Chapter 2: Confucianism as an environmental ethic
Within the previous two decades, Confucianism has re-emerged in China as a moral anchor for the state, providing a legitimating veneer for the spiritless materialism of ‘socialism with market characteristics’. Although Confucianism has been applied to many areas of life, in this chapter we discuss the relevance of Confucianism to environmentalism only. We mention other systems, such as Daoism too, that have an even deeper connection to environmentalism. The chapter unfolds in four parts. First, we treat the framework questions of environmental ethics such as the population of the moral universe, and then present the way Western environmental philosophers categorize relationships between humans and the environment. Second, we focus on selected Confucians and what they have to say about human relationships to non-human animals, ecosystems, the earth as a system, and the cosmos. Third, we consider the role that ecology has played in Chinese philosophy, and in this section emphasize Daoism. In the fourth part we ask how relevant Confucianism is to policy-making on environmental issues. To make the periodization clear, we follow Tucker and Berthong who use Confucianism to refer to the early part of the overall tradition in the classical era. This stretches from the first millennium BCE through the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE) and T’ang Dynasty up to the ninth century. Neo-Confucianism refers to a later development in the tradition from the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries continuing to the twentieth century.
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