Selfhood and Morality: East Asian and Western Dimensions

  • Geir Sigurðsson


Chapter  6 proposes that contrasting views of selfhood and its role in social human life account for the most important differences between the East Asian and Western ethical traditions. A comparison of these views is helpful to flesh out the different perceptions of morality. It is proposed that Western thinking is characterized by a strong focus on the self, and that while Western ethical thinkers and schools certainly seek to reduce self-centeredness, such endeavors generally proceed through an augmentation of the role of human reason and thus an intense and even tormenting self-consciousness. A clear reflection of this tendency is the ethical approach to moral issues qua issues associated with individual action and rational choice. The East Asian approach differs in that it seeks to balance excessive introspection with a cultivated sense of identification with the whole, be it society or the natural realm. While this approach, it seems, largely succeeds in preventing an existential kind of agony, it nevertheless suffers from some other serious weaknessess. Hence each tradition, it is argued, has something to offer the other. Chapter  6 offers a brief outline of the two approaches that may, one hopes, act as a first step toward that purpose.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geir Sigurðsson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IcelandReykjavikIceland

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