Han Fei on the Problem of Morality

  • Eirik Lang HarrisEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP)


In this chapter, I argue that Han Fei provides a strong argument against Confucian virtues, or, indeed, any other moral qualities, playing a role in the political realm. He argues particularly against Confucian political theory on a variety of grounds. Not only does he argue that a Confucian political theory cannot practically be implemented, he gives reasons to doubt the efficacy of such a system even if it were possible. I argue that, for Han Fei, so long as order within the state is the goal, virtue (and morality more generally) can have no important role. If morality is distinct from what gives rise to order within the state, there will be occasions when it conflicts with ordering the state. If not, then it is not morality in a true sense. Thus it can play no positive role in the political sphere. If it has a role, it is an accidental one, one determined by circumstances, rather than the nature of government itself.


Political Theory Virtue Ethic Private Interest Political Order Moral Vision 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Underwood International CollegeYonsei UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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