Pity for Stones? The New Confucian Ecological Turn and the Global Ethic Project

By Jonathan Keir.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 22, 2017 $US5.00

Inspired by Ming Confucian Wang Yangming and earlier neo-Confucian voices such as Zhang Zai (1020–1077), Tu Weiming has led a recent ecological turn in New Confucian humanism in which “the great person,” following Wang’s example, comes to form one body with the Earth and the cosmos on her way to forming one body with Heaven. Zhang’s assertion that all things are his companions represents a radical departure from mainstream Western approaches to morality, which privilege sentience and the capacity for physical suffering as prerequisites for moral community. This article explores the compatibility of New Confucian deep ecology with the principles of Hans Küng’s global ethic (“Weltethos”), arguing that the world’s leading spiritual traditions follow the Confucian “tianrenheyi” or “tianrenhede” model, in which the individual is challenged to form a dialogical relationship with Heaven, culminating in union in virtue with Heaven and “All Under Heaven” (“tianxia”). The global ethic as defined by Küng encourages the followers of all religious faiths—including Ronald Dworkin’s atheistic “religion without God,” which requires faith in the existence of an objective morality—to adopt a relationship with the physical world that transcends the merely instrumental.

Keywords: New Confucianism, Hans Küng, Global Ethic Project

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.25-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 22, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 353.808KB)).

Dr. Jonathan Keir

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Weltethos Institut, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany