Document Type

Journal Article

Department/Unit

Department of Religion and Philosophy

Title

The classical Confucian position on the legitimate use of military force

Language

English

Abstract

Focusing on the thought of Mencius and Xunzi, this essay reconstructs and examines the classical Confucian position on the legitimate use of military force. It begins by sketching historically important political concepts, such as types of political leaders, politics of the kingly way versus politics of the hegemonic way, and the controversial role of lords-protector. It then moves on to explore Confucian criteria for justifying resort to the use of force, giving special attention to undertaking punitive expeditions to interdict and punish aggression and tyranny. Following this discussion, the essay then attends to important Confucian moral constraints on how military force is properly employed, including prohibitions on attacking the defenseless, indiscriminate slaughter of enemy forces, destruction of civilian infrastructure, prisoner abuse, and non-consensual annexation of territory. The essay concludes by first discussing an illustrative case from Mencius and then comparing its reconstruction of the Confucian position to those offered by other scholars.

Keywords

Mencius, Xunzi, true king, lord-protector, punitive expedition, righteous or just war, just cause, right authority, moral constraints on military conduct

Publication Date

2012

Source Publication Title

Journal of Religious Ethics

Volume

40

Issue

3

Start Page

447

End Page

472

Publisher

Wiley

Peer Reviewed

1

DOI

10.1111/j.1467-9795.2012.00531.x

Link to Publisher's Edition

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9795.2012.00531.x

ISSN (print)

03849694

ISSN (electronic)

14679795

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