Ren, empathy and the agent-relative approach in Confucian ethics

Wai Ying WONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The recent debate on whether Confucian Ethics should be viewed as a type of virtue ethics inevitably touches on the issue of the meaning of virtues such as ren 仁, yi 義, and li 禮. However, the argument would be over-simplified to claim that since Confucianism puts significant weight on virtues then it is virtue ethics. The conclusion would mainly depend on how we understand the key concepts such as ren, yi and the roles they play in the ethical life of humans. Some scholars interpret ren as benevolence, yet others interpret it as empathy. In this paper, I will make a scrutiny of these concepts and their implications. My primary aim is to discern the characteristics of Confucian ethics, rather than to classify it into some categories that are largely constructs of contemporary philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalAsian Philosophy: An International Journal of the Philosophical Traditions of the East
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012


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