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Reconsidering Ren as Virtue and Benevolence


GEORGE RUDEBUSCH, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Northern Arizona University. Specialty: ancient philosophy. E-mail:


One reason why Confucius is preeminent among Chinese philosophers is his teaching about ren 仁. Interpreters have said many different things about ren, yet two basic assumptions are pervasive: that ren is a virtue and that ren is benevolence. I argue that it is more respectful to the text of the Analects to discard both assumptions. Instead of virtue, ren is a priority in one's motives. Instead of benevolence, ren is humane courtesy.