What is it about?

Scholars are confounded by the fact that there is no lexical equivalent for "freedom" in early Chinese Philosophy. I discuss elsewhere that there is a metaphor for moral agency in Confucian literature (the archer figure, cf. Camus 2018). Here I discuss a term - zhi 志 (variably translated as "will, aspiration, intention, commitment") - whose connotations and usages in Mencius yield a homegrown perspective of free moral agency in Confucian philosophy.

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Why is it important?

Engages in on-going debate about freedom - how are we to understand it? is it only an illusion? While Confucian philosophy does not directly address the matter, freedom is implicit in its ideal of responsibility and commitment to moral pursuits.


Working on this paper made me appreciate alternative ways of understanding human agency. As I see it, "zhi" in Confucian literature expresses a robust, relational, and responsible self.

Rina Camus
Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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This page is a summary of: Zhi 志 in Mencius: a Chinese notion of moral agency, Asian Philosophy, January 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/09552367.2019.1579431.
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