Mengzi believed that tyrannical rulers can be justifiably deposed, and many contemporary scholars see this as grounding a right of popular rebellion. I argue that the text of the Mengzi reveals a more mixed view, and does so in two respects. First, it suggests that the people are sometimes permitted to participate in a rebellion but not permitted to decide for themselves when rebellion is warranted. Second, it gives appropriate moral weight not to the people’s judgments about the justifiability of rebelling, but rather to certain affections and behaviors that closely track their life satisfaction. I contend that in both respects the permissions Mengzi grants the people fall short of a proper right of rebellion. I conclude that the more historical account of Mengzi’s “just revolt theory” suggests an intriguing division of deliberative labor, and note some of the advantages of this account.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Bell, Daniel A. 2006. Beyond Liberal Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cheng, Chung-ying. 1998. “Transforming Human Virtues into Human Rights.” In Confucianism and Human Rights. Ed. By Wm. Theodore and de Bary and Tu Weiming. New York: Columbia University Press.
Ching, Julia. 1998. “Human Rights: A Valid Chinese Concept?” In Confucianism and Human Rights. Ed. By Wm. Theodore and de Bary and Tu Weiming. New York: Columbia University Press.
de Bary, Wm. Theodore. 1998. “Introduction.” In Confucianism and Human Rights. Ed. By Wm. Theodore and de Bary and Tu Weiming. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hart, H.L.A. 1961. The Concept of Law. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lee, Seung-Hwan. 1992. “Was There a Concept of Rights in Confucian-Based Morality?” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 19: 241–61.
Locke, John. 1988. Two Treatises of Government. P. Laslett, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mengzi 孟子譯注. 1990. Translated and annotated by Yang Bojun 楊伯峻. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua Shuju 中華書局.
Tu, Wei-ming. 1993. Way, Learning, and Politics. Albany: SUNY.
Twiss, Sumner B. 1998. “A Constructive Framework for Discussing Confucianism and Human Rights.” In de Bary and Tu 1998: 27–53.
Xiao, Gongquan 蕭公權. 1983. A History of Chinese Political Thought 中國政治思想史, vol. 1. Taipei: Lianjing 聯經.
About this article
Cite this article
Tiwald, J. A Right of Rebellion in the Mengzi? . Dao 7, 269–282 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-008-9071-z