Please wait a minute...

Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front Phil Chin    2011, Vol. 6 Issue (2) : 217-238
The Subjectivity and Universality of Virtues—An Investigation Based on Confucius’ and Aristotle’s Views
LIAO Shenbai()
College of Philosophy & Sociology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Download: PDF(617 KB)   HTML
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks

Philosophers today are inclined to propose virtues are either something subjective or something universal. However, Confucius and Aristotle, who made the most profound investigations into virtues, did not develop such theses. The deep-seated reason lies in their belief that there is always a possibility for a human being to become a man of practice, which cancels the need of proposing subjectivity thesis. The reason for their not raising the universality thesis of virtues is that they do not think that virtues are directly universal to all contemporarily existing minds. Rather, in their view, virtues involve a possible universality that may present in a virtuous mind. We can summarize Aristotle’s view into the concept of possible universality of virtue understood in terms of the perfect state of mind, since he explains the perfect state of mind in terms of perfect state of activity, and makes his investigations with an eye to the interactions between people with similar states of virtues. The view of Confucius can be summarized into the concept of possible universality of virtue understood in terms of the history of mind, since his investigations are made from the point of view of the states of mind reached through virtuous practices, i.e., a historical process of human life in which one’s pre-dispositions and feelings gradually reach some state of natural harmony and gains continual enrichment, and with an eye to the interactions between virtuous people and common people. From that similarly expressed view we can reasonably infer that virtues do possess the character called by today’s philosophers as universality, but it is a possible universality whose possibility is based on practice and on the development of virtuous minds.

Keywords virtue      virtuous mind      practice      subjectivity of virtues      universality of virtues     
Corresponding Author(s): LIAO Shenbai,   
Issue Date: 05 June 2011
 Cite this article:   
LIAO Shenbai. The Subjectivity and Universality of Virtues—An Investigation Based on Confucius’ and Aristotle’s Views[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2011, 6(2): 217-238.
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
LIAO Shenbai
Related articles from Frontiers Journals
[1] HU Xinkai. Complete Virtue and the Definition of Happiness in Aristotle[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2020, 15(2): 293-314.
[2] Jacklyn A. Cleofas. An Understanding of Character from Holistic Thinking: What Asian Psychology Teaches Us about the Debate on Situationism[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2019, 14(3): 384-405.
[3] Jan Szaif. Drunkenness as a Communal Practice: Platonic and Peripatetic Perspectives[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2019, 14(1): 94-110.
[4] LIU Yuedi. From “Practice” to “Living”: Main Trends of Chinese Aesthetics in the Past 40 Years[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2018, 13(1): 139-149.
[5] Alicia Hennig. Three Different Approaches to Virtue in Business- Aristotle, Confucius, and Lao Zi[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(4): 556-586.
[6] Teun Tieleman. The Early Stoics and Aristotelian Ethics[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(1): 104-121.
[7] Michael Slote. From Virtue to Freedom through Emotion[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(3): 430-443.
[8] Bongrae Seok. Moral Psychology of Shame in Early Confucian Philosophy[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2015, 10(1): 21-57.
[9] Jung-Yeup Kim. Confucian Ethical Practice as a Method of Creating and Sustaining Whiteheadian Beauty[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(2): 318-328.
[10] NI Liangkang. Edmund Husserl’s Political Praxis and Theoretical Reflections during World War I[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(2): 241-253.
[11] John Lamont. The Consolations of Boethius[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(1): 69-86.
[12] Rajesh C. Shukla. Justice and Civic Friendship: An Aristotelian Critique of Modern Citizenry[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2014, 9(1): 1-20.
[13] LU Qiaoying. Aquinas’s Transformation of the Virtue of Courage[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(3): 471-484.
[14] LIU Jing. Kant’s Virtue as Strength[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(3): 451-470.
[15] WANG Kai. Xunzi: A Paradigm of Rationalistic Virtue Ethics in Early Confucianism[J]. Front Phil Chin, 2013, 8(3): 388-396.
Full text