This article reviews recent evidence from the fields of cognitive science, cognitive linguistics, behavioral neuroscience, and social psychology that call into question the model of the self that underlies current dominant approaches to ethics in Western philosophy, pointing to the crucial role of affect, embodiment, and metaphorical extension in moral judgments and decision making. It then examines the implications of these results for moral philosophy, concluding that the virtue-ethical model of self-cultivation more accurately represents how real human beings engage in moral reasoning, and is also better adapted as an educational technique to the evolved cognitive architecture of human beings than deontological or utilitarian approaches. Finally, turning to early Confucianism, it will suggest some of the ways in which Mencius’ views about morality and ethical education strikingly anticipate findings coming out of the modern Western cognitive sciences, and therefore how thinkers such as Mencius can serve as an important conceptual resource in envisioning what an empirically responsible modern virtue ethic might look like.