese word cheng as realization, in its double meaning in English. On the one hand, through self-examination, one realizes (knows) oneself or, rather, the nature (xing ) or Dao within oneself; on the other hand, one realizes (fulfils or completes) ones self-nature by being moral. It is in this sense that Mencius says that there is no joy greater than the realization of oneself. If one feels joy for anything that is beneficial to oneself, then certainly there cannot be any joy that is greater than the joy in realizing oneself in the above-mentioned double sense, since one certainly cannot do anything more beneficial to oneself than to realize (know and fulfill) ones own nature. Yet this realization, cheng, brings one the greatest joy for a related reason: superior persons follow their nature, that


Philosophy East & West

is, humanity, rightness, propriety, and wisdom, which are rooted in their heart/mind. Its sleek appearance is inevitably manifested in their faces, backs, and extended to their four limbs, rendering itself understood without words being used (7a21). The nature one realizes in oneself is nothing but the four cardinal virtues, and as soon as these virtues are fully realized, one will naturally, spontaneously, and joyfully practice from these virtues. So cheng is not only self-regarding but also other-regarding. It is in this sense that the Doctrine of Mean combines the two meanings of cheng, selfrealization and realization of others: cheng is not only the realization of oneself but also the realization of others. Realization of the self means humanity. The realization of other things means wisdom. These are the characters of the nature, and they are the Dao in which the internal and the external are united (Doctrine of the Mean 25). It might be thought that only sages can find joy in performing moral actions. Mencius, however, argues that the ability to feel joy in being moral is present in everyone. In the same passage quoted above, immediately after the claim that there are things one desires more than life and that there are things one hates more than death, Mencius argues that not only worthy people have such a heart/mind; common people all have it. The worthy people simply make sure that it does not get lost (Mencius 6a10). In this respect, Mencius makes two related arguments. The first aims to argue that sages and the rest of us are of the same kind: Things of the same kind are all alike. How can there be an exception when it comes to humans? Sages and I are of the same kind. Thus Longzi said that when someone makes a shoe for a foot he has not seen, I am sure that he will not produce a basket. All shoes are alike because all feet are alike (6a7). Since sages and the rest of us are alike, if sages can find joy in being moral, then everyone can. The reason is that everyone has a heart/mind, which a common thing must exist to please. This is what Mencius tries to argue for in the second argument:
All palates have the same preference in taste, all ears have the same preference in sound, and all eyes have the same preferences in beauty. How can heart/mind alone be different? In what are all hearts/minds the same? It is principle and rightness. Sages are the first to discover the common thing that pleases our hearts/minds. The principle and rightness pleases (yue ) my heart/mind just as meat pleases my palate. (Mencius 6a7)

So the difference between sages and the rest of us is not that while the former can find joy in performing moral actions the rest of us cannot; the difference is only that sages were the first to find the common thing that pleases all our hearts/minds, just as Yiya (the legendary cook) was the first to find the common thing that pleases all our palates, and Shikuang was the first to find the common thing that pleases all our ears (ibid.). Being Moral as Being Distinctively Human From our discussion in the previous section, we can see that the Confucian answer to the question Why be moral? is that it is a joy to be moral; in other words, being moral is what pleases everyones heart/mind. Since one is motivated to do things

Yong Huang


that please him or her, one should have the motivation to be moral. This answer may seem a little simplistic: if so, the question Why be moral? which is really concerned about the motivation for morality, would not be raised in the first place, as everyone would already be motivated to be moral. However, the reason that the question is raised and that there are still people who are not motivated to be moral is at least partially explained in our discussion of the Confucian answer in the previous section. Although the joy of Confucius and Yanzi (kong yan zhi le) is typically described as a joy one can still feel in poverty, Confucianism does not advocate asceticism and therefore does not oppose seeking joy in non-moral things. As we have seen, Confucius says that riches and honor are what every person desires (Analects 4.5). Mencius also states that everyone desires life and hates death. In the Analects, there is also a famous passage in which Confucius asks his students about their ambitions. After some have expressed their ambitionto administer a large invaded state, endowing its people with courage and correct principle; to rule a small state, making its people sufficient in their livelihood; to be a junior assistant, serving at an ancestral temple and conferences of feudal lordsZeng Dian , playing the zither, expresses his ideal: in the late Spring, wearing Spring dress, I would go with five or six grownups and six or seven children to bathe in the Yi River, enjoying the breeze from the Rain Dance Altar, and then return home singing. After listening to them all, Confucius says, somewhat surprisingly, I agree with Zeng Dian (wu yu dian ye ) (Analects 11.26). Later Confucians have all taken delight in talking about Confucius wu yu dian ye. The problem occurs only when ones seeking joy in non-moral things leads to the violation of moral principles, or when ones seeking joy in being moral frustrates ones desires for non-moral things. As we have seen, in such situations, Confucius clearly prizes the joy in being moral over the joy in non-moral things (Analects 4.5). In Mencius view, even when one seeks non-moral joys in eating and drinking, one should regard this as providing a condition for one to seek moral joys; after all, one cannot do moral things when one lacks the physical strength to do so. Thus Mencius claims, A person who cares only for food and drink is despised by others because the person takes care of the parts of less importance to the detriment of the parts of greater importance. However, if one can care about food and drink without neglecting any other part of his or her person, then his or her mouth and belly are more than just a foot or an inch of his or her skin (Mencius 6a14). As a matter of fact, as we have seen, Mencius claims that one should love morality more than life and hate immorality more than death. Confucius himself makes it clear that to perform moral action often requires one to endure certain physical pains and even to sacrifice ones life: People of knowledge and humanity may accept death in order to realize humanity but will not seek life at the price of humanity (Analects 15.9). To live in poverty and sacrifice ones life of course causes pain. However, in the Confucian view, it causes one more pain to avoid pain and death by violating moral principles. To be rich and have a long life of course brings one joy; however, in the Confucian view, it brings one greater joy to be moral even if this excludes one from


Philosophy East & West

being rich and living a long life.6 It is in this sense that Confucius makes a distinction between beneficial and harmful joys: Joy in being in accord with propriety and music, joy in praising the goodness of others, and joy in having good people as friends are beneficial joys. Joy in showing off, joy in living a dissolute life, and joy in being licentious are harmful joys (Analects 16.5). In a similar vein, Mencius also talks about the three joys of superior persons: The first joy is that parents are alive and brothers are well; the second joy is not being ashamed in the face of heaven above and of other people under heaven; and the third joy is to have the most talented students in the empire (Mencius 7a20). What is important here is not the actual items that Confucius and Mencius, respectively, regard as beneficial joys and the joys of superior persons but the fact that they both consider that the joy brought about by being moral is genuine joy, which should trump joys brought about by non-moral and even immoral actions. With this Confucian answer, the egoist who seeks joy and yet lacks the motivation for being moral, instead of asking Why should I be moral? may ask Why should I seek moral joy rather than immoral joy? After all, even though Confucius and Mencius give moral joy more weight than immoral joy, the egoist certainly has a different assessment of the respective values of these two kinds of joy. To such an egoist, the Confucian answer is surprisingly simple: to be moral is characteristic of being human. This is related to the discussion of what is called the distinction between humans and beasts (ren qin zhi bian ), which continues throughout the history of Chinese philosophy. In Mencius view, the distinction between humans and beasts is very slight. The inferior people (shu min ) abandon it, while superior people preserve it (Mencius 4b19). What is the slight thing that distinguishes not only between humans (that have it) and beasts (that do not have it) but also between superior persons (who preserve it) and inferior persons (who abandon it)? In one place, Mencius claims that it is the heart/mind of humanity and propriety: superior persons are different from other people because they preserve their heart/ mind. They preserve their heart/mind with humanity and propriety. A person of humanity loves others, and a person of propriety respects others (4b28); on the other hand, if one person treats another person of humanity and propriety, who has done his best for the first person, in an outrageous way, then such a person does not know what he or she is doing. Such a person is no different from beast, and one cannot expect such a person to know any better (4b28). Thus, in Mencius view, while it is important that people are well fed, warmly clothed, and comfortably lodged, sages realize that without education, they will become almost no different from animals; and for this reason sages make sure that people are taught about human relationships: love between father and son, rightness between ruler and minister, distinction between husband and wife, proper order between older and younger brothers, and faithfulness between friends (Mencius 3a4). To further explain this type of education, Mencius quotes the Sage-King Yao: Encourage them, lead them on, rectify them, straighten them, help them, and aid them, so that they can get it [their moral nature] themselves (zi de ) (3a4). So the purpose of education is not to impose external morality upon people; it is rather

Yong Huang


to help people to recover their inborn moral nature. This is because, according to Mencius, everyone has the heart that cannot bear to see the suffering of others. . . . For this reason, whoever is devoid of the heart of compassion is not human; whoever is devoid of the heart of shame is not human, whoever is devoid of the heart of courtesy and modesty is not human, and whoever is devoid of the heart of right and wrong is not human (2a6). Ultimately, the Confucian answer to the question Why should I be moral? is this: because you are a human being. Everyone has the motivation for joy. It is true that joy can be sought either by following or violating moral principle. However, since the distinctive mark of being human is a moral heart, and human beings are essentially moral beings, one should seek joy in being moral more than any other joy.7 I think this is a convincing answer, even to the egoist who raises the question. Of course, even if this is the case, it is very likely that the egoist is still not motivated to be moral. However, from the Confucian point of view, this betrays the stupidity of the egoist, which contradicts what the egoist appears to be or thinks he or she is. The egoist normally appears to be, and indeed thinks that he or she is, smarter than others. He or she may laugh at people who perform moral actions, thinking that they are stupid, particularly if they do not even try to let everyone under heaven know that they are performing such moral actions; he or she can benefit himself or herself much more by performing immoral actions, particularly because he or she is smart enough to make himself or herself invisible when performing such immoral actions. From the Confucian point of view, however, it is the egoist who is stupid or nearsighted, to say the least. In this respect, Mencius offers a series of important analogical arguments, mostly in part 1 of book 6. In one argument, Mencius describes the stupidity of the immoral person as that of someone who abandons a comfortable home and proper road: Humanity (ren) is the comfortable home and rightness is the proper road. How lamentable it is to abandon the comfortable home and divert from the proper road! (Mencius 4a10). Since humanity and rightness are ones heart/mind, Mencius regards the immoral person as one who has lost his or her heart/mind and does not care to look for it. In close connection with this, Mencius ridicules the stupidity of such an immoral person by saying that such a person certainly cares to look for his or her chickens or dogs when lost but not for his or her own lost heart/mind:
humanity is ones heart/mind and rightness is ones road. It is sad to abandon ones road instead of following it and let ones heart/mind go astray without trying to get it back. When ones chickens and dogs go astray, one cares to get them back; and yet when ones heart/mind goes astray, one does not care to get it back. The sole concern of learning is thus to get the strayed heart/mind back. (Mencius 6a11)

In this connection, Mencius also compares the immoral person to someone who knows that trees need to be taken care of but not that his or her own person needs to be taken care of: even with a tong or zhi tree one or two spans thick, anyone who wishes it to be alive knows that it needs to be taken care of. However, when it


Philosophy East & West

comes to ones own person, one does not know that it also needs to be taken care of. Does the person love his own person less than trees? This is unthinking to the highest degree! (Mencius 6a13). Mencius also discloses the stupidity of the immoral person by describing him or her as someone who cares about his or her finger more than his or her heart/mind:
Now if ones third finger is bent and cannot stretch straight, although this does not cause any pain nor hinder ones use of it, if there is someone who can straighten it, one will not care about the distance [to seek the cure]. This is because ones finger is not as good as the finger of others. When ones finger is not as good as others, one knows to dislike it; however, when ones heart/mind is not as good as others, one does not know to hate it. (Mencius 6a12)

This is essentially the same argument as the one Mencius makes in the more frequently quoted passage in which Mencius pictures the immoral person as one who cannot recognize the hierarchical values of the parts of the body of greater and lesser importance:
How can there be any other way to see whether a person is good or not than to see what choice the person makes! Different parts of ones person (ti ) differ in value and importance. One should never harm the part of greater value and importance for the sake of the part of less value and importance. The person who nurtures the part of great value and importance is a great person, while the person who nurtures the part of less value and importance is a small person. A gardener who tends the common trees while neglecting the valuable ones is a bad gardener. A person who takes care of his or her finger to the detriment of his or her shoulder and back without realizing the mistake is a deluded, muddled person. (Mencius 6a14)

Because of such stupidity, immoral persons do not know that, when seeking joy in doing immoral things, they are actually causing great harm to themselves, just like persons who take good care of their tree but neglect to attend to the disease of their own body, or who take care of their finger to the detriment of their shoulder and back, or who go to look for their lost chickens and dogs but do not care for their own lost heart/mind. For this reason, an immoral person, again because of his or her stupidity, dwells happily among dangers, looks upon disaster as profitable and delights in what will lead them to perdition (Mencius 4a8). An immoral person likes to have joy but causes the greatest harm to himself or herself as a human being without realizing it. It is in this sense that Mencius says that the immoral person who hates death and yet takes delight in being inhumane (bu ren ) is like one who hates drunkenness and yet drinks excessively (4a3). In the preceding, I have presented a Confucian answer to the question Why be moral? The answer, simply put, is that to be moral is a joyful thing (and to ask why one should do a joyful thing is irrational). While one may also find joy in doing nonmoral and/or immoral things, to be moral is a distinguishing mark of being human. So to be moral is a precondition for being human. This is a most unique feature of the Confucian tradition and is in sharp contrast to the conception of the human as rational that is dominant in the Western philosophical tradition.8 At the same time,

Yong Huang


while Confucians acknowledge that different human beings may be endowed with different intellectual and other non-moral abilities, they are all equally endowed with moral ability.9 So while it is impossible for everyone to become an Einstein, it is possible for everyone to become a sage, the paradigmatic human being in the Confucian tradition. In order to become a sage, Mencius claims,
all you need to do is to make the effort. The problem is not that people do not have sufficient strength, but that they refuse to make the effort. To walk slowly behind ones elders is considered as brotherly love, while to walk quickly ahead of ones elders is considered as the lack of such love. Now is it beyond ones ability to walk slowly? One simply refuses to make the effort. The Dao of Yao and Shun is simply that of filial piety and brotherly love. . . . The Dao is like a wide road and is not difficult to find. The trouble is that people do not look for it. (Mencius 6b2)

Thus, Mencius makes a famous distinction between unable (buneng ) and unwilling (buwei ). Anyone who is immoral is immoral not because he or she is unable to be moral but because the person is unwilling to be moral. While there are things that humans are unable to do, such as striding over the North Sea with Mount Tai under ones arm (Mencius 1a7), to be moral is not one of them. To say that one cannot do moral things is like saying that one cannot lift a feather or one cannot see a cartload of firewood, as he explains to King Xuan of Qi (1a7). The reason is that, for Mencius, everyone is born with the four sprouts of morality, as everyone is born with the four limbs: the heart/mind of commiseration, the heart/mind of shame, the heart/mind of courtesy and modesty, and the heart/mind of right and wrong. In Mencius view,
with these four inborn sprouts of morality, anyone who says that he or she is unable [to be moral] is one who cripples himself or herself. . . . With these four sprouts in oneself, if one cares to develop them, it will be like a fire starting up or a spring coming through. When one fully develops them, one can take under ones own protection the whole realm within the four seas; but when one fails to develop them, one is not able to serve ones own parents. (Mencius 2a6)

Concluding Remarks: Altruistic Egoism / Egoistic Altruism The question Why should I be moral? is raised in the context of egoism. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, if we take this question seriously, we may risk providing a wrong reason (an egoistic reason of self-interest) for being moral (to be altruistic). Does the Confucian answer examined here run the same risk? In appearance, it does, as essentially it also tells us that it is in ones own interest, or it pays, to be moral. We have seen that, for Mencius, immoral persons are stupid because they fail to realize that to be moral best serves their self-interest. As an admirer of the past golden age, Confucius seems also to be an egoist when he laments that the learners of the ancient are for the sake of themselves (weiji ), while the learners of today are for the sake of others (weiren ) (Analects 14.24).


Philosophy East & West

However, it is important to understand what Confucius means by for the sake of oneself and for the sake of others. When Confucius praises the learners of the past for their being for themselves, he means to say that they learn in order to cultivate themselves; while Confucius looks down upon the learners of today for their being for others, he means to say that they learn only in order to decorate themselves with fine scholarship to impress others. To cultivate oneself (to be for the sake of oneself), in this Confucian tradition, means to become fully human by developing ones inborn tendencies to be concerned with others interests. Therefore, the more one is for the sake of oneself, the more one is for the sake of others. In contrast, to show off ones scholarship in front of others (to be for the sake of others) is to be concerned with ones own interest (with fame). So the more one is for the sake of others in this sense, the more one is for the sake of oneself.10 In this context, it would be interesting to bring into our discussion a famous passage in Analects 6.30: one who wishes to establish oneself establishes others, and one who wishes to be noble lets others be noble. This passage is normally understood as the Confucian version of the Golden Rule in its positive expression (in contrast to its negative expression in Analects 12.2: Do not do unto others what one does not wish others to do unto oneself). However, Qing scholar Mao Qiling , in his Corrected Four Books () (Cheng Shude 1990), interprets it to mean that one cannot establish oneself without establishing others, and one cannot make oneself noble without letting others be noble. In other words, to establish others is inherently part of establishing oneself, and to let others be noble is inherently part of making oneself noble. In Mencius terms, the self that one is to be concerned with is the part of ones person that is of greater importance, the heart/mind with the four inborn virtues: humanity, rightness, propriety, and wisdom. For this reason, Mao Qiling relates this passage not only to the idea of realizing oneself (cheng ji ) and realizing others (cheng wu ) in the Doctrine of the Mean, which we have already discussed, but also to manifesting ones clear character (ming mingde ) and loving people (qin min ) at the very beginning of the Great Learning; to making oneself alone perfect (du shan qi shen ) and making the whole Empire perfect (jian shan tian xia ) in Mencius 7a9; and to cultivating oneself (xiu ji ) and bringing security to people (an ren ) in Analects 14.42 (see Cheng Shude 1990, p. 429). In this understanding, the two items in each of these pairs are inseparable: one cannot realize oneself without realizing others, manifest ones clear character without loving people, make oneself perfect without making the world perfect, and cultivate oneself without bringing peace to people, and vice versa. From this we can see that if the Confucian answer is an egoist answer, it is obviously different from the types of egoism that we are familiar with: psychological egoism, rational egoism, and ethical egoism. However different they are, these three types of egoism are all in contradiction to altruism in their corresponding senses. In the Confucian answer, however, this contradiction has disappeared. In order to be egoistic, one has to be altruistic, and in order to be altruistic, one has to be egoistic. The reason, as we have seen, is that while it is in ones self-interest to be moral, this

Yong Huang


self-interest is not something extraneous to ones moral action, as is the case in much of the contemporary discussion of business ethics. LaRue Tone Hosmer, for example, brings the Gyges ring into this context: what shall we say to a modern Gyges active in management? (Hosmer 1994, p. 191). Hosmers answer is that acting in ways that can be considered to be right and just and fair is absolutely essential to the long-term competitive success of the firm (p. 192). Here, disregarding criticisms of such an approach as ineffective,11 we can see that the reason that it pays to be moral is that such moral action will, sooner or later, bring benefits to the business person or company. In such a situation, the business person does not find it a joy to be moral. As a matter of fact, one is often pained by being moral. One chooses to be moral nevertheless only because one takes delight in the benefits that one will reap as the consequence of ones moral action. In other words, one performs moral actions not for their own sake but for the sake of their consequent benefits; it is prudent to be moral. In contrast, the Confucian view is that the self-interest one seeks by performing moral actions is inherent in these actions: one feels joy in being moral not because it can serve ones interest to gain fame or praise or any material benefit; rather it is because one realizes ones self-natureas a moral beingby performing moral actions.12 In Mencius terms, the self that a virtuous person is concerned with is the part of ones person that is of greater importance, the heart/mind with the four inborn virtues: humanity, rightness, propriety, and wisdom. Since one cannot be an altruist (serving the interests of others) without taking good care of the greater part of ones own person, an altruist has to be an egoist; however, one cannot be an egoist (taking care of that greater part) without serving the interests of others, so an egoist has to be an altruist. Thus, in Confucianism, the two apparently antithetical ideas, egoism and altruism, are combined. Moreover, they are combined not in such a way that Confucianism is partially egoistic and partially altruistic, but in a way that is both completely egoistic and completely altruistic: a virtuous person acts entirely for the sake of ones true self and so is completely egoistic; however, this is only because the virtuous person defines his or her true self as one concerned with the interests of others and so is entirely altruistic. It is not correct to say that the virtuous person is primarily an egoist because he or she takes care of the interests of others only as a means to serve the interest of his or her own true self, just as it is not correct to say that the virtuous person is primarily an altruist because he or she takes care of his or her own true self only as a way to serve others. Rather, altruism and egoism completely overlap here. As illustrated by the figure used by Wittgenstein, which sometimes looks like a duck and sometimes like a rabbit (Wittgenstein 1958, p. 194), a virtuous person sometimes looks like an egoist (working toward ones own goal) and sometimes like an altruist (making it ones very goal to serve the interests of others). So in contrast to the three familiar types of egoism, this Confucian egoism is altruistic and so can be regarded as an altruistic egoism. As we have seen, altruism and egoism, instead of being antithetical, can come together in Confucianism, as it has a unique conception of the ego or self. This ego or self in Confucian egoism is the


Philosophy East & West

great ego or self (the parts of ones person that are of greater importance in Mencius), which is in contrast to the small ego or self (the parts of lesser importance), the ego or self in the familiar types of egoism. In this Confucian altruistic egoism, one can fully develop ones great ego or self only by overcoming ones small ego or self. This explains why, while advocating learning for the sake of ones self (the great self), Confucius also says that humanity, the most important Confucian virtue, can be realized only by overcoming ones self (the small self) (Analects 12.1). In this egoism, it is wrong to ask, as a Kantian may well be tempted to, whether one does a moral thing simply because one thinks it is in ones own interest or because one thinks it is really the right thing to do. In the Kantian view, if it is the former situation, one does the moral thing for a wrong reason, and only if it is the latter can ones action have genuine moral value. According to Confucian altruistic egoism, however, since to be self-interested and to be moral are not only not contradictory, they are not even two things that happen to coincide perfectlythey are actually one and same thing. When one seeks ones true self-interest, one must be performing a moral action; and when one performs a moral action, one must be seeking ones true self-interest. Ones true self-interest cannot be served by any other means, and there is no moral action that does not serve ones true self-interest. In this sense, it is even wrong to claim, as some do,13 that one should first cultivate oneself (fulfilling ones own nature) and only later be concerned with the interests of others. Ones true self-nature cannot be fulfilled without a concern for the interests of others. In light of such a virtuous egoism, we can say that one seeks the interests of others (to be virtuous) precisely in order to seek ones own interest (to be an egoist); and we can also say that one seeks ones own interest (to be an egoist) precisely in order to seek the interests of others (to be virtuous). To be self-interested in this sense is identical to being interested in others. The very action that promotes the interests of others, precisely when and because it promotes the interests of others, promotes ones own self-interest as well, as ones self-interest is precisely to promote the interests of others. Thus, the more virtuous (more concerned with the interests of others) a person is, the better his or her self-interest is served, and vice versa. This, I claim, is the core of Confucian altruistic egoism or egoistic altruism.14 So Confucian egoism is essentially altruistic, and this is what sets it apart from other types of egoism. In this sense, Confucianism is a type of altruism. However, Confucian altruism is egoistic and is thus an egoistic altruism, which sets it apart from other types of altruism. What is most distinctive of Confucian altruism is that when a virtuous person looks after the interests of others (being an altruist), he or she does not have to overcome his or her inclinations. Instead one takes delight in being altruistic, because Confucianism, particularly its Mencian line, believes that one has the natural inclination to be concerned for others. This is the essential point I tried to make in the previous section of this essay. It is here that Confucianism sharply distinguishes itself from Kantianism. However, this idealistic aspect of human nature in Confucianism is accompanied by a realism with regard to human situations. Confucians, including Mencius, realized that some people may lose their innate goodness due to lack of care. For such people, moral education by sages and

Yong Huang


superior people is necessary, through their teachings, their example, and rules of propriety and even laws that they help to institute. At the initial stage of this moral cultivation, a person may perform moral actions without feeling joy in them; one may need to make great efforts, overcome ones strong inclinations, and feel reluctant to attempt to be a moral person. Kant would regard such actions, if eventually performed, as typical moral actions, actions of genuine moral worth. However, for Confucianism, this is only a necessary stage on the way to moral cultivation; the ultimate goal is illustrated by Confucius himself at the age of seventy, when he did nothing that he was not inclined to do, and yet nothing he did was immoral.

Notes 1 In another article, I examined some representative answers to this question by important philosophers in the Western tradition, such as Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant, and found them all wanting. Either they are confused about rationality (able to find means adequate to the end) and reasonableness (concerned also about the interests of others when concerned about ones own interest), in the sense in which John Rawls uses these two terms (see Rawls 1996, pp. 4854), when they claim that egoists are irrational (as in the case of Hobbes and, to a lesser extent, that of Hume), or they require one to believe in God (as in the case of Kant with his idea of the highest good), which only works, if at all, for those who already do so, or they simply ask one to be like a god (as in the case of Plato and Aristotle). For more detail, see Huang 2008, pp. 322330. 2 John van Ingen makes a useful distinction among personal egoists, universal egoists, and individual egoists: (a) Universal egoist: Everyone ought to seek her own self-interest and disregard the interest of all others in cases of conflict; (b) Individual egoist: Everyone ought to seek my (the individual egoists) selfinterest; and (c) Personal egoist: I (the personal egoist) ought to seek my own self-interest exclusively, the interests of others being valued only instrumentally as an aid in the pursuit of my singular value (Ingen 1994, p. 39). Ingen claims that the question we are discussing here is one raised by a personal egoist. 3 In addition to the issue of who should be moral, Michael D. Bayles has pointed out other complexities of the question Why be moral?what it is to be moral (to act morally or to be a moral person, for example) and what moral means (see Bayles 1973). 4 Davis holds a similar view. He argues that there is no non-moral reason to answer the question: In a very important sense moral awareness carries with it its own authority and legitimacy. In answer to the question, Why be moral? we may say simply, Because you know you ought to. We simply know we ought to do what seems to us right, and we know this in a way that is subject to no skeptical attack. An awareness of a moral duty contains in itself, as an


Philosophy East & West

intrinsic part of what a duty is, the justification, the authority, the reason for its being obeyed (Davis 1991, p. 8; see also p. 19). 5 As a matter of fact, Bradley does find an end, namely self-realization: Realize yourself as an infinite whole means, Realize yourself as the self-conscious member of an infinite whole, by realizing that whole in yourself. When that whole is truly infinite, and when your personal will is wholly made one with it, then you also have reached the extreme of homogeneity and specification in one, and have attained a perfect self-realization (Bradley 1935, p. 80). However, Bradley does not consider self-realization as the end of morality. In his view, self-realization as the final end is something with which morality is identified, or under which it is included (p. 81). 6 Hospers disagrees with this view. According to him, even if we could accept what seems to him the problematic claim that morality is necessary for happiness, it is not sufficient for happiness: no matter how moral the man may be, he is not happy when he is being tortured on the rack, or when he suffers from cancer of the bone, or when his family is being fed to the lions (Hospers 1961, p. 179). As we have seen, Confucians do not think pain and suffering are good things. They should be avoided. They are not to be avoided and one should feel joy in not trying to avoid them only if, to avoid them, one has to violate moral principles. To be tortured is, of course, a painful thing, but it is even more painful to violate moral principles by avoiding torture. Thus, on a spectrum with extreme happiness on the left and extreme pain on the right, for a virtuous person, to be tortured in this case is closer to the left than to violate moral principles is, or to violate moral principles is closer to the right than to be tortured is. 7 This Confucian argument about the distinction between humans and beasts, in one sense, is quite similar to the argument developed by J. S. Mill in his response to the criticism that utilitarianism regards human beings as no different from beasts when it sees pleasure as the highest goal of human life. In Mills view, there are different pleasures, and utilitarians assign to the pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imaginations, and of the moral sentiments, a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation, as few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beasts pleasure; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs (Mill 1972, pp. 89). 8 Aristotle (and, in a slightly different way, Plato) also argues that to be moral is distinctive of being human, but he does not think it is the best thing that humans can and should do. The latter is philosophical contemplation, which, on the one hand, not everyone can do and, on the other, may be in conflict with ones being moral, as to be moral one will be busy involving oneself

Yong Huang


with affairs of other people, while philosophical contemplation needs leisure. I have presented an extended discussion of this Aristotelian view in contrast to the Confucian view as presented in this article (see Huang 2008, pp. 342346). 9 Later, the Ming dynasty Neo-Confucian Wang Yangming expressed this idea most vividly using the analogy of gold: Sages are sages because their heart/ minds are in complete accord with the heavenly principle, not mixed with any human desires. This is just as pure gold is pure gold because of its perfection in quality, not mixed with any copper or lead. People who have reached the state of being in complete accord with the heavenly principle are sages, just as gold that has become perfect in quality is pure gold. However, sages are different from each other in terms of ability and strength, just as different pieces of pure gold are also different from each other in terms of the weight. . . . While different in terms of ability and strength, people are all sages as long as the heavenly principle in them is pure, just as different pieces of gold are all pure gold as long as they are all perfect in quality, even though they weigh differently (Wang 1996, p. 62). 10 When discussing this Confucian idea of for the sake of the self, Tu Wei-ming points out that the Confucian insistence on learning for the sake of the self is predicated on the conviction that self-cultivation is an end in itself rather than a means to an end. Those who are committed to the cultivation of their personal life for its own sake can create inner resources for self-realization unimaginable to those who view self-cultivation merely as a tool for external goals such as social advancement and political success (Tu 1995, p. 105). In Tus view, if Confucians dont subscribe to the thesis that learning is primarily for selfimprovement, the demand for social service will undermine the integrity of self-cultivation as a noble end in itself (p. 106). While I think Tu is basically correct in explaining this Confucian idea of for the sake of the self, he does not pay enough attention to the close relationship and even identity between for the sake of oneself (moral cultivation of self) and for the sake of others (virtuous actions affecting others). 11 For example, Bill Shaw and John Corvino argue that Hosmer does not seriously consider Gyges ring in Plato: we cannot tell whether true morality will fare better than the mere appearance of morality in generating corporate success. Furthermore, we see no way at all to test whether true morality will fare better. . . . [H]ow can we expect them [managers] to behave morally when they believe that they can hedge their bets and achieve as much or more success by vice than by virtue? (Shaw and Corvino 1996, p. 378). 12 Here we can see that though Aristotle thinks that virtuous actions have only a secondary role in characterizing human happiness, in his discussion of the selflove of a virtuous person he holds a view very similar to the Confucian position we discuss. In Aristotles view, true lovers of self are not those who assign to themselves the greater share of wealth, honours, and bodily pleasures


Philosophy East & West

(Aristotle 1963, 1168b1516), but those who are always anxious that they should act justly, temperately, or in accordance with any other of the virtues and in general are always to try to secure for themselves the honourable course (1168b2628). The reason is that a person of the latter type assigns to himself the things that are noblest and best, and gratifies the most authoritative element in himself . . . and therefore the man who loves this and gratifies it is most of all a lover of self (11168b2933). Then he reaches exactly the same conclusion as the Confucians: therefore the good man should be a lover of self (for he will both himself profit by doing noble acts, and will benefit his fellows), but the wicked man should not; for he will hurt both himself and his neighbours, following as he does evil passions (1169a1215). 13 For example, Meng Peiyuan , in his interpretation of the relationship between realization of oneself (zi cheng ) and realization of others (cheng wu ) in a passage from The Doctrine of the Mean quoted earlier in this essay, claims that realization of oneself is the starting point, while realization of others is the result. The key to learning of a sage is realization of oneself. Realization of others can take place only after one realizes oneself (Meng 1993, p. 18). This cannot be correct. One cannot realize oneself without at the same time realizing others, as cheng wu is an inherent part or even the very definition of cheng ji. 14 Richard Kraut, having Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics in mind, regards such an egoism as substantive egoism in contrast to form egoism. Substantive egoism first proposes a concrete conception of the good, and then urges each of us to maximize our own good, so conceived. . . . It does not claim that one should seek ones own good, come what may for others; rather, by arguing that acting virtuously and acting well coincide, it seeks to undermine the common assumption that at bottom the self must come into conflict with others (Kraut 1998, sec. 4). Similarly, Jiyuan Yu, in his recent study of Confucius and Aristotle, regards such an egoism as noble egoism in contrast to egoism in the common sense, which he regards as base egoism. Thus, he points out that, in the case of Aristotle, the issue about egoism and altruism is one between noble egoism and the good of others, that is, between the pursuit to satisfy ones rational self and the requirements of social morality (Yu 2007, p. 206). What I want to add or make explicit is that, in Confucius and Mencius, a noble egoist is necessarily an altruist, and vice versa.

References Analects. 1980. In Yang Bojun , (Translation and annotations of the Analects). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju . Aristotle. 1963. Ethica Nicomachea. In Works of Aristotle, vol. 9. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yong Huang


Bayles, Michael D. 1973. The Complexity of Why Be Moral? The Personalist 54:309317. Bradley, F. H. 1935. Ethical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University. Chan, Wing-tsit, trans. and comp. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cheng Hao , and Cheng Yi . 2004. (Works of the two Chengs). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju. Cheng Shude . 1990. (Collected commentaries on the Analects). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju. Copp, David. 1997. The Ring of Gyges: Overridingness and the Unity of Reason. Social Philosophy and Policy 14:86106. Davis, W. H. 1991. Why Be Moral? Philosophical Inquiry: International Quarterly 13:121. The Doctrine of the Mean. In Chan 1963. Translation modified. The Great Learning. In Chan 1963. Translation modified. Hosmer, LaRue Tone. 1994. Why Be Moral: A Different Rationale for Managers. Business Ethics Quarterly 4 (2): 191204. Hospers, John. 1961. Human Conduct: An Introduction to the Problems of Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Huang, Yong. 2008. Why Be Moral? The Cheng Brothers Neo-Confucian Answer. Journal of Religious Ethics 36 (2): 321353. Ingen, John van. 1994. Why Be Moral: The Egoistic Challenge. New York: Peter Lang. Kraut, Richard. 1998. Egoism and Altruism. In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York and London: Routledge. The Mencius. 2005. In Yang Bojun , (Translation and annotation of the Mencius). Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan . Meng Peiyuan 1993. (Reflections on the subject in Chinese philosophy). Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe . Mill, John Stuart. 1972. Utilitarianism, On Liberty, and Considerations on Representative Government. Edited by H. B. Acton. London: Everymans Library. Nielsen, Kai. 1989. Why Be Moral. Buffalo: Prometheus Books. Plato. 1963. The Republic. In Plato: The Collected Dialogues. Edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Rawls, John. 1996. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press. Shaw, Bill, and John Corvino. 1996. Hosmer and the Why Be Moral? Question. Business Ethics 6 (3): 373383.


Philosophy East & West

Toulmin, Stephen. 1964. An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tu Wei-ming. 1995. Happiness in the Confucian Way. In Leroy S. Rouner, ed., In Pursuit of Happiness. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Wang Yangming. 1996. (Complete works of Wang Yangming). Beijing: Hongqi Chubanshe . Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan. Yu, Jiyuan. 2007. The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue. New York: Routledge.

Yong Huang