Confucian Ethics and "The Age of Biological Control"
Abstract

Ronald Dworkin claims that if we are able to control our own biology, "our most settled convictions will . . . be undermined [and] we will be in a kind of moral free-fall." This is so because he takes moral convictions to be determined by the choices we make against a fixed biological background. It would seem that if Confucian ethics is grounded in ren xing (human nature) and if ren xing refers to a fixed biological background, then the Confucian moral agent will be in a state of moral free-fall in the age of biological control—that is, if Dworkin is right. We can try to read ren xing as a creative process rather than a fixed nature, but any such reading inevitably grounds ren xing in something else that is biological. There is a way out for Confucians: the Dworkinian choice/chance distinction that is crucial for morality can be relocated away from the boundary between free choice and fixed biology to the boundary between the choices that we make and the fixed background of tradition.