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Tan, Sor-Hoon. Why Equality and Which Inequalities?: A Modern Confucian Approach to Democracy
2016, Philosophy East and West 66(2): 488–514
Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Wilson Lee

Abstract: This article challenges the conventional view that Confucianism has no place for the value of equality by shifting the focus from direct justification of equality (Why equality?) to concerns about actual social and political problems (Which inequalities are objectionable?). From this perspective, early Confucian texts endorse some inequalities, in particular those based on virtue, while objecting to others, especially socioeconomic inequalities. Confucians do not consider equality or inequality as inherently valuable, but evaluate them in relation to issues of good government.

Comment: Coming from a Confucian perspective, the paper examines the relation between equality and democracy with implications for both reconstructing Confucian political philosophy for today and democratic theory as such. This is an important point of dialogue for Anglophone political philosophers to have a more objective picture of Confucian political philosophy instead of the usual imperialist caricatures. The point of dialogue is also being explored by a Singaporean scholar in Singapore (despite having been once a crown colony its scholarship is unfortunately very much ignored in the Anglophone world), whose work and life lies at the intersection of Chinese and Anglo-European intellectual traditions.

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