SOAS University of London

Confucian Role Ethics: Overcoming an Asymmetry in Cultural Comparisons

Roger T. Ames

Date: 17 February 2014Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 17 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B 104

Type of Event: Lecture

In the introduction of Chinese philosophy and culture into the Western academy, we have tended to theorize and conceptualize this antique tradition by appeal to familiar categories. Confucian role ethics is an attempt to articulate a sui generis moral philosophy that allows this tradition to have its own voice. This holistic philosophy is grounded in the primacy of relationality, and is a challenge to a foundational liberal individualism that has defined persons as discrete, autonomous, rational, free, and often self-interested agents. Confucian role ethics begins from a relationally constituted conception of person, takes family roles and relations as the entry point for developing moral competence, invokes moral imagination and the growth in relations that it can inspire as the substance of human morality, and entails a human-centered, a-theistic religiousness that stands in sharp contrast to the Abrahamic religions.

Roger T. Ames is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai'i. A leading figure in the study of Chinese philosophy, he is also editor of the journal Philosophy East & West (since 1978) and of the China Review International (since 1992). He holds a Honorary Doctor of Letters of the University of British Columbia (1999) and has been awarded the 2013 Confucius Culture Award (孔子文化獎) by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the Shandong Provincial Government .

The annual AC Graham Memorial Lectures are jointly organised at SOAS by the Early China Seminar at the Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, the SOAS China Institute and the London Confucius Institute .

The 2014 AC Graham Memorial Lectures are supported by a generous grant from the London Confucius Institute (LCI) and SOAS China Institute (SCI).

For further details please contact Professor Bernhard Fuehrer (

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