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Mencius and Dewey on Moral Perception, Deliberation, and Imagination

Abstract

I argue against interpretations of Mencius by Liu Xiusheng and Eric Hutton that attempt to make sense of a Mencian account of moral judgment and deliberation in light of the moral particularism of John McDowell. These interpretations read Mencius’s account as relying on a faculty of moral perception, which generates moral judgments by directly perceiving moral facts that are immediately intuited with the help of rudimentary and innate moral inclinations. However, I argue that it is a mistake to identify innate moral inclinations as the foundational source of moral judgments and knowledge. Instead, if we understand that for Mencius an individual’s natural dispositions (xing 性) have a relational element, then the normativity of moral judgments can be seen as stemming from the relationships that constitute the dispositions of each individual. Finally, this essay elaborates on John Dewey's account of moral deliberation as moral imagination, an account which also takes the relational quality of natural dispositions as its starting point, in order to suggest the vital role of imagination for Mencius’s own account of moral deliberation.

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Correspondence to Amit Chaturvedi.

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Chaturvedi, A. Mencius and Dewey on Moral Perception, Deliberation, and Imagination. Dao 11, 163–185 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-012-9276-z

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Keywords

  • Moral judgment and motivation
  • Quan
  • Analogical extension
  • Xing
  • Relationality