“Moral Conduct” and Hermeneutics

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.6, 2017


“Moral Conduct” and Hermeneutics



Pan Derong


In editing the Six Classics, Confucius initiated a new hermeneutic approach, using interpretation of the classics to develop Confucian theories revolving around “establishing morality” and “promoting the Way.” The closest parallel in the Western hermeneutic tradition is in the theories of Aristotle and Hans-Georg Gadamer. What they have in common is that they all pondered on an interpretation of moral conduct that started with the wisdom of practice. The ancient Greek philosopher emphasized deducing “moral behavior” from “the wisdom of practice,” while Gadamer pointed the way forward for modern hermeneutics by revealing the wisdom of practice, although he failed to give sufficient attention to its value dimension. Aristotle’s ideas on moral conduct, and especially those of Confucius, are decisive for the question of the value dimension of understanding in hermeneutic theory. The hermeneutic sense of moral conduct lies in the true realization of the interaction, assimilation and unity of theory and practice in hermeneutic activity. This is central to Confucius’ idea of hermeneutics, providing a hermeneutic dimension that is worth waiting for. Seen from the perspective of world hermeneutics, the construction of Chinese hermeneutics is not only an important part of hermeneutic thought as a whole, but also a decisive factor that enables hermeneutic research to break through the present developmental bottleneck and rise as a new theoretical form—“the hermeneutics of moral conduct.”