Mou Tsung-san and Confucian Democracy: A Hegelian Reinterpretation
By proposing a Hegelian reinterpretation of Mou Tsung-san’s theory of democracy, this paper seeks to argue that Confucian democracy may be regarded as “ethical democracy.” The paper is organized into four major parts. First, although Mou’s aim in advocating Confucian democracy is to surpass the limits of “procedural democracy” anchored in “rights-based liberalism,” Mou’s search for the moral basis of democracy oscillates between Kantianism and Hegelianism, which indicates that there are two different approaches to interpreting his political thought. Second, while the Kantian approach is more prevalent, its defenders do not take into account that Kant’s “morality of self-determination” in fact accommodates a form of “rights-based liberalism,” and that Hegel’s “ethics of self-realization” plays a crucial role in formulating “perfectionist liberalism,” which marks an “ethical turn to liberalism.” Third, the ultimate end of Mou’s philosophical enterprise actually bears striking resemblance to post-Kantian philosophers. Indeed, Mou tries to reveal both the limits of Kant and the contributions that Chinese culture can make to transcend Kant. Fourth, Mou’s understanding of the dialectical relationship between morals and politics and his interpretation of the “blossoming of democracy” clearly reflect a debt to Hegel. Ultimately, this study on Mou Tsung-san’s cross-cultural reconstruction of Hegelian “perfectionist liberalism” and its embrace of deep ethical imports can help to draw out the practical implications of the “politics of humanity” in the modern epoch.