, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 211-220

First online:

Heaven as a Source for Ethical Warrant in Early Confucianism

  • Philip J. IvanhoeAffiliated withDepartment of Public and Social Administration, City University of Hong Kong Email author 

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Contrary to what several prominent scholars contend, a number of important early Confucians ground their ethical claims by appealing to the authority of tian, Heaven, insisting that Heaven endows human beings with a distinctive ethical nature and at times acts in the world. This essay describes the nature of such appeals in two early Confucian texts: the Lunyu (Analects) and Mengzi (Mencius). It locates this account within a larger narrative that begins with some of the earliest conceptions of a supreme deity in China. The essay concludes by noting some similarities and differences between these early Confucian accounts and more familiar views commonly shared by monotheists.


Confucianism Kongzi Mengzi Heaven Morality