, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 93–110 | Cite as

The Role of Virtue in Xunzi’s 荀子 Political Philosophy

  • Eirik Lang HarrisEmail author


Although there has been a resurgence of interest in virtue ethics, there has been little work done on how this translates into the political sphere. This essay demonstrates that the Confucian thinker Xunzi offers a model of virtue politics that is both interesting in its own right and potentially useful for scholars attempting to develop virtue ethics into virtue politics more generally. I present Xunzi’s version of virtue politics and discuss challenges to this version of virtue politics that are raised by the Legalist thinker Han Fei. I show that not only is Xunzi’s virtue politics capable of surviving the challenges raised by his contemporary, he offers an account that is in many ways both attractive and plausible, one that may usefully be brought into conversation with contemporary visions of virtue politics.


Xunzi Han Fei Political philosophy Ideal theory Non-ideal theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public and Social AdministrationCity University of Hong KongKowloonHong Kong

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