Confucian virtue politics is premised on two fundamental assumptions. First, a good government founded on the Way is predicated on the political actor’s personal moral virtue, and there is no qualitative difference between the ruler’s virtue and the virtue(s) that people are ultimately to embody. Second, since there is only one single and holistic Way and the political is extended from the ethical, there cannot be two separate political and moral standards, which implies the impossibility of what Michael Walzer calls “the problem of dirty hands.” After examining how early Confucians such as Mencius and Xunzi rationalized the ostensibly problematic actions taken by their ancient moral heroes in politically critical moments, this essay concludes that early Confucians’ absolutist commitment to the Way enabled them to deal with moral dilemmas in politics with great moral flexibilities without invoking dirty hands.


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pp. 152-176
Launched on MUSE
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