Public Reason Confucianism: A Construction

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17 Citations (Scopus)


If perfectionism is understood as the state's non-neutral promotion of a valuable way of life, Confucian political theory, often pursued as a pluralist correction to global monism of liberal democracy, is ineluctably perfectionist. But how can Confucian perfectionism, committed to particular Confucian values, reconcile with the societal fact of value pluralism within the putative Confucian polity? This article argues that a potential tension between Confucian perfectionism and value pluralism can be avoided by making Confucian perfectionist goods the core elements of public reason with which citizens can justify their arguments to one another and by which the state can justifiably exercise its public authority to reasonable citizens who otherwise subscribe to various comprehensive doctrines. By defining a mode of Confucian perfectionism working through Confucian public reason broadly shared by citizens as public reason Confucianism, this article attempts to balance the Confucian polity's internal societal pluralism and the people's collective self-determination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Mar 3

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work described in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China [Project No. 11403814]. The author would like to thank Sandra Field, Philip J. Ivanhoe, Gao Jie, Soo Yeon Kim, Chandran Kukathas, Terry Nardin, Luke O'Sullivan, Rahul Sagar, Sor-hoon Tan, Christina Tarnopolsky, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2015.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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