Contemplation and the Moral Life in Confucius and Aristotle

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Aristotle’s best human life is attained through theoretical contemplation, and Confucius’ is attained through practical cultivation of the social self. However, I argue that in the best human life for both Confucius and Aristotle, a form of theoretical contemplation must occur and can only occur with an ethical commitment to community life. Confucius, like Aristotle, sees that the best contemplation comes after later-life, greater-learning and is central to ethical and community life. Aristotle, like Confucius, sees the best contemplation as presupposing full ethical commitment to community life. So, I argue for the theses that: (a) on Aristotle’s view, the best human contemplation requires one be fully morally good; (b) on Confucius’ view, to be fully morally good requires the best human contemplation; (c) being fully morally good for both requires commitment to the good of others and the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-31
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Analects
  • Aristotle
  • Confucius
  • Contemplation
  • Ming 命


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