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Confucian and Feminist Notions of Relational Self and Reciprocity: A Comparative Study

Confucian ethics and feminist ethics of ‘care’ both emphasize people’s interdependency, positioning ‘ren’ and ‘care,’ respectively, as the most fundamental value of their ethical theories. Both argue that care as a theory and practice can extend to the public domain to accomplish its task of taking care of all people in need. Nevertheless, there are significant differences both historically and conceptually between the two theories. My goal in this paper is to clarify whether the Confucian notion of selfhood, because of its deep commitment to social harmony and hierarchy, excludes a serious engagement in the social ideal of equality and in gender equality in particular. I will also explore the ways in which attention to the Confucian notion of selfhood can enrich the feminist notions of reciprocity and ‘self-other relationships’. Both can learn from each other to enrich an understanding of ourselves.

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