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Sublating Reverence to Parents: A Kierkegaardian Interpretation of the Sage-King Shun's Piety


LAUREN F. PFISTER, Professor, Religion and Philosophy Department; Director, Centre for Sino-Christian Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University; Founding Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities; Associate Editor, Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Specialties: Qing Dynasty philosophy, Ruist-Christian dialogue, hermeneutics. E-mail:


In the Mengzi there is a hypothetical situation relating how the ancient sage-king Shun 舜 would respond if his father had committed murder. This has recently become a source of debate among Chinese philosophers. Here we will apply arguments made by Johannes de silentio (Kierkegaard's pseudonym) about the “teleological suspension of the ethical” related to the action of the biblical Abraham, and link them up to alternative interpretations of the actions of Shun. This challenges the current and traditional interpretations of his actions, suggesting how this new approach can overcome ethical quandaries related to the Mengzian account of Shun's behavior.