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The Political Legacy of Heaven(天) in the Mencius : Theorizing the Rule through Virtue

Kim Giyeon 1 Hongkyu PARK 1

1고려대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The political philosophy collection of dialogues, debates and sayings, the Mencius, emphasized the rule through Virtue according to which a King shall rule in benevolence(仁) and righteousness(義), not for profits(利). Mencius, while describing the ancient Chinese emperors in his book, refers to the notion of Heaven(天). It is interesting that Mencius, self-identified as a follower of Confucius deliberately uses the notion of Heaven, notion that Confucius himself was reluctant to use. This paper claims that in order to convince the rule through Virtue in a different way from Confucius, Mencius adopted the notion of Heaven which actively intervenes in the affairs of men. Rather than adopting a normative approach(e.g. 'a King must do so' or 'doing so is right'), Mencius attempted to generalize and bestow social regularity. Mencius thus struggled to theorize the rule through Virtue and the notion of Heaven played a salient role in this process. While the previous studies focus on the continuity from Confucius to Mencius since they both argued for the rule through Virtue, namely also the benevolent rule(仁政) or the rule of the righteousness(王道), it is however necessary to pay attention to the discontinuity between the two philosophers in their different way of claiming the rule through Virtue, which leads us to read the Mencius afresh. The legacy of Heaven in the Mencius can be thus understood as placed intentionally in order to theorize the rule through Virtue.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.