THE CLASSICAL CONFUCIAN POSITION ON THE LEGITIMATE USE OF MILITARY FORCE

Authors

  • Sumner B. Twiss,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Religion and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University
      Sumner B. Twiss is Distinguished Professor of Human Rights, Ethics, and Religion, involving a joint appointment between the Department of Religion and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. Prior to joining the FSU faculty in 2001, he was Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Sumner B. Twiss, Religion Department, Florida State University, Dodd Hall M05, Tallahassee, FL 32306, stwiss@admin.fsu.edu
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jonathan Chan

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University
      Jonathan Chan is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy Department and Associate Director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University, 224 Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, klchan@hkbu.edu.hk
    Search for more papers by this author

Sumner B. Twiss is Distinguished Professor of Human Rights, Ethics, and Religion, involving a joint appointment between the Department of Religion and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. Prior to joining the FSU faculty in 2001, he was Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Sumner B. Twiss, Religion Department, Florida State University, Dodd Hall M05, Tallahassee, FL 32306, stwiss@admin.fsu.edu

Jonathan Chan is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy Department and Associate Director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University, 224 Waterloo Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, klchan@hkbu.edu.hk

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.

Ancillary