Many early Confucian texts describe how the profound figures of the past were willing to go to extremes for the sake of constructing an ordered world. The sage Yu, while working to push back the floodwaters, was so dedicated that he refrained from entering his home despite hearing the cry of his young child; King Wu, without waiting to finish the mourning rites for his father, attacked and killed the emperor of his time so that he could establish a new dynasty; and Confucius colluded with immoral rulers for a chance to implement his Way.
This presentation will explore the following question from the perspective of several early Confucian texts and commentaries: Is the integrity of the moral agent vulnerable to unfortunate circumstances? Professor Michael Ing will demonstrate that a variety of responses to this kind of question emerge within early Confucianism. In particular he will detail one position that attempts to restrict the degree to which the integrity of the moral agent is compromised. Variations of this position become dominant in Confucian ethical discourse; and despite alternative positions found in the early texts, most contemporary scholars tacitly accept the traditional position.
Michael Ing (Ph.D. Harvard University, 2011) is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University. He is the author of The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism (Oxford University Press, 2012); and is currently working on a project exploring issues of vulnerability in early Confucianism.