This paper focuses on Meng Zi’s idea of yi (義) as a virtue. In it, I first briefly examine two influential interpretations of yi – the “appropriateness” approach that views yi as a disposition to do what is fitting in a given situation and the shame-centered approach that understands yi as a disposition to avoid what is shameful in the moral life. The first approach is too thin to distinguish yi from acting properly in general and the second reading confines the definitive feeling involved in yi to a too moralized understanding of shame. Moreover, both fail to pay enough attention to the reliance of yi on social norms to receive its content. Through textual analysis, I show that in addition to a sense of shame, respect as an attitude of prioritizing other persons in the way specified by the relevant norms also serves as an important emotional core of yi as a virtue. In the end, I highlight the potential contribution of the Mengzian idea of yi to virtue ethics. The two-faceted structure of yi points to a way to account for rule-related virtues – virtues that have rule-conformity as a component. Equipped with thick descriptions of rule-related virtues, virtue ethics will be in a better position to guide actions.
"Respect and the Mengzian Conception of Yi as a Rule-related Virtue,"
Comparative Philosophy: Vol. 11:
2, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/comparativephilosophy/vol11/iss2/9