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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sentimentalist Virtue Ethics Reconsidered: a Comparison of Mengzi and Hume
by Zhang, Meng, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2020, 346; 28085998
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a systematic comparison of Mengzi’s and Hume’s ethical thought. It argues that Mengzi’s and Hume’s ethical views bear significant affinities with each other in the following aspects: both forms of ethics appeal to the affective sensitivity of human nature when understanding moral psychology, both anchor the standard of virtue in the sentiments generated by the evaluative activity of humans interacting with each other in relationships, and both contain the commitment that some virtues consist in voluntary submission to social norms which exist to facilitate the well-being of humans.

Previous comparisons of Mengzi and Hume contain misinterpretations of the two thinkers and require metaphysical commitments beyond what they claim in the texts. In this project, I aim at developing a comparative framework based on faithful interpretations of both thinkers. In the process I (1) shed light on Mengzi’s ethics as an attractive and defensible ethical theory by divorcing it from the dubious metaphysics informing previous interpretations, (2) advance discussion of the role played by institutional norms in a sentiment-based ethics, and (3) use Mengzian and Humean resources to reconstruct a plausible model of moral cultivation.

Emerging from this interpretative and comparative project is a sentiment-based virtue theory that deserves attention because it is plausible and avoids some of the problems of eudaimonistic virtue ethics. On a more general level, I wish to call for a reconsideration and critical appreciation of the legacy of the Enlightenment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stalnaker, Aaron
Commitee: Abramson, Kate, Ing, Michael, Nance, Richard
School: Indiana University
Department: Religious Studies
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Philosophy, Asian Studies, Comparative religion
Keywords: comparative studies, Hume, Mengzi, virtue
Publication Number: 28085998
ISBN: 9798672150345
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