Virtue politics and political leadership: A confucian rejoinder to Hanfeizi

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6 Citations (Scopus)


In the Confucian tradition, the ideal government is called benevolent government (ren zheng), central to which is the ruler's parental love toward his people who he deems as his children. Hanfeizi criticized this seemingly innocent political idea by pointing out that (1) not only is the state not a family but even within the family parental love is short of making the children orderly and (2) ren as love inevitably results in the ruin of the state because it confuses what is right/meritorious with what is not, thus disrupts the legal system. In this paper, I defend Confucian virtue politics against Hanfeizi's criticisms. I argue that by failing to grasp the complex nature of ren that encompasses both emotion (ren as love) and moral virtue (ren as filiality), Hanfeizi also failed to understand the actual process in which the ruler's parental love is extended to the people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-197
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012 May 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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