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On Ethics and HistoryEssays and Letters of Zhang Xuecheng$
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Philip J. Ivanhoe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804761284

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804761284.001.0001

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Conventional Convictions

Conventional Convictions

(p.56) Essay 4 Conventional Convictions
On Ethics and History
Stanford University Press

This chapter presents the English translation of one of Zhang's essays, which explores what it is to arrive at legitimate moral judgments. It begins by arguing that all convictions begin with doubt, but then takes several interesting and unexpected turns. Zhang argues that most people “know” in a shallow sense the same moral truths that morally wise people know, but that only the latter know the justifying reasons behind such judgments. Nevertheless, those who attain this deeper understanding must be on guard for a peculiar kind of moral failure. They must not succumb to the temptation to take their well-grounded moral knowledge as a private discovery or personal achievement; to do so distorts both the true character of any truth—that it is simply part of the dao and thereby belongs to everyone—and threatens to undermine the value of such truths—when people try to hide away such insights, control their dissemination, or use them to gain personal fame, wealth, or power.

Keywords:   Zhang Xuecheng, essay, moral judgments, conviction, moral truths

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