Confucian Ethics and the Spirit of World Order: A Reconception of the Chinese Way of Tolerance
Abstract

Abstract:

Faced with worldwide crises today, the value system based on liberalism has proven to be inadequate on a global scale. There has appeared an urgent need to approach global predicaments from the perspective of a common ethics. In 1993, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions issued a Declaration, “Toward a Global Ethic,” signed by more than two hundred leaders from over forty different faith traditions and spiritual communities. It unequivocally declares: “No new global order without a new global ethic!” This truism leads us to ask: In the construction of a new world order, what moral principle or categorical imperative in Kantian terms can we find in ethical systems of the world that may serve as the spirit of a new world order? This article argues that the Confucian way of tolerance is perhaps a suitable choice because tolerance is now acknowledged as one of the spiritual achievements of modern times and may hold the ethical key to regulating human differences and resolving conflicts involving class, race, religion, nation, and culture. The idea of tolerance is found in all cultural and spiritual traditions, but it is in Confucianism that it was elevated to a moral virtue, a way of life, an ethical theory, and to the exalted status of Dao (恕道) two millennia ago and has remained so since. This article will compare the ideas of tolerance in various traditions, examine the extent to which the Confucian way of tolerance transcends the limitations of regional religions and spiritual faiths, and explore how it may be modernized into the cornerstone of a universal ethics underlying the inner spirit of a new world order.