On subjectivity and objectivity in the Mengzi—or realism with a Confucian face

Kevin J. Turner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This essay argues that the philosophy of the Mengzi is not an idealism or naturalism which makes morality something innate. These interpretations are limited by Cartesian presuppositions of objectivity and subjectivity, which were not a part of the Mengzi’s philosophical repertoire. This essay rehearses the problem of subjectivity and objectivity in Western philosophy. It then argues that no such dichotomy informed the Mengzi; instead, it maintains that minds and their worlds are mutually entailing and constituting. It explores the relationship between the concepts of heart-mind, human nature, and tian, arguing that heart-mind is the emergence of human nature which is the internalized interpretive framework of an external Confucian morality referred to as tian. It argues that humans are situated within historical traditions that provide their world horizons. There is no world beyond the Confucian world and no mind beyond the Confucian mind: the Mengzi is a realism with a Confucian face.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy

User-Defined Keywords

  • heart-mind
  • human nature
  • Mengzi
  • realism
  • tian


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