An Attempt to Read Mencius’ Philosophy with Help of Cicero: Focusing on the Relationship of the Term 'ren' 仁 with the Building of Empire

Jaewon Ahn, Jungsam Yum



Already in 17th century, Ph. Couplet (1623–1693) used Ciceronian terminology to interprete the texts of Confucian philosophy, including that of Mencius (372–289 BCE), an important philosopher especially in terms of understanding Chinese ethics and morals. This paper attempts to read Mencius’ political term “empire”  in the context of political philosophy. The paper observes Mencius’s political idea with help of that of Cicero. For this, it demostrates how and why Mencius introduces the ren as a principle of Kingship and the building of Empire. According to him, the ren is a core principle in operating the empire that was formulated with the tianxia (“all-under-heaven”). However, the ren is an ambivalent concept. On one side, the ren is a universal value that stands fundamentally against violence. On the other side, historically to see, the ren was an imperial ideology, because as a part of the “all-under-heaven” policy represented by Mencius was de facto nothing but a regional hegemon.

Słowa kluczowe

Mencius; Cicero; ren; humanitas; Chinese empire; true king; perfect man; orator perfectus

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