Justificatory structures: Taoist and Cofucian ethics

The normative claims of some ethical theories receive justification from their founding layers. But some lack foundations. It becomes a meta-ethical challenge to understand the justificatory devices such theories employ. This study compares Taoism and Confucianism as Eastern examples of two theory types. The idea of harmony with Tao fuses metaphysics of immanence with the ethic of nonaction, intending a metaphysical justification for the norm of non-action. Confucian ethics, dispensing with a religious, metaphysical or empirical theoretical foundation for normative ethics, uses appeal to tradition as a justificatory device. A comparative critique shows that Taoist ethics needs support of tradition as Confucian ethics needs trust of experience and thought in the justification of normative claims. It is argued that developing an art of comportment in the interstice of moral theories is more important than trying to build a moral theory with complete justification.


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