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Abstract 摘要

Why have some countries done better than others in dealing with the coronavirus crisis so far? One popular answer is in terms of politics: everything depends on state capacity, the level of political trust in society, and the quality of leadership. This paper suggests the need to go beyond politics and turn to ethics. If one does not delve into the ethical spirit and substance that underlie tangible political decisions and activities to combat the coronavirus pandemic in a state, one will fail to see the cultural momentum of the people’s responses in that state and miss the moral foundation of the social practices embedded within that state’s civilization in comparison with other civilizations. In particular, this paper argues that the spirit and substance of Chinese ethics differ from those of the contemporary mainstream Western ethics characteristic of secular principlism, which, although they possess important advantages and merits, suffer from a series of defects and failures, including untenable reductionism, a type of dogmatism, and even radicalism. In contrast, Confucian civilization provides the Chinese with a virtue ethics that is not principlism. It is rather an exposition of Confucian virtue (de), as a powerful but peaceful moral force, that is entrenched within the fundamental structures of the universe (as portrayed in the images of yin-yang, the eight trigrams, and the 64 hexagrams in the Classic of Change) and within the ritual activities of human beings (as described in the ceremonial and minute rituals in the three Confucian ritual classics) to shape the Confucian moral character. Confucian virtue principles and rules are implicit in such structures and the rituals to be formulated in connection with them, but they cannot be created through pure reason. They play their roles in human practices along with structures and rituals but can never exhaust their richness and profundity. The paper indicates that this virtue ethics contains a Confucian notion of harmonious freedom (that can counter scientific determinism) and a familist ethic (that can be adopted to check and balance runaway contractualism), which can be fruitfully used to direct political decisions and activities to combat the coronavirus pandemic and to accomplish peaceful and fruitful outcomes in society.

本文論證對於新冠狀病毒疫情只做政治學論證是不夠的,還需要倫理學的反思,因為一個社會的倫理價值承諾才是對其現實政治的一種基礎性指導而不是相反。中華傳統文化的倫理精神同現代西方文化的倫理精神大異其趣。如果突出其不同特點的話,可以分別標識為儒家的天命美德倫理及其家庭主義與和諧主義的特點,針對現代的世俗原則倫理及其原則主義與自由主義的特點。東亞國家對於這次疫情的應對,至少在疫情明顯出現之後,總體上處理得較之西方國家更好,背後實有不同的倫理精神的反應和支撐。本文訴諸儒家美德倫理學的資源,宣導人類進行倫理學的範式轉向:我們需要和諧主義(而不是科學主義)的發展觀、美德主義(而不是原則主義)的決策觀、家庭主義(而不是契約主義)的天下觀。的確,不少人憂慮,這次疫情將會扭轉近些年的全球化發展趨勢,使國際社會進入互相敵對的、封閉的惡性競爭時代。儒家美德倫理學所攜帶的美德、和諧和和平的資訊,應該給予我們深遠的啟示。

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