Philosophy 180 - 9.5.3 Daoist, Mohist, and Confucian Ethics

Daoism, Mohism, and Confucianism were created in response to widespread social unrest, conflict, and suffering. All three aim to end suffering and promote harmony. Daoism’s approach is unlike either Mohism or Confucianism in important respects. Daoists reject traditional morality because it promotes a way of life that supports acting against the natural way or against the flow of nature. They therefore reject the Mohist and Confucian affirmation of traditional moral norms. Daoists believe social norms and practices won’t solve our problems, because they promote a way of life that is unnatural. Instead, Daoism affirms simplicity, the elimination of desires and greed, and naturalness. Daoists believe we need to look beyond social life, beyond traditional human constructs, and instead find harmony with the natural way, the dao.

In contrast, Mohist and Confucian ethics attempt to establish norms and standards for acting and emphasize the important role of social relations in informing our obligations. They reaffirm the value and importance of moral norms and social practices, arguing that widespread adherence will heal social discord and promote well-being. Confucianism focuses on character and argues that through the cultivation of virtue we perfect ourselves. Mohism, however, focuses on consequences to determine rightness, and Mohists believe actions that promote general welfare are right.

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The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax