Ecological Implications of Confucian Humanism

March 2, 2015

by Dr. Tu Weiming
As a spiritual humanism, Confucianism’s project for human flourishing involves four dimensions: self, community, Earth, and Heaven. Character building, the primary purpose of Confucian moral education, begins with self-cultivation. But education is more than the mere acquisition of knowledge or the internationalization of skills. It is a holistic way of learning to be human. In Confucian terms, such learning is defined as “learning for the sake of the self,” “the learning of the heart-mind and nature,” or “learning to be a profound person.”
It is misleading, however, to assume that Confucian learning is a quest for individual happiness or inner spirituality. Rather, far from being “individualistic,” Confucian learning is a communal act. The self is never an isolated individual but a center of relationships.
As a spiritual humanism, Confucianism’s project for human flourishing involves four dimensions: self, community, Earth, and Heaven. Character building, the primary purpose of Confucian moral education, begins with self-cultivation. But education is more than the mere acquisition of knowledge or the internationalization of skills. It is a holistic way of learning to be human. In Confucian terms, such learning is defined as “learning for the sake of the self,” “the learning of the heart-mind and nature,” or “learning to be a profound person.” It is misleading, however, to assume that Confucian learning is a quest for individual happiness or inner spirituality.
Rather, far from being “individualistic,” Confucian learning is a communal act. The self is never an isolated individual but a center of relationships. As the center, the self is independent and autonomous.
Such independence and autonomy are predicated on the dignity of the person as an internal value rather than as a socially constructed reality. At the same time, the self as a center of relationships is inevitably interconnected with an ever-expanding network of human-relatedness.
As the center, the self is independent and autonomous. Such independence and autonomy are predicated on the dignity of the person as an internal value rather than as a socially constructed reality. At the same time, the self as a center of relationships is inevitably interconnected with an ever-expanding network of human-relatedness.
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