The origin of political liberty in confucianism: A nietzschean interpretation

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Confucianism, traditionally affiliated with authoritarianism, is now credited with a strong allegiance to liberal values. But by centring on moral freedom, the liberal reinterpretation of Confucianism has paid less attention to the value of political liberty in it. If anything, it tends to treat political liberty merely as a derivative of moral freedom. Notwithstanding a dialectical relation between moral freedom and political liberty in Confucianism, however, Confucian political liberty cannot be properly understood without considering kingship as the political backdrop. This article argues that in the Confucian tradition, Mencius first theorized political liberty while wrestling with the problem of realpolitik of his time. In order to make Mencius' claim more intelligible, it first examines the psychological origin and the essential characteristics of realpolitik by analysing Nietzsche's concept of 'the higher man' and shows how Mencius judiciously transvaluated realpolitik in terms of tyranny and justified political liberty as a moral weapon against it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-415
Number of pages23
JournalHistory of Political Thought
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy


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